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Understanding Japanese Culture through a Maranao Lens

In a most recent program I have attended, the JENESYS 2016 Batch 8 Economics (Small and Medium Enterprises), the Japanese culture and tradition was highlighted and given emphasis as one of the primary reasons why Japan became progressive. From their old practices of craftsmanship, courtesy, candor, manners and etiquettes, any foreign tourist would surely be amazed and would opt to indulge more. Notably, almost every household inculcates that discipline within the family and more so, the future generations. The Japanese themselves have an extensive collection of manners and customs that are interesting to learn. 

One fascinating aspect that draws attention is their food etiquette. As a rule, it is inappropriate to eat directly from the common dishes. One must put and collect a few items on his plate first before starting to eat. Pouring a drink to your own glass is also somewhat rude. Instead, pour everyone’s drink except yours and someone will notice to fill yours. Similarly, the use of chopsticks must, as much as possible, be exclusive to eating. Since they are associated with culture, using them as a toy can be considered disrespectful. Your chopsticks may have your saliva on the ends, hence, they should be flung around in the air as little as possible. As always, every restaurant would also offer a moist towel known as “oshibori,” which is used to lightly wash your hands before the meal. This manifests their primary consideration for cleanliness and sanitation to enjoy every meal. In comparison to our Maranao tradition, we also have our etiquette in dining where no one is allowed to leave the dining table when there’s still someone left eating, not to mention, the complexity in the preparation of the Pagana Maranao. One common behavior encouraged both by Japanese and Maranao is the sound that must be produced to signify satisfaction in sipping a soup. 

As already stressed out is their admirable trait on discipline in almost all aspects of their lives. Taking a closer look on their waste disposal, there’s already a discipline set in every household to segregate. There are numerous rules on how to package the garbage. In particular, Oogaki Clean Center at Gifu Prefecture showed us how they follow the 4R approach, which underlies the principles of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle and Refuse. Now, these attributes of an orderly system of waste disposal are ideal to be taught in our locality. While I searched for any particular aspect in our Maranao practice particular on the segregation of wastes, I wasn’t able to find one. However, as I share this learning, it is not my intent to conclude superiority of culture over the other, rather, I am hopeful that we be able to find good relation of our traditions and adopt those best practices applicable to our situation. 

While there’s a claim that one of our early civilization was copied by the Japanese, it is undeniable that they may have enhanced it and put more efforts to discover its potential compared to how we value such traditional innovation. Nonetheless, what counts the most is how we go deeper and get a clearer focus and mastery to our own culture and tradition in order not to be consumed by the risks of Western generational influence. 

Let the new generation understand and value our old traditions and live proud to what our ancestors has long established as a social practice.


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