Variety is the spice of life

One of the things I am loving most about this trip to Japan, is that seeing other things and other places helps me get a sense of what qualities and features I like and dislike.

A perfect example of this is my reaction to the cities we`ve visited so far.  We just arrived in Tokyo and so far I`m not feeling very comfortable here.  The crowds are even bigger in the area that we`re in.  While that in itself isn`t too much of a big deal for me, there are certain side effects to the crowding that I`m not enjoying.  The city is dirtier (compared to other Japanese cities – still cleaner than quite a few Canadian ones), buildings are more generic in construction and features, and there`s a greater need for systems to impose order instead of depending on the basic understanding of the citizens. 

One of the biggest things I`m finding I miss about the smaller cities in Japan was the pride everyone took in their place in the city.  In Tokyo it seems to be more Westernized with the focus on the individual.  In the other cities, there seemed to be more pride taken in their neighbourhood and home.  People would have planters in front of their home or business – even on the bit of public sidewalk.  Many businesses in the morning would wash the sidewalks (something very shinto) which helped keep the cities even cleaner.  People seemed to be happier about where they were as well. 

It`s hard to put my finger on it exactly but the tone of the city seems a bit more depressed.  Of course, that`s just my own impression of it based on a very short snippet of time.  However, it has helped me think about some things to incorporate into my own life for where I live.  I never realized just how welcoming a cluster of plants and flowers could be in front of a home or business.  Now, I definitely tend more toward the black thumb rather than the green, but I might be more willing to try some stuff out this year to make my own place a bit more welcoming.

The other thing I`m realizing is just how lacking my western life is of custom, ritual, and tradition.  Those are some of the things I`ve been most fascinated with by my time in Japan.  From ringing bells to sumo tournaments, there are rituals that frame the way things are done here.  I`m not sure what it is that appeals to me about that, but there is something there.  I`ll have to think of some ways to incorporate that into my own life at home as well, though I don`t have too many ideas about that yet.

I only wish the variety of fashions and colours were helping my sense of personal style, but no luck so far with that <sigh>.

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