12 November 2017

Japanese Culture in a Nutshell

Konichi wa! This is the first greeting phrase everyone hears getting out of the plane and stepping on the outlandish land of Nippon koku. A month has passed since my Japanese experience has finished and yet, it feels as it happened yesterday. Every day was a travel in time, from the Ancient Japanese culture to the present and future one. Thus, in what follows, the story will focus on the most memorable things it happened each day, from my personal perspective.

The experience started with a New Zealander’s inspirational speech about how much the budō arts - the martial ways of Japan - influenced the Japanese culture, from the technique and body movements to the way of thinking and being. They learn to "begin and end with respect, to reflect on their successful strike, to be grateful when they are struck".
Day 2:
Our understanding towards Japan deepened, even more, when we had interacted with Japanese students from Keio University. This visit was full of insights about their educational system and their continuous concernings about the political strategy which Japan adopts in the current international context.
Day 3:
On the third day, some of the secrets of Noh Theatre were discovered. It is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama performed exclusively by men with recitative chants and a small orchestra (a flute and 2 drums) accompanying the play. It is very unique and it has definitely amazed us, the more so as, even with the explanations before, it was very difficult to understand the play. The sounds, the gestures, the way the actor enters on the stage; every little detail matter and have a specific meaning, which together creates the whole story.
Day 4:
The visit at Higashi Honganji Temple had a lot of wonders. One of them was the Woven Hair Rope, or Kezuna, a rope made from human hair mixed with hemp, which was used for hoisting and moving the massive wooden beams of the two main halls of the Temple.
Day 5:
We have seen the day of 6 August 1945 through the eyes of a survivor; a 86 years old lady who hasn't lost her hope even today, despite the hell she lived in that day and the years after: "Because of the pain, I thought: I am alive; I have to find my family." It was a very sad day, not only for the Japanese people but for the humankind. It was the day when a nuclear bomb had destroyed for the first time in history, a city; Hiroshima.
What I have admired the most about her was the fact that, despite she had all the reasons to hate, she didn't. She continued to believe in life, people and in a better future; a peaceful one. It was not only a story, it was a fact and we, as humans, have to cherish the life and the world we live in beyond any political, social and economic interests.
The day ended with a breathtaking view of Tokio from the Roppongi Hills Observation Deck, at 53rd floor, where we also explored the contemporary art, and, as usual, with a delicious dinner in an amazing typical Japanese restaurant. So here are some pieces of advice when you are in Japan:

Make sure you have cash - some restaurants/bars/supermarkets don't accept card payment, so make sure you have cash. Also, if you plan to take from the cash machine, take into consideration that the minimum amount you can extract from your card is 100 euros. It is advisable to exchange your money before coming in Japan.
Wear socks - some restaurants, as the one we went to, required us to take off our shoes. It is considered very rude and offensive if your feet will be 'naked' 
Don't tip the waiter - don't be surprised if the waiter will run after you on the street to give your tips back, thinking that you paid too much and he/she has to give you the change. The same thing goes for taxi drivers. They will give you the change down to the last yen, and you being like “Nah it’s ok, just keep the change”, would just embarrass your driver.
Nose blowing - It’s considered extremely rude to blow your nose in public, and unhygienic too. It’s basically telling everyone around you “I don’t care, I will infect you all”. The only option you have is to go to the toilet and do it there, in a private cabin, without the fear of infecting anyone else.
Never bite/lick the chopsticks | Never stick the chopsticks in your rice | Never pass food from your chopsticks to someone else’s chopsticks - you won't do a good impression if you will

The list can continue, but all pieces of advice can be summarized in look around closely and see what local people are doing, because after all, imitation is the only fail-proof way.

It was a journey full of colors, delicious food, speechless landscapes, amazing historical facts and stories, beautiful architecture, unique arts and many smiles. It was about diversity, but at the same time, it was about unity. We have found in our diverse culture, personal experiences and background, a way through which we understood and, most important, we expanded our perspectives towards the world we live in.

Everything was perfectly organized and managed. It was "once in a lifetime" opportunity and I am sure that every person involved in #mirai2017 program will cherish all the things we have experienced together.

I want to thank #mmib #ase #rei #embassyofjapaninromania #geyc #prismaeu for the trust, the opportunity and the support you have offered me. Special thanks go also to Bojan Vukadinović and Kartal Kovalovszki for the beautiful photos.

I hope that more Romanian students and not only will have the chance to discover themselves and the world through these projects. If you are keen to discuss more on a specific subject, leave a comment below and I would be happy to share my impressions with you.

Explore Japan more through:
1. MIRAI Blog
2. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
3. Hadashi no Gen (1983)
4. #xplorJP
5. #mirai2017