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The biggest lesson I learned in Japan

Fat Mum Slim /

I recently traveled to Japan, and it was beautiful. But I took home with me one life lesson that will stay with me forever {I hope!}. Read more about it, and hopefully learn about it for you too! Click to read now!

Before last week I knew one thing for certain about Japan, and that was that I loved the food, particularly sushi. Ah, so small-minded, but I do. I also knew that it was on my bucket list as one of the places I had to visit.

Last week I got to visit Japan. With any trip I do for work, I try not to research too much before I go because I want to experience it for what it is, not for any per-conceived ideas I’ve read about it. I guess that’s a luxury that comes with having someone arrange the trip for you, because if we were heading there on a holiday… I would have researched the bejeezus out of it.

My first experience came on the plane. I sat down in my seat and wondered who my seat-mate would be. I eyed off everyone as they walked down the aisle, and wondered if they’d take the seat next to me. It turned out it was the last person to walk onto the plane; an elderly Japanese lady with a walking stick.

She was petite, and I could see her many years in the wrinkles of her skin, and the life she’d lived in her eyes too. I could also see that she was frail, not in a sickly way, but in the way that she’d lived so much of her life and had not much strength left in her.

Over the 10 hour flight I helped her put her blanket on, open up her food and snacks, put her seat back and forward, and gather her walking stick when she needed to use the bathroom. We didn’t speak, but just motioned kindly at each other when she needed me.

At the end of the flight, she reached over and cupped my hand with both her tiny, soft hands and thanked me. She held longer than normal, which helped me to realise that I’d made a difference to her. My first experience of Japan, and it’s people was beautiful.

But the biggest lesson, came on my second day…

A friend that I was traveling with ordered an ice cream, and after doing so the man behind the counter kindly asked her to stand in the shop, or just outside until she was finished.

At first I was a bit gobsmacked. I didn’t understand, but I didn’t think to ask about it. So she stood and finished it.

It wasn’t until I shared about it on Instagram that I learned the reason behind it. The Japanese like to do one thing at a time. Eating an ice cream {or any food} and walking isn’t something they’d really do. You walk when you walk, and you eat when you eat. Makes sense right?

From that moment forward I was aware of these mindfulness, and it was beautiful. The Japanese live with such intent. When you pay for something, the salesperson is focused just on you. They hand you your card with two hands, with intention and mindfulness. Generally, I’d be juggling my purse, checking out the latest photos on Instagram and trying to pay for my products at the same time. Normal, everyday juggling.

But I tried the mindfulness thing. I concentrated on doing one thing at a time. Eating when I ate. Walking when I walked. Paying when I was paying. I did things with intention and purpose, and mindfulness.

It was bliss. It was calm. It was almost relaxing.

I know that sounds simple, but it’s hard to realise what a fine art we’ve created around doing ALL THE THINGS at once. Man, I reckon I’d even pride myself on how many things I can do at one time. But maybe that’s why we’re all feeling so overwhelmed and worn out. The Japanese people have a sense of calm about them that’s contagious and beautiful.

So I took home some of that with me. Some of that wonderful mindfulness and calm. I hope it hangs around.

  • Mum Of Five Girls

    Really do hope we get to visit Japan one day it sounds lovely. I read that Instagram post at the time and told hubby about it (we knew you weren’t supposed to eat and walk but we didn’t know the reasons why) since then hubby too has been mindful of focusing on one thing at a time!

  • Hashtagbadparent

    This is inspiring, I first found mindfulness at kikki.k when we visited Australia at Christmas last year. I’ve been meaning to embrace it more and this post has inspired me to do so – not whilst hoovering and cooking my kids tea however 😉

  • MeganBlandford

    Isn’t it the best life philosophy!

  • Sarah @sarahdipityblog

    I love this! Sounds like we have a lot to learn from the Japanese

    • Definitely. I guess we can all learn from each other. There’s always something to discover. 🙂

  • Wow. I never understood it at first why did the man ask her to stand but it was a part of their culture. I admire the Japanese for their rich values. For sure, I’ll bring this lesson along with me. Who knows I’ll visit Japan in the future? Hihi 🙂

    Have a lovely week!

    Augustin Ra | Indie Spirit

  • Jenni from styling curvy

    Ohhh I like this ALOT! Japan is my ‘list’ too x

    • I hope you get there. Do you have the travel bug now?

      • Jenni from styling curvy

        I totally do…bitten bad!

  • Lauren Russo – Love_Live_Loz

    This is just so wonderful! I’ve been many years ago as a teen but just for a couple days as a stopover and I was too naive to take in much more than “Woohoo I’m in Japan without my parents!” I would love to go and explore one day!

  • Valerie Anne

    Having spent a few years in Asia, and now living in Europe, I’ve been to Japan twice and both times I connect with the people and places on such a deep level. I would live there if I could – even just for a few years. The mindfulness is just one of the many things I love about the Japanese people.

  • Jessie Claes

    We’re leaving for Tokyo next week!! Excited!!!

  • Barb N

    .. sounds like a great trip Chantelle….
    .. mindfulness in doing one thing at a time sounds like a great way to do things..
    ..hugs… Barb xxxx

  • Annemarie de Boer

    Inspiring. And about your last sentence…I think it needs mindful attention at first 🙂

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    I think we can all take advice from the Japanese,mindfulness in everything we do wounds good to me,enjoy the moment,thank you for sharing Chantelle Xx

  • I love this Chantelle.
    We travelled to Japan a couple of years ago and my brother-in-law still lives there (in Osaka). Chris and I were in awe of the Japanese people and how mindful, calm and kind they were. It was such an experience!
    I’ve been really concentrating on ‘LIFE’ lately. Yes, that sounds a little woo-woo….but I’ve had some epiphanies over the past few months that have made me really reassess this journey I’m on. Multitasking and being ‘busy’ all the time is something I’m starting to resent instead of thrive on. Lots of changes happening in our family around this theme at the moment, which is making me very happy …and your recollection of the Japanese culture has cemented a few things I’ve been pondering.
    Thanks Lovely xx

@Fatmumslim