I’ve just wrapped up my first visit to Japan. Lots of amazing experiences but let’s put first things first. Japanese toilets are a must do for all westerners. Ahhhhh. A warm toilet seat. And what is that noise?
That river-like, flowing water sound? Why it’s the toilet, making water sounds. According to my hosts, Japanese folks don’t want others to hear them pee. So the toilet makes peeing sounds instead. Get it? It’s the toilet making this noise, not me. And this a clever toilet too. It starts when I start and stops when I stop. But I fooled it one day. I started and so did the toilet. Then I stopped and it stopped. But then I started again and it did not! I won!
I also experimented with the sprays, the heat and the other delights of the Toto toilet in Tokyo and Kyoto. Try saying that after 2 or 3 Shochus (a high-alcohol content beverage native to Japan.) I bet you are wondering if I made it out of the toilet or indeed, out of my hotel room. I did, and the toilets were not the only thing flushing.
For most of my visit to Japan, I was having menopausal hot flushes. My hosts kept trying to make me more comfortable by lowing the temperature in the classroom. I had to beg them to stop when I saw icicles hanging from the noses of my participants.
Teaching in Japan is quite different from North America and Europe. The people are much quieter, had fewer questions or comments in the large group, but were very active in the small group exercises. For the LAB Profile Consultant/Trainer Certification Program, we have the participants form Integration Groups facilitated by trained coaches. The purpose of these end of day meetings is to help participants begin to integrate all the learnings. In Japan, since it was much easier for them to speak out in small groups, this was where they were able to check their understanding, ask questions and relate the day’s content to their working and personal lives.
I had the sense that speaking out too much in the large group was perceived as wanting to stand out from the crowd, which seemed to make people uncomfortable. They were very respectful to me, called me Sherry-San (San is a respectful ending on names; Sherry is how they pronounced my first name) and laughed at my jokes – though there was the time delay as Seiko interpreted my words into Japanese. My attempts at Japanese phrases created much hilarity. So I did the Canadian thing: I apologized in advance in Japanese for all the gaffes that I was surely to make.
My training partner Chris Herbert came from Phoenix to deliver the 4th and 5th days of the training. He is a market researcher and shows people how to use the LAB Profile to understand what is motivating groups of people. Being naturally curious, he continued the toilet experiments that I had started.
Kenta Shiba, our gracious and generous host, took us around Tokyo after the training. We ate at the top of the Rappongi Tower where we ate the best Teppanyaki I have ever had. He and his assistant Yuka, also took us to Kyoto and Nara, where we saw many historical sites, and spent some time visiting.
In Kyoto, we spent an hour getting dressed in kimono, before we visited beautiful National Treasures such as Sanjusangen-do, and the Golden Pavillion. It took an hour as 3 women had to strategize about to bind me up (I’m quite a bit bigger around than most Japanese women.)
We must have made quite the impression as several Japanese tourists took our pictures! We decided that Chris looked “venerable” in his kimono. I felt elegant and fragile. You try walking when you can’t breathe, balancing on those little slipppers.
The sites we visited were incredibly beautiful; delicate and serene gardens, elegant temples and the majestic Buddha at the UNESCO World Heritage site Todaiji in Nara. Thank you so much Kenta for many unforgettable experiences, visiting your marvellous country.
I am really looking forward to going back in August and we have already set dates for next year in Japan.