My Japanese experience – An Islamic Perspective
- A) No Tips Please, we are Japanese:
The first evening we went out for a walk. We sat in a caffe and had a drink. We started to chat to a young Japanese man sitting next to us. He was extremely polite and knowledgable. When we got the bill we lift a tip. To our surprise he told us that giving tips in Japan is an insult as people are proud to serve. What!!
Please tell the rest of the world especially Muslim countries and the Americans who pester you to tip them.
- B) Welcome to Japan:
The first Saturday in Tokyo we took the train to Tokyo station to visit the Imperial gardens and palace.
When we got out of the station we saw a tourist guide with a flag and few people with him. We asked him for directions to the palace. He said we can join him as he is going there and this is “a free guided tour.”
Apparently he was a volunteer and he does this at the weekends. He is an IT professional. He was not the only one. There were so many other volunteers men and women who do this job on regular basis. Their knowledge of the Japanese history and culture is amazing. One of the guides first name was Isamu. I was very pleased to discover that I must have some Japanese blood in my genes as my middle name is Isam. Isamu in Japanese means brave.
So I’m only 80% brave!
We were so impressed by the magnificent landscape of the Japanese garden around the palace.
What an art! And what an effort to maintain it.
The guide pointed out to us a huge area planted with tea shrubs.
I asked him if I can pluck a leaf. He said: “Do it when I’m not looking!”
I felt so embarrassed as this Japanese can tolerate people like me. I could not dare to pluck more than one tea leaf. It reminded me of our visit to the Holy site of mount Sinai where the Blessed burning bush is located. I felt so tempted to pluck several leaves.
I did not have any consideration that if everyone is plucking a leaf from this Holy tree it might soon run out of leaves. Whilst the Japanese guide was so concerned about one tea leaf from a huge plantation.
We were given 15 minutes break to use the facilities. The guide said: “We are meeting here in 15 minutes. I mean 15 minutes.”
My wife said: “German time.”
He replied: “Better than German time”. I was so impressed to hear that. I realised they are people who know the value of time. A great Islamic virtue which is ignored by almost all Muslims world wide.
والعصر ان الانسان لفي خسر
God swears by the time and confirms that man is always in loss if not utilising it properly.
The comment made by the guide reminded me of a funny incident we had when we visited Bermuda island several years ago. We were running to catch a boat. When we arrived at the port gasping and sweating, the guard said: “Don’t run. No one runs here. The boat will wait for you.” What a relief!
It also reminded me of how many hours I had to wait to conduct a Nikah (an Islamic marriage) because either the groom or the bride or both are never on time. As to be on time means nothing to many Muslims.
At the end of the tour we were offered the opportunity to wear a Japanese Kimono to have photos. They are people who really love their country and so proud of their culture.
- C) Cleanness:
Everything around you is spotless clean. It is not because they are good in cleaning. It is their culture which prevents them from littering the environment. This is an Islamic virtue. The Prophet Mohammed pbuh said:
إماطة الأذي عن الطريق صدقة
“Removing any form of harm from the road is a form of charity.”
When I arrived from Cairo, Egypt into London in July 1970, I was so impressed with the cleanliness of the streets. I expressed my admiration to my professor at LSE. He said: “We are dirty. But we are good in cleaning.”
My wife taught me something very interesting. In my car I used to keep rubbish under the seat next to me until I find a chance to bin it.
She advised me to always have a plastic bag attached to the gearstick and when it is full just bin it. Many thanks to her for keeping the environment clean. Very simple solution to those who keep throwing rubbish out of their cars.
- D) Noisiness Nation:
The Japanese are very quite people. You can’t even hear them talking to each other or on their phones. They don’t talk too much. They cover their mouth when they yawn and put their hands on their phone when they talk. Another great Islamic virtue. They communicate like ants. I hope they have an enjoyable sex life!
They reminded me of Luqman in chapter 31 in the Quran. He was honoured by God and given Divine Wisdom. He commanded his son, among other things, to lower his voice otherwise he will sound like a donkey. I think he was the father of the great Japanese nation.
