History of Japanese Punctuality

For contemporary Japanese businesspersons who believe that demanding time is one of the identities, this will be a small surprise. However, many Westerners who visited Japan from the end of the Edo period to the beginning of the Meiji period, said “Japanese people do not have punctuality”. At that time the Japanese did not have discipline of “time” at all, unlike from modern Japanese people.

When Japanese people have started to think about “time”

Then, from when did Japanese acquire time discipline which seems to be tough in the world like it is now?

Mechanical watches appeared in Western Europe in the 14th century, and in the 15th century it is said that the “fixed time method” which divides one day equally into 24 hours based on that, spread to the general public.

Meanwhile, in Japan, from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, the “temporary law” which divides the sunrise and the sunset into six equal parts is used, and for the common people, the temple shrine bells ringing every other hour (about two hours) know the time. It was almost the only way to do it. The time recognition at that time was only a rough one which made the interval between the bell and the bell as divided into two (half a minute) by my sense.

For Japanese and Westerners who had already captured time in minutes, Japanese are about 2 hours unit. Hiring It was extremely natural that the foreigners irritated.

Actually, this gap will be cleared up surprisingly quickly.

“Train” changes the time discipline

The author had the opportunity to browse the diary of employees of Baldwin in the United States over the whole country from 1904 to 2005 for the purpose of selling railway locomotives.

This diary, when traveling by train, describes the exact departure time in minutes and has detailed explanation about what happened. Among them, there was never been a story that the train was delayed and confused, or that he was frustrated by the loose nature of the Japanese. Also, a businessman, Keiichiro Yasukawa, who was engaged in the mining business in Fukuoka during the Meiji era, recorded the departure time of the train in minutes in the diary around 1900. Naturally, the railroad will get over if the arrival to the station is delayed even for one minute. People perceived the feeling that they were in minutes inevitably.

In the early years of the 1900s, the time sensation of the Japanese became a minute unit, which is less than 40 years since the Meiji Restoration, reaching a level where the sense of incongruity is hardly felt even from the eyes of Westerners. It has undergone a drastic change in just one generation.

The reason for this is the improvement of social infrastructure through modernization. Social infrastructure such as military, factory, school, railroad appeared one after another. Punctuality is absolutely necessary for the operation of the military. Schools that allow children to sit at the same time by delimiting time, if classes come late, lessons will not be made.

Especially the railroad is basically scheduled operation, leading to a serious accident such as a collision if time is not kept. By the time the Shinbashi – Yokohama railway was just opened, the railway authorities came to the parking lot 15 minutes before departure and urged passengers to purchase tickets. It is a hard way to shut down the door of the parking lot 5 minutes before departure. Likewise, even at schools at that time, it was stipulated by the regulations that the school gate would be closed five minutes before class start. The strong attitude of the Meiji New Government to the Japanese citizens who did not have the habit of adhering to punctuality is evident.

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