Japan: Some like it raw

I have visited so many Asian countries, but somehow never worked Japan into my travel plans. I suppose it is a country that Pakistanis associate with durable cars, electronic wonders, and little else. If we stretch our minds a bit, stereotypical Japanese kimonos or fans might be added to the list.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit Japan and live for several weeks in the midst of its unique mix of ultramodernity and ancient ways, including the most complicated hi tech toilets I’ve ever encountered. I was invited to take part in the Japan Asia Leadership Fellow Programme, which is organised by the Japanese Government, the Japan Foundation, and the International House of Japan. Each year the programme invites a few leaders from Asian countries to visit Japan in an effort to build better understanding between continental neighbors.

When I first arrived in Tokyo, I was struck by how developed and beautiful the city is. One thing I can say with absolute confidence is that everything works with precision. The trains are never late, even by a minute, so people can make extremely detailed plans — involving getting guests to and from many places without fear that the system would let them down. I also never saw a scrap of paper lying on the ground in any of the cities I visited in the country. Like Pakistan, democracy is something the Japanese are still grappling with; on the other hand, community responsibility is deeply embedded in their culture.

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