Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hiroshima Prefecture

First of all I should point out that in addition to this blog, I am regularly posting photos of Japan on Flickr here.

Can every day in Japan be a holiday? All depends on how you look at it. Right now, in Hiroshima Prefecture, I have access to over a dozen small towns in Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefecture for less than ¥2000 one-way, and about one hour traveling time. This is the more traditional side of Japan, and I plan on exploring it thoroughly. First stop this weekend will be Iwakuni - not exactly the focus point for any tourist, but it's still definitely worth seeing if you're living in Japan. Iwakuni contains the famous "Samurai Bridge", aptly named by gaijin tourists, and an impressive castle in the mountains. The "Samurai Bridge" is actually the Kintai Bridge, which is really only fifty years old, but a recreation of the original bridge from the 17th century. More often than not, this is the case for many famous Japanese landmarks - being reconstructions or complete recreations. Hiroshima Tower is one such example. Not many original castles exist in Japan anymore.

To be considered literate in Japan you should know Katakana, Hiragana, and the first two thousand Kanji characters. There's a certain amount of spectulation about just how well you need to write Kanji right now - computers and phones have made it easier to type Kanji than write, which has lead to a decrease in Kanji literacy across Japan. Hey, that's how I feel about my handwriting too. I learned to type in kindergarden, and since maybe... 1996, I believe typing overtook writing as the dominant form of written communication.

Speaking of language, I would really enjoy a chance to speak with an educated linguist. I've made a few observations about Japanese using my knowledge of Latin and English and found many patterns I hadn't expected to find - I assumed that all eastern languages were cut off from the western world, separate in meaning and syntax. And yet there are a few similarities here and there: "neko", which is the Japanese for cat, reminds me of necromancer (a conjurer of the dead, don't ask), coming from the prefix necro-. What's the connection? In Egyptian culture, cats were considered to be the guardians of the underworld, the gatekeepers to the souls of the dead. Coinicidence? Perhaps. And yet there is also "omiyage", meaning a traditional gift in Japanese. Doesn't that sound similar to "homage", respectful deference? Presenting someone with a gift is certainly respectful. Again, if I had but world enough, and time, my lady...


Here it is, your moment of V:
"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."


Sayonara.

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