A day like today ten years ago I landed in Japan for the first time. Two of the questions I am asked the most since then are:
“Why did you come to Japan?” and “Are you going to be in Japan forever?”
The first question is usually asked by Japanese people that feel curious about what is so special about Japan to make somebody from so far away to come live here. The second question is usually asked by Spanish people or other foreigners that are passing by Japan and feel curious about what is keeping me attached to this place.
Record of my arrival to Japan in September 2004
I always struggle answering both questions. To the first one I answer saying that since I was a kid I was attracted to the idea of visiting Japan, I had always wanted to know the country that produced all the manga and technology that invaded our houses in the 80s and 90s. But, as a matter of fact, coming to Japan wasn’t really a conscious decision. I just received a scholarship to come to Japan and ended up here in Tokyo. If I had been granted a scholarship to go to the United States instead of Japan maybe now I would be writing something similar but with the title “10 Years in United States”.
Would my life be very different if I had lived for 10 years in another place? I don’t believe so. I think the location is a factor, but not the most important one. There are other factors that determine more strongly who we are and how we are. What I want to keep from the last 10 years is not how special is this city called Tokyo, it’s the people that I have around me, the experiences that I have gone through with them and what I have learned and created with them.
Other people say that the most important thing is “to be in the right place at the right moment”. I agree, but this statement is only said by those that were lucky enough to succeed or those who spend their lives in a continuous search to “be successful”. Tokyo was the right place for an engineer or foreigner in the 80s but right now there are much better places if you want to maximize your probabilities of “being successful”.
From the Japanese people I have learned to be more respectful and polite. To be more hard working and more patient, to be extremely punctual, to be more aware of the details, to be able to understand better a social situation without verbal communication. To be persistent, to better appreciate works of art that are apparently “simple”, to enjoy the food and get to know new flavors, to give priority to the harmony of a group of people before creating a conflict, to see the passing of time as something transitory reminding myself that the most important at each moment is the “now”.
With the second question “Are you going to be in Japan forever?” I struggle even more to give an answer. I usually answer with other questions: “For you, what does it mean “forever”?” or “I don’t know if I will be here forever but, do you think you will live in Madrid/London/New York forever?”. I don’t think I will live in Japan forever, in fact I doubt that I will write a post “20 Years in Japan”. Maybe I am wrong and I will be here in 2024 However I struggle planning my life more than an horizon of 6 months ahead, so I just never worry about it.
The only thing that I know for sure is that I am going to stick to my passion of learning and discovering. If this passion takes me to one or another place it will be ok, if not I will still be in my beloved Tokyo. Another thing that I will be doing in 10 years will be writing here. Through this blog I have been able to meet very interesting people and more than half of the friends that I have here in Tokyo came to my life directly or indirectly from this small place on the Internet.
Wherever you are right now, thanks a lot for sharing the ride and following this adventure with me!
Photo from 10 years ago. In a “Higgs Field” at CERN in Switzerland wearing a Japanese t-shirt.
Recent photo. In a “Rice Field” wearing a CERN t-shirt of a simulation of the discovery of the “Higgs Field”.
The retired anime director and artist Hayao Miyazaki will receive an honorary Oscar award for his lifetime achievements. Miyazaki will become the second Japanese director to receive the award, the first one being Akira Kurosawa in 1990. Miyazaki after hearing the news said:
“It is an honor to receive the award, but I believe that a person that has retired doesn’t need any awards.”
Source: The Japan news.
The other day while wandering with our car around the east of Chiba we ended up in what looked like a cowshed or farm.
However when we got nearer to the place we saw that we could enter and we found people playing music, clowns doing performances to kids and even photo exhibitions. It turns out that the place is a popular venue in the area called Gyusha Number 8, 牛舎8号 (Cowshed number 8). It is a farm reconverted to attract artists from nearby locations to the community. I love it when I find this kind of places in Japan. Places where things that apparently don’t have any common relationship converge.
We were told that many artists from Tokyo come here to live in the small towns to the east of Chiba because the rents are much cheaper and they can afford the lifestyle they wish to have. We had the chance to see the performances of several groups of music and also a clown/magician.
There’s no cows anymore but there are hens and some crops. We walked for a while until the crops near a mountain and we found these jails right by the forest. They are traps to catch wild boars. It seems wild boars are a big problem for the farmers in this area.
Cristiano Ronaldo has recently become the sponsor of MTG, a Japanese company that makes fitness products. Cristiano Ronaldo appears on the TV commercials to promote one of their devices, the Facial Fitness PAO. It is a flexible device that you stick in your mouth to train your face muscles. It seems like a stupid thing but it costs ￥13,824 or around 100 EUR/130 USD!
Dole has recently placed some vending machines with bananas in Tokyo. If you are interested in this website you can know exactly the location of the four vending machines that are working as of now.
Source: Fun Japan
Other posts about vending machines in Japan:
A couple of weeks ago, from the 13th to the 15th of August, Obon お盆 was celebrated around Japan. Matsuris took place all around the country to honor the spirits of the people’s ancestors.
One of the traditions during Obon consists on introducing wood sticks into eggplants and cucumbers like shown on the pictures below. Cucumbers represent horses and eggplants represent cows. Legend has it that the spirits of one’s ancestors travel to our world riding on cows and horses. In the following pictures that I took in a coffee shop in Kichijoji there’s no incense, but usually there should be. The smoke of the incense marks the way from our world to the spirits world so they don’t get lost when coming and going back.
The other day I had to use the Yamanote line and found a little nice surprise. The whole line has been decorated with Mario themes as part of a campaign to promote the collaboration between Nintendo and Suica by JR. Nintendo eShop users can now use the e-money of their Suicas on the Wii U to buy games and other items.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise is an OVA divided into four parts based on the Ghost in the Shell universe 攻殻機動隊. I recently finished watching the third part “Ghost Tears”. In September the fourth part, “Ghost Stands Alone”, will be released and will complete the series. Masamune Shirow has not been involved in the production team and for that reason the style of Arise has changed from the style of the movies and Stand Alone Complex. One of the most significant changes is that instead of having blue tachikomas now there are red logicomas.
Arise begins just at the end of World War IV in year 2027. The plot explores the depth of the formation of Sector 9, the intelligence department of the Japanese ministry of internal affairs. Another novelty is the new characters, many of them related with Rikugun Go Maru Ichi Kikan 陸軍５０１機関, the organization that transformed Kusanagi into a cyborg.
The Arise OVAs are ideal if you still don’t know the Ghost in the Shell universe and want to immerse yourself in it. It is much more “light” than Stand Alone Complex.
Photo by Nihongogo
There’s also an Arise manga drawn by Fujisaku Junichi, one of the key members of Production I.G. Its name is Ghost in the Shell: Arise ~Sleepless Eye~ (攻殻機動隊ARISE～眠らない眼の男). The art is impressive but the story is quite boring because it’s just a connection of several action scenes.