It was almost 1 in the afternoon and was sitting on a bench just outside Miyajima Pier having a couple of sandwiches for lunch and looking around enjoying the simple fact of being in Japan.
A few meters from where I was sitting a black taxi stopped by the walkway. I barely noticed it until the door opened and a lady, with a black uniform, white gloves and a driver’s hat, started to walk towards me.
I searched around looking for her costumers but there was nobody around. Yet she was coming to me. I felt ashamed for the messiness I created on the bench and I was ready to apologize and explain that I would put everything in the correct rubbish bins immediately after finishing my lunch. I was still trying to build the correct sentence in my brain when she arrived in front of me. Five paper cranes appeared in the palm of my hand unconsciously lifted in the typical Italian gesture of giving explanations.
She smiled satisfied at my open palm and at my still astonished face and she explained that those five paper cranes were gifts for me. She said she folds cranes in her taxi while waiting for her costumers. Finally relaxed I uttered a feeble ありがとう |arigatou| “thank you” while she was already going back to her taxi to welcome an old couple with a large suitcase.
It is a part of Japanese culture that I deeply appreciate, the concern of giving trouble to others, even when giving a gift. The need of giving explanations even for good intentions. At first I thought it was because they are afraid of being misunderstood but I am slowly learning that it is not that, they are simply afraid of giving trouble to others. The respect for the others space is so rooted in Japanese culture that they say sorry even when they are giving you a gift because it might give you trouble. Sometimes it seems extreme and it has the opposite effect of making me uncomfortable because, as a westerner, it is difficult to understand the depth of this culture. Nevertheless, I want to learn.