Discovering the Japanese Way: Reflections on the RINRI Institute of Ethics’ Seminar
A photo-op with the key people of the Fuji Education Center. From L-R: Atty. Kyle G. Bollozos (Corporate Secretary, Universitas), Mr. Akira Suzue (Head of the Fuji Education Center), Atty. Oliver M. Tuazon (President & CEO. Universitas), Mr. Kimura (Senior Lecturer, Fuji Education Center), Dr. Voltaire Cang (Researcher, RINRI Institute of Ethics), and Mr. Nakashima (Senior Lecturer, Fuji Education Center)
A personal account by Atty. Kyle G. Bollozos
From the moment our plane touched down on the Land of the Rising Sun, we were immediately impressed with the way order was lived by the Japanese people. Completely different from what we were used to, the immigration procedures at the airport were so orderly and efficient that we were out of the airport in no time. Even the bus we took from the airport to the hotel arrived exactly at the time scheduled.
We had a chance to visit temples and parks using the city’s impressive subway and railway system. But more than the beautiful landmarks and first-rate transportation system, we were awestruck by the discipline of the Japanese people, which showed in the way they conducted themselves while commuting, in the way they took care of their public restrooms (which are the cleanest restrooms I have ever been in), and in the way they valued time, both that of other people and their own.
Seeing these things and experiencing them first hand made us wonder how the Japanese, as a people, were able to achieve such level of discipline that one cannot but marvel at their virtues. It was this sense of wonder that made us look forward to the seminar we were about to attend at RINRI Institute of Ethics.
Since the Seminar was to be held at RINRI’s Fuji Education Center located in Gotemba, Shizuoka, we had to travel for two hours via train from Tokyo Shinjuku Station to Gotemba. We had no trouble finding our way to the Center as one of RINRI’s Specialist Researchers, Dr. Voltaire Cang, who would be our host and master interpreter for the duration of the seminar, accompanied us on the way. It was a very pleasant ride as Dr. Cang took the opportunity to explain to us the work of RINRI as well as his work in the Institute.
A day before the seminar, we met with Mr. Hiromichi Matsuo, a Japanese diplomat who used to be the First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines. He was kind enough to show us some important sights in Kamakura, and invited us for dinner with his family. He is a good friend of the President & CEO of Universitas, Atty. Oliver M. Tuazon, from the time Mr. Matsuo was still a student at the University of the Philippines, where Atty. Tuazon used to teach. It was Mr. Matsuo who introduced us to Dr. Cang, who used to be his colleague at the Japanese embassy.
Back to RINRI. Shortly after the end of the second World War, Mr. Toshio Maruyama founded the RINRI movement and established Shinsei Cultural Research Center (which is now the RINRI Institute of Ethics). According to Mr. Maruyama, RINRI, which means “ethics”, is a way of life or a way of living where virtue and happiness become unified. Thus, if one would follow RINRI in his or her daily life, one would definitely attain happiness. The essence of RINRI is encapsulated in the seventeen (17) principles laid down in the book written by Mr. Maruyama entitled, “Joy for All”. These seventeen principles, in summary, deal with various aspects of life, such as the relationships between family members, the value of work, the significance of suffering in our lives and the importance of respect towards yourself and others, to name but a few. When these things were being explained to us by Dr. Cang, we were amazed at how, despite the vast difference in our cultures, we share common principles with respect to such important matters as family life, work and many more.
When we arrived at our destination, we were met by the Director of Fuji Education Center, Mr. Akira Suzue and one of the Education Center’s veteran Educators, Mr. Yasuhiro Nakashima. With the aid of Dr. Cang’s translation, they explained to us the general flow of the seminar, and gave us a tour of the Education Center, which proved to be a very charming place. It was located in a special zone in Gotemba beside a military base with a breathtaking view of Mt. Fuji, or “Fuji-san”, as it was endearingly called. All the facilities of the Education Center were of top-notch quality and the place itself had a homey feel as most of it was constructed using fragrant wood; and there was even a fireplace in the middle of the hall to boot. They also explained to us that the Seminar, which was to take place shortly afterwards, was intended for Corporate members of the Institute. The participants would include a mix of rank-and-file employees, and supervisors and managers.
