Sunday, 29 September 2013

Side by side

Japan feels like a place of contrasts, where what seems incongruent appears to sit together comfortably.

You can stand in the middle of a huge metropolis and yet there is a lot of 'small' - spaces, houses/apartments, cars.

There are people everywhere, busy about their business, crowds converging on tourist attractions, masses pouring out of train stations and there are times when the streets are eerily quiet and devoid of human habitation.

You can be in the middle of a shopping strip with chic boutique stores and follow a little side path that promises some green and find yourself at a temple.

You can join locals sitting along a bench eating ramen noodles and gyoza while watching the skillful chef cook your meal and right next door is a fast food outlet and down the road is a cafe catering to the new coffee culture.

You can see a woman wearing a kimono and a few minutes later one wearing a mini skirt and impossibly high heeled shoes.

You can see and feel a conservatism in the culture and an undercurrent of youthful rebellion.

It is modern and western and yet still very Japanese.

Big and small, crowds and alone, commerce and religion, tradition and embracing the new, I have only begun to scratch the surface and Japan is so surprising and confusing. Perhaps it is an illusion but the incongruent appear to find a harmonious co-existence that is bizarre at times.