I woke up one day with Japan on my mind.
The Japanese have a bunch of wonderful words and phrases for everything, but it’s always somehow lost in translation when you experience it here. A quick dinner at a ramen shop, for example, always starts with a chorus of “irasshaimase”—spoken in such a way that you’d hear “sushaimasen” if you listen closely—and ends with a mawkish “thank you” by the time you step out. There are the Japanese discount stores that sell everything from almond seaweed cracker-sandwiches to xylophones, until you realize that one of the most popular ones isn’t exactly “Japanese.” The social pressure to add a “Japanese” feel to things is perhaps best expressed by the look on a real Japanese sushi chef’s face whenever you order a California roll.
Or if you ask the fish in a chirashi bowl to be cooked. Or lukewarm ramen, served with spoon and fork. It’s not right, but that’s just the way it is. There’s also karoshi: the familiar, the dangerous, the controversial.
And then there’s “hikkikomori:” in an article for Warscapes, Flavio Rizzo defines them as a “… lost generation of Japanese kids, post-modern hermits, a lost generation of young recluses who never leave their homes and rely on their parents to survive.” I don’t qualify for the “rely on their parents to survive” part, but I’ve always been fascinated by the whole idea. So much so that it is, in many ways, how I spend a weekend. Reclusive, shut in, working: emerging from my apartment on the next Monday with work done over the weekend, ready—and weary, at times—to take in more for the week ahead.