Sunday, August 28, 2005

One View of Mount Fuji



The idea of a blog was introduced to me by a friend over a year ago. We were part of a small group of co-workers, thrown together because of work, but choosing to stick together after work hours because we like each other. One of the fold fled for soggy England, and I soon flew the coop as well, supposedly for a 3 month stint in Japan. I say supposedly not because of a change in geographical location; I am indeed in Japan. But a quick look at the calendar indicates that 3 months has transpired into a year and a half. What the hell happened?

In the interim, not only have I stayed here much longer than anticipated, two more comrades have also been bit by the travel bug, and now find themselves in opposite ends of the world; one in Columbia, the other in Korea. We are Generation X personified. All of us are walking that line that separates 30 from 40. Were we in our 20's, we'd be "finding ourselves", but, because we already have a pretty good grasp of that concept, what then are we doing?

Perhaps through my musings I will better understand this place I find myself in now. I call this blog "Western Woman" because, first and foremost, that is the identity that has been firmly placed upon me here. And, with that label comes certain expectations, expectations that, as time goes on, I am finding I am definitely living up to. Self-fulfilling propehecy? I'll say.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Western Woman in Japan phenomenon, the term itself will probably seem quite innocuous. To them I give a loud and forceful "Ha!". To Japanese and foreigners alike, the idea of Western Woman conjures up many descriptive adjectives and images. I can say, having spent a cumulative total of over 6 years here, neither the colourful desriptive words nor the full-blown 8 by 10 glossy image of the Western Woman is a very pretty one. Oh no indeed.

I would like to, over time, get a different perspective of this place; one where my Western Woman goggles aren't so firmly intact, and my guard isn't so at the ready. I want that fresh, just-off-the-plane naivete that happens to all first-time travellers. But, I know that isn't possible. I could, of course, pretend, but that pretense would soon wear off, and I would be back at square one, possibly feeling even more frustrated. So, I have another idea.

There is a famous set of Japanese ukiyo-e prints (and a not-quite-so-famous American book) called "36 Views of Mt. Fuji". Katsushika Hokusai drew Mt. Fuji from different perspectives in order to have a better understanding of its beauty. This is exactly what I need; small daily injections that remind me of the beauty that surrounds me. Mt. Fuji, in all her majesty, needs no airbrushing or touching up in order for her beauty to been seen and appreciated. Japan, the country and its people, however, has been so coated in artifice since the end of the war, that seeing its beauty is not always quite so simple. To appreciate the beauty that I know exists (and which I have witnessed, though briefly) is only a matter of taking the time to scratch the surface with a little more vigour and determination.

For a lazy girl like me, finding the motivation needed to scratch that surface, to get past the labels imposed upon me (and the ones I impose upon others) at times seems like an insurmountable task. But, I have long been an appreciator of perspective, relying on the clarity it gives me. Without exception, that clarity inevitably comes from a perspective captured from only one view - the one in retrospect. That proverbial light bulb flashes days, weeks, even years after certain life experiences, and though I can smile contentedly, better understanding why I had to endure certain hardships, it often feels like too little too late. That flash of understanding would have been put to better use at the time I was living the experience.

Today's decision is to open up the window on perspective, to not only see things from a backward glance over my shoulder. I would like to think that when Katsushika Hokusai was circling Mt. Fuji, drinking in her exquisite allure, he also witnessed flaws in the landscape. And, as he noted the flaws, he knew they were part and parcel of the beauty of the scene he found himself in. Perhaps my own personal "36 Views of Japan" will not only give me a different perspective of the country and the people who inhabit it, but a new and, hopefully, positive view of myself, Western Woman, as well...flaws and all. I can certainly hope so.

2 comments:

Amanda said...

Ahh, yes, that age of ´I know who the hell I am´, but not quite too sure where the hell I am going, thus the endless search for new adventure.

You have no idea how happy and proud I am of you to have gotten this site. Perhaps acting as a catharsis, you can explore that over-the-shoulder perspective with the other eye squinting on the future.

Keep writing girl, and you know I will keep reading!

Ciao bello, let the blog-force be with you.

-a-

otter57 said...

36 views - hmm, wonder if that ever be enough. Maybe 36 views for each day of your life - gets a bit excessive, I guess, but 36 static views can be become as static as the stereotype itself?