Monthly Archives: May 2016

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Superstitions in Japan –

Standard

I’ve never considered myself a superstitious person.
I tend to prefer logical explanations to things in life based on facts, because I find them easier to follow and accept than the alternatives.
There are of course many things in life I don’t understand, and I’m generally perfectly happy to label things as “unknowns” or “mysteries.”

I’m comfortable accepting that there are elements in life that are unexplainable to me because I don’t have the necessary pieces to see the full picture for the time being.
If the inexplicable happens to coincide with my interests, I usually try to gather as many facts as possible, until I’m satisfied that I have at least a somewhat passable understanding of the subject.

Why am I rambling on about this?
It’s because I’ve generally dismissed the supernatural beliefs as being little more than artifacts of cultural/historical heritage.
In other words, I considered them to be somewhat obsolete mode of thinking that was gradually on its way out, at least in developed parts of the world that already saw the benefits of industrialization and therefore scientific progress.

So what surprised me was realizing that not only was I getting acclimatized to old Japanese sayings based on old beliefs (e.g. “Be careful what you say, oni is listening,” or “Don’t be reckless with words, words have souls.”), but I actually found myself heeding to those words at times.
On New Year’s Day when we visited the shrine, it felt natural to pray to the local deity even though I clearly remember how strange that felt a few years ago.

And I still don’t think that I’ve become any more superstitious than I used to be.
For that matter, the vast majority of the Japanese people I’ve met since coming here don’t take these old superstitions seriously.
For the most part, Shintoist and Buddhist rituals seem to be part of cultural legacy they enjoy, but not much more than that.

The interesting transformation for me was going from being an amused observer to being an appreciative participant.
If you ask me if my luck would change if I didn’t draw the New Year’s fortune at the shrine, I’ll say, no, of course not.
But at the same time, if I skipped going through the motions at the beginning of the year, I’d probably feel like missed out on something.

When i think about it, it almost feels like there’s an incompatible dualism that’s only come to seem normal.
But I really don’t feel any internal conflicts.

Maybe I’m being influenced by the openness of Japanese culture to accept different belief systems.
Or not. In any case, I feel that I understand Japanese ways of thinking better.

I once met a Japanese drummer who regularly went to a church to play worship songs.
At the time, I wondered why.
Now, I don’t think that’s strange at all.

Advertisements

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Is Tokyo the Real City That Never Sleeps? –

Standard

A while back, I noticed what I consider to be a unique phenomenon.
I’ve lived in many places over the years, but Tokyo is the only place that had such an effect on me.
No matter how much I try, I cannot go to bed on time.

“On time,” of course, may change from day to day.
Some nights it’s perfectly acceptable to stay up all hours, so long as you don’t have to get up the next morning.
But even on those nights before work, it still presents quite a challenge.
As someone who values sleep, it baffles me.

I’ve lived in many types of places over the years.
Cities, suburban areas, rural areas — name it, and I’ve been there.
But I’ve never stayed up particularly late on a regular basis before I moved to Tokyo.
So i can’t figure it out. I remember how staying up until 2:00 a.m. used to be a shocking thing to do during summer vacation.
Now 2:00 a.m. is packing it in early!

I know lots of other people who are the same.
I sometimes get messages from fellow Tokyoites at all hours of the morning.
I once got a couple of text messages from a friend (who is in his 70s, mind you) early in the 5:00 hour. (And, yes, I was asleep by then!)
The notification sound effect on my phone woke me up.
I’m sure it’s possible he had woken up early, for example, to go to work, but given his age, I doubt it.
I don’t think he went to sleep at all!

It’s very unusual, but it’s so common in Tokyo.
I’d love to know why.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think many other cities ignore sleep so regularly.
Perhaps someone has an answer.
I’d sure like to know why!

Donald Trump Becomes the Unofficial Official GOP Presidential Nominee

Standard

Donald Trump has all but officially secured the Republican nomination for president, and it has surprised just about everyone who follows politics.
Sen. Ted Cruz proved to be a stiff challenger to Trump’s campaign, and despite winning many previous contests, suddenly dropped out of the race following his loss to Trump in the Indiana primary.

Gov. John Kasich, the more moderate-sounding governor of Ohio, remained in the race just a little bit longer than Cruz.
But given that he has only won his home state so far in the primaries, Kasich made the predictable decision to bow out of the presidential race, as well.
That leaves Trump as the last man standing, with no challengers to his nomination.

This would seem to remove any doubt about the inevitability of Trump’s nomination.
A lot of talk in the political world focused on brokered convention, and many bigwigs in the GOP hoped that a Paul Ryan, a Mitt Romney, or some other white knight would come from nowhere and secure the nomination on the second ballot (after no candidate could garner a majority of delegates on the first ballot).
That scenario now seems like a complete fantasy, if it ever had any real-world possibility in the first place.

On the Democratic side, the primary race will continue in earnest, with Sen. Bernie Sanders refusing to drop out, even though reality tells him that he should.
Cruz had much more of a realistic shot at securing his party’s nomination, but even he saw the writing on the wall and decided not to fight on.
Sanders has so far declined to do the same.
This will no doubt make it more difficult for Secretary Clinton to focus on her opponent in the fall.
How that will affect the contest in November remains to be seen.

One thing’s for sure: This race will be enormously entertaining. It already has been.