When the seminar started, we were introduced to the participants as guests/observers from a Foundation in the Philippines. We noticed that the age range of the participants varied; most were in their 20’s to 30’s and a few were in the 40’s to 50’s range. Mr. Suzue or Suzue-san gave the introductory talk. He explained that although not everyone attending the Seminar is doing so on their own initiative, as some might have been ordered by their companies to attend, there’s a reason why each one was there. It may have been that they personally wanted to change something about their lives; or it may have been that someone from their company, a supervisor or a higher-ranking co-worker, noticed that something had to be changed in their way of working or living. The bottomline is, as Suzue-san mentioned, each participant had to see the purpose for which they attended the seminar, so that they could ensure that they would leave the seminar with something: a goal achieved, whether set by them for themselves, or by another, for their well-being.
During the Seminar, the participants engaged in various activities such as talks, workshops and meditation that would help them in improving themselves and being more effective in their respective companies. It was a great experience for us to have participated in the workshops, as these allowed us to get more acquainted with the ways and customs of the Japanese people, such as how to bow or greet properly, how to say thank you or “arigato gosaimashita” in a firm voice, as well as how to conduct the morning meetings or short meetings with one’s subordinates or co-employees to set the tone for the work day, a practice that is observed in most successful companies in Japan. Moreover, participants were taught how to set-up their futons during nighttime as well as how to use the toilets and to clean them afterwards, which made us understand why Japanese public toilets are one of the cleanest in the world. As observers and semi-participants, these workshops taught us how the Japanese people value or take care of the little things, or the little details in things, so that these may last longer and may be used properly and efficiently, something we can learn a lot from.
As for the talks given during the Seminar, we were quite surprised to find close similarities between our Foundation’s principles and the principles that were being taught in these talks. The seven (7) acts and the eight (8) levels of gratitude discussed by Suzue-San were at the very core of the human virtues, and the deepening of human relationships — values which are espoused by Universitas. Mr. Hideo Kimura’s talk on “looking into oneself” is similar to one of the modules of our leadership course, where we teach that leaders should know themselves deeply, in order for them to be effective leaders. Mr. Kimura also spoke about the importance of love, in order to help people change, and that concept reflects the leadership model we promote on self-giving, that is, giving without expecting anything in return. On the other hand, Mr. Yasuhiro Nakashima’s talk about his personal experiences added a human touch to the whole experience, knowing that the ideas shared were personally lived by actual individuals, and do not just remain in the level of ideas.
Another surprise for us was the meditation activity towards the end of the Seminar, where the participants were asked to walk through the woods barefoot towards a vast meditation area outside the education center with a full and clear view of Fuji-san. They were asked to kneel on an area covered with gravel or pebbles and to meditate while the facilitator imparted some words to help them concentrate. The focus of the meditation was to “thank the people who have helped each participant” become the person he or she has become. While also participating in the exercise I realized that the activity helps one to accept oneself and to realize the gratitude owing to the persons who have helped him or her along the way, especially one’s parents, regardless of any misunderstandings.
At the end of the Seminar, we learned that the Japanese way consisted in taking care of the little things, from the things we use, such as the futons in the bedroom and the slippers in the bathroom, to the punctuality we observe in doing the morning meetings and other appointments, acknowledging, and expressing gratitude where gratitude is due as a way of building relationships, and rediscovering our love towards our parents as a way of grounding ourselves in life – so that we know or feel that we are loved.
We discovered that one can be virtuous if they are aware of these concepts and strive to live them, as most Japanese people do. And what a joy it was for us to discover, the Japanese way and the way of RINRI.
NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.
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