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नेशनल हाई स्पीड रेल कॉर्पोरेशन लिमिटेड

India aboard the Shinkansen towards a Bright Future

Japan, for the longest time one remembers, has been one of the epicenters of cultural intrigue. Be it their concept of Ikigai that people across fields accept as a way of finding the true North of their lives, the ever-expanding appeal of Anime and Ghibli Movies, to the impeccable lifestyle of a Japanese Individual, reflected through their food, dressing, and workplace mannerisms. A true treasure trove of cultural and technological richness, anyone or anything associated with Japan tends to be endowed with a deep sense of life philosophies, discipline and the joy the amalgam of the two brings.

In specific terms, the work ethic, a strong sense of timeliness, mannerisms and above all the quest for excellence prevalent in Japan are a subject of in-depth understanding for anyone who is looking to work with Japanese professionals. The Japanese Shinkansen train technology-the bullet train, in more than one way embodies these qualities and has become an unparalleled symbol of punctuality and technological advancement. It is not only how fast the train races, but how it has shaped the daily life and times of Japanese folk that makes it every bit worthy of the sense of awe. To associate with bullet trains and Japan at large is certainly a pivotal step in revolutionizing the Indian Transportation sector but is also about committing to fast-tracking the Nation's progress like never before.

At NHSRCL, Japanese culture and Language are an integral part of how we shape the new era of travel. Keeping the Skinkansen’s commitment to efficiency, safety and punctuality in transporting a large number of people at its core, we aim to inculcate and apply the key philosophies and norms of professionalism and excellence. There is no dearth of learning when it comes to Japanese culture and language.

We firmly believe that to learn a language is to alter the way one’s mind can think.To properly assimilate in Japan, it is important to be able to communicate in the language. It not only makes it easier to carry out one’s daily chores with minimum difficulties but also familiarizes them with their deep-rooted culture, tradition and heritage.  Polishing one’s pronunciation of everyday Japanese phrases like Ohayu Gozaimasu (Good morning), Konichiwa (Hello), O Genki Desu Ka? (How are you?), Oyasumi Nasai (Good night), Kudasai (Please), Sayonara (Goodbye), and Arigato Gozaimas (Thank you) is always a good place to start, followed by taking up language courses to genuinely be able to learn and understand all thing Japanese. 

In recent years, Japan has started to open doors of opportunities for individuals from around the world. As a result, many of those who arrive in the country are mostly clueless about its deeply rooted traditional values and oftentimes find it difficult to keep up with the pace of work and life in the country. The Japanese are known for their expertise in various fields, incredible punctuality, innovation, seamless amalgamation of ancient history with incredible modernisation, ritualised work culture, and most importantly mindfulness for others.Therefore, it becomes all the more important to dig a little deeper, gain insights into the everyday life of Japanese people and most importantly look for striking similarities with our own culture for an easy integration with theirs. Here are a few aspects, some of which are not very different from what the Indian culture harbours, that one must keep in mind:

Use of honorifics:

Just like in India, Japan too has a well-developed hierarchical work culture.  Use of honorifics like ‘san’, ‘sama’ (for a noble person), ‘sensi’ (for teachers) etc. is parallel with the use of ‘Shri’(a title of respect) , ‘ji’, ‘sadguru’ (for religious person), ‘pandit’ (for scholars) etc., in India. But what should be noticed is that while Japan has established a common system throughout the country, use of honorifics in India differs across the length & breadth of the country.


Respect for elders:

In both the countries, elders in the family are looked upon with great reverence & respect. While Indians show respect for their elders by touching their feet, deep bows and words of care are used when seeking blessings from elders in Japan. Another common thread between the cultures of both the countries is the joint family system that is much appreciated & practiced even today among people of all classes & ages.

  1. If you are an Indian who has recently shifted to Japan for work, you’ll find their workplace interaction to be more formal. Calling each other by first name is a big no and considered rude. Another thing to notice is that the idea of ‘business casual’ when it comes to dressing up for office, does not exist in Japan. Men are mostly seen walking around in grey, black or navy suits with tie while women wear white button-down shirt with a skirt along with matching blazer.

Adherence to a strict chain of command

It is common for most Japanese companies to follow the mantra of ‘ho-ren-so’. The term stands for a mnemonic device that combines the first syllable of three verbs: Houkoku (report), renraku (contact) and soudan (consult). This primarily means that in Japan employees must keep their superiors informed of their actions at all times and must not take any decision without consulting with them. No matter how big or small the decision maybe, it must go through a chain of command and get the stamp of approval from the seniors.

Group harmony

Perhaps one of the most important values Japanese companies insist on is that of group harmony among employees. For a holistic approach and peaceful cooperation within the organisation, more emphasis is laid on group consensus. Employees are expected to go above and beyond their capacity to be accommodative of each other’s schedules and needs. Selflessness over individual needs is given prominence and managers are often expected to take their role of a mentor and guide seriously whilst encouraging group harmony among team members.

‘Kaizen’ or continuously improving for productivity attitude:

It is important to note that higher productivity doesn’t always necessarily, result in better work. For companies and people to succeed, breaking from the shackles of monotony and engaging in activities that will improve the overall functions is important. This adaptation of the Kaizen- which broadly translates as ‘improvement’- by the Japanese workforce has made them appreciative of even slightest of enhancement in their own self and of their surroundings. Overall, having a focused and energized mind, be it at work or at home, is encouraged among Japanese employees so that they can pay attention to things that matter the most to them and constantly find ways to improve themselves for higher efficiency.

Attention to detail:

Can there be a better synonym for meticulousness than Japanese people? It’s not hard to notice how much the Japanese care about details. ‘It’s not that important’ is an attitude they don’t support and perhaps that’s the reason they don’t let a single thing skip their mind with ‘care’ being the keyword here. It is because they care so much about little things and details that in their business every single thing matters. For example, take their bento boxes. A reflection of tidiness, functionality and ease of eating, bento box is a carefully crafted lunchbox featuring a variety of tastes, textures and flavours. Now imagine, if there is so much thoughtfulness put into creating the perfect lunchbox what would they be doing when it comes to developing other big things like technology, automobiles, infrastructure etc.?!

Respect for time:

In Japan there is a saying, “Being ten minutes early is early, being five minutes early is being on-time, being on-time means you are late.” The idea of being on-time is ingrained in the Japanese lifestyle. From reaching for official meetings to making it for lunch dates, everything is done on-time and with the attitude of supporting each other’s schedule or plan. In fact, not just people, even the trains follow a strict time rule in Japan. The Shinkansen or the Japanese Bullet Train has a record for always being on-time. Other transport systems in the country also follow suit. In case they are delayed by even a few seconds, proper announcements are made and apologies are extended by the station staff. In a country where being on time is equated with keeping the promise, efficiency, productivity and alacrity are the qualities one must possess to be able to match up with their work standards. So, if you have made up your mind about working in Japan, you should learn to be as strict about your time as the Japanese.

Experiencing a part of Japan is one thing, nonetheless, being in Japan and witnessing the complete spectrum of the daily life one lives there is a whole new thing. One can find themselves not only admiring their systems, but understanding the absolute relevance of it all. A life altering opportunity without a doubt, it always helps to have a solid precursor on the cultural and professional sensitivities of any place. 

Japan, its culture, language and technology are an integral part of NHSRCL’s work. We recognize the immense set of learnings one can gain from which is why our emphasis on crafting meticulous Japan based training systems for our employees is unwavering. Since the High-Speed Rail technology is being adopted from Japanese Shinkansen train technology, there is a need for seamless inter-country exchanges between the officials of two countries. This forms a core reason why facilitating a proficiency in Japanese language will lead to an empathetic understanding of lifestyle systems. A training programme on Japanese language and culture developed by the Japan Foundation is instrumental for learning and using Japanese language for oral communication, and better understanding the Japanese culture.

It is the combination of all of these facets pursued with utmost sincerity that fosters a positive set of learnings and memories stemming from the rich pool of learnings that Japan as a Nation has to offer to us and vice versa. It is through such exchanges that makes Shinkansen technology not only a subject of pride for Japan, but an ideal vehicle of revolutionary progress for India.