I recently spent three weeks traveling in Japan. Of course I was on holiday so I was without the usual level of push and drive and drive to get things done. That said there were a number of factors in the context in which I was living that contributed to my sense of well-being.  These struck me as both things I observed that were present and those that were absent. In no particular order of importance here are the factors I observed and my reflections on them.

  • The good manners and politeness  – my primary example is that in Tokyo, a city of 34 Million you do not her horns blaring ? Compare that to New York’s 8 million.  Ask for directions and you may easily have a personal escort. In traveling for three weeks I never experienced loud or intimidating conversation. I never felt threatened or personally at risk.
  • The level of professionalism ? from cab drivers in suits and white gloves to chefs, wait staff and service people everywhere. The thanks at the local convenience store was the kind reserved for a major purchase. Culinary artistry is extraordinary and surely enhances the consumption of food.
  • The level of energy and industriousness is amazing ? people move with great efficiency and speed – might explain the minimal amount of obesity you observe.
  • I know the business press is always reporting that Japan has been in recession for the past fifteen years ? it does not appear so to me. Even though the economy may not be growing my observation is that the standard of living is high. I’ll admit the assessment is based on how people appear and the absence of run down areas or homelessness.
  • Respect for elders, authority, family and the sacred is evident – The presence  of shrines and monuments is a testament that reflects philosophy and values more than sacred cows. Bowing as an honorific is incessant.
  • Everything is clean and trash on the streets even where you have come to expect it is almost non-existent ? and this is achieved with valmost no trash recepticles, everyone just holds trash all day. Every toilet (public included) is spotless and they all come with washers
  • Everything is used efficiently. The land mass is small and only the areas around the coast are habitable. The population is ½ that of the US and its land mass is less than the state of CA
  • The infrastructure  – roads, schools, public university education, national healthcare, social safety net is ever present.

I guess the point I want to make is that one’s well-being is not purely a function of you and the body you inhabit?nor is it confined to a discreet group you are engaged with like a family or the organization you work in. The context we live in has a great deal to do with our personal state of well-being. My final gambit is to request that you reflect on the context of your life and how it contributes or detracts from your sense of well-being and what you might do to impact it.