I joined KLEXON since the beginning of last semester. It was a circle with plenty opportunities to make Japanese friends and many fun activities. Most members of KLEXON are either college students or company employees. Among the company employees, engineers and designers make up a great portion. These two fields require them to use English more frequently than other company employees. During the meeting I noticed something very interesting. Before the meeting starts, Japanese KLEXON members would stay in their own seat, busy looking at their phone, while entire ignoring their surroundings. Meeting starts at 7 pm, however, around 6:55, even though most people have arrived, no one seems to bother start any conversation with others. I found this strange. Their goal of coming here is to practice colloquial English, but why do they have to wait till the last minute to do so?
When entering the room, some college students tend to greet their friends, who also happen to be in KLEXON. However, the rest members would normally just walk straight to their seat and start playing with their phone. Meanwhile, when foreign students come in to the room, they would greet people they know, and start a conversation right away. I think there are many reasons behind this difference. First of all, there is a different concept of time in Japan. For example, “everything is on time”, “low tolerance for being late” are some impressions Japan has left me. The idea of “doing the right thing at the right time” is critical to Japanese society. Maybe it is currently 6:55 pm and the meeting starts at 7:00 pm, but 6:55 is not 7:00. To the Japanese members in KLEXON, these two times are very different. Therefore, it is not the time to start practicing English because it is not the “right time”. I also asked a Japanese friend from KLEXON to prove my idea. His answer was that this phenomenon has to do with the idea of the “shyness as a national character of Japan” (シャイな国民性). He explains that it is not customary for Japanese to start a conversation with anyone he or she meets. Almost all conversations begin with a formal self-introduction. Also, some worry that talking to someone before meeting starts might bother them, because strictly speaking it is not the “right time”.