I’m In Love With Japan

Japanese-customs

Japan; the one country in the world that I have longed, longed, to visit for decades. I cannot put my finger on the moment when I first wanted to visit Japan; childhood I think.

I was given a set of books by my grandfather, one of which was about Japan; its otherness absolutely fascinated me. My father used to talk of the horrors committed by Japanese soldiers in WW2; they had a fearsome reputation, but I was somehow convinced that they couldn’t have been the only ‘bad guys’. Over the years, I have dipped in and out of my love affair with this distant land; Books, Films, Manga/Anime, Sushi, Textiles, Crafts, Comics etc.

But what of modern-day Japan?

It is a country of contradictions, fascinating customs, beauty and respect. Japan arrived relatively late to the ‘Westernisation party’. They had had connections with the Dutch and English since the 16th century, however, it was the Americans (Commodore Perry), who literally forced Japan to open its doors; to trade; join us, or suffer the consequences was the implicit message from Perry’s massive fleet.( I equally loath and thank the man)

An island nation of 127 million, Japan is notorious for its ultra-strict work culture, and for being so safe even its Yakuza gangsters do not carry guns – much. The murder rate is the third lowest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), with fewer than one thousand homicides in 2015. In that same time period, the US – a country with a population less than three times the size of Japan’s – recorded fifteen times that many. Japan is one of the safest countries in Asia, and its murder rate of less than one per 100,000 is the lowest among industrial nations (* compare with South Africa – The murder rate since 2011 stayed at around 32 per 100,000 but the number of murders has increased with increases in population. South Africa also has one of the highest rates of rape in the world.)

yakuza
No hiding place…

And it just keeps on getting safer. 2015 saw the lowest rate for every single type of crime since 1945. Tokyo is ranked as the safest city in the world. Osaka is ranked as the 3rd safest. Greater Tokyo is the second largest urban habitation on the planet, so that’s one heck of a verdict.

japan

Street crime is practically non-existent there, and drug use is low. This is largely attributed to the culture of Japan, as being known to use illegal drugs or being sentence to prison would be considered of bad character.

According to the United Nations, in their report called UN Chronicle: The Atlas of Heart Disease & Stroke – Japan has one of the lowest rates of coronary heart disease in the world.

Japan life-expectancy

Japan is well known for its politeness and good manners. Not only that, but Japanese culture is also extremely efficient. Japan is a busy country but is well organised.

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The Japanese take hygiene seriously. You will hardly see any rubbish on the roadsides – even the trains are clean!! In Japan, not only they are clean, everything is in perfect order and neat as well – well trimmed trees, for example.

Temple bells, the stone gardens, the bamboo, and the torii gates instill a sense of peace and serenity. And teenagers can be seen paying tribute at shrines as often as older generations. Respect for tradition and culture runs deep.

 

It has been reported to me many times by family and friends, that Asian countries always have much better hotel service than in the West, but, I read repeatedly, Japan takes it to another level. Bags are brought to your room. Towels brought up just because you might need extra. Hotel owners wave you good-bye. Everything is done with a bow. Everyone is helpful.

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Giving gifts is a huge part of Japanese life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dumb; Japan has its down sides, doesn’t everywhere. But  I cannot help but be drawn to this place that is 9,406 km away. And the recent mini-series of TV shows by BBC 4 made me pine for it even more.

samurai sword
They make the curve how?!!

I think in the age of the ‘self’, the individual, me, me, me; we might learn a thing or two from the Japanese.

Sayonara

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054qbtb

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/26/what-is-safest-city-in-the-world-crime-immigration-tokyo-amsterdam-new-york-bogota

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/01/06/national/media-national/even-gangsters-live-in-fear-of-japans-gun-laws/#.WXHYDxXyvIU

https://www.insidejapantours.com/blog/2012/03/12/10-reasons-why-japan-is-so-great/

http://www.thecoolist.com/japanese-anime-for-everyone/

http://www.rmc.edu/docs/default-source/asian-studies/the-opening-closing-and-re-opening-of-japan-japanese-foreign-relations-before-during-and-after-the-tokugawa-shogunate-%281600-1868%29-%28pdf%29.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/12/31/japan_s_19th_century_modernization_why_did_the_country_end_its_isolation.html

 

 

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Do You Speak ‘Proper’ English?!

Good morning, Bonjour, Guten Morgen, Buenos Dias, Buongiorno, Shubh Prabhaat, Sabāḥul kẖayr.

Aren’t words brilliant!

English words I find especially so – as I am British ( I say British as I do not consider myself English; I have Irish parentage, with Scottish and Cornish ancestry) and we are an extraordinarily mixed race that has absorbed, from countries across the world, words that have become embedded so deeply that we have almost forgotten the origins. I love the etymology of words, names, nouns, things, stuff, anything! I think I may have mentioned in a previous post the origin of the word orange – it is from the Persian, narange.

677px-Origins_of_English_PieChart.svg

Language changes can denote when a country was historically invaded, when merchants brought more home than products and coin, when integration was necessary. Language is a living, ever evolving, and fascinating marker to our connections worldwide.

My previous snob of a self used to scoff at ‘Americanisms’ – i.e. garbage, diaper, aluminum. These words travelled from Holland and England to the New World and remained in use alongside those from farther afield. Now I understand the use of garbage, as compared to rubbish; it makes sense.

Today’s post is a collection of words that have entered our, English, language from the wider world community, so here is a small, very small, collation to whet your appetite –

Plant, wine, cat, candle, anchor, chest, fork, rose – Roman, circa AD 410.

english language romans

Birth, cake, call, egg, freckle, happy, law, leg, sister, smile, trust – Old Norse, circa AD 900.

english language 3

Army, archer, soldier, Crown, throne, duke, nobility, peasant, servant, obedience, traitor, felony, arrest, justice, judge, jury, accuse, condemn, prison, gaol, ballet, café, genre, garage – French, circa 1066 to present.

english language MP
Peasant!

Boss, coleslaw, landscape, cruise, frolic, rucksack, roster, wagon, onslaught – Dutch, various.

Abseil, angst, cobalt, delicatessen, doppelganger, dachshund, fest, haversack, kitsch, kaput – German, various.

DmGCH6.gif
The German v Greek Philosophers Football Match (Monty Python)

Veranda, jungle, bandana, chit, dinghy, pyjama, juggernaut, cashmere, thug, shampoo – Hindi, circa 18th and 19th c.

Banjo, chimpanzee, zebra, zombie, banana, jazz, cola, bozo, boogie, okay – Africa, circa 18th and 18th c.

english language 5

Alcohol, algebra, chemistry, elixir, cipher, zero, zenith, alcove, amber, assassin, candy, coffee, cotton, mummy, racquet, sash, crimson, ghoul, giraffe, lemon, orange – Arabic, various.

english language arabic

Flannel, corgi, penguin, pendragon, bard, balderdash, druid, crag – Welsh, various.

Blackmail, clan, glamour, golf, scone, wraith, tweed – Scottish, various.

 

Looking into the origins of some words provides us with, not only origins and meaning, but the circumstances under which such words have entered the English language.

I think we should be proud have having such connections and ability to borrow, adapt and absorb words into our everyday use. It makes me feel I belong to a greater community.

english language

 

For some excellent reading on this subject, take a look at:

english MB

The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg.