Garrity's Japan

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Garrity's Japan Photo credit: Photo by Tokyo Journal Intern Justin De Jesus

Garrity's Japan

From Tokyo to Soka

This is an excerpt from my journal of years past. The time was 1994, and I was doing a great deal of walking when I stumbled upon Soka, a small community just past the outskirts of Tokyo on the northeastern side of the Kanto Plain.

I passed a French restaurant that opened out onto the street. The problem for me was that the tables were set so that all the people sat side-by-side, looking out toward the street. It was as if they were in a theater for a film. They were, in fact, watching the pedestrian and automobile traffic outside, rather than paying attention to each other.

For me, it offered no perspective on life as far as I could determine. Why take your partner or guest to an expensive restaurant to sit together and watch people on the street? Rather than enjoying each other’s company, the people at the restaurant preferred to breathe in the traffic fumes and dirt.

As I walked past the view of the patrons, I stopped, thought, and followed an impulse to tap dance in plain view of the customers. And then I walked merrily on.

At the beginning of the Oku no Hosomichi, Japanese poet Matsuo Basho writes: “The moon and the sun are travelers through eternity. Even the years are also voyagers, whether drifting through life on a boat or climbing toward old age leading a horse. Each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

As adults, we must look ahead in life, but the child in us wants to remember the past by looking back at where we just passed.

I jotted in my notebook:

Looking ahead
Along the winding road
The child looks behind

I have found that walking gives me great clarity of thought. Being able to focus on walking at the conscious level, my subconscious level is given freedom to express itself by coming to the surface. I am able to think things through, make connections between things that are seemingly unconnected, and see the cause-and-effect relationship between events I had not noticed before. So, in addition to being a physically healthy activity, it is also beneficial from a mental process point of view.

For example, every day we are faced with thousands of decisions. Which ones will help us reach our goals? What helps us reach them in the most timely and effective manner? I have a process I use while walking that I call the “Optimal Life Value Chain.” This process allows me to focus on important decisions and ignore less important ones as I move toward my goal.

For example, should I wear a suit to work today? It’s hot and humid with stuffy and still air. Very uncomfortable. Should I wear that suit today? In making the decision, I should ask the question, “Will wearing a suit today help me toward achieving my life value goals?” What this process does is it allows me to focus on the important decisions. If I am a banker or a salaryman and my answer is yes, then I should wear it. If I’m a writer or artist and I have no formal appointments, then my answer might be no. I don’t need to worry about that decision anymore today.

Does my decision make me more effective and efficient? To me, the essence of being effective and efficient is doing the right thing at the right time with the right resources. Wearing a suit in hot, humid weather does not meet the test of efficiency or effectiveness. It makes the wearer one of the business army, and I doubt it produces any value to the wearer or his company.

Red hats, white hats
White hats, red hats
The parade returns

Simply and blindly following custom creates a mindset that leans toward mediocrity rather than creativeness. If employees all look the same and do the same thing, then where are the imagination and creativity necessary for company growth and profitability?

After some reflection, I was able to blend my “Optimal Life Value Change” thought process into a more profound thought system called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, a bestseller since it was first published in 1989. The second habit, “Begin With The End In Mind,” most closely fits with my value change philosophy.

With these thoughts, my walking journey came to an end in Soka, a community known for its hard rice cracker delicacies found in retails stores. tj

The complete article can be found in Issue #279 of the Tokyo Journal.

Written By:

Robert Garrity

Robert E. Garrity has had a 50-year love affair with Japan. He is the Tokyo Journal Editor-in-Chief, founding President of the Japan- America Marketing Institute, professor on Japanese business, man- agement and marketing, and an authority on Haiku. He is a member of the International Haiku Association, and the first American to present at the Association's convention. He has written two books and published over 30 articles in Japanese. For a number of years he was a regular contributor to magazines in Tokyo including Bonjour magazine, in which he was published monthly. He is a student of the writings of such renowned Japanese poets as Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa and Masaoka Shiki.


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