Sunday, December 18, 2005

thoughts on japanese culture during 10 days in japan

run when the music starts
After 10 days spent in japan , mainly in the tokyo/yokohama metropolis for the football club world championships december 11-18th 2005.
A thronging mass of (mainly japanese) humanity teeming onto a fearsomely complicated transport system with a large variety of train & subway lines from early in the morning to very late at night.
Expect packed trains at 10pm most nights even more so than (say) 5pm as the salaryman or equivalent still works or is at work or is entertaining for very long hours.
Expect to walk miles to change lines or find your station exit often negotiated via miles of underground shopping centre.
Expect overt formality to pervade everyday life - rituals that have filtered through from traditions such as the shinto religion, the bushido code & various ceremonies.
Expect strict adherence to the law ,not many buildings that seems very old, few immigrants to alter (taint ?) the culture (apart from some obvious western influences eg coffee shops)
Tiny children walking alone in tokyo city , even tinier children tied together tottering along with a teacher leading them.
And an underlying feeling of a very powerful national (rather than nationalistic) spirit evident especially whenever disaster strikes.
A well dressed populace eating very healthy food & living for a very long time in a safe environment presenting an often (to a european) impenetrable facade.

See the yasukuni shrine (picture above) & in particular the nearby yashukan (military) museum including the very poignant wife dolls made for the (young, unmarried) special attack corps (kamikaze) pilots that died during ww2.
And most of all wonder how such a previously nationalistic nation could transpose into a peaceful and so deferential country that we see now.

Wonder at the mobile phones with the 400 page manuals & the akihabara (electronics town) area of tokyo - the mecca for the cyber geeks (the young guys that you often see asleep on the couches in the internet cafes after all day/night gaming sessions)

So everyone waits at the crossings until the music starts & you can cross the road - run quickly so you get across before the music stops & try to avoid the locals talking on their mobiles &/or not looking where they are going.

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