#LearnedInJapan: Employment Advice Absorbed from Japan for Employees Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Helen Keller with Polly Thomson in Fukuoka, Japan, 1948

It’s a matter of weeks before our family relocates from Japan to our home country of America. This experience of 3 years in northern Japan has been enlightening, exhilarating, and precious. The land is beautiful, with well-manicured gardens on nearly every street corner, and the people are easy to love. The Japanese people I have met are almost universally polite, endearing, and put-together. I have much to learn from them.

Today I sit in a Japanese cake house, sipping steamy green tea, and overhearing conversations in foreign tongue that have become a rhythmic background masterpiece. This is the perfect location to think. I am here to reflect on employment advice I have observed and absorbed from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Emphasize presentation. Gifts I’ve received while in Japan are packaged with elegant perfection. Here, details matter and the presentation is as important as the content. The advice I absorb from the attention to detail is to take time and energy to care for a wardrobe, general grooming and cleanliness, and put effort into how we come across to others. It communicates we care, and it is noticed. (Teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired, utilize the Marketing Yourself lesson plan when providing related instruction.)
  • Greetings, goodbyes, and appreciations matter. I was given my tea several minutes ago and I bowed. I will leave the cake house and I will bow. Here you say the Japanese words for “Hi”, “Thank you”, and “Goodbye” while bowing, many times a day. General greetings and ‘thank you’s’ are customary and extremely respectful. While bowing is obviously not customary in America, I am reminded of the importance of saying “Good morning!” to coworkers, making eye contact, and maybe offering a small wave on occasion. Don’t let the greetings stop with the boss; greet the facility caretaker, the assistant to the assistant, etc. All people are worthy of respect. (Teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired, utilize the Elements of a Conversation lesson plan when providing related instruction.)
  • Schedule time to de-stress and rest. The Japanese are known as hard workers, there is no doubt. For that reason I was caught by surprise to see the team of movers taking brief naps in their vans every few hours as they hauled our belongings. I believe there is something about scheduling time to recuperate that makes us that much healthier, hard-working, focused, and able to think critically. While it is almost never appropriate to nap on the job in America, we can still absorb this advice: schedule rest to de-stress. (Teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired, utilize the Stress Management lesson series when providing related instruction.)
  • Protect the reputation of others. Reputation is quintessential in Japan. Here’s what I’ve absorbed on the subject of protecting the honor and dignity of others: Avoid embarrassing a person by correcting the individual in private; refusing to spread office-gossip; and remaining calm when frustrated, instead of yelling at a coworker or employee. (Teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired, utilize the Social Skills lesson series when providing related instruction.)

We would be wise to take these lessons to heart.

Take care, from Japan.