I am now flying back to London. My second visit to Japan has ended and I leave this time, feeling like I understand a bit more of their people and customs.
This doesn’t mean I now see them in a different light. For me it is clear that there is such a thing as being “Japanese”. The day Japan won its first World Cup match, you would never have guessed it from just seeing the people in the streets. Celebratory mood is carried within and only expressed during a Matsuri it seems, or maybe it is as it was pointed out to me by a couple of locals at IPMU: we do praise when there is sacrifice involved. Here there was no sacrifice. We are happy, and that’s it.
Another eye-opener experience was a Kabuki performance that I attended with Domenico and Susanne. As I watched I thought that only Japanese could have come up with some form of performing art of such characteristics. Very detailed, from the selected sounds to recreate nature, to the costumes, the helpers in black, the almost poetic movements. It looks simple in its execution but happens to be horribly complicated behind the scenes. It is not that to simulate a waterfall, you just need to hit a drum, but the pattern has to be of certain way. Kabuki also happens to be an un-crazy and contained art… until the very end in which the God in the story went bonkers searching for the woman who betrayed him (in the particular story we saw). So yes, this is no salsa or carnival, but it is really a representation of the society which created it.
But among the familiar, there were some things that changed between my visit last year and this one. For starters, IPMU has a new building which is awesome and can probably take away Perimeter Institute’s crown to the coolest Theoretical Physics building around. Kashiwa seems to be growing, with many buildings which were in their starting phases now completely finished and I saw more “western smart phones” (ie. iPhone + Blackberry) in the metro compared to the ones Japanese love.
In any case, while I was walking down Asakusa yesterday evening, observing people buying, eating and walking, I kept thinking that anywhere in the world despite their different uses and ways of dealing with their stuff, at the end is all about the same things: we all eat, work, sleep and try to be happy!. So in some ways, this visit made it all come full circle. On my first visit it was all about the differences, but now it came down to the similarities.
PS. I got the first 2 days of the summer/rainy season and I didn’t like it very much…not one for the hot+humid combo I’m afraid.