Monday, 3 August 2009

Play It by Ear

The level of Japanese customer service is known to be one of the highest in the world. You can experience it at hotel receptions, banks, railway stations, department stores and many other places. When the level of service exceeds requirements, however, it starts irritating you. At larger chain shops such as McDonalds, every greeting word is uttered as if from a manual. For instance, I order “one black hot coffee”. The shop assistant asks “Would you like it iced or hot?”. “…Hot coffee please.” “Would you like some milk or sugar?”. “…No thanks.”

Implementing clear manuals or rules can appear to expedite results and guarantee success. Organisations with resolute policies and systems establish strong market position and share in their respective fields. People believe that knowing more rules which can be applied more universally is the best approach, thereby blindly seeking to implement ever more. But without realising, this narrows focus to the mere surface, and content is forgotten.

In the agricultural world, the same behaviour can be observed in daily practice. Farmers tend to follow published manuals in order to avoid potential risks. This includes the timing of seedlings, the type of manure for particular vegetables, the chemicals used for certain insects and many more. When I started natural farming, I had the same mentality. I automatically sought the best methods and guidance in every action: which weeds to cut, how and when to plant seeds, how deep to dig when planting a seed potato and so on. I was not paying attention to the conditions of the soil or making the effort to see and respond to the workings of nature right in front of me.

This tendency may be the result of modern Japanese education. This may not apply in every case, but generally education quality is still assessed by the results of university entries, and university entry examinations place more emphasis on assessing knowledge rather than cognitive thinking. We had to work so hard cramming factual knowledge in our heads throughout our schooling .

For me, natural farming has gradually erased this habit and mind set. You soon realise that there are no golden rules when dealing with nature. You must attune the body senses, sharpen your awareness of climate, monitor carefully the millions of activities happening above and beneath the ground, and most importantly, think. You must make spontaneous judgment based on your observation and react immediately. Nature is full of unexpected wonders and you are constantly challenged.

What fun – forget about rules and play it by ear!










Yabanjin said...

Welcome Back to blogging!
Your writing about textbook customer service is spot on! I also had a lot to learn this year from my garden. I followed the printed directions exactly, rather than look/listen to nature, and had very poor results. Lesson learned. I am looking forward to next spring to try again!
Again, welcome back!

Sacchan said...


Another thing I leanred and continue to learn through gardening is about time span. The poor results, what ever the standard is, are a part of progress depending on where you set your objectives.

I try to be positive about my garden but have to admit - the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence....