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There’s an old joke about a group of men from different nations deciding whether or not to abandon a sinking ship in the middle of arctic waters. The Englishman, upon being reminded that the women and children were now safe and that a proper gentlemen would obey the captain’s order, takes a deep breath and hops into the sea. Next, after being told that he would be a hero for doing so, the American follows suit. The German man is reminded that rules are rules, and so dutifully dives head-first into the icy water.
The Japanese man, however, needs no such promises of glory or the implied threat of what may befall him should he disobey—rather, he is simply informed by the captain that “everyone else is doing it” and so immediately jumps in.
We all like to laugh off these stereotypes, and some are definitely truer than others, but even so, the following photograph, which was shared by Twitter user @tontaroukuso earlier this week and appears to show a message board asking visitors to some international event or other to indicate where they come from by using red stickers, is wonderfully telling about the people of Japan.
“The way we add our stickers says a lot about how our nationality influences our character…”
Cynics among us might like to suggest that this desire to stick to the pattern and place their stickers just like the person before them indicates a lack of individuality amongst Japanese people. I prefer to interpret these rows of neatly arranged red dots as a sign that Japan is, and probably always will be, one of the tidiest, most organised places in the world.