Somewhere in my studies, I came across a book entitled, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind." The premise of the book, amongst other things, was that we should aim to keep a child-like mind in reference to perceiving the world around us. It is common practice for us to wake up and go through our daily routines without acknowledging the newness and changes around us. Hence, strive to be child-like, not in the sense of naivete, but rather in a state of wakefulness and appreciation in perspective, in which all things are viewed as brand new. Even if we've seen them a thousand times before. (As is always the case, this is much easier said than done.)
Living here in Tokyo, I've certainly been guilty of falling into that 'daily routine' mentality. However, with my departure now 9 days away, "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!"
There are a great number of cultural aspects which attest to the rich tradition and heritage that is Japanese life. Many of which, present a sharp contrast to America.
The most pronounced difference I've perceived is the well being and liveliness of the elders in this country. Simply put, old people are everywhere! I didn't realize how hidden our old folks are back in the States, til I arrived here.
Not only are they out, but they've got some spunk wit' em. I've seen 50+ year old ladies walking around with their hair dyed PURPLE! Folks who look to be in their 70's on bikes, cruising throughout the neighborhood. And I'm not talking about a handful of people. I'm talking..goop gobs of old folks! It's amazing. I always thought my Pops was a timeless being for still being able to give me the business on the basketball court at age 60. But these folks might give him a run for his money.
Aside from the activities, I simply see more elders here than at home. They spend a lot of time walking the streets and talking to one another. Riding the trains and still very much living. Not to mention, they are a mainstay on television here to put it mildly. This gave rise to an interesting question. "Why don't we see elders too often on television in the States?"
Is it that we value youth so much in a capitalist society, that we downplay the significance of the aging? Or are we so preoccupied with the next NEW thing that we forget to step backwards every now and then to remember the way things were?? Perhaps it's a result of being brought up in a rootless (ruthless) culture, in which the actual Native's are purposefully repressed in attempt to silence the ugly history that lies at the foundation of our 'Great Nation.' We're raised in a culture where our history is so atrocious, that we scurry toward a bold future, in hopes of overshadowing the wrongs once done. Indeed, I'm getting a bit pessimistic here, but these are certainly factors worth entertaining.
From the elders to the youth. I swear Japanese babies are born warriors! You know that moment, when a fresh-stepper is still discovering the rhythm and balance required to accomplish this thing called walking?
How many times have you seen a child bouncing, ever so confidently, on his way, just to hit an unexpected bump in the road, and absolutely bite it! That's usually when, everyone in the child's circumference takes that collective gasp. And then rushes over to him, if not verbally than psychologically saying, "Are you ok?"
Well here in Japan, I don't know if it's just the parents who don't create that same psyche by staying cool when it happens, or if these kids just have harder heads! But I'll tell you what, I've seen at least 15 of em, take some serious L's (that's losses for the un-eboniced.) The kind where you wince when you see it. And they just pick themselves up...don't even run for Mom's leg or anything, and keep it moving!! Remarkable.
A cultural aspect that I will greatly miss here is that of bike riding. Back home, if you show up somewhere on a bicycle, people look at you like you must be broke. (Well, except for in Santa Cruz.) I remember feeling this internal judgment before I acquired my vehicle back in Cali. There was a sense of personal ineptitude that seemed to accompany my biking days. However, here, you will see the sexiest girl on the block on her 5 speed, WITH A GRANNY BASKET on the front of it!! Riding that bad boy with pride!! And every (bold) guy on the block, clocking her as she goes by. Simply put, bikes are everywhere out here. Every major store has bikc parking which is packed with no less than 50 bikes at a time. It's rather refreshing to have such an option, especially, sans judgment.
So yeah, I'd have to say, between bikes and trains, America is lacking on its' transportation skills. Hopefully Obama will put some of those train issues to rest in his term(s?)
In the meantime, I'm a strive to stay brand new for the last few days. And fully soak in the dynamics that shape Tokyo. I look forward to sharing them with you..
Blessings and Light!