For the next little while we’ll be posting the observations, insights and anecdotes of Karl’s soon to be brother-in-law, Victor Pajek. He’s become a real Japanophile over the last few years, including living and working in Japan, learning to speak Japanese and visiting Japan many times since he’s moved back to North America. He recently spent 3 weeks in Japan and we asked him to share his thoughts about the trip. Here’s his first report:
Well, it was a tough year for Japan. The tsunami and earthquake and nuclear disaster affected the north (obviously) and the Tokyo region. However, radiation levels are normal everywhere except close to Fukushima, and have been since right after the disaster. There is some concern about contaminated food, but it is far from hysteria. Having said all that, it would impossible for a typical foreign tourist to notice anything different whatsoever. People are as friendly as usual and appear as upbeat as always. Japan has always had a lot of disasters, so they have some built-in coping mechanisms. The Kobe earthquake killed thousands of people in the 90’s. (I think Buddhism helps with the pain, it’s not all about the individual, like it is over here). And anyway, they don’t show their real feelings except to close friends. (Maybe you know the concept of the “private face” and the “public face?” )
The people in Kansai region don’t seem to have been affected very much at all. BTW, ever since I started going to Japan in 2002, people have talked to me about “escaping Japan.” This is due to the various pressures of Japanese life and the perceived freedoms overseas.