「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Sorry I'm late!

By Kip A. Cates


Different cultures measure time in different ways. I still remember my first encounter with the Japanese sense of time. An American friend and I decided to go sightseeing in a nearby city. We had only been in Japan a few months.

By chance, we found a cheap bus tour that included all the major sights. We were the only foreign tourists on the tour. All the others were Japanese.

The first stop was a local temple. "We'll be here for 15 minutes," explained the bus driver. "Come back to the bus at 10 a.m." My friend and I strolled around the temple and got back on time as requested.

To our surprise, the Japanese tourists were already on the bus, sitting in their seats, staring out the windows at us and waiting impatiently. I looked at my watch. It was 3 minutes past 10. "That's strange!" I thought. "The driver said 10 a.m. Here we are. What's the problem?"

Off we went to visit the next sight — a local museum. "We'll be here for 20 minutes," the driver said. "Come back at 10:45." This time, my friend and I were determined not to be late. Every few minutes, we checked our watches. We hurried around the museum, but couldn't enjoy it because of the time pressure. We got back to the bus at 10:45 on the dot. Right on time!

However, just like before, everybody was already on the bus, sitting in their seats, staring out the windows and waiting impatiently. "That's not fair!" I said to my friend. "It's exactly 10:45. How come we're still late?"

Something was strange! For the rest of the tour, we carefully observed our fellow tourists. Slowly, we began to understand the Japanese time system. When the driver said, "Come back at 10:45," this was a secret code. It really meant "Come back 5 minutes early at 10:40." Being on time in Japan was much stricter than our casual approach in the U.S. and Canada!

A great book on this topic is The Geography of Time. The author, Robert Levine, did a cross-cultural survey of 31 nations. To compare time in each country, he carried out three experiments.

First, he calculated the average walking speed of local people. Second, he measured how long it took to buy a stamp in a local post office. Third, he looked at public clocks to see how accurate they were.

Finally, he added up these three factors (walking speed + post office speed + clock accuracy) to get a final score for each nation. The results? The countries with the fastest pace of life were Switzerland, Germany and Japan. The countries with the slowest pace of life were Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil.

It's exciting to live in a fast-paced country like Japan. But sometimes I yearn for a slower life where people aren't constantly checking their watches!



The Japan Times ST: April 3, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版