Thoughts, Travel, 日本

What I Love About Japan [1]

What I Love About Japan [Part 1]
With Pictures!
2016年3月8日

I’m often asked what I love about Japan so much to have been compelled to move here.  I’ll admit I do have a fondness for anime and manga, eating with chopsticks and inhaling melon-pan… but that is not why I traveled to Japan.  To be honest, I might never know the true reason why my heart has been set on this place since I was a teenager.

But I love it here.  That is reason enough.

That’s why I wanted to write a very candid list about what I love about Japan in the microcosm of the country that is Nerima, where I live.  Eventually, I’ll spread out.  And I’ll even bring to light some of the issues in Japan that I don’t like.

Today marks a month in Japan.  Today I took photographs of what I love about my new stomping grounds.  You’re not going to see humongous buildings, flashing lights, and billions of people.  Those are all nice.  But that’s a minuscule sliver of what Japan is.  No, today what you will see is the timelessness of the Japanese aesthetic and the quaintness of some areas.

What I Love About Japan:
1. The horrifically narrow but remarkably tidy streets.  Two cars can’t pass by one another unless one pulls over.  Way over.
IMG_0492I don’t know where the Asians are bad drivers stereotype came from, because in this environment you can’t afford to be horrendous or even distracted for a millisecond.  Seriously, there are times where I’ve gasped at the stunts I’ve witnessed drivers pulling off to avoid accidents.  Bicyclists and children and even other cars are always appearing out of the blue, but I have yet to see any negative ends.  Everyone gets out of the jams unscathed.

What else don’t you see?  Oh, right.  Litter.

2. The architecture  and landscaping of residential buildings.
IMG_0495
Japanese houses are compact.  Every nook and cranny is filled with something.  Sometimes it is potted flowers and vegetable plots.  Other times there are shrines and sheds.

3. On that note, I love the random allotments of greenery.  Nearly every place I’ve been to in Tokyo, I can find at least one park.  Okay, not all of these parks are the nature variety.  A lot of these parks have no grass, only gravel, and the trees are fenced to prevent your pup from lifting a leg to it.  Some are paved but have fountains, designated smoking areas, and pristine bathrooms.

Then you have places like Nerima-ku.  My ward loves leafy greens.
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Just one example of the several plots of preserved nature that the vicinity around my apartment has.  Sure, it’s pizzly compared to the acres and acres of wildlife refuge of some state parks in America, but it’s gorgeous either way.  The breath of green amongst the concrete and metal is a welcome sight.

4. The superfluous amount of vending machines.
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They’re everywhere.

Watching you.  Following you.

5. Those magical places you’d see in anime or TV dramas.  I’m a hopeless romantic.  Sights like this make me wistful.
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Imagine how beautiful this is going to look in April!   The weather today was gorgeous, hinting to the onset of spring.  The plum and cherry blossoms are already beginning to bloom.  Down below, there’s a mallard swimming in the shallow water.  Views like these show where traditional Japanese aesthetic blends with modern times.  To me, it’s truly captivating.

6. Japanese temples and shrines.  Nerima has a few big ones in Shakuji-koen and Hikarigaoka.  Smaller, lesser known ones speckle the region.  Near my apartment, there are several houses with their own guardian spirit shrines outside.  One building even has a torii gate built on the roof.
IMG_0496
Each of these shrines is treated with respect.  People visit them daily.  In all my sightings of shrines (which is now innumerable), I rarely see vandalism.

Even in the most congested locations throughout Tokyo, you can find a shrine such as this.  Depending on how dense the living situation is, the shrine itself may be much smaller.

7. The absurd amount of cuteness.
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Energizer bunnies?  Seriously, Japan?
At least you’d pay attention in this construction area.  And still no trash in sight.  Today was even a designated garbage pick-up day!

8. I love Japan because I see things like this.
IMG_0494

And this:
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From the time I stepped off the Seibu Ikebukuro line and exited the train station, I have been enchanted by Nerima-ku.  Hugely agricultural, there are squares of farm land squeezed into places where buildings aren’t.  At every hub of commerce (like the stations), there are dozens of organic produce shops from farmers right in the ward or the neighboring towns.  Everywhere I turn, there’s foliage and chirping birds.

This is Japan.  Not quite what you’d expected, right?

Thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.  Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.  Questions are also always welcomed.

Until next we meet.

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