Georgia and Japan: A Valued Partnership

Rep. Erick Allen, Tim Echols

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

Recently, we joined a bipartisan group of legislators and officials on a study tour to Japan sponsored by the Japan Foundation.  Not only did the trip help us understand Japanese cultural distinctives, but being in Tokyo amidst 13 million Japanese gave us a first-hand look at three recurring traits of this great culture that is one of Georgia's primary trading partners.
Let’s start with precision.  Whether it is making precision instruments, creating robots that do tiny precise operations, or supporting management systems that operate efficiently, the Japanese culture values precision. Think about something as simple as a Japanese-made writing pen or something as complicated as an embedded medical device, the Japanese attention to detail allow them to create superior products. Georgia's first Japanese company was YKK, the zipper manufacturer located in Macon, who makes the world's best fasteners.
The bullet train is another example. It has electric motors in every car instead of just the front car like European versions and moves at speeds upwards of 200 MPH.  In the auto sector, the Prius hybrid technology utilized in cars, vans and buses have cut fuel consumption in half.  The Japanese love to take something like a car or train--and make it better.
Cleanliness is a Japanese distinctive that only a trip to Japan can show in full magnitude.  Litter is non-existent, every toilet has special sanitary features, and many wear facial masks out of respect so to prevent the spread of illness. This quality manifests itself in the way they do construction, how they park cars, and even in their willingness to carry their own personal liter home.  It was difficult to find a trash can, yet you could eat off the streets. This is out of respect for their community—not because of punitive action.  Back home in the United States, we don’t even see the trash in front of us.
In fact, the Japanese cleanliness is striking and as a culture they revere aesthetic beauty. With a limitation of natural resources, the Japanese value what they do have and innovate with a focus of preserving and protecting it. We even learned that the companies compete on the reduction of various emissions and do so without regulation. Self-regulation is always a good thing.
Finally, Graciousness and Respect abound.  We think this aspect of Japanese culture is our favorite.  It manifests itself through their gift-giving customs to how they cue up to get on their spotless subway.  Their quiet demeanor respects the personal space of others and they defer to older people at every opportunity.  Japanese people are humble, they value tradition, and their crime rate is very low.  Grade school children ride the subway by themselves without fear of bodily harm. Even in the famous tea ceremony, they turn the cup design toward the person they are serving in order to honor them.
This trip has certainly made us appreciate Democracy and those who support it around the world.  Sayonara for now.
Tim Echols is the Vice-Chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission.  Rep Erick Allen is a state Representative from the 40th district serving Cobb and Fulton counties. They were guests of the Japan Foundation on a recent study visit to Japan.