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Gumboot Nation: Lessons to learn from Japan

Also, Tragically Hip Tribute and Jazz Festival Fundraiser this weekend
roberts creek-COLUMN

You may or may not have been wondering where I have been the last few weeks but I am going to tell you anyway – I was in Japan, and while it feels like a Western country in most ways there is still enough history and cultural differences to make it feel exciting. Our visit was primarily a family one, our son and his family live there. While that meant we were not “free agents” to travel around as much as we might have, it did give us some insight into life in Japan on the inside in addition to our experiences as tourists.  

This isn’t a travel column so I am not going to tell you about the magnificent cities, beautiful countryside and fabulous food. However there are some things about life in Japan that you might find interesting and might give us all some pause for thought.  

All my readers know by now that I am just a little obsessed by the garbage and litter strewn around our community. So let me tell you how it is in Japan, at least in the cities. There is no garbage or litter anywhere, period. It just does not exist. But strangely enough there is another thing that does not exist: garbage cans. Yep, no kinds of waste receptacles anywhere except an occasional bottle recycling bin near vending machines. So what do people do with their garbage? They take it home with them. No one would ever consider dropping a candy wrapper or throwing a McDonald’s bag out the car window. Part of that is that in Japan you generally do not eat or drink on the move, it is considered rude. There are lots of street food vendors but you stand in place while you consume your grilled mochi on a stick. Still no garbage can though, you put that stick in your bag and take it home! Oh, yeah and don’t expect a paper napkin to wipe your sticky fingers, you use a little cloth you carry with you. 

This and many other aspects of life in Japan are based on respect. Respect for your environment, homes and public places and respect for each other. So no litter, no talking on cell phones, eating or personal music on public transportation or walking down the street and no theft. No one locks their bikes and if you leave your purse somewhere it will still be there. Anytime you “connect” with people, such as entering elevator/ stairway, passing in front of someone or entering a store, you nod, a kind of mini bow. In a small town we stopped for three teenage baseball players to cross the street. When they reached the other side, they all turned gave us a synchronized full bow to thank us! This may seem a bit extreme but you get used to it. The respect is a lovely principle and it extends to driving. When backing up, you flash your hazard lights to alert others and do the same when you pass another driver. There is a zero tolerance for drinking and driving, 0.000 per cent being the allowed limit, and very stiff penalties. People are lovely, gracious and helpful. You add in the art and the food and it makes Japan a very enticing country to visit.  

Alright enough about that! Let me tell you about some local events that could make this weekend exciting for you!  

Friday night (that’s tonight!) the Tragically Hip tribute band Gift Shop is playing at the Legion at 9 p.m.  

Peace Meditation - Yoga by the Sea is hosting an open and free peace meditation. Whatever your practice you are invited to participate. 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. Please bring a food bank donation.  

Saturday (tomorrow!)at the Legion it’s another tribute with The Smiths Appreciation Night. DJ little d and Kamandi will be spinning Morrissey and other music of the era and here will be a talent opportunity for you to sing or read poetry. Starts at 7 p.m. 

Also tomorrow, at the Hall it’s the annual Jazz Festival Fundraiser. Doors open at 7 p.m. with DJ Sam Pulpo and then at 8 p.m. it’s Vancouver’s favourite Latin jazz and salsa band, Rhumba Calsada. Tickets are available at Eventbrite, One Flower Gallery and Strait Music for $30. $35 at the door.  

Just a reminder about ongoing events at the Legion: on Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. the BUGS get together to strum their ukes and sing and anyone is welcome to join in. 

On Wednesdays it’s Open Mic and Wednesday Night Jam at 7 p.m. Kitchen open at 5 p.m. 

Also local artist Elin Jonsson is exhibiting her work at the Gumboot Cafe so stop by and take a look.  

Please write to me. Event info, ideas and stories for the column are welcome! [email protected]