So, Why do I like Japan so much ? What brought me to love Japan ?
There are a couple reasons that are often brought up by most foreigners who visit, and others that
are just really personal and special to me.
It all started with a random acquaintance with Japanese rock music, and Visual Kei. My knowledge of anything Japanese past the sushis and the generic salutations was inexistent at the time, but I went in head first for the style and vibe that attracted me. Of course listening to music and loving it's feeling is great but I quickly wanted to understand what triggered all these emotions inside me, so I started to slowly learn basic Japanese in order to understand what I was listening to on a daily basis.
I will have to fast forward a little from then because that was around 12 years ago (I'm not that old but... !) Starting to learn the language made me understand the culture and the way of thinking of the Japanese and quickly drew me into it's wonderful and unique world.
The Language ・ 言語
I only could learn a little by myself but once I entered university and got classes on the regular, it was clear to me that Japanese was an extremely beautiful and deep language that was often diminished by it's high pitched tone kawaii girls and anime voices. Even the grammar makes for very interesting ways of saying things when you think of them in a translated way. The way it forced me to listen to the whole sentences and take my time to make sure I got it's very important verb placed at the very last spot of it. The way it is so carefully built, you have to think ahead to place specific particles and verb endings to make sure in the end, it will be complete and correct. And of course, all these stories I told myself while trying to remember that a little square head skeleton stick man means a bone, that an ear in the cracked open door means listening.
「 骨 = Bone 」
「門 + 耳 = 聞く= Listen(ing) 」
Of course, we all know about the way Japan is portrayed. A place where "the nail that stands out has to be hammered down" and in some way, it is like that. Vocally opposing opinions or expressing different views are sometimes frowned upon, but this is not the side of things I'm speaking about now. Of course, this is about my own experience as a white Canadian woman in a populated city like Tokyo, so you can take it for what it is. As someone who dresses (dressed) quite extravagantly in ways that would get me booed in the street, called a Halloween monster, a witch, I have realized that no one. No one in Japan ever looked at me in a way that made me feel bad or ashamed of my looks, and I have not received a single comment about the way I look either. Since it's frowned upon to voice your opinions too loud in public or cause disturbance, it saves the "weirdos" like me the bullying since by doing so, a Japanese person will attract attention to themselves in a negative way and most of them try to avoid this at all costs. So it feels very safe, freeing and nice to be there as a different person. (Again, I cannot speak for other people like people of color or people who identify as other genders, or wear religion related clothes or symbols out.)
(picture from Tokyo Fashion)
As someone living in a country with about 400 years of history (after it's official foundation, of course, there were indigenous people here before, such as native Americans) our culture is not exactly very developed as we just simply did not have time to develop one, except for just making things as they were in Europe when we arrived. But in Japan, their acknowledged history goes back a couple thousands year ago, and even though they also took influence from other neighboring countries in Asia, their culture has been growing and present from centuries B.C. to the very modern and technological Japan we know today. They have kept their traditions very alive and have a pride about it that is really admirable. I also love how they kept the bases of the traditions and adapted them for their daily modern lives, to the new fashions and currents. I love their pride for their country showed into small details like this.
picture from Satomi Grimm
Japanese are known to offer one of the best customer service known to mankind, and they do live up to expectations. Never have I felt more welcomed anywhere. People will show you things you might have thought you could never see. Just because you are foreign, you might get "free passes" (there are also bad ways to this, but let's focus on the good ones here) to see things that Japanese people will teach you, bring you to or give you, because they want to share with you what they know and have, and I've always felt that this was always done in such an honest and kind way. One of our teachers at school at a collection of kimonos, and offered me and my friend that were enjoying fashion to just stay after school with her, try her (very) expensive kimonos and take pictures, and then let us know she was offering us her small makuras (obi pillows), yukata sandals and socks, because she wanted us to enjoy wearing our yukatas in the best way possible. People want to share their culture there, they want to share their passion and they will go out of their way to have you feel more than welcome anywhere. And I will forever feel grateful for them to do this for us because often times, they don't have to, or should not have to. They do not owe me anything, hell, I would even owe them so much just for how they have welcomed me.
My picture. Me and my friend with our teacher's kimonos
Overall, I just feel good there. I had never been there before arriving for an entire year of being an exchange student in 2011, but it just felt so good to be there. It didn't shock me to be in this country on the other side of the earth. I had been waiting for this for 5 years already, and I was there. I felt like I was finally at my second home.
Japan is such a great place, and yes, it does have its downsides and dark faces, but what country does not ?
I hope you can visit Japan someday, and enjoy it the way I did.