On August 11, Record China published an article based on essays written by Chinese students after their first visit to Japan. The piece, titled “How Japanese People Interpret Laws,” mainly focused on the students’ impressions of Japanese roadway rules and regulations and how strictly they are followed.”

Those readers who have had the chance to experience Japanese motorways might not have found the streets very safe at all. Narrow roads often mean narrow escapes from clogged intersections as pedestrians weave in-between eco-delivery bicyclists and taxi cabs. But compared to the hustle and bustle of mainland China, where the rules of the road mean every man for himself, Japan may very well seem an extremely tame, if not complacent, environment.

Though the walking speed of Tokyoite salarymen during their morning rush came as a bit of a surprise, the Chinese school children were even more shocked to see how Japanese people followed traffic laws so faithfully. Even when there were no cars present, pedestrians remained in their proper place at the edge of the sidewalk and waited for their light to turn green.


But why do they wait their turn to cross when there is no present danger? While living and working in Japan, it’s a common sight to see young Japanese children heavily policed when crossing the road, whether by parents or teachers. In fact, it’s cute to see the little ones listen to their teachers’ advice and raise their hands when crossing any street so as to be more noticeable to drivers. But though traffic safety is indeed taught at a very early age in Japan, the same principles are taught to young Chinese children, as well. And yet, as they grow older, people in China ignore the crosswalk directions and go whenever and wherever they can find a space.

It’s not the traffic laws themselves, but rather the attitude toward and consciousness of rules in Japan that differs so distinctly from China. The Record China report explained that Japanese people think of laws as things that are guided and enforced by the people, more so than even the government. They take it upon themselves to ensure that the rule of law is followed and take personal offense when someone violates that self-imposed responsibility. This sense of society, while impressive and truly inspiring in some ways, can also lead to tremendous pressure on the individual.

There’s a stereotype that Japanese people are incredibly humble and overly-apologetic. Sadly, there are definite, documented cases where this is true. During an incident a while back, a young Japanese traveler was kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq and killed. In the video that the terrorists recorded, the kidnapped boy apologized for “causing trouble.” Despite the horrific circumstances, the boy’s family was even publicly censured in Japan for their failure to take proper precautions and follow the laws set in place for their protection. In effect, the victims were pressured into apologizing for the incident due to the rigid sense of communal righteousness.


Nowadays, Japan firmly believes that citizens who do not uphold the law of the land are tantamount to criminals themselves, according to the Chinese news source. Though the commentary might sound a bit harsh, it does bring up a valid point about Japanese society. Even as a foreigner living overseas, there are times when you can feel the watchful gaze of the people checking to see if you’re doing things in the correct and proper way. This tremendous social and mental pressure instilled within the Japanese populace and extended throughout all the people who live within its island borders, keeps people in line and on the sidewalk.

Source: Yahoo!News Japan
Top image: LizzAubrey
Inset images: theworldisnotflat, Tokyo Five