|Useful signs? 😉|
You go to Japan and it’s a la-exotica. With the sheer name of it, the feel of it, and the diversity of experience, because even though there is so much Japan that’s around you- it’s only in terms of hard(ware) products. Very few people can relate to Japanese culture or people per se. Of course the fact that the language has been a barrier is known. But for me it’s more the script, cos even the French don’t speak English. But you can try reading the directions in Latin. And then as people we’re exposed (much more) to the West. It’s a pity that. Because there’s so much one can experience, if not relate to.
|Different serving- Food vending machine|
I don’t know if it’s surprising, but a lot of Japanese folk wanted to know, how Japan is perceived in India. I’d say, we think Japan is ‘high quality’ and that ofcourse made them happy. Japan does pride itself on its quality. At a Japanese restaurant, I consistently felt over-served. Not just the quality of food** (though it’s an acquired taste) but the way the staff conducts itself. Aki-san told me that’s cos Japan has a ‘culture of shame’- the peasants would make sure they had the best quality of paddy, and it’s inbuilt in them to deliver the highest quality and the best service. For me it’s was interesting on several counts. While on one way it’s great (for everyone)- Japan has one of the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve met. When they can’t tell you directions in English- they walk you to the bus stand, and bow, go Hai at the smallest opportunity. But imagine how you raise babies (btw, Japanese babies are by far the CUTEST I’ve seen)- do you tell them they can’t afford to make mistakes? It’s unnerving in one way. Everyone follows rules. No talking on mobiles in public transport, standing behind lines, all that- which one doesn’t even expect in India. We’re everything but proper, and I think while we can improve, there is a charm in what we are too. I am a prototype P (on MBTI)- planning, regimented settings don’t come naturally to me. So while it makes life easy, I am not sure, I could follow all of the rules, all of the time too. I think it also restricts creativity.
Talking of creativity, Japanese people ‘express’ themselves through comics (Manga), games, and huge interest in girl bands (AKB48 feels like Britney Spears was born all over again :D). Fashion is expressive too. Boys have hair which is, well (sometimes) strange and quirky. Oh and, there’s Louis Vuitton in the train stations – makes them high end no? *Btw, the girls were all over in lace, crochet- even umbrellas had them*. However, having spoken of all the expression, the language actually is indirect. I remember asking this one guy ‘if he’d like to make a movie someday’- not randomly he was an actor a while ago- and he reacted by saying ‘whoa that was so direct’. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to tone down directness, infact I prefer direct. It felt so not-me :).
|Narita-san Buddhist temple, Kawagoe|
History was another aspect. History in anyplace is less impressive, if you’ve grown up on 5000 years behind you. And true to their ‘quality’ aspect, the Japanese folk have ‘maintained’ old things, they also showcase it. In India we take it for granted. Not as an excuse, but we do also have a lot of it. I remember someone in Rome, being totally unimpressed and saying – ‘ there are ruins everywhere in Rome’. That’s close to what I feel in India. I went to Kawagoe to see the ‘Little Edo’ (old name for Tokyo) and compare it with the Tokyo I saw over the course of the week. And for a vacation, ofcourse Kawagoe held more interest, with its quiet and cosiness. Tokyo is this metropolis where people don’t talk in the trains- perhaps not even just cos it’s a rule but also cos perhaps that’s what big cities do to you.
And finally, should one visit Japan- yes, very yes. It’s as far east and away from home as one may feel. And that’s one-why it holds your interest, even if you were lost in translations, oh and not just for the sake of it. 🙂
** Octopus salad, live Octopus, raw fish- all healthy though. Very few fat Japanese folk around.