Ger's Monthly Update Only Natural

Anyone who knows me well knows that for a long time now I’ve had a deep interest in Japan, the country and its culture. In May I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to indulge myself with a trip over there and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about it and where my fascination comes from. It wasn’t my first time in Japan and I hope I’ll get the chance to go again. I spent my time in Kyoto and Nara, both former Capitals of Japan and both regarded as places where the country’s traditional culture is still at its strongest.

I spent my time there indulging all my Japan related loves which include food, gardens, art and Buddhism. The things that appeal to me all seem to stem from the country’s traditional values such as zen simplicity and appreciation of the natural world and its seasons. These values have permeated all areas of life such as art and architecture, gardening and food. Simplicity and elegance of style is valued above all and every opportunity to celebrate the turning of nature’s seasons is embraced. In which other country are the spring flowering of cherry trees and the autumnal turning of the maple leaves elevated to the status of national celebrations?

Ger's Monthly Update Japan
Ger's Monthly Update Japanese Garden
Traditional gardens are often small, simple spaces which aim to be abstract representations of natural vistas. In a country where space is at a premium this is a necessity and allows the tiniest of areas to represent the natural world. A few carefully placed rocks, some plants and some sand can conjure mountains, streams and the ocean.
Traditional interiors are uncluttered but simple, functional yet beautiful things are treasured.
The traditional diet is equally simple. It’s based on a simple palette of seasonal vegetables, sea vegetables, tofu, meat and fish and a small number of seasonings such as soya sauce, miso, rice wine and vinegar. Presentation is simple but beautiful and seasonality is always respected.
Traditional arts such as tea ceremony (perhaps the ultimate expression of mindfulness), ikebana (flower arranging), shodo (calligraphy) and bonsai (the art of growing dwarf plants in containers) are all flowering.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking at the country completely through rose coloured glasses. Japan is firmly in the modern age with all the issues and problems that that brings but I think that, as in many societies, connection with and cherishing of traditional values can be a source of strength for many people. We live in an increasingly homogenized world and I think that works two ways. On the one hand I see younger Japanese in danger of loosing the connection to their cultural heritage but on the other hand there’s greater chance for cultural dissemination to allow everyone to access the aspects of it (and indeed those of many amazing world cultures!) that resonate with them and bring them into their own lives.

Ger's Monthy Update Japan
Anyway rant over, this is not exactly your average Only Natural blog post, is it? I just wanted to share a little bit about my trip and the thoughts it’s brought to mind with you. And on second thoughts yes it is very much at the heart of what we do in Only Natural.
What I love about traditional Japan is very much connected with why I run the business I do. It’s about fostering a lifestyle based on a respect for nature and our connection to it and I encourage you all to find your own Japan, be it GAA, salsa dancing, a deeper appreciation of our own amazing history and culture or whatever! If it’s something you can connect with on all levels it’s something that will sustain you.
Ger
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