Kyoto Journal Issue 13
Rustic Avant-Garde: The New Japanese Architecture
Intelligent Buildings Flee Tokyo
Paradise in the Sea of Sorrow: An Account of the Minamata Disease Tragedy
Down and Out in Kamagasaki
Do we, today’s travelers and sojourners, with our jet speed recognize ourselves as heirs to this ancient and honorable tradition of venturing into the unknown (never mind the books, movies, TV reports) to test our mettle in search of some new good? If so, we should heed the mythic warnings and arm ourselves well with skills and knowledge for cultural understanding, set out with a light heart and courage, be alert and open to all we encounter, recognize pitfalls, accept assistance when offered, and never lose sight of our goal.
Nowadays it is almost a cliche to speak of culture shock or culture stress, words suggestive of ill health and destructive forces, implicitly assuming a pattern of adjustment. A newcomer to Japan may say, “Oh this is just my ‘honeymoon’ phase. There’ll be a letdown sooner or later.” Another, after a year’s stay, might say: “I never noticed any particular culture shock or had any difficulty.”
—Helaine K. Minkus, Understanding Misunderstanding
If you’ve lived in Japan for any length of time, you know it’s unusual to be invited into a Japanese home. Foreign residents often complain about never having seen the inside of one. For some reason I’ve never craved such an invitation. I’m curious, like everyone else, but I feel that the customs are the customs. Life, however, is perverse: we often get what we don’t want. I should say, rather, we often get what we don’t crave. If there’s anyplace in the world where craving doesn’t work, it’s in Japan. What you crave in Japan, you’ll never get. I didn’t crave an invitation, and here I was getting one from a complete stranger.
— Michael Fessler, The Householder
Cover Image by Jorg Schmeisser
published January 15th, 1990