Japan: the Island Nation

Japan gets into you.  I have been living in Japan for nearly three years.  I like Japan for dozens of reasons, none of which I can articulate properly.  My wife is Japanese, I have been accepted by her family, and I have found pleasant employment that leaves me with some money and enough free time to pursue writing.  Japan is big and wild.  I want to see it all.  My biggest complaint about the country is that traveling in it is incredibly expensive no matter which way you look at it (except for hitch-hiking) but life is long and hopefully I will have other chances to see more.  There are a few things that amaze me in Japan:

1. Old stuff.  Stuff in Japan, that is.  Only doesn't just look old, it positively emanates age and centuries.
2. Music.  Every musical genre is alive in Japan - any kind of music and any type of experimentation, not to mention the fact that groups forgotten elsewhere are idolized and preserved cultishly.  This is beside the fact that the underground and avant-garde music is the best anywhere.
3. Film.  Japanese film is fantastic, and it is invaluable to live near a video store.  I watch the films raw, that is without English subtitles, and am constantly amazed.
4. Bright lights, big cities.  The mess of concrete is amazing, the shapes are chaotic.  Somehow it all fits together.
5. Neon and beer.  A night in a big city with people passing by.  Stop and take a look at what it all is.  Every nook and cranny is so filled with so many oddities that it amounts to sensory overload.  Each and every time.  Nobody can come back from a trip to Japan and say "ah, it was nothing special."
6. Green and flowers.  Between all of the chunks of concrete there is invariable green and flowers.  Lots of it, not just a little.  You gotta know where to look.  In the cities it is so precious, I tend to notice it much more than when it was all around, like back home.

City existence can be a wearying thing, like trying to find cheap eats in an unfamiliar neighborhood, or navigating the streets and subway systems.  But each experience can teach us something.  Japan is a complicated country, there are many issues, there are also many individuals.  Everybody has got a home, everybody has also got something to learn.  There are no easy answers, but if you can look around you and see something good, then it is a start.

People often wonder if I ever feel lonely: maybe there are things that I do miss, but rather than focus on sentimental things that I can move beyond, I prefer to think of the negative things that I don't miss about home:

1. Bad TV and condescending media advertisements.  Nuff said.
2. The flavor of the month.  When people get excited about one-hit-wonders.
3. Big trials and other issues.  I missed the OJ trial because I was in Asia, but don't feel any poorer for it.
4. Bad service.  Asia is the land of good service (too good), where gas station attendants, waiters, and bell-hops are at your beck and call and don't expect a tip.
5. Car culture.  When I was living in Canada I often felt inadequate because I didn't drive a car, but in Asia people tend to think about what is most practical.
6. Pro sports.  People don't obsess over pro sports here, so I don't feel bad that I can't talk about "the game last night" with a total stranger.
7. The Cashless Society.  Paying for all sorts of items by credit card or debit card, etc., is a bit dehumanizing for me.

I hope to use this section to investigate a few Japanese themes:

Japanese film: to introduce various worthy Japanese films in a section on my regular film reviews page.
Japanese music: to introduce various worthy Japanese bands.
Japanese travel: to describe trips around Japan.
Books and Japan: fact and fiction by Japanese and non-Japanese writers from and about Japan.
Sumo: to talk about sumo in general, as well as my personal sumo experience.

If you are interested in any of these themes, please hit the links.  If not, please Return to Home Page.

email: Peter Höflich
all writing copyright Peter Hoflich, 2000