A Trip to Japan Turns Into an Evaluation of Traditions 2

Tapping into a speaking opportunity in Japan, I stayed in the country for additional 9 days, visiting Tokyo and Kyoto. The weather was perfect with cool spring breeze and the sun occasionally peeking out from between the clouds.


Throughout the whole trip, I couldn’t stop pondering

Keith Goode, another speaker at the conference, speaks Japanese and knows the culture well. Since I was a newbie to Japan, he taught me how to exchange a business card properly, aka the business card ceremony (Really, it’s certainly a process you go through.).

After a person has introduced him/herself and bowed, you offer the card with your name facing toward the recipient. It’s important to offer the card with both hands to show great respect. Once the card is exchanged, you are expected to take the time to carefully read and memorize all pertinent information on the card. Business cards are considered an extension of the individual, hence, you should place your cards properly in a nice business card case and you should never run out of business cards. This is a great tradition to show respect to your customers or business partners.

At some time in the past, rules were established which became protocols, and then protocols became traditions. Sometimes the rules in business processes can be confused with traditions; therefore, those processes are treated as a given and efficiency improvement are not considered.

I stayed in three different hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Narita. I noticed that every hotel asked me to fill out the registration forms with my passport information, and then they would enter it into their database. To me, this step can easily be eliminated to enhance the customer experience by having the staff directly entering my passport information into their system. I also noticed there are rows of file organizers behind the hotel counters indicating that their processes have been established and followed probably since the inception of the hotel.

Even though there are PCs at the counters, the check-in process or customer’s information did not seem fully integrated or digitized into their systems. Since following rules is so ingrained into Japanese’ minds, I am wondering if management or staff question how the processes can be improved in the digital age with new devices such as smartphones and tablets. I secretly believe that they probably are evaluating the digital technology. Japanese take a long time to evaluate the pros and cons. Once the decisions are made, they move quickly.


In general, people in Japan follow rules well. When crossing the street in Tokyo and Kyoto, everyone waits patiently until the walking light turns green. Nobody wants to be an exception by crossing the road first, even though no cars are coming. It’s incredibly rude if the protocols or the processes are not followed. I value traditions as well. Sometimes, it’s OK to break rules!  The challenge is

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  • Norihiko Takahiro

    Oh no. I didn’t know you came here in Tokyo this month.

    • Pam Didner

      Sorry that I didn’t reach out. Please forgive me. I didn’t want to bug people. :-)