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Sunday, Aug. 13, 2000

JAPAN LITE

Seven key ways to enjoy the rest of your days


I've finally figured out why Japanese people don't take more vacations -- they don't want to. Work is comfortable and safe for them. Vacations offer too much adventure. Japanese people try to avoid using the "f" word: Fun.

I noticed a serious lack of the Fun Factor in Japanese people since I moved to Shiraishi Island. In the summertime, our island becomes a tourist haven as people come out to enjoy the sea and beach. I often invite my Japanese friends to come out, but they never come. Kana won't come because her husband doesn't like it when she gets sun-tanned (white skin is prized in Japan). Ai won't come if she's having her menstrual cycle. Yumiko won't come because she gets sea sick. Etsuko won't come because she can't swim. It worries me that so many Japanese people are at such odds with nature.

No wonder they prefer to work: No sun, no waves, no drowning.

This is not to say that Japanese people do not have fun. They do smile and laugh. But humor is usually left to "manzai" performances, drinking establishments and other enclosed places created specifically for paying to let it all out. The result is surface smiles and laughs.

With Westerners, fun and humor are released differently -- more from the heart. We find humor in everyday living, not just certain situations. This is why you'll never find that insincere smile or a nervous laugh among us that the Japanese are famous for. Many Westerners create humor in their lives, as well as react to humorous situations. This is because we feel life is to be enjoyed.

I often wish Japanese people would lighten up. But it is hard for them because they feel that you have to be gravely serious in order to do something well. Therefore work must be a very serious thing. It must be "taihen" (hard) and it must make you "tsukareta" (tired). If you're having fun, you must not be working hard enough.

But to Westerners, the key to a successful life is finding a job that you enjoy. If you enjoy your job, you will not be feeling it is so "hard" and "tiring" because it is like your hobby. It's OK to work and have fun. The "f" word is not only a part of job satisfaction, it is a prescription for living.

So for those Japanese who want to be cured, and who want to be able to use the "f" word without guilt, I am providing the following one-week intensive course in "carpe diem." Each day, inject a dose of carpe diem by coming to a basic understanding of these commonly used English expressions:

Monday. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Curiously, there are no people named Jack in Japan. Nonetheless, few Japanese people have a balance between work and play. In the United States, we have our share of workaholics, but this is balanced out by also having fun. People who achieve this balance between work and play gain peace of mind, not hangovers.

Tuesday. "Life is short." There is no guarantee that you will live another day, so go ahead and make the best of today and enjoy it while you can: Eat that chocolate cake, enjoy the beach or, God forbid, call in sick to work.

Wednesday. "You only live once." Now is the time to take up snowboarding, become a gladiator or book that flight to Mars. Follow your dreams. Now is your only chance. Don't count on reincarnation because you may end up coming back to Earth as a rock.

Thursday. "Live for the day." Don't worry about tomorrow -- it's not here yet.

Friday. "Put off today what can be done tomorrow." You must understand that the world will go on without you. Japanese people work until the job is finished. Americans work until 5:00. If you don't finish your work today, it will still be there tomorrow. If you're not there tomorrow, you won't have to do it anyway.

Saturday. "Live life to the fullest." If you're going to do something, go all out. Whether it is extreme sports, exotic destination travel or swimming with dolphins, seek to understand the world in a different way. Go beyond Disney Land.

Sunday. "Work hard, play hard." Be a good worker and reward yourself by having fun. Work hard enough to be able to use the "f" word with confidence. Go ahead, take a few risks and have FUN!

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com


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