I recently went to an academic forum in China. I have traveled to China several times before, and the number of cars and tall buildings increases each time I visit.
At the hotel lounge, I ordered a coffee, and when I tried to pay, the person at the register gave me a surprised look, "Huh? Cash?" China has become an increasingly cashless society, and everyone completes transactions by waving their smartphones over a sensor.
As for Chinese food, the dishes served at the university cafeteria are not that different from what can be found in restaurants in Japan. But if you go to a restaurant in China, all the food seasonings and arrangement were new or stylish. There were many times when I thought, "Wow, the energy in this society is amazing!"
One day at lunch, I told the academic I was dining with that it was brilliant how each dish was done up in a new way. When I did, my companion, who said they had been to Japan many times, said, "Thank you." But then they added this:
"But Japan is amazing too. For example, this dessert: Many fruits are arranged on a big plate, and everyone takes their portion, right? But if this was Japan, then each person would definitely have their own serving on small individual plates, and perhaps the fruit would be topped with ice cream, wouldn't it? In that area, China still has a way to go."
The person said that of all of Japan, they particularly loved to visit Kyoto. Certainly, it was there that they experienced that "individualized, warm service," and perhaps got the idea that "China must aim to be like that from now on." I myself felt the pressure of the pure vigor of the Chinese people, but I found that in China, there were people who had experienced the careful treatment of each individual common in Japan, and thought very highly of it.
While part of me agreed with their sentiments, I also wondered, "But is everyone sufficiently cared for in Japan these days?"
For example, from October, monthly welfare benefits amounts have been revised, in many cases downward. Among my patients as well, one person worried, "I got a notice saying that it (welfare support) is going to be cut substantially, and I don't know where to shave down my budget." Even though that person is living check to check, they were subject to a mechanical reduction in aid via a blanket revision to the system. We agreed that we both wished that these cases would be looked at on a more personal level, and discussed what they could do about living expenses from October onward.
For some reason, it seems that Japan is considered internationally to be a country that attends carefully to the needs of each person. In order to not betray that image, we must create a society where everyone can live their daily lives thinking, "I am being properly respected and cared for." (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)