Thursday, October 13, 2011

The interesting Arabic TV show about Japan "خواطر /改善/thoughts"!!

About a week ago, I watched an interesting TV show on NHK (which is a Japanese public broadcasting network). According to the show, Japanese traditions have become very popular in the past few years in Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia. Can you guess why? This is because a 30-episode TV show about Japan was aired in 2009 on MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center). In not only Saudi Arabia but also other Arab countries, the show had an great impact on a lot of people and enjoyed high ratings although it was broadcast every evening during Ramadan. Since people are very busy preparing for dinner that time, the ratings of TV shows around the time are usually low. Because of this, the high ratings were surprising. It indicates how much attention the TV show drew.

The title of the show is خواطر /改善. 改善/Kaizen is a Japanese word and means improvement etc. Since I don't know Arabic at all, I don't know what خواطر means. However, I found on multiple websites that the English title of the show is "thoughts". The show was created by MBC and was aired to improve manners of people in Arab countries by means of comparing Saudi Arabia and Japan. In the show, a Saudi Arabian man visited Japan and reported on how ordinary people there were doing things in daily life. Then, the show suggested things that people in Arab countries could learn form Japan. For example, it reported that at elementary schools, all the children took off their shoes and put them in shoe boxes at the entrances, and then suggested that you could learn something from that, showing many shoes scatted around the entrance of a mosque in Saudi Arabia (Please see the first youtube video). Again, I don't understand Arabic at all, so I can't understand what the show exactly indicates.

I've heard that the episode on how elementary school children clean up their classrooms drew considerable attention (Please see the second youtube video). The fact in itself that school children clean up their classrooms seemed to astonish many Saudi Arabians although students have done that for many years in Japan. When I was a student, I did that without question why I should do that. In the aforementioned NHK's show, it was told that students don't clean up their classrooms in many countries.

The MBC's show titled خواطر /改善/thoughts intrigued me since I could learn what MBC and Saudi Arabians found interesting. Because of this, I watched many episodes of the show on Youtube although I can't understand Arabic at all.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

This is Japanese culture: silence, evanescence and simplicity

When I went to Meiji-jingu / 明治神宮 (a well-known Shrine in Tokyo) with my Slovak friend two months ago, we came across a sort of wedding parade. The bride and groom, who wore traditional Japanese bridal clothing, and their relatives were walking in a line. Shinto priests(神主/kannushi) and female attendants (巫女/miko) were leading them (Please see the attached picture). They were heading to the main hall where their wedding ceremony was going to be held. My friend was very excited and asked me why there was no music. I told her that silence is an important part of Japanese culture. She just said "I see.......". Actually, although there was no music around the people, I heard  "雅楽/gagaku" traditional Japanese music (Please see the Youtube video), coming from the main hall. I thought that it must have sounded so solemn and feeble that she wasn't able to catch it. I was sure that the sound was totally different from what she expected.

As you may know, Japanese people love 桜/Sakura (cherry blossoms). In March or April, regardless of age and gender, people pay great attention to when and where cherry blossoms will bloom since they usually last only about a week. It's been said that people find cherry blossoms more beautiful and valuable because of their ephemerality. As I wrote in my last post, we traditionally think that everything is constantly changing, and nothing lasts forever. Actually, this way of thinking is reflected in the Buddhist teaching of "諸行無常/shogyo-mujyo (Everything is evanescent)", but I don't think people are aware of that fact. They just naturally think that way because it's Japanese tradition. Anyway, this traditional way of thinking can explain why Japanese people love cherry blossoms.

When you eat popular Japanese food, you'll find much of it very simple. Let's use Sashimi/刺身 as an example. I think that many people would say that Sashimi is just sliced raw fish. However, it's been said that cooking simply is the most difficult way of cooking, and if you don't have enough skill and don't devote enough time and care, you can't prepare simple foods. It's been thought that seemingly simple Japanese food doesn't make you realize that a great deal of time and care have been devoted, and it can make the food more valuable.