While visiting Japan, we are constantly reminded of the similarities and differences of how we do things in the United States. An example of this is how the government conducts its business. We share the same end goal, to ensure the health and safetly of our citizens, but many of our approaches differ.
We visited Tsugaru City Hall. The first notable difference was the actual physical space inside. All rooms have an open office concept being wide open with a number of departments in the room, clusterd together. All of the City Departments are in City Hall, not in their own buildings around the city like we have in Bath. So, if you were to stand up from your desk, you could look around and see all of the staff working.
While this open office concept has been tried with varying success in the US, the rotating of jobs is certainly new to me. Periodically, employees on the city staff change what department they work for. One person will hold a number of different positions in their career. For example, someone from the Public Works Department might be moved to Public Relations for a few years. The idea is that everyone has a broad and deep understanding of how the whole city works. This is greatly different from our idea of specializing in certain areas that people spend years of school learning.
Another point I’ve been pondering, Tsugaru City essentially does not own its own heavy equipment such as back hoes and snowplows. Tasks that use these types of equipment are sub-contracted out to private companies, while in most cities in the US, we own, operate and maintain our own machines.
The learning on this cultural exchange has been endless. I have only briefly mentioned a few examples of how the government in Tsugaru City functions so that we can learn from it and perhaps broaden our understanding of our own government.
My observation, on this end, is that the Japanese people, as a whole, are very happy, generous and proud of their country and traditions. I am truly honored to have had the chance for a glimpse into their fascinating culture and will continue to look for oppourtunities to share what I have learned.