When Did We Forget How to Connect with Each Other?

Last week, I went to Tokyo for business and found all the people in the subway train (in my view) just looked at their smartphones silently. I saw such a scene every day when I lived there, but I realized it was a weird and creepy view where people perfectly make the same posture with no expression on their faces. I don’t mean to loudly criticize it. On the contrary, it can be said to be the symbolic situation to show Japanese politeness. We just sit tight so as not to bother each other, but sometimes I can’t help thinking that this may be a big opportunity loss. The stranger sitting next to us by chance could be a good friend.

Do you remember kids are the master of communicating with new people, and we all once were kids? I clearly remember 12-year-younger sister happily explained the monsters of Pokémon to my friends even if she never met them, even if any of my friends obviously looked uninterested. When did we forget how to connect with each other?

Let me tell you two ways to get our intuition back. The first method is to watch YouTube videos of a project: Mentos Mentors. In the videos, some shy adults go out with earphones. They are first told that communication professionals help through the earphones but don’t know the communication pros are ordinary kids. The adults, in confusion by a child’s voice from the earphones, still follow the rule. It’s just simple: they speak to people the kids choose; they repeat words exactly as they hear from the earphone. My favorite one is this. One of the shy adults came to a woman sitting alone at a café, repeating after his communication pro (a kid girl about five years old) “Can I tell you a story? Once upon a time, there was a goldfish. He was all alone. The end.” The woman said with a smile “That was really unusual.” It’s not as hard as we fear!

Another way is to come to Asahikawa to join our party held in Asahikawa Design Week. The people who gather here are designers, architects, and anyone who are interested in design and craftsmanship from all over the country. Before the COVID, people gathered even from all over the world. I know it’s not so easy for most of us (especially for the Japanese people) to talk to strangers even in a party. No worries. The main purpose of our party is to connect people, and we always provide various programs.

This time, it was a flash mob. A group of people melting in the guests of the party suddenly assembled and performed a song and dance. The song was “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. It was not only fun but also moving. Some people joined in the dance, and strangers hugged each other after the performance. Now, do you feel like joining the party? Please come next year!


CH

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.