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?
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.