I’m in Okinawa, combining a company trip and a family vacation. This is the third time the annual company trip has been held in Okinawa. Employees vote from a given selection of domestic destinations that you can fly to from Haneda Airport.
Hokkaido and Okinawa are always chosen, alternating every other year.
At this year’s party, everyone had a great time listening to music such as Haisai Ojisan (popular Okinawan music), Eisa Taiko (drumming for Okinawan traditional dancing), and dancing Matsuken Samba (popular music). When it was all over, my family and I switched into family vacation mode. (Employees are free to bring their families along on GLOBIS vacations.) On the third night, after almost all the employees had left, I encountered a man and his child in the hotel’s large public bath.
They were in the big bath. The child－perhaps a first-year middle-school student―was playing with a towel and a small white cloth, chucking them around in the bath over and over again. The father didn’t raise a finger.
My second oldest son was about to put his towel in the bath, and I quickly raised my voice, telling him you are not supposed to bring your towels into the bath. The other kid heard me and stopped playing with his towel. Instead, he began playing in the bath with the smaller white cloth. His father was nearby, but still didn’t take any notice.
This bothered me, so I decided to say something.
Me: What is that white thing?
Kid: It’s a medicine patch.
Me: You do realize that you’re not supposed to bring muscle patches into the bath, don’t you?
The father remained silent.
I was about to tell him he should be telling his kids how to behave, but I held my tongue. Things started to feel a bit awkward, so I went into the sauna and thought about whether I had done the right thing.
The incident reminded me of another at a public bath in Seoul about eight years ago. I was in a hotel and was about to get into the public bath without washing first, as I’d just done so on my own. An old man shouted at me in Korean. I immediately turned around and went to rinse off with hot water. It struck me at that time that the traditional Japanese custom of encouraging others in society to behave properly was still alive and well in Korea, too. So instead of feeling annoyed at the old man’s scolding, I was actually impressed.
So there I was, eight years later, in another bath, wondering if I was really wise enough to be scolding other people.
The answer was no.
I’m not yet finished learning as a man. I still lack certain virtues. Nevertheless, I still concluded that I should certainly speak out when I see others doing something they shouldn’t be doing. I might appear selfish, but someone has to make the effort to raise the level of public manners for society as a whole.
Rules have always been a nuisance for me. They change from place to place and country to country. They are decided by statesmen and powerful people.
Even the word “rules” seems formal and ritualistic, so at GLOBIS we maintain a principle of freedom and responsibility. We respect people’s independence by keeping the number of rules to the bare minimum.
Ventures are, to some extent, about breaking rules and changing what is thought to be common sense, and this freedom—this lack of inhibition—is vital. However, just because this is true for venture companies doesn’t mean that manners can simply be ignored.
Manners are not to be determined by people in power, but are norms of behavior created by society as a whole. This concept is appreciated worldwide. A long time ago, when Japanese samurai visited the U.S. after the Meiji Restoration, people talked about the good manners of the Japanese. Good manners transcend borders, cultures, and languages, and encourage others to think positively about you.
Every parent feels the need for discipline, but that by no means makes it easy or pleasant. It seems like we have to constantly and firmly remind children about table manners, greeting people, and speaking properly. During vacations, I can spend 24 hours a day with the kids. While this is a great opportunity, I sometimes get frustrated. The important thing is to keep at it.
When it comes to my children, I want to raise them with a stronger emphasis on manners than on rules. If you can’t get manners right, no matter how smart or athletic you are, you are hobbled as a person.