After five days immersed in Japanese culture, I have a huge amount to discuss with council regarding future possibilities for our Sister City relationship with Handa.
However more than that, having come back to a couple of disturbing pieces of news about events in Wauchope in my absence, I feel compelled to touch on some very social areas of my visit.
Two aspects which stood out for me are the great respect which people seem to show for each other in Japan, and the cleanliness and lack of litter and graffiti.
Even at the Dashi Festival – which drew around 600,000 people into Handa – there was a great sense of mutual respect and no violence and no litter that I could see.
There was also a great sense of order in amongst the excitement of an event that stretched across a huge swathe of the city, which usually has a population of about 120,000.
People were constantly nodding, laughing and bowing at each other, apologising for jostling or rushing.
As visitors of course we only saw a snapshot.
But we were also privileged to be given entrée across the entire event,.
We had plenty of interpreters and the opportunity to ask innumerable questions.
We also got to mix in closely with the crowds and festival participants.
There was, overall, a huge sense of people going quietly about their business despite the push and shove of over-crowded streets.
And of course I had to ask what that’s about. It’s their tradition, I was told.
Individualism has a very strong place in Japanese culture, but never at the expense of another’s right to pursue their own place and desires.
There is a balance between being an individual and find one’s niche, and the need for everyone to simply get along with others – and perhaps it’s that social aspect that’s needed more here at home.
We need a better balance between the one and the many – a topic I’ll be touching on more in coming weeks.