A few years back, I was lucky enough to explore Japan. I remember traveling in the public bus in the city of Kyoto and getting a call on my phone. After about a minute of conversation, I realized that – even though the bus was almost packed – the only sound around was my own. A bit shameful, I hung up quickly and struggled to shyfully blurt out excuses in English to the Japanese woman sitting next to me. Luckily, not only did she understand English, but with sweet compassion, she told me that in her culture, there was such a thing as a right to silence. This explained why no one would take a call (except for emergencies) in public transportation. These particular conversations do in fact interrupt the public silence owed to the inhabitants of this millenary city.
This is one of the best presents I got from my trip to Japan, and in the shape of a lesson too. I was able to grow from this intercultural experience: my phone calls and private conversations are not superior to each and everyone’s right to travel in harmonious and inspiring silence. Now I know, silence has a lot to offer.
Manuel Bartra Mujica (Peruvian) When his college classmates celebrate their graduation, Manuel, a Peruvian lawyer, favors lingering on in the Far East. He travels between China and Japan to visit his father, a diplomat.