Category Archives for Japanese Culture

What Kaizen Means to the Japanese

Kaizen vs other approaches in Japanese cultureWhat is Kaizen and What Does it Mean to the Japanese?

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”
– Kaizen Quote

Kaizen is a extensive approach to tackle everyday issues leading to a successful project, business, campaigner or really anything you’re looking to do. In Japanese philosophy Kaizen (Kai means Good and Zen means Change) is an effort to constantly get better results from the work you do. It has its origin in post World War II when change became a key to productivity so as to rebuild the nation. A lot of this idea of kaizen stems from General McArthur (He helped draft and write the Japanese Constitution) and started when he couldn’t even make a simple phone call inside the country.


Articles Surrounding World War II:


Change doesn’t mean a change in efforts, but the mental approach to finding creative ways to do your daily job better overtime with small but meaningful changes to how you go about your tasks.

Kaizen is a real sense of accomplishing more in the same amount of time. According to Kaizen, investing time in finding new tools or ways of going about something through small but constant improvements is the core of what Kaizen is and why the Japanese find it so important in their lives. Kaizen means a lot to the Japanese, as most of the companies have adopted this philosophy to some degree to gain consistent development and growth.

Recommended Books on Kaizen:

Kaizen Way Book

The Slight Edge Kaizen Book

Principles of Kaizen

Implementing Kaizen starts with these ideas:

  1. Change the way you think. (look outside the box – To other niches or things that don’t seem related)
  2. Be Active and go for alternatives while solving issues. (Again you can find solutions almost anywhere)
  3. Kaizen is always striving for better solutions slowly over time.
  4. Use the Iterative process, report mistakes and revise work.
  5. Stay Away from Assumptions.
  6. Communicate with others for more ideas and opinions. (seek people outside and inside your niche)
  7. Compare your results against the waste, time and effort spent.
  8. Go for a root cause while solving problem.
  9. Repeat, Repeat and Repeat the whole process again.

Although it seems Kaizen could be difficult, it really is just a state of mind anyone can begin to practice. Teams and Businesses use this strategy to modify and tweak their projects by finding failure and revising work with improved results. From Large Scale to Small Scale industry, everyone is benefiting from Kaizen. Toyota is the biggest example of using this philosophy to better themselves, their company and their products.

Toyoto to Sam Walton Walmart Kaizen PrinciplesKaizen inside the Toyota Corporation

Kaizen is implemented so well in Toyota that if anyone addresses errors in production, production stops! They work towards a solution for all the errors by taking suggestions from the employees, managers and board members, and find improved solutions comparatively. Various American Industrialists visited Toyota to discover how they are working so efficiently with less wastage and errors. They were amazed to notice every worker of the company has the ability to hinder the work process without the permission of their management teams. The reward for an employee who finds and fixes faults is rewarded and business keeps marching forward, leaner and meaner.

Sam Walton from Wal-Mart and Kaizen

I’m not sure if Sam Walton of Wal-Mart knew exactly this philosophy however I think he might have, because he visited Japanese grocery stores many times and got many good ideas from them. While there I’m sure he learned about it, because in his book “Made in America” the way he created Wal-Mart draws down the line of what Kaizen is so perfectly I’d be surprised if he didn’t know about it.

What to Practice Kaizen in Your Own Life?

Keep these things in mind and decide where you stand:

  1. Explore the multiple angles/alternatives of your day-to-day work.
  2. Check where and what consumes your time and energy the most.
  3. Make tiny frames to complete and analyze your work.
  4. Free your time to review what’s going on and how it can improve.

Conclusions:

In the end, Kaizen’s philosophy can prove productive for you, if you unlock your mind, find inaccuracies, execute multilevel solutions and rethink your work you’ll enjoy success in anything you attempt in your life.

-Nihon Scope

Shinrin Yoku – Forest Bathing in Japan

Shinrin Yoku is Forest Bathing in JapaneseUnderstanding Shinrin-Yoku
“Foresting Bathing”

Shinrin-Yoku (森林浴) is a Japanese term that translates to “Forest Bathing” in English and involves spending free time wandering in nature. This therapeutic method was developed in the 1980s in Japan, and it was designed to enhance wellbeing, health, and joy. It’s used widely in the country for purposes of preventative healthcare in Japanese medicine.

Recently a friend of mine created a post about Forest Bathing and this is where I first discovered the term “Shinrin Yoku“. The amazing thing is that she has invented a technology that she calls the Harmonic Egg and it’s literally a giant egg you sit inside of. While inside you’re bathed with light and sound, it’s very similar to Forest Bathing. I suggest you look into her work as well after reading through this article.

Benefits of Shinrin-Yoku

Different researchers, mainly from South Korea and Japan, have carried out various studies to prove the health benefits of forest bathing. They found out that Shinrin-Yoku helps create a relaxing neuro-psychological effect resulting from the changes in the body’s nervous system. In turn, the body’s stress hormones such as Cortisol and Norepinephrine are minimized, and the immune system boosted.

Every research conducted so far has proved that the human body’s anxiety, anger, depression, stress, and lack of sleep levels were reduced considerably for all participants. A simple 15-minute practice of Shinrin-Yoku reduces pressure and stress levels as well as boosts mental acuity. Today, Japan has 44 accredited forest bathing sites with efforts underway to establish Shinrin-Yoku worldwide.

Additionally, nature has proven time and again to be a powerful catalyst in a patient’s recovery journey. In a study published by Dr. Roger Ulrich, a simple view of nature from your window can aid in minimizing convalescence by 24 hours in contrast to the perspective from an urban setup.

Another study by a psychology professor, David Strayer, from the University of Utah proved that Shinrin-Yoku boosts creativity. The study showed that there was a 50% boost in creative problem-solving skills from all participants after a 3-day forest bathing trial in absence of modern technology.

My Side Story About Shinrin Yoku in Japan

I have an interesting story that relates to Shinrin Yoku and another Japanese word I learned from our good friend Megumi-san while we were in Japan (my wife and I). We were on our way out to Saga prefecture from Fukuoka and we were going through the mountains, and if you’ve ever been in Japan and through the mountains and valleys you’ll know how absolutely GREEN it can be. I could immediately feel this presence of color therapy at work while we drove through the mountains, and so we were trying to figure out what the word would be that we were feeling in japanese.

Our friend Megumi-san eventually figured out what we were trying to say and she said this word we were looking for is “Chiryoukoka” (治療固化) which means “Cure” or “Therapy”. This very much rings true, what is interesting is that I’m not alone in this feeling (obviously) you can read here about how “Green is Good for You“, which is another Forest Bathing type website.

Another helpful word in Japanese that goes hand in hand with Shinrin Yoku is Komorebi. Komorebi (木漏れ日) is a word that describes when there are rays or light coming through a tree’s leaves creating a dazzling effect and for many creating a positive feeling of wonderment and awe. There is another word that can also sort of describe this and it’s mabushii (まぶしい), which means dazzled or bright although the difference I would say is that one is spiritual 3D description and another is a flat 2D description.

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5 Simple Steps in Practicing Shinrin-Yoku

While using the help of a guide can be the best way to start forest bathing, not everyone has access to a professional guide. However, you can still enjoy the benefits of Shinrin-Yoku on your own. To begin your forest bathing therapy, try these simple steps:

  1. Find the Right Location – find a quiet location away from busy streets with plenty of trees or even a park. While not everyone may not have the luxury of natural forests, try as much as possible to move away from the modern environment setups.
  2. Choose a Perfect Time and Duration – it may take hours when using a guide, but a simple nature walk per day can still work. Walk longer and soak yourself in the natural environment filled with trees when you get time. Even short sessions of 15-20 minutes can have significant health impacts.
  3. Go Slow and Take Note of Minor Details – the primary purpose of Shinrin-Yoku is to slow down and let your senses feel the tiniest details of nature. Use your hands to touch and connect with nature’s wonders. Feel the breeze and let the sun shine on you under the tree canopies as you rid your mind of any thoughts.
  4. Listen to Nature – find a comfortable spot and just sit listening to birds, insects, and other natural sounds. Take note of how different animals behave and sound in your presence.
  5. Use Your Nose – find locations with rich smells and aromas from the plants, flowers, and soil. Remember, some plants, such as Cedars, produce beneficial phytoncides that boost the production of white blood cells responsible for boosting the immune system.

walking in nature forest bathing shinrin yoku

As you can see, practicing Shinrin Yoku is simple, and you don’t even need a guide.
Remember to turn off your phone to avoid any interruptions as well as EMFs.

walk in nature health benefitsThings That Shinrin-Yoku Is Not

Hiking: Every nature walk has its characteristics, and some may involve a challenging trek for longer distances. However, Shinrin-Yoku is all about plunging yourself in nature in a healing manner.

Naturalist Outing: While forest bathing, we may come across nature’s wonders such as animals, trees, and flowers. However, we do not aim at knowing their characters, names, or medicinal importance.

Medical treatment: Shinrin-Yoku is not meant to replace any physical or mental healthcare diagnosed by professionals. It’s all about spending your time in natural environments regularly to enhance your well-being.

The Bottom Line

According to a Sacramento Forest Therapy Guide, Rose Lawrence, Shinrin Yoku’s central concept revolves around enhancing a positive connection with nature that helps feel your natural surroundings better, which is one reason perhaps the Shintoism religion has such a heavy influence in Japan, one does not have to have extrasensory skills to notice an affect of nature on the body, mind and spirit. You can also enjoy the overall benefits of forest bathing by following the five simple steps discussed above or you can try out the Harmonic Egg by Gail Lynn.

