Japan: Serene and Chaotic

currently playing on my laptop: Soldier by Fleurie   

what I’m currently reading: First Year (Black Mage series) by Rachel E. Carter and Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

In March I hopped on a plane to Japan. Quite a hike for this Nashville girl. Now I’ve traveled a good bit. Italy, France, Scotland, England, Germany, Austria. All over the US and parts of the Caribbean. But Asia was the first time I truly felt like a fish out of water. It was a breathtaking, amazing feeling.

Japanese culture fascinates me. The decor is sparse and lovely, and the culture values order above all, or at least it seems that way in most places. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and in Tokyo I saw evidence of the strong counter-culture, not just in pink pigtails on girls dressed up in Harajuku and Akihabara, but also in younger folks talking on the trains (most people stay completely quiet) and making jokes in solemn places. The bright distinction between serene and chaotic thrilled me.

When you tour a castle in Europe, you see tapestries, hulking thrones, curtained four-poster beds, and gilt chandeliers. Both Nijo Castle in Kyoto and Edo in Tokyo consist of lovely rooms filled only with tatami and painted screens. There is a true peace in the beautiful simplicity. The green scent of tatami helped me drift into imagining old rulers and their nobles discussing battle tactics, calligraphy, and poetry. It was great to see young and old sitting along a zen rock garden, talking philosophy. It was also great to watch two guys swing around a wooden column on a long-dead nobleman’s porch.

The astounding self control and order in lines going into castles, shrines, temples, and trains blew my mind. When there are 300 ish people waiting to get into a place in the US, the line would be anything but a line. It would be more like a jumble of people, jockeying for the best spot. In Japan when there is a huge group and the door to the historic site or busy train opens, all 300 waiting quickly assemble into a single-file line with no arguing, talking, or swearing at all. Bizarre! I loved it. I never felt threatened by anyone in Japan like I sometimes do in other cities like NYC and Rome. Now I love those cities too, but there are some less than polite citizens here and there and they take some getting used to. Japan is bursting with manners as well as beauty and a varied culture.

I realize this post is long and very unorganized—sorry! I’m simply vomiting out thoughts here. But I have to mention the gardens in Japan. I ADORE the gardens. At Nijo Castle, I watched five men with medieval style bamboo ladders carefully remove tiny clusters of pine needles from an ancient tree’s high limbs. The men were completely quiet and throughly thorough. Nothing they did was rushed. Everything was done to the best of their ability with zero slacking and ultimate focus on the job. And the gardens are proof of the Japanese talent of high quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. The mosses are perfectly even and untouched by weeds. The trees don’t even look real. There is no detritus. Everything is balanced visually and gives off an incredible sense of peace.

Okay I’m going to stop blabbering now. Have you been to Japan? What did you think?

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