Happy Japan

Since the March 11 disasters, the two words in the title of this post – Happy and Japan – haven’t been seen next to each other very often. But I think they are a good pair.

There’s a stereotype of the Japanese as hard-working people. Over the years I’ve lived here I’ve found this stereotype to be basically true. But it’s also true that most of the Japanese people I know or have met are cheerful folks who know how to have a good time. And that combination makes this a great country to live in.

As evidence, I point to the above video. (Watch it on full screen.)

Earlier this year, before the earthquake struck northern Japan, people in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, were preparing for the completion of a Shinkansen bullet train line between Fukuoka (the home of Hiyoko chicks) at the northern end of the island and Kagoshima at the southern end.

During a pre-opening test run, the public was invited to stand alongside the tracks to greet the train as it went by – and possibly appear in a TV commercial.

I’m told the resulting ad ran for only a couple of days before the quake hit and a virtual advertising blackout descended on the airwaves. The gleeful exuberance with which the the Kyushu people greeted the passing train seemed at odds with a national mood of mourning and calls for “self-restraint.”

But the ad remained viewable online, where many people enjoyed watching it because it cheered them up. Some even report being moved nearly to tears.

I understand the feeling. This video reflects an important facet of my view of Japan. Part of that is an ineffable feeling, and part is an easily explained admiration for how well people here understand the link between hard work and good times, which I think is one key to a happy life. Many of the people in this video clearly put a lot of planning and effort into their brief appearances – and don’t they look like they’re having a blast?

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