Introduction

‘Japan and Brazil through a Traveler’s Eye’ is a travelogue written by ‘George Mikes’. In these passages, the writer has, unintentionally, brought out the culture and mannerisms of the people of Japan and Brazil in a funny way.

He decidedly comments that within fifteen minutes after one land in Japan, they will be convinced that the Japanese are highly refined in their social manners; Even though Japan has a very large population and its cities are overcrowded, every Japanese respect each other’s privacy.  The author opines that the Japanese conduct their confidential businesses and matters of love and quarrel in perfect privacy.

At a public telephone booth, because of the other Japanese, if they listen to his conversation prefer to ignore it, respecting his privacy. In the excerpt ‘Traffic in Brazil,’ the writer brings out the hustle and bustle of Brazil, chaotic traffic. Even though Brazilians are easy-going people, they transform into speed devils as soon as they get behind the wheels of a car. Even though motor cars are costly in Brazil and most people can’t afford a car, the number of cars on Brazilian roads has increased by leaps and bounds.

Summary

Manners in Japan

This is a tongue-in-cheek account of the writer’s travel; in Japan and Brazil. The excerpts talk about some practices unique to these two countries. First, in the excerpt titled ‘Manners’, the writer talks about his visit to Japan. Upon arriving there, he is impressed by, the extremely well-mannered people.

He also notices that, since the country is a very small one in terms of area, the people there have no privacy, even to talk on the phone. But people respect others’ privacy by not listening to their private talks they compensate for their lack of privacy by showing courtesy.

Next, the writer comments on the habit of the Japanese to bow to everyone. This act of bowing is very dignified but the writer finds it difficult to learn the right manner He bows either too low or does not bow at all. He learns that there is a hierarchy in bowing: who bows to whom, how deeply and for how long. If two Japanese bow, neither is to straighten up before the other stands erect in front of him.

The Japanese are very serious about their manners

The Japanese manage this without difficulty and even the smallest difference in rank, standing, age, social position will be subtly reflected in that split second one man’s bow is shorter than the others. There are clear-cut rules in the family too, as to who should bow to whom. There are bowing girls who bow to all and sundry; coach conductors before they check the tickets; and the writer mentions that even a deer bowed to him before it snatched the food-bag from his hand. 

Even at the bus stops, people bowed to each other in dignity, but the moment the bus arrived, all dignity was thrown to the winds and people pushed one other in their hurry to board the bus. With regard to eating soup, the writer says that noise has to be made while eating the soup in order to show appreciation. However, when a foreigner does make noise, the Japanese hostess might look at him with contempt.

The crowd of Brazil

In the next excerpt ‘Traffic in Brazil’, talking about footpaths in Brazil, the writer says that they are very beautiful, well-decorated places, reflecting the sense of the beauty of the citizens. The Brazilians do not hurry about at all, as long as they are walking. They amble around leisurely. But the same citizens, when they are behind a steering wheel, are entirely different people.

They drive murderously fast, and target pedestrians who dare to step off the pavement. They compete bitterly with their fellow drivers, cutting in, from both sides and forcing them to commit many crimes. But there is no hostility or ill will between the drivers or between them and the pedestrians. They smile at one another, just like they smile at the pedestrian they forced to run for his life.

The writer says that the main roads in Brazil are so crowded that the traffic that pedestrians find it impossible to cross from one side of the road to the other. He narrates a humorous occasion where a person, on seeing his friend on the other side of the road, asks with surprise how he managed to cross over, and the friend replies that he could be there only because he was born on that side.

Conclusion

George Mikes explained that the culture of the Japanese as universal and superior to the others. Japanese are exquisitely well-mannered people. They respect and believe in perfect privacy. Courtesy has a double function namely it is courtesy and substitute privacy. Everybody keeps bowing to everybody else with the ceremonious solemnity. Bowing is a mark of respect, the Japanese have a complicated hierarchy in bowing, and social position will be subtly reflected in split second. Japanese stores employ bowing whose only duty is to bow deeply and deferentially to all. 

The deer as a true Japanese bow to the visitors and then jump and snatch the food bag from hand.  The two conductors in the famous and fast Tokaido line between Tokyo and Osaka March to the middle of the coach and how ceremoniously in both directions and then start checking the tickets.

They make a fearful noise a sign of appreciation while eating soup. On the other hand, George Mikes says that nobody hurries in Brazil. Reaching the destination an hour early, a day late, or not at all does not matter. The grey pavements in the streets are decorated with beautiful black mosaics. People who have plenty of time could do so during their meditative, ambulatory exercises.  

These leisure people love speed when driving. Gaining a tenth of a second is a matter of grave importance for all of them all the time. The number of motor vehicles in Brazil is growing rapidly and thus the pedestrian’s life is becoming risky; he has to jump, leap and run for dear life.

Driver and pedestrian vice versa smile at each other. The drivers cut in and overtake on both sides and commit crime twenty times every hour but still, there is no anger, no hostility, nothing except they smile. The truly fascinating problem is the mystery of crossing on crawling traffic proceed in at a terrifying speed.