C is for 文化

C is for bunka, or the Japanese word for Culture. It’s hard to think of Japan without thinking about its amazing culture. Whether you’re looking at the premodern, modern, or even post-modern, Japan has you covered, and it’s a country that is proud to show it off. In Kyoto alone, the culture of maiko, Heian court, Buddhism, hipsters, and obaa-chan (grannies) converge to make a center of funky, fashionable, and traditional events that can fill an entire year’s calendar. Just check out the various travel blogs to the city; you’ll never run out of things to do.

When I lived in the U.S., I never really went out and did anything. It probably had less to do with there not being anything to do (the Bay Area is full of things to do), and more to do with my general apathy for what I knew would “always be there”. When I came to Japan, originally I thought I was only going to be here for one year, so every weekend was a rush to go out and explore new places and things.

When I look back on the literal thousands of photos I have taken in the last five years, I realize just how important having an active life is. To have an active life is to make new memories, and after all… memories are what make our lives. My need for culture in my life has been fulfilled here, and when I leave, I will take with me the knowledge that a place is what you make of it. I am looking forward to exploring everything Vancouver has to offer––and I have Japan to thank for that.

Images hosted on Flickr. 

https://flic.kr/p/pNxSLH

https://flic.kr/p/oSgqPh

Falconry at Nijo Castle

https://flic.kr/p/pNhsnt

Takarazuka

73 thoughts on “C is for 文化

  1. When I first started traveling I decided to start in Europe because I thought that what was here in the states would always be here. And now there are places in the rest of the world I will likely never see because of political situations in them. I have seen most of the states and Canada though.

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  2. We share the same ideas when travelling, see everything, all of it, rush about, see stuff, do stuff. Isn’t it strange how when we’re home we tend not to do so much? Great posts thus far, you don’t know just how jealous I am.

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    1. Yes, it really is a strange phenomenon. I really regret not exploring San Francisco more in the ten years it was only a bus ride away.

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  3. My cousin stayed in Japan for a year. It proved to change him irrevocably for the better…and also that I would be woken up and random hours of the night just to chat. I am enjoying reading your challenge! Would love to visit Japan at some point in my life.

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    1. I’m glad it positively influenced him! And you’re a good cousin, waking up for those chats. 🙂 I’m not someone easily woken once I’m asleep. Even earthquakes have a time of it!

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    1. Dumb luck, really! A friend had an invite to a maiko party and asked my girlfriend and I to tag along.

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    1. I haven’t had a chance to see Noh or Kabuki yet, though I have seen Kyogen (which is like Noh, but even slower, and typically not as colorful). I’d like to see Kabuki before we leave…. hopefully! (It’s always fascinating to me how my older students know all of the actors in the city, and who taught them, and who will succeed them!)

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  4. Japan really brought me out of my shell, as well. I lived in a mountain area, so if I didn’t have anything planned, I would just take a random drive. There was always something new to see and the scenery was so inspiring. Kyoto was one of my favorite places to visit. The history really hits you there.

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    1. That’s awesome! You’re very lucky to have had a car… the trains are super convenient, but they still take a long time to get anywhere. I’m very glad I ended up in Kyoto. It was my #1 choice, and I knew if I’d been placed in Tokyo I might have passed on the trip all together!

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    1. I agree. I’ve been in a useful position, because for a while, my Japanese was better than my GF’s, so I was in charge of leading us about. I think I soaked up a lot of fun and useful stuff in that time.

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  5. So true! This is a good reminder that I should go explore my own city more. That said, this winter in Toronto was terrible for being outside. However, with spring upon us, I will make an effort! Especially with our new waterfront finally being complete in June. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Not at all! I’ve heard Toronto has tons to offer! Once it finally gets warm again, I hope you’ll share all of the interesting stuff you find. 🙂

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    1. Neither do I! But now I’m two days behind and work is starting up again tomorrow, haha… must get caught up today. The Blog-and-Tea-a-thon commences now! 😉

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    1. I definitely agree. There are no humans in a bubble so complete they haven’t interacted with another person, and it is in that space that the definition of who we are forms, either in juxtaposition against “the other”, or in being in alignment with friends and family.

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  6. It’s definitely a good lesson to take advantage of the culture around you when you can. Like the earlier commenter, there are places I wish I had been before they got too politically dangerous.

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    1. Yes, I’m hoping that certain conflicts will die down before I’m too old to travel… there are many places that I’d like to go, but won’t risk going to at the moment.

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    1. I agree! Kyoto is a really cool juxtaposition of old and new. Love it here, and I’m sad to be leaving!

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    1. The colorful balls are called “Temari” and they’re an old toy from the 1200s! It’s a ball made of thread that children would bounce or roll or juggle. They can be super intricate. I took a couple of classes on how to make them. The simple designs are quite doable in an afternoon!

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    1. Actually, not nearly enough! We’ve only visited a couple of cities outside of Kyoto, and even in Kyoto, there’s still years worth of stuff to see. The culture is so abundant here!

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  7. The bay area is actually great because there is so much within a relatively short distance, things you can do in a day trip (like, today, we went out to the light house at Point Reyes). It wasn’t quite like that in the South. There weren’t really any day trips where I lived. Still, any time I had the opportunity to go to a new place, I took it.

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    1. True enough. I know I only went to New Orleans a handful of times while I lived there, but in the Bay Area, there was plenty to do.

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    1. I hardly remember Baton Rouge, though I went there a couple of times. My memories of New Orleans are mostly the French Quarter, Cafe du Monde, and the street painters and vendors. I was a little kid, so I’m sure everything was rose-colored, but I enjoyed my few visits there.

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  8. Great piece, Alex! And I love your point about a place being what you make of it. I am glad that the urgency you felt about exploring Japan brought this home to you. It is one thing to know that there are things to do: getting into the habit of doing them is quite a different matter!

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    1. Yes, I’m hoping that no matter where i live in the future, I always keep this lesson, above all others, with me!

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  9. What a beautiful blog. I would love to visit Japan one day. “To live an active life is to make new memories” is a sentiment I can completely agree with.

    Happy A to Z-ing!

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    1. Thank you! We all really are the sum of our experiences, so it’s great to get out there and make sure I’ve got plenty of them to fall back on. 🙂

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  10. I’ve only ever been to Tokyo when in Japan and even then there is an abundance of cultural activities! Can’t imagine the rest of Japan! And you met a geisha! Lucky you 🙂

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    1. She was super sweet! And technically a maiko (not yet graduated to geisha). Only 17 years old in that photo! Kyoto has so much cultural stuff going on all the time that it’s almost overwhelming.

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  11. What a beautiful post. You are so right. Life is what we make it. You clearly grab life by both horns and experience all it has to offer. The more I read your posts, the more I want to to travel to Japan.

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    1. Thank you, Tee! I think you would really enjoy it. There is a certain kindness from the people here that is unreal. You stop by for a few days, and make friends for life!

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    1. Haha. It was very amusing. There were a bunch of falconers…. but this guy escaped! He just up and flew over the castle wall and never came back, haha!

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