The real Japan

Travelers often arrive
in Japan
with a checklist
of visual expectations.
A menu of Japan-sights.
Pale, young women
in kimono.
Mount Fuji
watching over Tokyo.
Cherry blossoms
in the pink
of their youth.
Ancient temples
surrounded by bamboo forests.
Skyscrapers piercing
blue skies.
Harajuku girls
in petticoats
and fuchsia hair.
Trains packed
with Salary Men
in grey suits
en route to distant
cubicles.
Red vending machines
stocked with the unusual.
The panoramic view
from a marble window ledge
in the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
Gaggles of well-mannered
school girls
in navy uniforms
and straw hats.The traveler’s Japan
exists.
It begs to be captured
in photographs
and haiku.This Japan
is just part
of the story.
The predictable bit
of pristine ice-berginess
above the water.The rest of Japan
is a jumble-jangle of
wood and concrete grey
houses and apartment buildings
built up against
each other
beside train tracks
and shopping malls and
sweet, small parks.
Armies of bicycles
perch precariously
on sidewalks,
blowing over in the wind.
Plants in large ceramic pots,
sweater-wearing dogs in prams,
and 100 Yen shops.
Light blue duvets
hanging outside,
being aired out.
Women returning home
with small plastic bags
of groceries.
Grandparents on brisk walks.
Communities working together
to overcome tsunami-loss.
Ferris wheels,
Chinese food restaurants
on boats,
pizza delivery guys
zipping by
on motorbikes.
Families skating
at outdoor ice rinks.
People in love.All of these bits
are arranged
as if the huffy,
giant toddler
of the gods
grabbed handfuls of goodies
from the box marked Japan,
threw these disparate items to earth
and yelled, “All done, mommy.”There is no one Japan,
no real Japan.
All these Japans
live side by side
writing each other
into existence.In the absence
of geisha,
samurai
and ninja,
there are
ordinary people
living
sometimes lovely
sometimes complicated
sometimes sad
lives
in concrete jungles
and small towns
by the sea.These Japans
are also Japan.
Travelers are welcome
and there are
no bad photos here.
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8 comments

    1. Thanks, Haruko-chan! Your blog, The Japans, is beautiful and helpful!
      I too imagined the other Japan, even after my first visit to the country (new Tokyo and old Kyoto), but when we moved here it became clear that the bamboo forests and temples were just one part of the story.
      When I look at these photos taken in Hiro-o, I feel happy 🙂

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