Marijuana and Hemp in Ancient Japan

hemp in ancient japanese shinto religionThe History of Marijuana and Hemp in Japan.

Marijuana and hemp laws in Japan are quite stringent. You could be served with a 5-year jail term if you are found with Marijuana or if you are growing it. But what was it like before the laws in Japan changed?

Marijuana in ancient Japan was considered a subculture. Marijuana and hemp have been at the heart of every culture in ancient Japan. The traces of marijuana including woven fibers and seeds were quite common during the 10,000 and 300 BC. Marijuana and hemp were also used to make fishing lines, bow stings and prehistoric paintings in the country. Marijuana was grown in ancient Japan up to the twentieth century. Growing of the crop was a round year cycle with the planting of the seeds happening in spring and harvesting in summer/fall. The stalks were then dried carefully, soaked and turned into the quality and strong fiber.

In ancient Japan, wearing clothing made of hemp fiber was something to be proud of. Historic hemp was the most valuable and abundant crop in the country. This is not only for its low cost of growing and caring for the plant but also for the benefits it offered. The ability to turn hemp into fabric made it highly valuable. This includes fabric for making hemp skirts, shirts, pants, ropes, ship sails and hundreds of other types of uses.

hemp scroll japanHemp was also largely cultivated in ancient Japan especially in the districts of Shimane, Tochigi, Iwate, and Hiroshima among others in fact there is still a hemp culture in Japan, despite it now being highly regulated. Generally, the plant grows well in mountain valleys and on the interior plains and other cool places. It was cultivated as a food source and its course fiber. You will find marijuana and hemp (Cannabis Museum) in Tochigi, known as Taima Hakubutsukan that was established in 2001, by Junichi Takayasu (Facebook) (Wikipedia), a cannabis historian.

Taima Hakubutsukan
Japan, 〒325-0303 Tochigi, Nasu District, Nasu, 高久1-5
+81 287-62-8093
http://taimahak.jp/
*website is in Japanese, to learn more visit here.

Scrolls were also some of the common hemp products in Ancient Japan. The plants were equally a great feature for the Japanese culture and it played a significant role in the country’s agriculture and culture. Many people also used marijuana before undertaking their daily chores in the country, this was seen as normal and created a feeling of balance and focus depending on the strain type smoked. This included Japan’s oldest poet, Manisha who had poetry collections and other artistic features such as acrobatics. Since the history of Japan, acrobats would use marijuana to hone their skills.

Similarly, smoking marijuana or eating hemp food products was closely associated with healthy growth in ancient Japan. It was deemed an excellent crop that helps you to grow tall. It became quite common that marijuana songs were introduced in schools especially in the 18th century because of the importance of this plant and what it had done for the Japanese throughout history.

Also, marijuana in Japan was highly celebrated because of its cleansing features in the country. It was considered a religious herb and played a major spiritual role in Shintoism, an ancient Japanese religion. Hemp and marijuana were therefore used to help venerate perfect harmony and for cleansing or purification purposes. Spiritual leaders used the herb to exorcise bad and evil spirits. There is a very interesting past of the ancient Japanese using cannabis in their history.

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The plant also signifies purity even in weddings in ancient Japan. Brides who wore vines made from the marijuana plant were seen as pure and holy. Today, it is with no doubt that there are still taima (marijuana) ceremonies in Japan, held at the Isa Jingo in Mie Prefecture, Japan’s most sacred temple. Five annual ceremonies are held at the temple as a dedication to the country’s goddess despite the current demonetization of hemp and marijuana.

General Douglas MacArthur Signing Japanese Constitution

Undoubtedly, hemp and marijuana was quite a valuable and legal plant in ancient Japan. This was until General Douglas MacArthur removed its rightful usage after WWII when US troops occupied Japan. General McArthur guided the American troops who occupied most parts of the country and ruled its supreme court after atomic bombs wiped out Nagasaki and Hiroshima. McArthur was surprised that the plant that was banned years ago in the USA but Japan allowed it to be grown in such abundance. He imagined what would happen if the troops smoked marijuana and worked on a control act that is still in force to date. At least that’s what we are told he was worried about, the truth is mostly like not as black and white.

McArthur Cannabis Control Act demonized marijuana and hemp, a prohibition law, saw the enacted of harsh penalties for anyone found with marijuana in the country. Marijuana was banned because of McArthur argued that it had harmful amphetamines, and it is a drug stimulant. With Japan’s conservative culture, it was easy for the law to be enforced because many citizens believed that marijuana is a drug and hence, it is illegal to grow it or to distribute it in any way.

Even though Japan regained its independence many years ago, the McArthur Cannabis Control Act is still active. You can read more about General McArthur and the Japanese constitution here.

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