Friday, 14 June 2019

Japan: between East and West

Visiting Japan was a unique experience. I travelled with a friend of mine from Rome and spent time with my daughter too, who lives in Tokyo attending a Master in Fashion and Design at the Bunka Gakuen University. We went in April, cherry trees were in bloom, the weather was nice most of the time and there were plenty of interesting sites to see. We had a good time all together, though a bit tiring, but we are getting old. I had terrible back pains sometimes, apparently due to my muscles tightening because of muscle strain. My friend had a hip replacement four months before and had to take it easy. For this reason, we visited only Tokyo and Kyoto as we did not have enough time and energies to travel to other beautiful places such as Nikko, Mount Fuji, Osaka or Hiroshima. You can read my travel journals here:
The experience was definitely engrossing and worth doing. At first impact everything seemed similar to home, but then interesting subtle differences stood out and intrigued me. I wished to know more. In Japan there are contrasts, as in every society, which are cleverly blended and nuanced. For example, Japanese culture was strongly influence by China at all levels: language, alphabet, literature and religion, and at the same time they made their culture unique. Japanese are able to merge different religions and philosophies, such as Shinto, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and, at a minor level, Christianity. They are devoted to Zen meditation and at the same time have a strong work ethic. In their daily life they look perfectly organised and yet are aware of the ephemeral quality of life symbolised by sakura, the cherry blossoms, whose beauty lasts only a few days, and their fading is considered more attractive than the blooming. Finally, their solid grip on traditions, their attention to rituals and ceremonies, the respect for ancestors and sense of loyalty that go together with a great technological development competing with and emulating the West.

Reading Matsuo Bashō’s haikus was a great inspiration and helped me to understand Japanese culture. The prints, textiles and paintings at the National Museum in Tokyo were also an interesting stimulation. This prompted some writing as well at the Woking Writing Circle where we discussed Japanese haikus, here is the link:
The journey to Japan opened my mind, inspired my writing, my art and my cooking (some Japanese recipes will follow on this blog), which made me understand that travelling can be a great source of knowledge and creativity as well as being fun.


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