nihon, japón, japaõ, nippon, iapana, giappone
Land of the Rising Sun

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  In no way is this artistic rendition meant as a sign of disrespect of the Hinomaru, rather it is meant to emphasize the Japanese people's love of baseball. -- Bobby Dozier

"To Westerners, the Japanese were an incomprehensible contradiction: polite and barbarous, honest and treacherous, brave and cowardly, industrious and lazy - all at the same time. To the Japanese, these were not anomalies at all but one united whole, and they could not understand why Westerners didn't comprehend it. To the Japanese, a man without contradictions could not be respected; he was just a simple person. The more numerous the contradictions in a man, the deeper he was. His existence was richer the more acutely he struggled with himself"... John Toland from his excellent book, The Rising Sun,a very good exposè about the decline and fall of the Japanese Empire before, during and after World War II.

Let me say, "hear, hear," how true these words are if we try to compare the Japanese mindset with our own, Western-biased ones, which I have been guilty of an untold number of times. Yet it's difficult to comprehend what being a Japanese is really about so I've stopped trying even though the blood in my veins, half of it, is Japanese! Of course for Japanese born &/or raised overseas this is quite impossible and can be quite frustrating cause he/she looks Japanese...

Anyway, this isn't meant to be a critique but it might give those unfamiliar with my mother's country, a better idea of this society, culture and country. The national flag, the Hinomaru really should sport a red baseball because of the unreal reverence held by the Japanese people for an imported game. A lot can be learned by watching Japanese people's approach to a sport invented by Americans which they have encompassed as their own and to which they have really redesigned into their own game, called yakyu. It is a different game from baseball (in how it is approached), the sooner one understands this, the sooner one can begin to understanding Japan and its citizens, perhaps... I strongly recommend books by Robert Whiting for some good cross-cultural studies in a sports setting: You Gotta Have Wa and Chrysanthemum and The Bat, and there is a book he co-wrote with Warren Cromartie, a very humorous exposé of Japanese baseball and society: Slugging It Out in Japan: An American Major Leaguer in the Tokyo Outfield.

Japan, in my mind, is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, i.e. outside of its gray, depressing overpopulated cities. While Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kobe and other cities are relatively clean, it is an injustice to the beautiful terrain in this country to spend all your time in one of these concrete jungles and base your opinion of the whole country on a congested city. Recommended places I have been: Hokkaido, basically all of it, its many faces resemble Ireland, Nebraska, the waters of the Mediterranean, and Russia; the plains, which could very well be right at home in Oklahoma; but I especially loved Hakodate and its people. The Izu Penisula which offers incredibly gorgeous scenery and close to Tokyo, the Japan Sea coast close to Niigata, the eastern part of Kyushu which includes Miyazaki Prefecture (superb!), Kagoshima and Kumamoto (very tranquil) prefectures; Kobe city; and the Odawara/Hakone area. Haven't yet made it there yet, but other spots on a must-see list should include Nikko (finally saw parts of it), the Fukui coastline, and Kyoto (finally got there too), very highly recommended!

Tokyo was my home for almost 17 years, it has its good and bad points. Regarding the good, the social aspects are indeed rewarding as it is easy to make many friends from all over the globe; the convenience afforded by its good infrastructure (it could be better, what confusion trying to find places due to its crazy address system and a street system resembling a maze! Here's a hint for Tokyo city planners, which is plain common-sense, alternate one-way streets, don't have two in a row going the same way - duh!!!); the job and business opportunities and most of all, the people make it great. Can't say that's true for the majority, while polite and kind on the surface, due to the dog-eat-dog mentality of large cities there are also some of the rudest humans on the planet inhabitanting this city of 12 million. For some reason carrying a heavy or bulky item seems to be a magnet for people to walk right towards you. Some people will bump into you after you've done a Barry Sanders-like juke to avoid them and then have the audacity to stare at you because they did not make any attempt to avoid contact, this I find very aggravating!

Supposedly on any given work day there are near 50 million people in the "Big Mikan," which I have dubbed "Tea Town," now that's depressing and if these jokers, smokers &/or midnite tokers in Nagatacho (the Japanese Diet) would quit fartin' around and actually move the capital outside of Tokyo, it would make this city so much better, but I don't see it happening, not in our lifetimes. As that old Styx song goes, you're only fooling yourselves, you best believe it...

"All the seas, everywhere, are brothers one to another
Why then do the winds and waves of strife rage so violently through the world?"

Emperor Hirohito - quoting his father Emperor Meiji while reprimanding generals Tojo & Sugiyama, Chief of Command Nagano and Navy Minister Oikawa for their stance of supporting continuing negotiations to prevent war with the U.S. while at the same time preparing for battle.

I'll add more commentary and links about Japan and its rich history in due course. Let me just say the war between the U.S and Japan could have been avoided but was due to many factors some of the blame of which lies squarely on some American diplomats' shoulders and the result of the Yellow Peril which was sweeping the U.S. and Europe, and outright racism. That does not mean Japan is blameless, far from it. Some Japanese people (and Americans for that matter, I, however am not one of those) still cannot understand the U.S.'s reason to use the atomic bomb. Here's a fact which is not widely publicized in Japan, even after the second bomb was dropped on Nagashima (a beautiful town by the way): some Japanese military leaders still wanted to keep fighting!!! Another disturbing fact is how ill informed most Japanese citizens are about some attrocities which happened during World War II, remember the old adage: "Those who do not study history are bound to repeat it!" Some Japanese leaders had a good idea, to unite Asia before the Euros colonized everything for themselves but they became arrogant, which seems to be a common trait, and treated Asians as if they were lower than dogs instead of as brothers. This very much led to their downfall during WWII!

Go here for fotos of Japan