Respect for Personal Property in Japan

I’ve traveled to Japan twice now, and would have been there with a group of high school students today if the trip had not been rescheduled for late June because of the earthquake and tsunami. One of the things that has really impressed me about Japan is the respect shown for other people and their personal property. This is something that has long since been lost here in the States.

While in Japan I’ve had students leave cameras on park benches and in restaurants, cell phones, shoes, bento boxes, and even wallets in strange places. In almost all cases we are either able to go back to the location and find the item still sitting there. Other times the train company has shipped shoes back to the student, other personal items have been returned to the school or sent to where the students are staying. I’ve always wondered how this is so deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

Well, today I stumbled on an article at the CNN website that gives an even better example of the respect that is so deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

Japanese citizens turning in cash found in tsunami zone

In that article they talk about how children are trained at an early age to turn in found items to the police department:

Japanese children, from a young age, are taught to turn in any lost items, including cash, to police stations. The cultural practice of returning lost items and never keeping what belongs to a stranger has meant police departments like Tokyo’s Metropolitan have an entire warehouse filled with lost shoes, umbrellas and wallets.”

There is so much other cultures can learn from how the Japanese have dealt with the aftermath of this disaster.


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