Monday, January 16, 2006

Life in Japan: Ancient Culture, Modern Times

This is a picture of Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto. As you can see, it’s a very loooooong building. There’s an interesting tradition that goes along with the length of this building. In ancient times, archers used to shoot arrows from one end of the temple hall to the other to prove their skill.

The amazing thing is, the tradition still exists, though it now takes place outside, alongside the hall. Yesterday on t.v. I saw young women archers trying to shoot accurately down the length of the hall, all of them dressed in beautiful kimono with dangling sleeves - because the event was part of Coming of Age day (when adults who’ve turned 20 in the past year celebrate the milestone through various events).

Sometimes, the culture of Japan confounds me with its formality and what some might call its hidebound nature. But then I see things like those beautiful archers and I realize that tradition is very much a real part of people’s lives, not simply something to read about in a museum or see in a temple. And that’s one aspect of Japan I truly love – the fact that its cultural history permeates everything in the social landscape.

Here, the slightest gesture or word can mean something very deep, and while that may be unsettling for visitors, it’s also an invitation to explore, to find out what lies beneath the quiet, formal mask. I’ve barely scratched the surface but I know I’ll miss those ancient echoes when I return home.


Angelle Trieste said...


Isn't it your second year as a JET? Are you going home after your contract's up this summer?

Nalini Singh said...

Actually it's my third year. And yup, I'm off home this summer. :)

Angelle Trieste said...

Oh, fun! What are you going to do when you go home? Are you planning to write full time? :)

Nalini Singh said...

Hmmm, that is a question yet to be decided *g*