If you asked me about my image of Japan and Japanese people before I came here, it would have described something similar to this.
Japan has been promoting itself as a travel destination for the past several years and a big part of the promotion consists of providing a lot of information about the culture of the country – both traditional and pop. But more than 10 years ago, it was difficult to get much information except for the novels written by non-Japanese novelists and the TV series based on those novels. I would say that although the books did describe some of the customsof this country, they did not do anything to explain why some of the customs, seen as cruel by the Christian Western world, actually had evolved to their shape as shown in the novels. And being just a child at the time, I got the impression that this was a country inhabited by tough and (of course) fierce (sometimes cruel by western standards) warriors. Ok, this might have been the case until about 150 years ago, but I do not know anybody old enough to share his/her first-hand experience of such times.) When I got a job which involved working with Japanese people, I was surprised to realize that the guys are most often gentle and quiet, the women are energetic and, when in groups, extremely cheerful. And that it is a nation of comfort- and peace-loving people. A nation which has developed an ability to watch out for, detect and smooth any bumps in the community even before these bumps start taking real shape.
Last week I went to Aomori, the northmost city of the main island of Japan, and visited their Wa-Rasse no Ie – a museum dedicated to one of the most famous festivals in Japan – Nebuta Matsuri. Held every year in August, it attracts more than 3 million people. Not surprising as it is designated intangible national heritage. Though I am not very enthusiastic about being at such crowded places, I do want to see the real-time event and the reason for my change of mind is the museum – it displays some of the works (huge 3D platforms depicting warriors, castles, temples and mythical characters) used during the festival. These platforms are made by artists and completing only one of them takes three to four months.
The next picture shows what is “inside” of each structure and gives an idea about how it is made.
But as all these images of fierce-looking warriors belong to the festivals, museums and the Kabuki theater, all I see nowadays are civilians busy with their lives and, particularly at this time of the year, with Christmas shopping 🙂
Have a sunny day!