Bishop: By the way, I called 119 (emergency number) the other day.
It was the first time I had ever done so in Japan.
JinK: Ah, yes. Japan’s version of America’s 911.
For some reason, Japan’s emergency number is the reverse of America’s.
Anyway, what happened?
Bishop: As I was walking the dog with my wife, all of a sudden I saw an old woman slip and fall.
She looked rather old, probably in her 80’s or 90’s.
She was a bit overweight as well, so she hit the ground quite hard.
JinK: Ooohhh. That sounds painful… So, was she OK?
Bishop: So then, I called the 119 operator to tell them the location,
but the woman said “I’m fine, I don’t need help…”
I asked, “Are you sure you’re OK?” and she insisted that she was,
so I told the operator that we don’t need an ambulance after all.
JinK: But, was she really OK?
Bishop: No, actually she wasn’t. That’s when I saw the blood slowly spreading around
from underneath her. It was clear that she was not fine.
A passerby then helped by running to the nearby fire station to get help.
Even in such a serious situation, the woman kept apologizing for inconveniencing us.
She was more worried about inconveniencing others than the possibly
life-threatening situation that she was in.
JinK: Japan does have a very deep rooted cultural notion that it’s not good to
inconvenience others. Inconveniencing others produces a feeling of shame.
Shame is dishonor. Japanese try to avoid dishonor as much as possible.
In Bushido, the way of the samurai, there is even a saying that
an honorable death is better than living in dishonor.
We no longer live in the times of seppuku or hara-kiri (ritual suicide by disembowelment),
but we are still told from a young age not to inconvenience others.
For example, in America you often see people speaking loudly on buses and subways,
but in Japan people are usually silent, or will at least lower their voices to speak.
Bishop: Yes, I’ve found that to be true in Japan.
JinK: So, was the old lady OK?
Bishop: The firemen took her away in a stretcher.
I think she was fine, but judging from the severity of her injury I would guess
she was in the hospital for at least a few days.
By the way, she kept apologizing to the firemen even as they were helping
her blood-soaked body onto the stretcher.
JinK: This propensity was probably stronger than usual for her since she’s
from an older generation.
Fact #2 In Japan, there is a deep-rooted culture of seeing inconveniencing others as almost sinful
(Though whether it’s more important than your life is questionable…)
By Bishop & JinK.