Today unfortunately, there are many countries in the world dominated by donkeys.
During the week we spent in Japan, I did not hear any drivers hooting. It reminded me of a funny conversation I had several years ago with a Swiss group of tourists flying back from Cairo to Geneva.
I asked them how was their visit?
They replied: “It was lovely.”
I asked them how did they find the noise of the cars hooting all the time, for a reason or none?
They said: “We loved it. It is the music of Cairo.” Well this is their taste, I personally prefer to listen to Mozart!
- D) A Rushing Nation:
The Japanese we saw looked stressed and sounded very serious. They don’t smile that much. They have to work very hard and long hours to satisfy their demanding bosses and ensure the prosperity of their country for all future generations. You can see many of them falling asleep on the metro. They not only think of their own prosperity, but the prosperity of future generations. You can see the traces of the painful past engraved on their foreheads. But they are content, honest, hardworking, organised and courageous.
You would see them rushing to work in the early morning like robots. The majority of the men are dressed in dark suits. Women are elegantly dressed as well. But no matching colours when it comes to bags, shoes and outfits.
As a nation which is always rushing, we had a very interesting experience with the taxi driver who took us from Tokyo airport to our hotel. Unfortunately, he took us to the wrong Marriott hotel and very quickly put our suitcases on the curb and rushed back into his cab. I had to knock on his window to inform him that this is not the right hotel. Then he kept apologising saying: “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I did not read the address properly. I thought there was only one Marriott. Your hotel is a new one.”
Then he took us to the correct hotel and refunded us US $30 which was half of the money we have already paid.
He has great Islamic values. What an honest man who also admitted making a mistake. If we were anywhere else in the world we would have been charged for the extra journey and no apology would have been received.
The second funny experience we had was when we were supposed to meet our tour operator at the hotel to join an organised tour to Mount Fuji. We gave her our booking vouchers with our names on them.
She checked them against the list she had. Then she took us on a coach to another hotel to pick up more passengers. Then suddenly she panicked and said to us in a very painful tone that we are the wrong clients. So she had to hurry us back in a taxi to our hotel to meet the right guide and kept apologising for this mistake and paid for the taxi.
I think because they are always rushing they make such mistakes.
The taxi driver and the tour operator reminded me of myself being in haste all my life which causes me a high level of stress. But it helped me to achieve many things in my life at the same time. Unfortunately, the anxiety I suffered from led to sever depression in the latter part of 1970. It was only the Grace and Mercy of Allah which saved me from this dreadful illness.
No wonder why Japanese employers are obliged to introduce de-stressing programmes for their employees whether in offices or factories. You will also see “Relaxation Rooms” for men and women where people would try to just spend sometime away from their daily problems.
My parents used to call me “Agool” عجول since my childhood which means “in haste all the time”. God says : “man is always in haste.”
وكان الانسان عجولا
And “man is created from haste.”
خلق الانسان من عجل
I remembered when I picked up my suitcase at Miami airport many years ago and only realised after I arrived at my hotel that it was the wrong one. At that time all samsonite bags looked the same and even had the same key. Funnily enough it belonged to a Japanese woman. When I called her I was so angry and I accused her of picking up my suitcase. She said no your suitcase is still at the airport as she checked the label before picking it up.
So I had to say sorry to her for me not checking the label. She came to the hotel and picked up her suitcase and I had to go back to the airport to pick up mine. How many times did I put petrol in my diesel car or vice versa! Again I think that being stressed and in haste all the time I definitely have Japanese genes.
- D) The Japanese Toilets:
It is an invention worth writing a novel about it!
The design and cleanliness of public toilets is another story. The electronic control panel reflects the ingenuity of the Japanese engineers. The heated toilet seat, the different types of sprayers to wash and clean yourself, the automatic flushing and the hot air for drying were amazing. I was expecting a hand to come out to wash my butt! What about the music you can play while sitting to add more to your privacy if you suffer from wind!!
Why did they have to go through all these complicated designs to clean themselves?
In hospitals in the UK you will always see a sign saying “Did you wash your hands?” Or “Use the pump”. MRSA became a major concern in British hospitals causing the death of many patients.
