Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thank you for all your hard work

Tetsu was reading the newspaper and I thought this was an interesting advertisement. The picture just seems very Japanese to me. I'm sorry if my picture of a picture isn't very clear. I spread the newspaper on the floor but there was window glare.

Today is March 31 (in Japan). The Toshiba company formally announced this month that they would no longer be producing incandescent light bulbs anymore. 120 years ago (according to the ad) Toshiba introduced the light bulb industry to Japan and so they have a conviction that Toshiba should be forefront in the energy saving frontier. From April 1st Toshiba will exclusively be making only LED light bulbs in cooperation with Japan's policy on saving energy.

So the picture in the newspaper struck me because it seemed like a turning point in history. And if you look closely at the line of uniformed workers in front of the machine line, you will see that they are all bowing to the machines. This is not a picture that has been set up. This is really a group of workers expressing their thanks to the machines!

In Japan there is always a beginning and an end. For impatient me, this has always been hard for me to understand. The school years begin with ceremonies and pledges for hard work. It ends with formal thanks for all the connections and relationships made. Always a lot of speeches, a lot of bowing, a lot of somber looking people standing at attention.

Factories, classes, hospitals, any workplace begins with "Morning Greetings", announcements from the day before, pledges to do your best, everyone there and accounted for. In the factory on the other side of the forest from me I can hear the radio blaring out "Morning exercises" as part of the workers "Morning Greetings" assembly. They do simple calisthenics in the parking lot...

The end is just as important. A passing on of responsibilities to the next person in line, an honoring of the duties completed and an acknowledgement of the wear and tear that the person (or in the case of the Toshiba machinery) endured.

Tetsu even pointed out that Judo practices begin and end with formal bows at the doorway to the gymnasium.

"I will be connected to you for this time period." "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here."

As an American, or maybe just a casual Southern Californian, this has always seemed to me to be a lot of hullabaloo. Let's just start! Forget the speeches. Okay, we've finished! I don't need the flowers and the formal clipped bows.

In this picture of the machinery being laid to rest the workers bow as a way to say "Thank you for all your hard work. Otsukare sama deshita. Progress moves on but we won't forget."

Even though we are in spring vacation, all the children are going to school today. It is the official day to say goodbye to the teachers and faculty at the school. Some teachers are retiring, some are being transferred. The children are encouraged/required to gather at the appointed time to listen to speeches, bow formally and acknowledge the connections that have been made.

"Otsukare sama deshita." "Thank you for all your hard work."

Tomorrow is a new beginning.

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