Erin, here. This will be my last Japan post. I’m finally beginning to recover from the jetlag and craziness of coming home. So, I’ve had a very busy week since arriving in the states, but that gave me some time to reflect and it’s time to finish up here by asking the question: What did I learn? The questions we were asked by Dr. Meidlinger for our last group dinner were to consider what we want to take with us and incorporate into our lives, but also what we want to leave behind after our journey to Japan, and I think I got a lot out of asking myself those questions.
One thing that I learned in Japan and hoped to integrate into my own character was the way in which Japanese people are more concerned about greater good and the collective thriving through individuals than in individual will and basically, selfishness, that I see in my home country. It’s in the small things that come to mind, such as the fact that, even though we were all glad to see how many more trashcans there are here, people still litter… everywhere. Or that so many people choose to drive giant, gas guzzling SUVs when they don’t need that much space.
Personally, I was very inspired by the way that rituals are a daily part of life, not necessarily connected to religious beliefs or practices but are more connected to the purpose of small things. I saw it in the way that people wrapped the gifts I bought for family and friends, the way food is served, the way people seem to be in an unshakable daily routine but somehow it never dulls or becomes aimless. I’ve been thinking about the detail and purpose with which Japanese people take on everyday life. At first glance, I was inspired by the fashion in Tokyo: the layering, the many patterns done in mostly muted colors that still looked vivid, the detail put into each accessory and the thought with which each person seemed to have dressed themselves. On the subway I couldn’t take my eyes off certain individuals who seemed so… determined. They knew who they were. They were ready for their day, bags in hand, dressed for the occasion, knowing where to go and what to do. Everyone always seemed to know how to be polite, what to say, where to stand, everything. Each individual took on their day with purpose and dignity, confidence and sometimes even a bit of swagger.
After travelling and appreciating another country’s way of doing things it is difficult to come back to my home and not get angry or feel that we are inferior in every way to people of another culture. But another way of looking at it is that the purpose of travelling is to experience different ways of life, different foods, different everything. I’m trying to think of the reverse culture shock I experienced in coming home as the way that I can learn and change my own world to be just a little bit better with the input of other culture. And I’m so grateful for this experience, the friendships that were formed, and the kindness of everyone around me. Thank you for reading.
Things I Learned (The List Goes On):
You can be individual, and yet part of a bigger picture.
Sometimes you can trust strangers.
Kimonos are quite a job to put on.
Wars can be learned from without placing blame.
You can wear a scrunchie without looking like a 5-year-old, maybe.
You don’t have to speak the language to be able to communicate.
Maybe we don’t need trashcans on every corner, that’s what pockets are for.
Everyday life can be ritualized and still mean something.
If I look at life as a journey and appreciate detail, each small thing, every small moment, can have purpose.
Also, a very intelligent old man told Lizzy, Josh, and I that Japanese people look young even at an old age because they squat when they go pee. Duly noted.
Of course there’s more, but I’ll end it here. Goodbye!