USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Identity in Pride and Artistry

After spending more than a week in Japan, there are stark differences in the American and Japanese motivations of work. In America, people want to be efficient and get the job done as quickly as possible. However, in Japan, the people are fueled by pride. People are proud of their work and thus become extremely attentive to detail and the process of doing things.

The Japanese have ritualized their jobs, and have perfected it to the point that it is ingrained into their subconscious. A simple worker refilling the soda machines has a systematic way of putting the drinks into it and fluidly collapsing the empty boxes into another box. Something so trivial becomes an art to watch. Everything movement seems calculated and just perfect. In Japan, people strive for this perfection and have pride in their line of work.

Their attention to detail, pride, and patience to reach perfection is very honorable and made me evaluate my way of living. Good or bad, I have started to adopt the Japanese mentality where everything is in their rightful place, and proceed doing things in calm and smooth procession. However, at the same time, I feel like I’m becoming a drone programmed to do these things. Organizing my shoes in a neat row, folding my clothes and placing them into my duffle bag. To an American, it is considered obsessive-compulsive neatness, but to the Japanese, it is the idea of perfection and self presentation. Is it really beneficial to be part of the collective? After living my life given the opportunity to be an individual, how am I going to react, once I start to lose my freedom and identity?

This is when the notion of self-identity comes into question. In America, we are taught that we have freedom and rights, and thus allowing us to have an identity of our own and a sense of self-righteousness. However, because we have no “rules” that we abide to, there is a lack of unity, respect, and pride in what we do. In Japan, everyone has a set destination or goal they have to achieve. They proceed with such care and articulation that nothing goes unaccounted for. But as a consequence, they are in an emotionless trance, with brief moments when they glance at their phones. Even then, they are still in a trance, just in another form. Their only form of self expression is through the things they buy, not by personality.

There are stark differences between Americans and Japanese even doing simple everyday activities. Take an American company, Starbucks, for example. At Starbucks in the states, baristas shovel out drinks to waiting customers. The countertops are a mess, and the taste of the drinks is inconsistent. However, at a Starbucks in Japan is impeccable. The tabletops and countertops are clean and wiped down after every use. The baristas give you your drink or pasty with a bow in an appreciative manner. The trash is separated into plastic and paper cups, combustible and non-combustible items, and “other” items that did not fall under that category. Everyone follows suit and has a responsibility to keep their city clean. The people are proud to be Japanese, but at the same time, the people are the country’s treasure.

The American culture lacks this level of respect for others and pride themselves in such trivial things, and thus creates a selfish, microcosmic image. I am sometimes ashamed of this, but there are other Japanese people who LOVE the American way of life, the freedom we have to express ourselves. I am still indecisive which was of living is best, but certainly the mediator of the head and the hands is the heart.


Filed under: America, Architecture, Japan, Psyche

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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