Recently, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad called for Malaysians to ‘Look East’ and emulate the Japanese work ethics if we want to be successful.

On social media, many Malaysians supported Mahathir’s opinion, with netizens sharing their admiration for the hard-working Japanese people and experiences of working in Japanese companies.

However, not everything about Japan is sunshine and rainbows. In fact, one Japanese national who currently resides in Malaysia argues that there a few aspects where the Land of the Rising Sun can learn from us.

Junna Hirono, a Petaling Jaya resident, thinks while Malaysia is busy with the ‘Look East’ policy, Japan should initiate a ‘Look South East’ policy of their own.

In her blog post, she writes about certain aspects where Japan can learn from Malaysia, and one of them is how much the people can actually affect the government, as shown in the recent general election.

“I felt that Malaysia has ‘People Power’, they think on their own and act.

“Japanese people are trained to ‘follow the ethics or rules’ so they are very good at following leaders, but Japanese are not trained at all to ‘think your own and act own’,” Juanna writes, adding that the Japanese are not as aggressive as Malaysians.

Surprisingly, Junna also argues that non-smokers are more protected in Malaysia when compared to Japan, which she describes as “cigarette smokers’ heaven.”

Many restaurants in Japan provide bunen – a special partition to separate smokers and non-smokers – but she says there are no walls to prevent the smoke from flowing around.

“In Malaysia, it is simple and clear. At restaurants, you can smoke outside terrace tables, but you cannot smoke in the indoor area.”

Junna writes at length about the challenges unique to the Japanese working culture, and how they can learn from Malaysia.

For women, working in Japan can be very difficult, especially when they have children. Junna points that it is challenging for mothers to find nurseries or daycare for their children due the small numbers, and the practice is unfavourable in traditional Japanese culture as leaving kids at nursery is not condoned.

“Traditional society culture still does not allow mothers to do full-time work,” while maid culture is “not common because they are worried or uncomfortable having someone entering house for safety or privacy issues.”

While the Japanese are famous for their discipline, she hopes that her people can learn to be a little more laid back, like how Malaysians can tolerate five to ten minutes of being late and in socialising with co-workers.

“Our company teammates often go to breakfast. Often, we celebrate someone’s birthday at office with birthday songs, cakes and balloons at some situations.

“Japan, as in typical Japanese companies do not have that relaxed culture going to breakfast or celebrating colleague’s birthday at work with loud birthday songs,” she observed.

Malaysians are also not forced to work overtime as much as Japanese employees, where death by overwork or karoshi is not an uncommon occurrence.

Concluding her blog, Junna admits that Malaysia has a lot to learn from Japan’s good points, but she still prefer to stay in Malaysia for at least a few more years.




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