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Thu, 25th Oct 2018 | Gary1957 | 881 Views.

Japan described

Back in May this year I went for a holiday to Japan. Had been on my wish list for a while and I had heard much of positives concerning the spring season there I took the opportunity to make that wish come true. I hereby want to share my modest opinion about the general experience.

Everyone knows the Japan of the nicely uniformed people, an almost slavish loyalty to the company/employer,the "us-mentality", competition, little smiles and bows, men who are getting drunk after work and so on. But it's mainly a matter of looking behind the facade. What you don't see is the most interesting. For example there are a lot of beautiful temples but seemingly nothing happens in them. Experts say that you have to meet the people if you want to love and appreciate Japan. It isn't a real spectacular country, someone who wants to see exotic colors better goes to Africa instead. Of course that's for the mainstream tourists. Only when you are willing to discover how the local people are it's worth a trip. Especially to understand their religion, theatre or music. One important aspect is to read quite a lot about the country and all aspects of life there. Find out for example what certain great writers have written. And as soon as you're in Japan, walk around and open your eyes. It obviously takes some effort on your part. Strangely enough a perfect place to make contact is "the bar". In a bar everyone is him or herself. It's even true that as employee you can scold your boss and (if you get the chance) squeeze his wife.... In a bar in Japan you are allowed to be drunk. Someone who's drunk is permitted everything. No one talks about it the next day. You just get in and start to talk. You always find someone who wants to talk. Even if you don't know a word of Japanese and the other not a word of English, you do understand one another.
There is also the theater. Kabuki is understandable for everyone since it goes about normal human feelings. Because of the great jumps, the strong expressions, the clothing and the whole atmosphere around it you easily get enchanted, not only of the theater, but of the people, its traditions and culture. The same applies for sumo wrestling. The rituals make it interesting, not the fact that two big guys try to throw each other out of a small circle.
Or of course, we can go to the temples. There you see a lot of people, young and old, because religion is important in Japan. One must watch especially the elderly. Most Japanese still retire between 50 and 55. That's been the reason why unemployment was so low for many years. When they have time at a later age they go on a trip and visit all the famous temples in the country if possible. A remarkable incentive.
I noticed that there's always plenty of water on a temple ground. Japanese visitors scoop water with such an elegant wooden spoon. They don't drink from the spoon but instead throw it from a small distance in their mouth. You try it! It's a cleansing ritual, very modest and sincere. Then they start to shove over in the direction of a priest who puts a stamp in a little book they have with them. The temple's stamp is also very important. Of course Japanese make many pictures. At home they stick the photos on the page next to the stamp and tell everyone, with the picture as prove, that they've been there. Look, there we are!!

You should go in the period of one of the big festivals and preferably during the cherry blossom one. As I did. It's impressive to see how thousands, sometimes ten thousand Japanese come together around a small group of fifteen blossoming trees. They sit there, look, camera ready, waiting for the moment that the leaves will fall from the branches. Everywhere, from North to South, the same ritual happens and is a controlled excitement. In Tokyo, office workers take larger lunch breaks under the trees, they wait endlessly, so it seems. You only understand it if you know the real philosophy behind it. The blossom is the symbol of youth. And this youth is the most wonderful at the moment that it passes, when that small blossom flower falls off. They wait for it, that's what they want to photograph; the blossom that snows down. Then you see that businessmen all of a sudden start to sing. Sometimes the spectators have consumed some sake already. Japanese are slightly drunk easily, then release their emotions, enjoy it and see through the facts. They simply have a nice experience.

To the Japanese, festivities or celebrations are connected to a certain moment in the year. One needs time to live towards that particular period. You don't organize something as the blossom. So it must be something remarkable and unforgettable. That's why they consider blossom "the peak of youth". It's only one moment. That small dropping leaf was the image that young Kamikaze-pilots had when they dropped their plane onto the enemy. Death as the highlight of their youth!
As a reader and part-time writer myself I need to say something of literature.In Japanese literature you find honesty. There's not such a thing like financial support by the Ministry of Culture in Japan. Good bright writers can live as kings in Japan. Some have expensive houses and cars. Japanese read a lot and consequently their authors get nourished. Each Japanese is 4 people; a romantic, a nationalistic militarist, Buddhist and at one particular moment a completely happy person. In the subway man and woman, young and old, read porn, or what we call as such. It is just a tradition. Sexuality is there, a part of being happy or satisfied at that one particular moment. They read Mishima or Endo and all these other great ones. But even more surprising is that in Japan they know for example Flemish painters as Rubens and authors such as Hadewych, Hemingway and Steinbeck etc. Many great western authors have been translated and read. You must learn to look through Japanese eyes if you want to know their reality.
Which comes to the inevitable question; Is Japan a difficult country?'' Opinions can vary of course. And more importantly how do you behave over there?'' The simplest answer is this. If you are "gaijin" meaning a foreigner, then that's what you are. Stay yourself, don't upset anyone, and be happy once in your life

                


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