Ocean Science High School

There is a high school in Osaka called (in Japanese) Ocean Science High School. It specializes in training students for fish industry jobs. During my visits to Japan, what’s most impressed me hasn’t been high-end restaurant food, as great as it is, but the way everyone seems to take pride in their job and doing it well. At one point a friend’s car got a flat tire. We limped to a service station. The attendant fixed the flat in 3 minutes, running around as if we were in a race. Typical for Japan, but unlike anywhere else I’ve been. I hope someday I can learn how this attitude is taught. Surely it has something to do with schools like Ocean Science — not Fish Industry — High School.

14 Replies to “Ocean Science High School”

  1. Seth, I know exactly what you mean. I had the same impression when I visited Japan some years ago. I tried to get a cash advance off my Visa card at a bank in a small town. The employees seemed genuinely upset that they were not able to help me. See also this funny Dave Barry essay about his stay in a Japanese hotel.

  2. i noticed that too when i was in japan. so much cheap high quality stuff. yesterday someone suggested that i try a pen made by muji for drawing and it was truly wonderful, and it was only $1.25.

  3. There is a high school in Brooklyn which used to be called Transit High School – which specializes in training students for jobs in the NYC subway. It has changed its name to TRANSIT TECH CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION HIGH SCHOOL. And yet . . . NYC subway employees still don’t seem to take pride in their jobs.

  4. Have you read Gladwell’s _Outliers_? Nothing in there about Japanese culture, but lots about how culture matters and also about Chinese culture.

  5. I noticed the same exceptional pride in work among the custodial staff at a mall food court in Buenos Aires. They were cleaning tables after customers had left and bussing trays and the like. They circled the food court tables like vultures circling dying prey and as soon as a customer left a table vacant, one or more of them would swoop in, clean it fastidiously and rapidly, and then move on in search of the next table to clean. They were quiet, unobtrusive, and seemed to genuinely take pride in what they did. They didn’t put on an air as if it were beneath them, as I so often see among custodial staff in the US (particularly among certain sub cultures in the US, though not others).

  6. david, funny you should ask about Gladwell’s Outliers. Yesterday I bought two copies ($1 each from a street vendor). To help a student with her English. I have read it, yes.

  7. We just had a new roof put on in Texas, and the team of journeyman roofers, all from what may have been the same family or village in rural Mexico, swarmed onto the roof with exceptional focus and speed, and did a very good job. The dynamic seemed to be the espirit de corps, the rapid pace / specialization, and the physiological high of focus and “flow” in a demanding (and dangerous) environment.

  8. I don’t have a black or white opinion. Certainly there are positive aspects to people taking pride in their jobs, but some slaves likely took pride in their work too. A lot of people in society are performing menial service jobs for minimal renumeration, while others work much less hard and are serviced by the former – so one might understand how the former might be discontent.

  9. Nick Currie calls this state of mind among many (most?) Japanese ‘superlegitimacy’:

    The ecstasy of my train driver seemed to confirm something very important, a secret of happiness known to Collectivist societies like Japan and lost to increasingly, mistakenly Individualist ones like ours. Namely, that happiness does not lie in evading, avoiding, denying or escaping your social role, but in embracing it completely and joyfully.

    I’ve never been to Japan, so I don’t know how good whether he’s barking up the wrong tree or not, but I found his article extremely interesting:

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