The Japanese are known to be sensitive to the needs of others, and to put group harmony above everything else. They go to great lengths to please the customer.
It is common to see in (the nicer) restaurants, baskets at the side, for customers to put their bags. This will never work in Malaysia because it's like an invitation for thieves to help themselves to your personal belongings.
However, because most Japanese do not have cars, and travel around on public transportation, many times they have to carry all their belongings with them. So it's a great relief to have these baskets since you can't hold everything on your lap, or on the table.
This underground restaurant that I have been visiting even have a linen storage holder beneath the chairs for additional space.
These are some of the things that give you a pleasant experience. You'd be most inclined to think that with all these cute convenient things, they would be creative people too.
So I was a little taken aback to find that it is not the case in traditional Japanese environment.
I was still working at the corridor after the conference call with Australia had ended. Since I had my earphones on, I decided to turn on some jazz music. There's something about Parisian cafe jazz where words don't matter, the music itself helps to drown out the chatter in the office, and allows you to focus on your work.
When one of my colleagues came out, saw me on earphones, asked if he was interrupting me. I told him it was okay, it was just music. He was so surprised that he asked if I was not working. I bet he must have thought I purposely went out to the corridor to listen to music.
I still can't believe I had to explain to him that I was listening to music while working. In his broken English, he continued expressing his surprise. In my broken Japanese, I asked him what was wrong with listening to music while working.
This went on back and forth for awhile with our broken languages not too different from chicken-and-duck talk, until another colleague dropped by. She was also surprised at first, but when hearing me explain that music helped me concentrate better, eventually agreed with me. She then started questioning the reason why I should not listen to music while at work.
In the end, she was on "my side". And still, I find it unbelievable that this concept of listening to music while working seems so alien.
I had to refrain myself from asking them if there was a policy on listening to music at work! Now, that is not a route I have time to go down to. I already have a list of reasons why I have a right to listen to music while at work (I'm not disturbing anyone, I'm still responsive to emails and anyone who would like to chat with me, I'm still able to produce work, and be more productive, etc, etc, etc...)
I hope I don't get a heart attack one of these days...
Maybe I just need to look at more Hello Kitty and the stress would go away...