So a few people have asked me to talk about my experience in Japan and love of it’s culture. Japan (and speaking Japanese) for me is sort’ve like being awake during a dream; you know you aren’t supposed to be able to breathe underwater or fly, but somehow you find yourself doing it. You know that you shouldn’t be able to morph into a 5-part giant villian fighting Mecha, but there you are, defending the city from Godzilla. I’ll keep this short and sweet today; here are my top-ish three things that have made me come to love this amazing place.
*Sidenote – I have spent a large amount of time outside of the major Urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka, so some of mine might seem contradictory to your view of the country*
- In with the Old, In with the New – Japan is one of those places that seems to teeter back and forth between strong tradition and cutting edge modernism. On one street you can go to the arcades, stay in a capsule hotel, see a group of street dancers practicing, or visit a sprawling electronics district. Very close to it, you’ll find yourself taking part in a green tea ceremony, getting a ride on a (jin) rickshaw, buying delicious fresh food from a street vendor, and tossing coins into a temple box for good luck. If these places sound familiar to you, it’s because they are actual places. Akihabara and Asakusa near Kaminari-mon.
- Jack of all Trades? Not here. Japan is so densely populated and competition in respective areas so high, it’s pretty rare to find people who are specializing in more than one thing. As a result, you find a culture of people that are focused and completely invested in their area of expertise. I’ll never forget sitting in on a middle school orchestra performing the end theme to the Pirates of the Caribbean; it gave me chills to hear how good these students were. Or knowing that my Japanese bboy friends would be practicing on the main street almost every night in Kochi City. Your group seemed to become your second family, and if you had free time, you were probably spending it with them. As a guy with as many hobbies and interests as I can shake a stick at, I’ve always admired those that pick one thing and stick with it.
- The Onsen (ohn-sen)- if you’ve ever talked to me about Japan for more than 3 minutes, there’s a good chance I’ve brought up the Japanese hot springs. Outside of the friends I’ve made, this has to be my absolute favorite thing about the country. Obviously the whole bathing around other people naked thing can seem daunting at first, but you quickly realize no one really cares about you and you begin to appreciate the experience. Particularly for a country whose homes aren’t well insulated, in the winter these are an absolute must. Imagine spending the entire day with frozen toes, trying to stay warm with countless cups of green tea, only to finally be freed from your prison of cold by sinking into a steaming bath of hot spring water. Not moved yet? Imagine that you’re in the mountains, and that it’s snowing. You think to yourself that you should be cold, but you aren’t, because even though you’re outside, you’re still sitting that warm natural tub of amazingness I just mentioned.
So, these are just a few things that I love about Japan. Hope that it piqued your interests a bit, and that maybe someday if you have a chance to travel abroad, Japan will be at the top of your list!