Sunday, January 15, 2006

Back to blissful exile of yesteryear!

Tomorrow’s night I am getting on a flight to go to Japan, the country that “took me in” 11 years ago, and I enjoyed that hospitality for more than 2 years. It has been almost 9 years since I was there last, and I am really looking forward to the experience of re-acquaintance.

I have to say that the Japan experience changed me in many ways, as Arabs and Middle Eastern, we are very Eurocentric by instinct, our perception of the world is colored equally by our own culture and by the Western influence that came through geographic proximity, trade and cultural (and sometimes military) interactions, and finally the legacy of European colonialism.

To live in East Asia in general and in Japan in particular is challenge the core schools of thought, paradigms, and norms of behavior that was programmed into us by western-influenced education.

The shocking difference begins with how foreign the place is, almost nobody speak English, the streets layouts is maddening, there are no recognized brands in the supermarket, the restaurant does not have forks or knifes for you to use. Then it goes deeper, the map is the world has Asia in the middle, work-based groups are more important than individual, decision making has different routes, perception of the world and our place in it is markedly different.

I could write pages on how many differences people encounter in Japan, the real eye opener for me, is to see how Japanese have two very peculiar characteristics; first, they collect the best of the world and then make it Japanese in a way that you will doubt that it was not invented there. The other trait is, Japanese have amazing ability to peacefully combine what you will consider to be diametrically opposed values. In Japan, you could be Buddhist, Shinto, Christian and any other religion at the same time.

The last 10 years have not been easy on Japan, with the economy mired in a slump, in typical Japanese fashion, adversity led to a wave of reinvention and creativity that has just started to blossom, like the famous Japanese Sakura or Hana, after a long bitter winter.

In this context I flying back to Yamato land, I missed it like a lovelorn lover, I am looking forward to our amorous embrace, I the returning gaijin, and the reborn land of eternal rising sun. I am looking forward to rush hour on the subway, the greeters at the department stores, to alcohol vending machines on the sidewalk, to ramen, to the hot Onsen bath, to the all sights of beauty, craziness, and post-industrial chaos.

I will hopefully post couple of entries from Tokyo, Yamato machi, and Kyoto, and hopefully pictures as well.


At 5:48 AM, Blogger Roba said...

Beautiful post Qais.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Desert Pundit said...

Thanks Roba

Hopefully I will try to post from Japan with something interesting to say.



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