Category Archives: travel

Japan workers; shokunin

When I travel I am always interested in the working people. In Japan the word is shokunin.

Above a busy street in Kobe I found this very quite shop.




Ticket checker on train.










This ferry worker has the gulls trained to eat of his hand!








The Japanese version of a Salvation Army Bell Ringer in Kyoto at Christmas.






On a bike ride I came across this friendly lady. No she is not threatening me with her tool! If you tour Japan I suggest getting away from the big cities and you will find the country people very happy to meet visitors.

Finding help in Japan

When you are really in need of help in Japan, ask an elderly lady. If she cannot help you herself she will find someone who can!

I resorted to this method more than once but one time in particular I remember very well. My Japanese is just good enough to get me in trouble. I can ask for directions but I don’t understand the answer. I was going from Nagoya out to Ise, a remote area with a national shrine and other tourist attractions. At the Nagoya station I was not sure I got the right instructions for the right train. I had in my mind the direction we might go but we seemed to be heading past. The train was crowded with commuters and people seem to deliberately ignore strange Americans. It was getting dark and starting to rain I was feeling disoriented. I could not get anyone to exchange a friendly glance to open a conversation. I spotted an old lady “obasan” or to be sweet “oba chan” chan being like miss young lady. I approached her several rows away, pointing at my map saying wa doko deska- where is it? In half a New York minute she had a group of helpers around translating and assuring me my stop was coming soon.

When I got to my stop it was raining like crazy. I was planning to walk about a mile to a temple/hostel. I was soaking wet real quick and spotting a cafe I dropped in. As I pulled of my pack and wet jacket the folks at the bar all turned around and stared like a seen out of an old cowboy movie. I sat down and ordered and they all resumed. I asked the waitress about my destination and again she summoned help. I ended up sitting for a long time with those folks and the temple sent a driver for me. I have found the most incredibly friendly people in Japan mostly by getting away from Tokyo and the big cities.

Obasan or Obachan-happy lady




friendly teens also



Me with Shinkansen

India, women workers

In construction brick laying the person who mixes the mud/mortar has one of the hardest jobs, we call this worker a hody. In Southern India, Tamil Nadu these ladies are mixing the mud and carrying it to the men. The bring the water up from the well. They make about $1- per day.















Carpenters in India

The industrial revolution accomplished advantages for carpenters in most areas of the world. But there are some places where the work is done in amazing simple ways. Look at the carpenters on this project milling logs into boards for a roof framing project. First a load of logs was dropped into the shade and then in about 3 days these men without any electricity carved out fairly straight boards. First a paste line, same principle as a chalk line, is used to establish two lines which become the planed surfaces through much wielding of the axe. The axes or ads were sharpened by hand on a wheel nearby.

When the boards were complete trusses were built and erected onto the block walls in the same manner that and crew of western carpenters would frame a roof.





The first time I saw a construction worker in bare feet, I was both shocked and ashamed. I have been a carpenter for most of my adult life so I am familiar with hard work, but I have never had to work in bare feet. Actually my first winter of carpentry labor in 1972 was one of the coldest, snowiest winters on record in Utah and all I had was some cheap cowboy boots for work. My feet froze! I was quick to learn the essentials of proper clothes for working outside.

India; first impressions

Every American should visit India. The cultural contrast is so powerful that it is life transforming. No one can go to India and come back home the same.

I don’t think there are any atheists in India. The whole culture embraces spirituality, divinity and the existence of gods. There would never be an attempt to amputate the spiritual aspect of life out of personal life or social or political life. So westerners may be shocked, amazed or intrigued by this cultural contrast.

Also there may be a cultural time warp when entering India. The area I visited was southern India, Tamil Nadu. I felt I had entered the pages of the Bible stories, of Abraham and Sarah and their flocks of animals, of women carrying water from the well, of bare feet and open sewers. When I thought on the story of Jesus washing the feet of his friends, I understood the context better. I understood why in most ancient cultures removing shoes when coming into the house is crucial for cleanliness.

When Americans or people of other wealthy countries meet real poverty face to face it must sow the seeds of change. We see people that walk everywhere, and yet are content. For thousands of years humanity walked, and as they walked they prayed, sang a song or talked. I saw school kids who had dirt floors and no running water in their houses, but yet their loving mothers made sure they had clean uniforms and aromatic flowers for their beautiful hair. This must force me to examine my American obsessions.


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