December 13, 2016
UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS IN JAPAN START THEIR DAY BY CLEANING THEIR OFFICE
I was invited to Japan by Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science as a Senior Fellow to lecture on Himalayan wild fruits at different universities and research stations in Japan. At that time I was working as Horticulturist the University of Horticulture & Forestry, Nauni, Solan. It was in the year 1990 and the duration of the fellowship was seven weeks. My host professor was Prof Hiroshi Yamamura of the Shimane University, Matsue. According to the programme, I was to report to Prof. Yamamura at Matsue start work from that place in collaboration with Prof. Yamamura.
According to the programme, I was to stay at Matsue during the first four weeks. From here, both of us used visit different places for lecture and discussions with the local scientists. During the last three weeks, I was to travel independently.
So stayed at Matsue like a faculty member. The horticulture department there was not very big. It had two professors and one associate professor. There was separate block for the Faculty of Agriculture and various Departments were housed in that. There were about ten undergraduate students and only one student, a girl from China, doing M.Sc. in Horticulture. The teaching was both in Japanese and English.
The working hours were from 9.30 to 4.30. Everyone was quite punctual and reached office five minutes before time. Our department was located at the second floor. So we used to meet at the lift door. There was only one key for the main door and the last person leaving office in the evening would conceal it at a place above the door. So when people would come in the morning the first person will take it and open the door.
The work, which was a new experience for me would start after that. All the faculty members will put their brief cases on their respective tables and pick up the brooms and start sweeping the floor, collect the garbage and put it in the big garbage bin kept especially for this purpose on every floor. Then they will pick up mops and mop the floor, dust their tables and other corners of the rooms. The whole affair lasted for about ten minutes.
After that the second work would start. All the professors boiled water and filled their thermos flasks with hot water. This was for their daily tea. The Japanese drink a lot of tea. In fact they continue doing it the whole day. Their tea was, however, quite different than what we take here. It was some green powder of tea. They usually put a small quantity in the thermos itself and the poured water over it. No sugar or mild was added to it. This brew had a light yellowish green colour and very mild taste of tea. A half cup of this tea was the first thing to be offered to any visitor. This was the first formality of courtesy at every place in Japan.
There were no sweepers as we have in Indian offices. The cleaning work of corridors and other common areas was outsourced. So twice a week, a group of cleaners will come like raiders in a vehicle; clean every place and will move to their next destination. This operation really used to be very fast like a raid.
But that did not mean that their buildings were not clean. Japanese are quite fussy people so far as the cleanliness is concerned. The building used to quite clean from inside as well as from outside.
My host professors and students at Shimane University, Matsue, Japan