Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is it safe to eat the sushi?

I have been living in Japan for nearly 2 years and am impressed by so many things.
The beauty of the rural landscape as well as the ugly/tackiness of the urban city-scape.
The traditional architecture of temples and shrines and the glorious antique (ancient!) works of religious artistry housed within them.
The food; often attractive in appearance but surprising in texture and taste (I have joked that if it is cold, slimy, and dredged up from the sea bottom, it's on the menu).
The Japanese language, so complex... obscurity has never been so succinctly stated.
Statements often so indirect and non-commital as to leave one (gaijin or not) rather bewildered.

And, of course, the Japanese people themselves and their unique culture and society.
The politely infuriating tradition of hone and tatemae (not revealing what one really thinks or feels about whatever is under discussion), coupled with indirect language, can lead to confusion and frustration for many gaijin
The passion for artifice and shallow pop culture cohabitating alongside centuries-old traditions, arts and sports of such profound depth and beautiful simplicity is often stunning.
The high-fashion victims I see daily here in Osaka. The strict unbending rules of beurocracy and company procedures and the high expectations of the "salaryman".
Students educated in maximum over-drive from dawn to dusk (or later) with mandatory cram schools, English lessons and various clubs and activities.

All of this.... melange of Japanese info-culture pumped steadily into my senses for the last 2 years (more if you count previous experience)... and then the 9.0 EARTHQUAKE and the devastating TSUNAMI and the CONTINUING AFTERMATH which is ongoing as I write this.

The samurai spirit lives on inside the hearts of most Japanese people; though the youth largely (but by no means completely) appear to be losing contact with this. The indomitible momentum to persevere, despite all odds and unlikelihoods, is formidable.
The situation with the workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is a parade example. The willingness to sacrifice for the the greater good is readily accepted without (voiced) questions, or desire for glory, by the candidates, while the rest of the population pauses ever so briefly in their daily grind to tremulously whisper "Gambate" (Keep going, persevere) with nary a tear (but perhaps a sour lump in the throat).

I am so inspired in many ways, not all being pleasant, by the country I am living in and the overwhelming situation being dealt with. There are many fears and a general uneasiness (dare I say 'malaise'?) hanging over Japan now, especially around the Tofuku area hit by the tsunami and the radiation. But things continue as normal here in Osaka as though it were a million, and not merely hundreds, of miles away from the zone.

They are saying there is radiation in the fish in that area. Bad news for the land of sushi which is made with seaweeds and fish. Worst case scenario? Don't ask. Just google 'Chernobyl' and add ocean life to the scene.

Or maybe this is a chance for (d)evolution...?
 Maybe we would look good with green scales and fish tails ? H P Lovecraft style for the 21st century!
The fashion masters of Tokyo would be first on the runway to display fins and tentacles without batting a false eyelash-rimmed eye.

I hope to return to painting soon but am also finding expression in the written word while I explore certain areas of the native culture I find fascinating. I hope to share some of my discoveries & thoughts and revelations here and in other ways in the future.

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