October 2, 2008

Last Thoughts of Japan

I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to come here and experience some of the culture. I really wish I would have been able to get away from the Tokyo metroplex and see some of the more traditional countryside. From what I’ve heard though, “Traditional” countryside is about the same as it is in America. Meaning, people in rural Japan live in the same size homes and apartments as people in urban areas, they just have bigger yards!

There are places, just like in the US, where you can see 200 year old homes and water mills and such. I desperately wanted to see these…and find Ninja’s. But only having a 2 day weekend didn’t really leave a lot of time to do that. I was able to see some of the stereotypical behaviors that are rather humorous, and indicative of what I understand of the Japanese culture at large. The need to please, to not offend, to be polite is a reflection of honor on themselves, not necessarily a reflection of what they think of you.

I’ve always heard how much more hard working the people of Japan are than Americans. I agree and disagree with this general statement. I think just like the U.S., there are hard working driven individuals and then there are the slackers. I’ve seen both in the Japanese work force here. Honestly, there are a lot of things that feel very similar to me between our two countries. I’m not sure if this is because of the tremendous American influence since the end of World War II or if this is more of a world phenomenon. I haven’t traveled extensively world wide, so I can’t speak intelligently on that, but I know Japan feels like it’s struggling to be like the U.S. and struggling to be itself at the same time.

I think a quote from the “Last Samurai” said something about Japan struggling between the old and the new. Clearly Japan has embraced the new, at least as far as technology goes. The struggle now is very clearly between the East and the West, America being the West. I once heard and old man in the US talking about American pride and how you see guys in the US getting tattoos with Japanese symbols and how you don’t see Japanese people getting American lettering tattoos. He was partly right, because that is how it is in America. But here in Japan, 9 out of 10 T-shirts were English. It was hard to find Japanese lettering on clothing at all. Heck, even the T-shirts I bought from the Tokyo Fire Dept. were in English. So to say that there aren’t Japanese people infatuated with America is a little obtuse.

One thing that I consider undeniable in regards to international travel is how much it makes me appreciate my home. As much as I couldn’t imagine being anything but an American when I was a child, that feeling gets more ingrained the more I see of the rest of the world. Of course I’m just comfortable with what’s familiar to me, but that doesn’t take away from the great things I know and expect from my country. Evidences in racial equality, equality of the sexes, true freedom of speech, a classless social system are just the tip of what I see America standing for. A place where a black man, son of an immigrant, can run for president, or a blue collar dock worker can change his stars and own a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. America is unique, and I see why so many people in the world both hate and love us…I think they want to be us. Jealousy always walks the fine line with hate.
So I’m happy I’m home and I love you all!


Zach and Beth said...

That was very insightful. I can't wait to hear more about your time there since we didn't get to talk much the other day.

Taintus said...

If you have the opportunity please come see us in Otaki, Nagano. Here you can see a bit of rural Japan and it's quite different from the city.

And, yes, the homes are MUCH bigger, not just the yards.

Read more at my blog: In the Pines

ddeloose said...

Hey guys:
I'm back finally had some time to sit down and look over the blog. Looks like you guys have been busy. Aaron's become quite the traveler Dallas then Japan where next.
We have a new address;
4501 Westbriar Lane
Grand Prairie TX 75052-3546
We are now home owners got in before they tightened the purse strings. I will call you guys soon.