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Finding distinction

Friday, July 14th, 2006

Ishige sits in the middle of a vast lowland plain that surrounds Tokyo. It doesn’t take long when leaving the capital for the grid of the city to be replaced by the grid of the countryside, the flat expanse of rice paddies intricately manicured through the ages.Towering from the linear landscape is a white castle with a green tiled roof, seven stories that seem lost in the smallness of the town. It is a modern replica, a community center disguised in the allure of the past. Perhaps it was an overzealous mayor’s attempt to put this place on the map, to make it distinctive. Distinction is an oft-sought commodity in the sameness of Japan.

When I first arrived in Japan almost two years ago I was a kid in a candy store, ready to discover my new temporary home that seemed fresh and new at every turn. I reveled in the foreign atmosphere, of day to day blunders and gems of new knowledge.

Now almost two years into my adventure, those days seem distant. There is an interesting half-life to exoticism. What at first seems a place infinite in newness slowly blends into the normalcy of life. One’s eagerness to take part in all that is foreign must at some point come to the realistic conclusion that it is me who is foreign, and short of reincarnation, there are some aspects of a place I will not come to know.

4 months sans blog

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

I’ve heard from some people that my blog updates need to pick up the pace. It’s been interesting to know how many people have been following my travels. I guess I always assumed a blog by nature is mostly self-serving; some public record of a life being lived, the ultimate slice of electronic self-effacement in the age of individualism. But I guess people read them too, (thanks mom.)Part of me can’t disconnect myself from the idea that returning to my “normal” life back in Japan would make my writing less interesting. Although Japan has achieved some strange degree of normalcy for me, I must remember that it is still exotic and new for many back home. While perhaps not as exciting as backpacking through SE Asia and Southern China, this country still inspires a lot of creativity and observation. For someone not living an orthodox life by many standards, it has been a struggle for me not to get deterred by falsely based assumptions of exoticism.

Another more unavoidable effect of sedentary life is the simple lack of creative motivation that inevitably takes over me. Especially in Japan, A Change of scenery is the best way to bolster creativity, and as my next entry will show, a change of scenery is sometimes difficult to come by in Japan.