I won't pretend for a minute that I have any deeper understanding for the Japanese or their culture than just about anyone on the planet.
Sure, I have a fair bit of anime...but chalk that up to the engaging characters and storylines. Anime may entertain me, may make me laugh and think, heck...even cry girlie-man tears...but watching it doesn't mean I understand Japan.
I have watched more than a few Japanese soap operas...entirely in Japanese...not understanding a word of dialog...but still being able to get the gist of the plots and characters and their motivations.
If I had the means to build a custom home from scratch...it would, without hesitation, be based heavily upon Japanese traditional home; architecturally and interior element designed.
I enjoy Japanese Pop music...even though it is difficult to find...my new iPod shuffle is filled with my meager collection.
Lavie and Alvis continue to gift me on special occasions with a new book in a Japanese theme, be it a novel, a cultural or sociological study book, or a travel guide.
With constant introspection, I think I may have hints of what draws me to admire and respect the Japanese and their culture. Granted, their way of life and history (like ours) is far from perfect and we both have darker moments and views that don't stand proud in the light of day. Really living life in Japan...particularly as a foreigner...can be warm and exciting and amazing and confusing and maddening and accelerated and funny and lonely and still.
I've never been to Japan. I would like to go one day with my girls. I'd like to find a more "backroads" type of tour that gets away from the modern "glass-and-cash" cities (though one night in Tokyo would be fun). A tour that looks more on the fields and smaller towns and temples and villages, the humble paths and moss overgrown stones and forests of bamboo. Maybe Hokkaido? Or a tour that would focus on the gardens and art and museums and architecture that breaths the soul of Japan.
Alas, in the meantime I must settle for my books, my movies, and the kind and brave friend-bloggers who live in Japan and share their adventures and first person perspectives...I'm taking notes you guys! Support and visit some of the best of these friends whom I have listed in my "Daily Life in Japan" sidebar section if you get a chance. You will probably find it a mix of the things old and new, bizarre and traditional that make Japan so fascinating to me.
One website where I seem to get a lot of cultural education and perspective from is the beautifully designed and maintained 今古ジャパン - Japan Now & Then blog. I've never met or contacted abuerginefluer who comes up with all this wonderful content. But she has an eye and sensitivity for the fusion of old and new Japan that I find is one with few peers.
Lavie and Alvis have always wanted to have kimonos. I'm not sure where they would go in them. It doesn't seem right to go to all the trouble to get nice kimonos and just stay in the house, but as good as our local Japanese restaurant is, I've yet to see anyone (local or otherwise) show up there in one...not even the Japanese owners.
While the kimono can still be seen on quite a few city streets in Japan and not get a second-look, from my limited views, it seems to be worn most frequently by older Japanese, by traditionalists and those showing historical Japanese cultures, by festival goers and for formal and special occasions.
Aoi Sakuraba (who appears in a particularly favorite manga series of Lavie's, Ai Yori Aoshi) almost always wears a traditional kimono and has taught us that it is a complicated garment to wear properly. However, we really didn't have a true understanding of just how complicated it was until reading a recent series of abuerginefluer's posts.
Seems like the men get of way easier than the ladies...although something about that arrangement doesn't seem to surprise me.
If you have enjoyed these, check out all of abuerginefluer's kimono related posts.
Take a moment to follow some of the links to the Japanese kimono dealers to get a real treat with the fabric patterns and designs. Even if you can't read a single character of Japanese, it is clear to see they are works of art.
(Credit: The blog post photo was taken by chez sugi.)
One of the images that appears over and over again in many Japanese anime, dramas, and movies is Sakura, or Cherry Blossoms.
The sakura are almost an internationally known symbol for the beauty and gracefulness of Japan.
Japanese media track the "sakura zensen" or Cherry Blossom Front" as it slowly sweeps its way northward across Japan. Parties, festivals and picnics by families and lovers abound under the delicate and ephemeral petals before they fall and disappear.
Right now, it is that time of year again.
Japanese Cultural Exhibits
We are periodic attendees of some of the finest museums on the Gulf Coast. Both The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the entire Houston Museum District provide a wealth of cultural learning and experience for our family. I'm always on the hopeful watch that one day a Japanese exhibition will show up. Oh what a happy that that would be.
In the meantime...leave it to Japan Now & Then to provide me with an excellent virtual outlet for my pent up cultural longings.
While there is no way I could attend any of these in person, having the links to the choicest Japanese museum exhibitions is the next best thing. Some links have more on-line content than others, and those that are strictly in Japanese are a challenge to put into context--even with the best on-line web translators--but the images often tell the story on their own quite nicely.
Oh for a bottle of sake, my girls in kimonos and a quilt spread out on a spring afternoon under the sakura....