The Japanese realised the importance of cleanliness and hygiene. They are not aware of how much love God has for those who purify themselves. God says in the Quran “Allah loves those who repent and loves those who purify themselves.”
ان الله يحب التوابين ويحب المطهرين
How many times I visited some Muslim countries and struggled to find a public toilet, leave alone being clean or not. I was compelled to either use the bush or not to drink for a whole day out.
- E) The Organised Chaos:
Scramble pedestrian crossings were an experience of its own! People were crossing diagonally and perpendicularly without any confusion. When the traffic light changes a beautiful peace of music will play to alert people to cross.
To maintain a fast flow of pedestrians the curb is divided into two parts. One side for the going flow and the other one for the coming flow.
The trains and the metro services are another wonder. They are always on time. Guards on the trains and on the platforms can be seen all the time. Not like the TFL in London who is refusing to appoint guards on long trains so compromising passengers’ safety.
Millions of passengers would use the services everyday. A music is played before every announcement. Trains are packed at rush time. But people are so organised, well disciplined and so patient. No pushing, no shouting and no queue jumping. And most impressing thing no body odour. They all smell so nice. Something I always suffer from when travelling on the London Underground in the hot days of the summer.
You can see police officers everywhere. They are extremely helpful. They would even walk with you to guide you to your destination.
Similar help you would get from normal people who would change their travel plan or drop their partner to walk with you all the way to get you to your address.
- F) A Bowing Nation:
We traveled on the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka. Our tickets were booked for the 13:07 train with reserved seats. We arrived one and half hour earlier to our station. So instead of waiting to 13:07 we decided to take the 12:07 train. But we were concerned about our seat reservation. However, when we read the information on the display screen, we realised that the first three cars of every train have free seating. So we went on the earlier train.
As the train is a very long train, the car number and the seat number are marked on the platform.
When the conductor entered the train carriage he bowed to greet all the passengers. Then he started to check the tickets. You can’t even hear him when he was talking or saying “Ari Gatto” that is “thank you” in Japanese. He had a big smile on his face. He looked very elegant and pleasant in his uniform.
When I asked him for something he squatted to make eye contact with me. Something very rarely would happen in other parts of the world.
Just before leaving the carriage he bowed again.
When the person who was selling food and drinks appeared, he or she bowed to greet the passengers.
They had a beautiful uniform. Again you can’t hear any voices when the people are ordering food or drinks.
I remembered the trains in Egypt and India when those who are selling food on each platform would deafen your ears. May be this is the music they play in such countries.
A plastic bag was given to each passenger on the train to put the rubbish in. Passengers were instructed to take their rubbish with them and dispose it off at the recycling bins on the platforms.
Passengers were constantly reminded to show consideration to others while moving their luggage.
So bowing is a form of greeting each other rather than shaking hands. It is like saying
“Peace be on you”
You can witness this anywhere you go. This is a form of spreading peace among the people as recommended by Prophet Mohammed pbuh
“Spread peace among yourselves by greeting each other”
I remembered how many times in Saudi Arabia I said السلام عليكم “Peace be upon you” and was fully ignored.
Couple of years ago I received a telephone call from my very dear friend Chief Inspector Carl Lindley from Scotland Yard. In addition of being a police officer in the Metropolitan police, Carl is also a professional Karate trainer. He said he is having problems with Muslim children who are refusing to bow at the beginning and the end of each fighting session. He added, “If they don’t bow they will be disqualified.” He asked me if I can issue a memo to the parents of the Muslim children to explain that this is not a religious ceremony. I issued a statement explaining that bowing here is not a form of worship. It is rather a form of showing respect by greeting the person in front of you in a very peaceful manner.
- G) Hiroshima:
On Wednesday 25th May 2016 we traveled from Osaka to Hiroshima by the Bullet Train. It was written by God in the Book of Creation before the creation of heavens and earth that today we would visit the city of Hiroshima and two days later President Obama would be visiting as well. He was the first ever USA President who is still in office to come to Hiroshima.
