Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Culture shock, take two.

"In the West, we are so captivated with images of crowded Tokyo subways and faceless salarymen that we forget how much of Japan is still rural and traditional. [...] You will find very little greenery in most Japanese cities, true. But you will also find very little of Japan in most Japanese cities. The urban cores are exciting, crowded, jaded, but they are also the most Westernized, standardized stretches of the nation. Another Japan exists a half-step away, along the back roads, in the provincial capitals, on the outer edges."

"Hitching Rides With Buddha", by Will Ferguson

I keep telling my friends here, if they have not lived in rural Japan, they have not experienced the real Japan. I still firmly believe that the authentic Japan can only be found in the most remote, isolated areas of this country.

Even though my days living in the countryside were so difficult and nearly drove me out of my mind, the city presents other kinds of challenges I had vaguely anticipated. Crowded subways, pushy people, high stress, getting lost in hordes of salarymen, all walking expressionless every morning and every night. Quiet trains all over, even at rush hour, when not a word can be heard. Such a big change from the chaotic trains in the countryside, full of young students chatting and giggling loudly, and drunken old men with their shoes off and feet on the seat across. To be fair, maybe this was only in Kagawa... sigh. It's so endearing now that I look back.

I have been having a torn relationship with Osaka lately, going from loving it so much to completely hating it in a matter of hours. Then feeling completely exhilarated again because it is so amazing here. I think I'm probably going through another bout of culture shock. It has a little bit to do with Japanese culture, and a little bit to do with this city I'm still getting accustomed to. I miss experiencing Japanese culture firsthand, or at least having the time to soak it all in. Osaka is most definitely Japanese, but you have to scratch the surface a lot more in order to find it.

I went back through last year's posts, and re-read my Survival Guide for Culture Shock, and it made me smile.

Well. My relationship with Japan has been the most intense roller coaster love story I have ever had.

{Kitty cat, Kyoto. Today I wish I were a cat.}

And PS- Coming home to a massive parcel full of French magazines and newspapers, from my Toronto (via Seoul) friend who managed to put together a "Montreal Package of Love", made me feel so, so loved. I adore you Miss Bee!


magdalena viktoria said...

So interesting to read!
I really hope to go to Japan in the nearer future.
Take care!

Jeffowick said...

I've been struggling with whether I want to live in the country or the city when I move to Japan. It's a bit silly since I probably won't have much say in where I'm placed initially. But eventually, I guess I want to live in both because they are so different and I want to soak in as much of Japan as I can, I want to see everything!

I too feel like my relationship with Japan is a love affair, full of ups and downs, occasional fights but mostly joy. I just wrote a blog about how I first fell in love with Japan ( how did you fall in love with Japan?

{lovely little things} said...

Hope it gets better!! Thinking of you.

Michi said...

You're completely right. Even here in Spain, the cities are very Westernized. But I was able to live in small town, where I experienced Spanish culture at its finest, and at its worst.