Someone asked “While you were living in Japan, what was the one thing you admire most?”
My answer was: punctuality and attentiveness.
Or maybe.. Japanese are mostly punctual, because they’re attentive (?)
I noticed people in Japan are truly care about other people. Not in emotional way.. but more into “I don’t want to cause trouble to other people” way. This way of thinking is probably the key to Japanese’s daily perfection. Example: be punctual (don’t make people wait), clean your own mess at Cafe (so the person sitting after can sit on clean table), Don’t make loud noise, consume food, or make a phone call on train (it might disturb other people), etc. Even I felt all big train stations in Japan are designed in such way to be easily understood, so people can move in ease (exception for JR Shinjuku St. Line 1-2, and Asakusa Subway. Waaay too confusing. Why put so MANY different trains in one line?)
It’s not until I came back to Indonesia that I heard the exact word that explained this attentive behavior. It was 「気配り」or Kikubari. Heard the word during a dinner with some Japanese friends who were doing internship in Jakarta. Forgot how the word came up. I believe it was sometime after I noticed how they always offering food to other people on the table, pour drinks in everyone’s cup, even gone as far as putting food on everyone’s plate. I asked “why do you do that every time?” he said “気配りだよ！” After explanation, everything suddenly made sense.
Here the easy way to explain kikubari (snapped it from here)
“Before this incident, the term kikubari was not so familiar to me. There is not an exact equivalent in English. Perhaps the closest is “pay attention to other people” but somehow this does not capture the nuance. Literally, it means to kubaru (spread around) your ki (life force, or attention). The assumption behind the idea of kikubari is that you are part of a community. This community may be your co-workers (as in my case), your subordinates, your customers, or any other stakeholders whose needs you are obliged to be attuned to. By doing kikubari, you ascertain the needs of these people by paying careful attention to them, and understand their desires before they even need to voice them. Acting on that knowledge, you are able to comport yourself in such a way that not only avoids irritating them, but actively delights them.
Because Japanese are so accustomed to operating in groups, kikubari is a natural, almost unconscious activity for them. A Japanese person who does not do kikubari would be considered a poor group member, lacking in an essential skill for getting along with others. A supplier who cannot do kikubari would have dissatisfied customers, and a supervisor who cannot do kikubari would have de-motivated subordinates.
Awesome, right? Since then, I’ve been trying to apply kikubari norm on daily basis (not as easy as it sounds tho’ haha.) So what do you think about Kikubari? share your thoughts below! 🙂