We were told in history about the devastation this city experienced during the Second World War. I came with so many mixed feelings and emotions.
I was so impressed and surprised to see a very modern city with beautiful spacious avenues and parks, and very expensive department stores. It reminded me of Paris or Barcelona. Is it possible that this is the city which was fully destroyed on August 6th, 1945 by the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare? Where was the destruction? Was it in the buildings or the souls of the Japanese people?
What a great nation which managed to recover so quickly from such a tragedy and dealt so positively with its pain and suffering.
We visited the Peace Memorial Park Area and we were so amazed to see the Atomic Bomb Dome. “It is a symbol of Hiroshima, conveying to us the horror of nuclear weapons and appealing for world peace.”, says the Hiroshima’s Sightseeing Guide Map. The building was severely damaged and burnt. It is now a UNISCO World Heritage Site.
We saw a great number of school children in different school uniforms coming to visit the Park.
In spite of their young age they were well disciplined with serious looks on their faces.
Each group had its own guide. They spent sometime in front of the Children’s Peace Monument. They came to the monument in waves. They prayed and bowed and offered so many colourful flags of peace.
The message was to forgive, forget and overlook and to work together to build peace in the world. I like the expression “to build”, as peace is not an imaginary quantity in mathematics or a science fiction. It is a structure which we should all contribute towards its existence even by contributing one single brick of love or sacrifice or both.
We also visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was so painful to see images of the horrors and cruelty of man towards his fellow man. The extend of the destruction was beyond any imagination. My eyes were tearful. It reminded me of my five visits to the Holocaust memorial in Israel, “a Hand & a Name”. Again you can see the atrocities committed by one group against the other, for no other reason but being of different religion or ethnicity. Unfortunately, people very often forget that we are all brothers and sisters in humanity and that there will be a Day of Judgement when we will all be called to account.
The school children were queuing for hours to read every and each displayed exhibit. In spite of their young age they were so eager to live every moment of the past irrespective of how painful it was to reflect on how great their leaders were who took them from the depth of hell into prosperity. Those honest, sincere and devoted leaders who managed to wipe the tears and dress the wounds of the entire population, with one hand and build new confident generation with the other hand. Thus to achieve one of the best and strongest economies in the world.
- H) Conclusion:
During our stay we never witnessed nudity or vulgarity or any apparent tattoos or even boys and girls kissing in public. They have true Islamic virtues.
They don’t need Religious police to monitor them as they do in Saudi Arabia and Iran, which created a generation of hypocrite Muslims. We did not see anyone sleeping rough on the road or begging as we see many of these in Muslim and European countries.
The Japanese who survived the war were not People of the Book, they were not Jews or Christians or Muslims, or even believers in the One True God. It was there great values which survived the nuclear attack and made them a super nation in less than two decades.
I wonder why the Muslim nations of today are so much behind? Is it their religion? Or their lack of understanding and applying Islamic values which excel any manmade values?
The Japanese are a great nation without any doubt.
We Muslims of today, are only Muslims by name. We are nothing compared to these people.
We are غثاء سيل , “the useless froth on rain water”, as stated by the Prophet Mohammed pbuh over 1400 years ago.
We miss interpreted our religion and made it an excuse for our failures and lack of achievements.
Islam became a beard and a white robe for a man and a headscarf for a woman.
We did not seek knowledge as the Quran commands us.
We lack sincerity and devotion. We don’t perfect our work. We are a bunch of lazy hypocrites and beggars seeking every type of help from non Muslim countries.
If the Japanese would just believe in the One True God they would be admitted to Gardens of Bliss. They would enter from any of its eight Gates.
On the other hand, If the Muslims of today will continue to ignore God’s commandments in the Quran, if they will not refrain from killing each other, if they will not eradicate corruption, if they will not seek knowledge, if they will continue to ignore human rights and deny women’s their Divine rights, if they will not show kindness to orphans and widows and feed the poor and the needy they would be queuing in front of the seven gates of Hell waiting for its 19 angels to open for them.
Dr. Mohammed Fahim
Ph.D, M.Sc, B.Eng, MBCS, CITP, FCMI, C.ENG