Week in Japan, introduction

“Understand, you say? Understanding is in principle based solely on wishful thinking.” – From Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

I am planning to write a bit about spending a week in Japan, recently.* First, though, I feel like I ought to preface any and everything I write with a disclaimer along the lines of the above quote.

No general statement about cross-cultural comprehension, let alone “inscrutable orientals” is intended, I want to add. I simply feel it’s important that any remarks I make are accompanied by a reminder that, in this instance, I literally did not understand most of the messages around me.

Street with Japanese signs

Did not understand.

I made some small effort to learn a little bit of the language before I visited. But there are… hundreds…? a thousand or more? kanji in written Japanese, in addition to their multiple alphabets. There’s a lot of English text in Japan, but even assuming accurate translation that leaves a lot that went right over my head. I could express a handful of basic concepts, vocally, but couldn’t really follow any spoken Japanese.

Communication, of course, is more than words. I’m sure I understood some of what was going on around me. But how much, and what, is open to question. I’m equally certain, meanwhile, that I missed quite a bit entirely.

I feel like unpacking some of my experiences, anyway, if only for myself. Just a fair warning: don’t cite anything I post about Japan as an authority.

* With effort, I resisted the compulsion to share any mention of this online, ahead of time. Because, y’know, the Beagle Boys might be monitoring social media for stuff like that, and take the opportunity to break into my apartment and steal all my crap that’s probably not worth the expense of hauling it away. How silly I would feel then!

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