Our trip to Japan is the second leg of our project The Art of Empathy. To understand what the human talent of empathy can do to bridge the divides in our current society. When researching our trip, we came across a Japanse version of empathy; the concept of omoiyari. Omoiyari is empathy connected to an action. So you feel what the other person feels and act upon that feeling. To be able to you need to read the atmosphere of the situation. Something very true for Japan where reading the atmosphere of the group is crucial for understanding the situation.
Now we have spend almost two weeks in Japan, we can safely say that omoiyari is all around us. The way people in Onishi help out, are friendly towards each other and go -in our perception- out of their way to support us and the other residents is incredible. Waiting for the bus and being brought back home, walking the flea market and getting support in trading down the prices of the vendors, it all seems common to the Japanese people. Perhaps the fact that we are in a rural part of the country helps, but also our first days in Tokyo where we were shown around by colleague photographer, Koji Onaka, we never met before, is further proof of this concept.
Omoiyari does not help for the loneliness of people in the big city. Whether the city with its rush and run tempo prevent people from practicing omoiyari, we don’t know but to our western perceptions it is one of the coolest things to experience! Humans with attention for other humans build a very nice human society.