Wisdom of the Japsonites

by Andy Philips (2014-10/04)

I am not a Japanese. But I used to be called Ponjap by my parents when I was a small boy for 2 reasons:

  1. I had chinky eyes then; this is somehow not evident anymore.
  2. I would get sick easily (Japanese products in the 70’s were inferior to US-made ones, and easily broke down) – again, this somehow no longer applies among today’s Japanese consumer products.

So what is a Japsonite? Well I just made up this term to refer to non-Japanese who have become so integrated into Japanese culture and society, that they’ve adopted the Japanese mindset: a mindset of pure unadulterated logic.

Ammonites, Jebusites, Edomites, Gibeonites, and Israelites are ethnic groups you will commonly find when you read the Old Testament of the Bible. Just like a group or type of people from a common ancestry, Japsonites have one thing in common – the very rare virtue of common sense. If you have common sense on the level of  a Japanese – then you are a Japsonite. Common sense is basically universal and each person has the potential to tap into this common reservoir of wisdom and logic.

So what makes a Japsonite? It’s easy. Just read and follow the way of thinking listed below and you’ll become one. But it’s actually hard to be one when you’re outside Japan – because now you will have to go against the grain in your society if most people are not yet Japsonites.

To make it easy to live as a Japsonite in your home country, you need tell others, especially politicians and government officials, to read this article – in the hope they too will awaken to become a Japsonite.

What’s the advantage of being a Japsonite? Well all you have to do is go to Japan and compare how far behind your country is in terms of quality of life, services, products, and infrastructure. If you don’t have the money to visit Japan, then there’s always the internet for you to have a visual tour.

Without further ado, I now present to you the Wisdom of the Japsonites

Basically, it’s all about quality. Quality is supreme over quantity or size. A Japsonite would rather live in a 50 square meter apartment built with superb quality (clean wall-papered walls, a roof that can withstand typhoons and not leak, smoothly sliding glass windows that perfectly latch when closed, and a unit bath with a stainless-steel faucet built to last a lifetime) than live in a 100 square meter house that is poorly built and unfinished.

Below is a list of other examples portraying the Japsonite way of thinking:

  1. I would rather order a small serving of a fine delicacy for a small moment of delight than get an entire plate of low-quality food that can just make me full. The former would give me a memorable experience of quality; the latter would just get me fat.
  2. Don’t buy things based on size and quantity but on quality and superior make.
  3. If I buy a 4000 yen camera, I will end up buying a better one costing 6000 yen for lack of satisfaction on the first. It would have been better if I just bought a 10,000 yen camera in the first place with far better features than the other two; it would even save me the time and money to travel again to the store to buy and choose another unit.
  4. You will be able to judge the state of an institution (its financial status, personnel and management) by the state of its toilets.
  5. Any thing new esp. from abroad is welcome because change is a sign of progress.
  6. Kaizen (continuous improvement). Don’t settle for what has been achieved (status quo); look for something else to improve and implement it. There is always a better idea to improve anything.
  7. The packaging of a product speaks of the quality of the product inside. Many buyers judge based a product’s packaging, and not based on the item itself. Superior packaging means those who made the product are clean, responsible, and world-class.
  8. It is very important to not let the customer have a hard time opening a package. A sandwich in a convenience store in Japan has a label and arrow where to pull to conveniently open the plastic cover. Some plastic packs in other countries are so difficult to open you need to bite a hole first with your teeth or struggle to rip one side open. The convenience of the customer is what matters most if you want people to buy your product again. Do not assume people are always carrying scissors around to open plastic bag containers.
  9. A country is not poor or rich based on natural resources, but rather on how good its managers are.
  10. Transportation is key to economic activity, just as blood gives life to the body. With a poor transport system, goods cannot flow. The government must invest most in providing the conduits of product movement for trade to prosper.
  11. If in your city, you find yourself stuck waiting for hours every day in traffic, then the best thing you can do for the place is move out. That would be one less vehicle on the road, and you wouldn’t have to suffer to wait to get to the toilet for so long.
  12. The two most important words for gaining a Japsonite mindset are “if” and “why”. For example: If I do this, what will be the consequence? Think! Why didn’t I do something that should have been done much earlier? If something is done too late, what would happen to the customer who is waiting for product delivery? Why did you do it this way and not that (which would have been more efficient)? If I work too late, what would happen? – I may not have the stamina and alertness to work well tomorrow. If I ate this, what would happen to my body? Every action, word, and thought needs to be screened out by these two words: if and why. If they do not pass the if and why test, do not proceed.
  13. The software I use must be licensed ones. Piracy is not only illegal, but also detrimental to the economy. The developers of the software don’t get paid; they lose jobs; our entire economy suffers. The same goes for movies and digital content. Pay or you don’t deserve to watch.
  14. Sidewalks and drainage are the next most important things a city or municipality can provide its citizens on top of ensuring wide and smooth roads. Sidewalks: because it eases the flow of buyers (those who bring in money). Drainage: because your sidewalks and roads will not last half their intended lifetime if you let water seep in to destroy them. Besides, which buyer would want to walk through a flooded and muddy area?
  15. Clear sidewalks of any obstacles – signboards, benches, etc. The steady flow of buyers and tourists is what any business community wants.
  16. Pedestrians should never have to walk on the road if there are sidewalks.
  17. Sidewalks should be barrier-free; meaning bikes and those in wheelchairs can easily move and ramp up/down to the road and back. Old and handicapped people equally have the right to move about in the community.
  18. If you’re serious about solving a city’s traffic woes, then build a train system or subway.
  19. Urban planning is something that should be in the vocabulary of every city or town official.
  20. Plan not just for the next 5-10 years into the future corresponding to your term as a mayor, but 30-50 years, if your really care for the city or town you are managing.
  21. Rented parking places should always be available so as not to force people to illegally park cars on sidewalks and streets. This is even a good business opportunity. Why settle for a lose-lose situation when there is a win-win one?
  22. You can make laws so that more businesses can arise. If you make parking on sidewalks illegal, two new businesses will emerge: illegal parking towing services + parking lots for rent.
  23. A culture of bribery and corruption in politics drives away potential investors and tourists.
  24. Peace and order are prerequisites to a booming tourism industry. Just one crime reported on the news can keep an entire nation of people from visiting a good vacation spot.
  25. If I ride an ugly dilapidated public vehicle, I only contribute to keeping low-quality transportation and service in business. If everyone chooses to ride high-quality air-conditioned buses, then we can rid our city of ugly eyesores and poor quality/service off the streets. That would be less traffic too.
  26. Every now and then, we need to replace the old with the new, even if the old is still functional. The taste and feel of “brand new” brings in a breeze of freshness and quality in the air. The breeze of quality spreads out from the room to the entire house, from a house to an entire block, from a block to the entire town/city: until an entire nation is engulfed in the spirit and look of being brand new.
  27. Thieves will not thrive if there is no space to hoard stolen things into. Houses of thieves should be kept small.
  28. Pass laws that encourage people to replace old cars. For example, higher insurance or tax for those with old vehicles. This will keep roads from being bogged by stalled unreliable vehicles on the road that can cause traffic or accidents. This will keep the car industry running.



  1. In my loooooooong stay in Japan – I can’t recall a time when electricity would just suddenly shutdown. Amazing infrastructure here – Really reliable. They must be doing something right that the rest of the world ought to emulate.

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