I wonder if I will leave Japan with a heightened propensity for meetings. My inbox is fairly quiet these days, news about chamber music planning with HPAC had been quiet, until tonight when we had a two-and-a-half-hour meeting to discuss possibilities. In America, there would have been a long string of emails, ideas thrown out and missed over, not mentioned in the return email and left to decay, other ideas created over time and revised, a huge brainstorming thrown together over the internet, never meeting face to face, wondering how long it would be until the next reply, and wondering if someone got the point.
Not so here, at least not in my experience. About a month ago I sent the office a list of ideas for chamber music put together by core members and wondered if it would be an unanswered email. It was. But not an unanswered suggestion. They came up to me in person a day or two later and suggested we meet during opera, a few weeks away. Of course that would be fine, I said. But experienced in American ways, I wondered if it would ever materialize or if it would just be brushed aside in the basket labeled "forgotten," as would likely happen in America. But as promised, they approached me at the beginning of opera rehearsals and offered several times to meet. We essentially started from scratch at our meeting tonight, sharing thoughts that had silently accrued over the course of the past month. It was incredibly thorough and at the end of the evening I was impressed by how much they were willing to listen and consider, despite the tight and efficient workings of a system already well in place. We made plans for further considerations and for where things will go from here, and at 8pm, we all departed.
Their work day seems defined by how long it takes to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. And there seems to be no cheating that for the sake of getting home and catching a TV show. At least not from what I can discern. No one seemed to be cutting corners or "forgetting" certain points to mention, despite the hour.
I'm grateful to be learning from this method of problem solving. It's different than the way I worked and organized in America where everything is done through email or occasionally phone, but rarely face-to-face. But despite the long hours of talking through things to the point of redundant clarity, it provides an opportunity to make sure that points are understood, that ideas are conveyed and heard, that motivations are expressed, and feelings communicated. There is less chance that someone might absentmindedly overlook a critical part of an email, or misunderstand reading between the lines. And no endless stream of careless emails filling my inbox like a whack-a-mole arcade game, sent without regard to the face that will be reading them as often tends to happen in the email world. It's a whole new system of communication. One with people, and eye contact, and gentle bowing and "it's a good idea, however..." Little considerations that a computer doesn't make. Maybe we're getting somewhere.