For most Arabs, Japan is where harmony meets industry

A Japanese bullet train passes Mount Fuji. Japan’s high- tech industries and domestic culture, such as the tea ceremony, below, are highly respected in Arab countries, a major survey shows. (Shutterstock)
Updated 28 October 2019

For most Arabs, Japan is where harmony meets industry

  • Media and anime influence Arabs’ perceptions of Japanese culture, YouGov poll suggests
  • More than 60 percent of respondents described Japanese as ‘hardworking’ and 54 percent as organized

DUBAI: For some, first impressions are everything. To many Arabs who have visited Japan, their first impression of the population was that they were hardworking, organized, and punctual.
 A joint Arab News-YouGov survey conducted across 18 countries in the Arab world showed that this perception was also consistent among respondents who have not yet visited Japan but hope to do so in the future.
 Along with other words used to describe the Japanese people, such as “polite,” “creative” and “respectful,” 61 percent of respondents used “hardworking,” 54 percent “organized,” and 42 percent “punctual.”
 Arab perceptions of Japanese culture appear to be influenced by the mainstream media, anime and the country’s export industries, such as automobiles and electronics.It comes as no surprise that Toyota is considered a favorite among Japanese car brands (35 percent), followed by Nissan and Lexus at 13 per cent.
 

Similarly, more than half of younger respondents between the ages of 16 and 24 were primarily reminded of anime when asked about Japanese culture.
 Speaking to Arab News, Junko Katano, a Japanese journalist, said: “Japanese people are very honest and sincere with foreign visitors.
 “They are shy, especially when they meet foreigners, since the main problem is language. They are afraid to be asked questions in English or in any other language that they do not understand.”Considering that less than 20 percent of the Japanese population can speak English professionally or at a basic conversational level, language is often a barrier for many Japanese residents when attempting to communicate with tourists from around the world.
 This may explain why only 7 percent of survey respondents who had not visited the country and 15 percent of those who had referred to Japanese people as “tolerant.”
 The survey also showed that words such rude, lazy and angry were extremely uncommon when describing Japanese people.
 




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Katano further referred to the roots of the Japanese culture, based on the concept of “Wabi Sabi.”
 The concept follows a less-is-more mentality, with Wabi meaning “simplicity” and Sabi refering to taking pleasure in the imperfect.
 “This concept can be seen in the Japanese tea ceremony and the Ikebana flower arrangement,” Katano told Arab News.
 “The main theme in these art forms is concentration, while working under strict regulations in an environment of respect and harmony.”
 Shifa Zghoul, an architect, designer and researcher who lived in Japan for 22 years before moving back to her home country Jordan, described the Japanese people as “kind and warm people who are very hardworking” and who “appreciate” other hard workers.
 “Once a friendship is formed, you become family to them,” she said.
 “Their lack of ways of communication, due to language barriers, makes them extra shy about reaching out to foreigners.
 “However, once they overcome such barriers, they dip deep into other cultures to learn more about them.”
 Zghoul, who first moved to Japan in 1996, said she has interacted with Japanese people and experienced the environment as a student, an architect and most recently as the wife of an ambassador.
 “The Japanese people respect teamwork, which is lacking in our side of the world,” she said. “They work in teams and are very organized, and their culture is a great source of inspiration and energy in their lives.”
 Portrayed to be a population that is more focused on their own country, the younger generation of Japan is more “curious” and tend to think outside the box, said Zghoul.
 “Most of the older generations remain island people, whose entire world is just Japan.”


Japanese bidet makers flush with post-coronavirus opportunities

Updated 04 April 2020

Japanese bidet makers flush with post-coronavirus opportunities

  • Long a fixture in Arab and Asian toilets, the device is now getting a second look in US and Europe
  • Modern-day models have functions such as seat warmers and controls for water temperature

DUBAI/TOKYO: As supermarkets in the West struggle to keep rolls of toilet paper on their shelves, Japanese people do not have to worry about disappearing toilet rolls, as they have something superior: the Washlet.

Just as bidets are popular in the Arab world, shower-toilets such as the Washlet from Japan are in a league of their own.

With such functions as seat warmers, deodorizer to even air dryers, the popular Japanese company Toto creates luxury toilets that have become a staple of Asian homes, restaurants and public buildings.

Toto introduced the first electric toilet with an integrated bidet, the Washlet, in Japan in 1980.

The Japanese company, which was founded in 1917, prides itself on its commitment to improving the environment by creating sustainable toilets that include water-saving features such as eco-friendly flushes.

There is also a unique option in some of Toto’s bidets: Flushing sounds or even music that can cover up embarrassing noises when people do their business.

Washlets have many options in its latest products, including controls for water temperature and jet stream power and direction.

Customers have a choice of speedy and soft jet streams.

Most Washlets have two jets, one for men and one for women. A control panel at the bottom makes the seat easily maneuverable. But advanced Washlets have a control panel at the wall so a user can relax while doing their business.

Toto’s most expensive toilet is the Neorest 750H, which costs over $13,000, according to the official website.

The popular toilet includes an automatic lid that opens or closes when one approaches, an adjustable spray position, a multifunctional wall-mounted remote control and an air-purifying system along with a Bluetooth connectivity to play one’s favorite tracks.

The Washlet even has its own museum. The Toto museum, located in Tokyo, showcases the history and evolution of the bidet in order to pass on the “corporate values to future generations.”

The Toto museum in Tokyo, Japan. (Courtesy: https://jp.toto.com)

According to the official Toto Museum website, which showcases the culture and history of plumbing equipment, the company “hopes the museum provides visitors an opportunity to learn about the philosophy behind TOTO Manufacturing and how products have developed.”

Toto has several showrooms around the Middle East, including multiple in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait.

The company also has a showroom in San Francisco. However, while the Western world is aware of these smart hygienic products, their own habits have yet to grow accustomed.

Other big names in the toilet market include Inax and Toshiba. Prices range from about $175 at discount stores to about $325, although an expensive model can cost more than $400.

Japanese-style bidets are enjoying a spurt in popularity owing to toilet-paper shortages in Western countries resulting from panic shopping amid the coronavirus public-health emergency.

At the same time, production has reportedly hit a snag. Nikkei xTECH has reported delays of parts from China, where the first major coronavirus outbreak occurred, amid disruptions in the chain of business.

Suppliers have also not been able to keep up with increased demand from manufacturers trying to stock up on parts they fear may be difficult to obtain moving forward.