Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Only in Japan

As soon as I saw the title, "synchronized walking" and a screen capture of the video, I knew it must be from Japan. The Japanese have perfected the art of synchronization and precision in everything they undertake. Typically, there is one correct way of doing things.

In the arts of ikebana (flower arranging), shodo (calligraphy), or tea ceremony, or in the sports of karate, aikido, or judo, students practice and practice for countless hours, days, months, and years to reach perfection. A Japanese "sensei" is one of the most respectable positions possible.

One of the most popular phrases of encouragement in Japan is "頑張って下さい, or ganbatte kudasai," which means "please, do your best." In response, the person says "はい、がんばります, hai, ganbarimasu." Striving for perfection, or at the very least, your very best is tantamount in Japan.

As foreigners, we were considered wild cards and were not expected to achieve or even strive toward such perfection. (In fact, we often felt that we were not expected or even desired to excel at anything in Japan. We often received shocked looks if we were able to handle a pair of chopsticks with aplomb.)

I loved so much about my time in Japan, but I know I could not live there long term. I would chafe against the lack of individuality. I would wither under the expectation that I behave like everyone else.

However, this culture of perfection is the reason they can create such precise art as this:


  1. This is just like an American marching band, except no trumpets, drums or trombones, or epaulets.

  2. Perhaps, but I've never seen an American marching band this perfectly synchronized before.