Japan on the Brain

For obvious reasons, I can’t stop thinking about Japan.

I first went in 2003 and have returned seven times since then, three times last year.

As a result of the visits, I have friends and colleagues in Tokyo, Niigata, and Ishikawa.

On my first visit I recorded Elizabeth Andoh cooking miso soup.  She taught me how to make it from scratch.

Among the things I love about Japan are the silences allowed between friends, an acceptance of foible bordering on passivity, and an unspoken curiosity about the unseen in nature and ourselves.  So much of the culture is about what is implied rather than said.  No wonder Roland Barthes called his wonderful book about Japan, The Empire of Signs.

Everyone is safe.  No one is complaining openly.

What I hear instead is that people are tired.

Or about ordinary lives, such as these words from my friend Yuko, a writer, in Tokyo.  She is the translator of Ted Bestor’s classic book about the Tsukiji Market.  Yuko writes, “I am fine as I had a nice sake and sat with my friends after watching a good play by Issei Ogata. Many plays or concerts are canceled especially by Europe people, but Japanese actors or musicians are alive.”

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