It was a hot summer morning as usual. Mike, a European businessman, spoke to one of his Japanese colleagues, Takeshi, in the office.
“I’m impressed with how patient Japanese people are.”
“These days the noise of cicadas is getting louder and louder, but nobody in our office cares about it. It’s so loud that I can’t concentrate on my work. How do you put up with it? I really want to cut down the forestation in front of our building so that they’d be gone for my peace!”
“Eeh.. so? I don’t care much about it… but yes, it’s getting louder…”
Takeshi had no idea why the normal sound of summer could be such a big question. On the other hand, Mike was unsatisfied with Takeshi’s unsure reaction not being on the same page.
Mike came to me to ask my opinion.
“Please help me understanding Takeshi’s answer. The noise of cicadas is getting louder these days, and it’s disturbing our intelligent work. Right?”
Probably Takeshi had felt Mike’s idea had been strange. Actually, it’s the question of how the world is viewed.
“Technically, you are right. The sound is getting louder, and it may be disturbing you. Regardless of the fact, we, Japanese people, never say it noise but ‘voice’ of cicadas.’”
“I don’t get it. What do you mean?”
“We view the world in a different way from how you do. We value something alive like cicadas and make a connection with them while you see them just as annoying bugs. They are living their lives from birth to death. It’s the same as what we, as people, do. We rank them in the same position as we are in. So it’s natural they have their ‘voices’ to speak up just like we do. That’s why Takeshi didn’t agree to your idea that cicadas are ‘the source of noise.’”
I saw Mike was getting confused with my answer.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I am. You must have realized so far that we Japanese are not good at being faced with different or opposite perspectives. We are likely to share one single common angle among ourselves. To put it into practice, we animate things as if they are alive so that even living nature can be the same subject as we are. Then cicadas are no longer objects offensive to us but something from the same level.”
“Why do you want to avoid objects as opposites? They don’t necessarily offend you, do they? Actually, cicadas are small bugs, they don’t have any weapons. ”
“Really? You said you wanted to get rid of them, didn’t you?”
“Hey, quit pulling my legs!”
Mike agreed at least to the point that Japanese people are happier than he was with cicadas because they are friends with the small bugs. He remained the only enemy to the seasonal neighbors. One single phenomenon can be understood in a different way or plays a different role in a foreign philosophy.