Saturday, September 24, 2011

about japan

If you live in a foreign country long enough, you can hear a lot of complaints about the country from other non-natives. I do not really consider myself a "Japan Lover" by any stretch of the phrase, I think of Japan on pretty simple terms. It's a country, good points and bad points, just like any other place. However, I want to discuss some of the "Japan Hater" comments I have heard over and over in this country.

"Japanese food is gross/not delicious/I can't eat it."
This one mystifies me. Japanese food is some of the best food on the planet, and I mean that with all sincerity. I really can't understand people who spit out pickled plums or refused to eat fermented soy beans. Are western tastes really that restricted for the average person growing up? I grew up eating quite a bit off the normal chart I suppose (beef tongue, candied ginseng, bacon wrapped chicken livers, goat meat, and rabbit are just some of the maybe unique dishes I was exposed to as a kid, at least that's what comes to mind right now) so maybe I am a bit biased, but giblet stew and fried chicken ligament is some of the best Japanese food there is. It's really a shame that people only like sushi, if that.

"There are no trash cans anywhere!"
Another one that confuses me. I don't remember a bountiful never ending supply of trash cans back home either. And there are plenty of places to deposit trash in Japan, if you know where to look. Almost all convenience stores have several types of trash cans out front or right inside the front door. Most vending machines have a place to deposit used cans or bottles also, and etc etc.

"Japan is too noisy!"
It can get a bit noisy during certain times. Just a few minutes ago the "hi no youji" people came past my window screaming to "be aware of fires" to promote fire safety. A short repeated beat on wooden clappers--dun, dun-dun. I suppose I am slipping into "Japan Lover" here, but I loved it. The sound of those wooden clappers brought back so many memories, like a vocal bookmark. Maybe a slight annoyance that will be gone before you know it. Like many of the other annoying seasonal sounds. Cicadas (which even the Japanese are fond of complaining about) buzz loudly in the summer, making their insect chorus heard, and then they suddenly cut off. Their voice is the voice of summer, and it reminds you that you're here again--- for another summer. The election season trucks are quite noisy too, the politicians driving around screaming into bullhorns about empty promises, political change that might never happen. But they too are the pulse of Japan, the noise is part of the fabric. I don't know, I think the noises are just part of what Japan is and what it means to live here.

There are many other things people complain about, but these are some of the ones that come to mind now. I just thought I would rant about that, to get it out of my mind.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

in search of a song

A few days ago, I was thinking about my first time coming to Japan. I had been talking to a friend about the few things that have changed over these past 11 years. One thing I was thinking about was that the first time I came to Japan, the crosswalk signal in front of where I was staying played a song when the light was green. I wondered two things. 1. Why can't I hear that song anymore? 2. What's the name of that song? Well, I did what anyone does in that kind of situation. I googled it. It turns out the name of the song is "Toryanse" and apparently some people complained that it was a noisy song to hear every time the light turned green. So because of the complaints, most signals in Tokyo now just make a simple chirping noise when the light is green. That is if they make a sound, of course many crosswalks are silent. So all the new ones don't play that song, but luckily Japanese geeks had website lists of old signals that still played that song. So I googled a map of the ones near my house, and decided to find the one closest to me. It was only about 15 minutes from my house, near a station I had never really spent time at.

I got off the train and wandered around. I found a beautiful park, sunshine streaming through soft leaves. But I couldn't find the crosswalk! I walked around the park, and finally I could hear it echoing in the distance. It's weird how sounds pull at us from our memories, curl up into our mind and explode like a thought grenade. It painted vivid memories in bursts that quickly faded. I sat near the crosswalk and listened to it a few times, holding it in my mind just in case this crosswalk singer would also go the way of the samurai-cowboys.

Before I end this diary post, I thought I should apologize to myself for taking so long to update anything. I have been absent minded, and holding a lot of negative thoughts. Such problems will be my excuse for such a long gap since I have written anything. Also, I would like to share a poem (the poem will be written in English letters, so that anyone can hear the original, plus my horrible not 5-7-5 translation of this beautiful thought-signal) by Basho that really hit me tonight. (Today's silly task was to try to memorize three Basho poems.) It is interesting to know he wrote this while looking down at the gray hair of his mother. te ni toraba kien, namida zo atsuki, aki no shimo (It will disappear if you take it in your hands, like hot tears, autumn's frost.)
All original content CC 2002-2012 BY NC SA - first design from dilarangmelarang altered by neonvirus and thunderbunny.