What is kikubari? Have you encountered it before? Is it some obscure Japanese way of doing things?
Kikubari, as with many things Japanese, can loosely be translated into English as to be concerned with the needs of others, to be selfless not selfish, to focus on other people and not just yourself and to
anticipate the needs of others.
You will have encountered kikubari if you have been in Japan for a while. Have you gone into a shop or a hotel on a hot summer`s day and find that the staff have placed a glass of cold water and a wet towel in front of you before you`ve even asked? Or go out drinking and before you can even think of refilling your glass of beer, someone has already filled it up for you? This is kikubari.
Ki(気) is defined as spirit, energy, power or life force. This is a term you would have heard used in martial arts. The Chinese call it Chi.
Kubari(配り) means to distribute or deliver or spread around.
The literal translation is the distribution of your spirit or paying attention to the needs of other people.
The notion of kikubari is, therefore, concerned with cultivating a heightened sense of awareness of others’needs, processing that information and then taking the initiative to proactively fulfill those
needs without being asked to do so.
Because the Japanese have been used to kikubari since they were born, this process happens immediately and naturally for them. It is part of daily life, and everyone is expected to practice it for the betterment of all.
That also explains why Japanese customer service is legendary. This constant attention to the needs of customers puts them way ahead of everyone else and makes them a model to emulate.
The idea behind kikubari is that you are part of a community. This community may be your neighbours, schoolmates, co-workers, subordinates, customers or others whose needs you are obliged to be attuned to. Kikubari helps you to ascertain the needs of these people by paying careful attention to them, and understand their desires before they even need to voice them.
Japanese are a group-oriented culture so kikubari is a natural, almost unconscious activity for them. Any Japanese who does not practice kikubari would be considered a poor group member. That person would be lacking in an essential skill for getting along with others. A supplier who doesn`t understand kikubari would have dissatisfied customers, and a supervisor would have de-motivated subordinates if he lacked kikubari.
For those of you going to work in a Japanese company or a Japanese environment, it is best to understand kikubari and try and implement it in your lives while here in Japan. At it`s core, it is about pro-actively showing kindness to others around you and that`s not a bad thing.
The spirit of kikubari can be seen all over Japan in daily life but perhaps the greatest examples would be during and after the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011.
Countless old people were helped to the evacuation zones despite the steep terrain. The residents were encouraged to seek out the elderly neighbors and help them get to safety in times of disaster.
Japanese supermarkets gave away food to people in need without any thought of recompense.
The people of Japan live and breathe the concept of Kikubari every day. This explains why there was no looting in the areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. Why there were orderly queues for water and other essential that would have resulted in riots in other countries. It`s kikubari in action.