Oh, how I miss our days in Japan. We lived in Tokyo, Japan for 1.5 years in 2017 - 2018. I enjoyed riding my “Mamachari” bike through the city streets, and the street festivals full of food and entertainment. Food in Japan is DELICIOUS! I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad meal eating out. Although It was such a short time, I have developed a respect and a fascination with the Japanese Culture and their way of life. I realized that the Japanese value system is cultivated and taught to their children from birth. At very young ages, the children are taught how to behave in various environments, to be independent, to be tidy, to have a deep respect for their surroundings and their parents, teachers, and elders, etc. There are no “Janitors” in schools as the students clean their classroom floors, and even serve lunches to their peers. I’m sure we’ve all see the video about Japanese kindergarteners taking the trains to get to school all by themselves - its real!!!
You may say, “Yes, I also teach that to my child.”
But I can tell you, that from experience, the Japanese people have taken it to the next level up. I still can’t figure out how they do it! During “Bring your child to work day”, my husband brought our son and I to his work floor in Roppongi. All the Japanese kids were quietly looking and walking around - you’d never guess they were there! Then you hear a “WHEEEEEEEE!”- Oh! That’s the American kid. HA! Now, I’m not saying that the energy of my child is not a good thing (or a bad thing). I just admire how the Japanese raise their children to be outstanding citizens.
At this time, I was teaching music in an international preschool/kindergarten and giving Violin lessons in my home. Since I am a certified Suzuki Teacher, I found myself fortunate enough to be living in the country of Shinichi Suzuki, the man who founded the “Suzuki Method” for teaching music. I began to recognize the parallels of his music philosophy - that talent is not inborn but cultivated through ones environment and efforts - with that of his Japanese Culture.
One of the main points of his music philosophy that stand out the most to me is, in my own words, “Do not teach the child how to play the violin. Teach him how to play with a beautiful soul.”
Like Mr. Suzuki, I aim to teach my students to be “good citizens” - to have “endurance, discipline, and sensitivity to their surroundings.” He often says, “Foster the heart, then acquire the ability.” The Japanese people are humble and grateful people - grateful to nature, their environment, and to each other. This mindset carries into music: be humble and grateful for all the gifts that music can bring to your life.
I don’t live in Japan anymore but I do find myself doing, dare I say, “Japanese habits” - like slightly bowing when giving thanks. My now 3 year old son still automatically takes off his shoes and puts them the closet when he comes home - I can’t complain.