Another comic from the same author as my last post. A common theme:
‘It’s just a phase, Japan’s not that great, or cool, or even different. Basically, I’m calling you dumb for liking Japan even though that’s the only reason you’re at my site to begin with.’ A common line found on the internet.
Well, it’s been nearly five years for me and I’m happy to report that I still haven’t gotten over the “honeymoon phase.” Japan is drastically different to where I grew up, and I’m frequently amazed and overwhelmed by things I find in daily life. I suppose it largely depends on what ideas you brought with you though.
Anyway, let’s have a look at the comic itself. Was our main character a “stupid, fucking moron” as she describes her fresh-off-the-boat self? I’m inclined to say no.
I’d say cats in Japan, along with other random semi-domesticated wildlife you may encounter, are cuter than their American counterparts. This is because random acts of violence are quite noticeably fewer in Japan than the States. Stray cats tend to be far sweeter and more trusting of people than their cousins across the ocean who have learned a great deal of fear.
Cloth is certainly different here, being something old enough to have developed its own history in every place it is found in the world (which is pretty much everywhere). The way cloth was made, dyed, and used here was unique to Japan, and some of this carries over even to everyday things today. Noren hanging in front of shops as a sign that they are open, people carrying around parcels wrapped in furoshiki, even signs for shops tied at the top and one side to two poles crossed in the corner might put you in mind of, yes, a samurai banner.
And while the domestic cat may be the same species found all over the world, there are thousands of species of frogs, many of them endemic to Japan or Asia, and not likely to be seen in the US.
The final frame tries to push the point home to the brink of absurdity, but I would argue that even the moon is different in Japan. First of all, the moon always appears larger closer to the horizon, and Japan being as mountainous as it is, this puts the moon higher in the sky while it is still enlarged by this “moon illusion” effect. If, like me, you come from somewhere fairly flat to an area of Japan that has a lot of mountains (which is a great deal of the country considering something like 70% of Japan is mountains), you might be shocked at how big the moon appears in the night sky. But the moon also carries more cultural significance here. Moon viewing is a long celebrated Autumn pastime, and in October you’ll hear comments from friends and neighbors talking about when the big, bright harvest moon is set to appear this year. Physically it may be the same moon spinning around up there, but when it comes to looking at the moon, where you are certainly makes a difference.
Many people who come here seem to take a certain delight in becoming jaded, embittered Japan hands, all too eager to tell the uninitiated how wrong they are for liking Japan or, heaven forbid, wanting to live here. But I would rather wear my mesmerized joy with pride. In the end, it’s not only more honest, but a lot more fun.