Searching for Lost Souls

Searching for Souls

Hey everyone, thanks as always for following my blog. I didn’t post much recently, due to holidays and being lazy, so here is a gift for you. A book of poetry written by yours truly!! Heck yes!! Just what you were waiting for! If you have Amazon prime, you can even read it for free! So buy one, or ten! Actually, just one because it’s totally just a kindle ebook, so buying multiple copies might not make sense unless you were gifting them to other people which you should totally do. Anyway, if you like poetry, you should check out my book!!! Give it a shot!! Give me a shot!!! If you like it, share it on your social networking platform of choice and give an aspiring writer a little bit of a leg up. Thanks as always, great content will soon resume on this, the greatest of all blogs.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HR0WTYQ

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Santa is not coming this year because you destroyed the Xmas tree

Santa is not coming this year because you destroyed the Xmas tree

Just kidding, he’s coming. But seriously, what the hell.

Christmas is a time of year that kids around the world just love. And what’s not to love? The magic of Christmas morning, stumbling down to the living room for presents, the excitement, the warmth, the glow of the lights and the delicious food. Or if you’re my toddlers, destroying the fake plastic Christmas tree and all its ornaments because you’re naughty little things. Oh well.
Interestingly enough, Christmas is very popular in Japan. Although it’s not a public holiday (Get back to work you slackers) it is loved for commercial reasons like, gifts to your date, dates with your lover, and cafes and bars with your date. Dating. It’s basically a second (or third rather, but I’ll write about that later) Valentine’s Day. One interesting difference in the Christmas traditions of the West, like Britain and the US and Japan is that in the US Santa (who is affectionately called Santa-san in Japan) comes down the chimney, while in Japan, a place rather bereft of chimneys, Father Christmas comes in through your window, and instead of placing the gifts under the tree, puts them under your pillow. If you thought the whole “He sees you when you’re sleeping” thing was kind of creepy, the Japanese have taken creepy to a whole new level. Stop out-weirding us, Japan.

I’m back!

I really enjoyed making this blog the first time around, so I’ve decided to start it up again. Here’s an idea, why don’t you tell me what you want to know about life in Japan, and I’ll write about it? Or even something that has nothing to do with Japan, I don’t mind. Anyway, this blog is now back online! Stay tuned for more views and news and photos from this side of the world, and my life abroad.

Taking out the Trash

Garbage disposal may seem like something that has nothing to do with anthropology. In fact, it seems downright boring. Really, trash is trash is trash. Nothing to see here, move it along. However, interestingly enough, rubbish can tell us something about cultures, nations and people. In short, it is in fact relevant to anthropology. One good example of how garbage is relevant to anthropology is the usage of very old, even ancient refuse to learn about civilizations long since dead and gone. However, today’s photo and story isn’t about ancient trash heaps, as interesting as those may be. Maybe today’s topic of trash does seem a little domestic, but it is still interesting nonetheless.

The photo you see here is a photo of  one of the many garbage collection points in my neighborhood in Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture Japan. Trash collection is of course, not the same in every place in Japan. However, much of it is similar in many regards. These cages, where everyone brings their garbage, are quite common. Some places encourage much more recycling than others, and some places make it very easy to not care about recycling. One way they promote recycling in some places I have lived in Japan is by making recycling free, that is the bags or containers you put out the recycling in (in the cage area of course) are free, while normal, throw away honest to goodness trash bags are costly. Here in Saitama it seems a bit cheaper, as you don’t have to buy the special taxed garbage bags. I think the way this is done in Japan would seem a bit out of the norm for most Americans who expect the garbage man to come by once a week and pick up their individual garbage from in front of their house. Another interesting thing about collective garbage disposal in Japan is that you don’t want to mess up the garbage. You will annoy someone greatly, and they will make sure that you are aware of their annoyance. Perhaps the first thing they should tell newcomers to Japan when they step off the plane is “Here’s a chart on how garbage works in Japan” because to be honest, the Japanese way of doing garbage does really take some getting used to.

It's all empty...for now

It’s all empty…for now

Swastika?

The Swastika for many people in the world conjures up horrible images of death camps, fascism and total war. After all, it was the emblem of the Nazis, who tried to take over the world and killed millions upon millions in the process. So why is this a post about swastikas? This is a post about swastikas because-you may find this a bit surprising-you will seem them quite often in Japan. Is Japan a bastion of Nazism? Of course Japan isn’t a bastion of Nazism, however, the swastika is quite prominent in certain places in Japan. What is the explanation then? A simple one I’m afraid, but one that tells us a little something about Japanese culture and religion, as well as a new side to a symbol much of the world has come to hate.

The swastika is a very ancient symbol that can mean a wide variety of things, depending on the one using it. It is used in many religious traditions, such as Hinduism, and  Jainism to name two. Another religion it is used in is in Buddhism, where is represents “Man”
or 10,000, symbolizing everything or eternity. This particular swastika in my picture is on what I believe is a small Shinto shrine in Minato ward Tokyo. In fact, this is another good example of why and how Shintoism is often mixed with Buddhism in Japan. So the swastika is all over Japan, but not to celebrate Nazism, but instead a symbol that goes back thousands of years rooted in Eastern religion and tradition.

A swasitka adorns a shrine in Tokyo

A swasitka adorns a shrine in Tokyo

Stop, Cover, Hold

A poster shows what to do in case of an earthquakeJapan has a long and tumultuous affair with geological activity. Japan sits on many fault lines that meet under the country, meaning that Japan is one of the most geologically active places on earth. This may seem like more of a topic for geologists and other associated scientists, but the fact is that the history of earthquakes and tsunamis has become a part of Japanese culture. From the woodblock prints, to paintings, movies, and even the fact that the most commonly used word in English for tsunami is, well, tsunami, the presence of the geologic activity has interwoven itself into the Japanese psyche. It is an issue that has to be dealt with by the government, with building codes, and engineering feats that help mitigate the danger of earthquakes to buildings and people. One of the most interesting looks into the way it affects Japanese people, is of course not only the recent disaster, with thousands dead and missing, and destruction of whole towns, but also in literary works such as those by famed author Haruki Murakami. He even wrote a compilation of short stories dealing with the psychological impact of the Kobe earthquake in 1996. One of my favorite stories of his is one where a man meets a frog who convinces him to help prevent an impending earthquake by traveling deep into the earth to battle a giant worm who causes earthquakes. When different countries have to deal with certain aspects of where they sit in the world, writers tell us what that means to ordinary people. What is undeniable is that this geological activity has become interwoven into Japanese culture and society, as of course you just can’t ignore it.

Temples and Shrines

This photo is from a trip to Asakusa my family and I took a few weeks ago. Temples and shrines abound in  Japan, perhaps just as much if not more so than churches in the West. Obviously, like any country, religion is a big part of the history and culture of Japan. What is interesting is that many Japanese people aren’t at all religious, or rather they don’t consider themselves to be. However, religion, even if not devoutly observed, becomes part of culture, in ways that aren’t really obvious at first. The two major religions in Japan are Buddhism (of which there are many, many sects) and Shintoism, which is an animist religion. These religions are largely intertwined in Japan, both being syncretic religions. The temple in this picture is located behind the famous “kaminarimon”, or thunder gate, and is called “Sensoji temple”. Like many Buddhist temples in Japan, there is a Shinto shrine right next to it. My family isn’t religious, however, like many non-religious people in Japan, we still had a great time looking at the beautiful buildings at the temple, including the huge pagoda. If you go to one, be sure to put 100 yen into the box and pull out a good fortune, because, hey, why not.asakusatemple