Sunday, March 11, 2007

Finally westward bound

I've now been in Japan for almost two years and have experienced more than I could ever have imagined. I've skied and hiked in the Japanese Alps in Nagano, gaped in awe at the urban sprawl of Tokyo from the top of high rises, soaked in the hot mineral waters of onsen in Nasu and walked the quiet grounds of Chuson-ji temple in Iwate-ken, just to mention a few trips. Outside of Japan, I've visited the current capital of China, Beijing, and one of its most ancient capitals, Xian. I've marvelled at the grandeur of Angkor Wat and shuddered at the horrors of the Killing fields in Cambodia. I've eaten Pho on the streets of Saigon and seen the mighty Mekong river with my own eyes.

Despite having visited all these and countless other places, I have yet to travel to what for most tourists if THE must-see spot in Japan, Kyoto. Luckily, this will soon be remedied.

As I sit here typing this, a contingent of 5 French-Canadians has just taken off from Ottawa International airport on the first leg of their long journey to Japan. Tomorrow afternoon, Yoshiko and I will meet my parents, aunt and uncles at Narita Airport and begin our two week journey through Central and Western Japan and back. All told, we will be traveling over 2000 kilometers by train, which makes one quite thankful for the Shinkansen, and stopping in 7 cities. First up will be one night of rest in Tokyo for the travel weary, then off to Kyoto for 3 nights, Osaka for 1 night, an afternoon in Himeji, and 2 nights in Hiroshima. We then make the long journey from Hiroshima back up here to nearby Nikko where we stay for three nights, down to Utsunomiya for a night and then a final 3 nights in Tokyo. Quite looking forward to seeing my folks again, and Yoshiko is looking forward to meeting my father and another little piece of my huge family.

This will be my final trip before our departure next month and I am glad with its timing since I think I've finally made my peace with Japan. While I still get pissed off when I hear about stupidities such as denying the massacre perpetrated by Japanese soldiers at Nanking or the forced prostitution of women during the Japanese occupation of Asia, I take solace in the fact that there are people speaking out against these things. The bottom line is that Japan and Asia will have to come to terms with what happened in their past. Since I am leaving, my stake in the survival of Japan in the new Asia will be greatly diminished. It will be interesting to see the developments in the region as China continues to rise and the rest of Asia steps out of the shadows and directly competes with China. Of course, with my in-laws in Japan, I will still have a personal stake in the region, but it will be very different viewing the developments from abroad. I only hope that Japan will some day work its way out of the many holes it has dug for itself.

But for now, I'll focus my energies on making this trip a success for my family and my dear wife, enjoying the trip myself of course, and taking some great photos. I am glad to report that after a lull of a few months, my photography hobby is back in full swing. On our outing to Kairakuen last Thursday, I snapped over 100 photos, which is more than I'd taken with my camera since coming back to Japan in January. I'll be taking my laptop with me on the trip, so you can expect frequent posts with pictures as we make our way down to Hiroshima and back. Cheers!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is impressive that you know so much about Japan after a little under two years in the country. Your reading, writing, and speaking skills must be top notch to have aquired your deep insight into the country such that you are able to understand the complex politics and so forth.

It is also wonderful that you love Japan so much that you would be willimng to live the rest of your life there to be with your wife if that is what she wanted, and since that is what you ask of her. It is nice that you can converse with your wife in Japanese to help ease the stress of life in Canada for her once in a while by allowing her the chance to speak her native language with ease. An experience Im sure you can relate to in Japan.

3:49 AM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Very well put.

Do I understand all I need to know about Japan? Absolutely not... but one does not need to live here for 50 years or be fluent in the language to understand such things as historical revisionism, isolationism and right-wing radicalism. You can see it driving down the streets here in those big black vans, which are but one symptoms of the disease which is very much here in Japan.

As for my wife, I understand that I am extremely lucky to be able to bring her back to Canada with me and show her everything that country has to offer. I am also infinitesimally lucky that we can converse in MY native language. But I do take exception to some of your implications, and I certainly hope you are not comparing the ease of making one's life as an immigrant in Japan to the ease of making one's life in Canada. If you are, I'd love to introduce you to one of my Japanese friends who works in the human rights field here, fighting some of the institutional problems which makes life here extremely difficult for immigrants, problems which would be called outright racism elsewhere in the world.

6:09 AM  

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