I have a bit of an obsession with Japan. Always have, ever since my teens when, for a while, I was making serious plans to spend six months in the country on a cultural visa. Right through to the present day, I’ve had an ongoing fascination with the country, the people, lifestyle, customs, language and culture. On my Big List Of Things To Do Before I Die, visiting Japan is right up there in the top rankers, so much so that I fully intend starting to learn Japanese within the next year, (after I’ve finally managed to get a good grasp of Spanish!)
I know that, for some, one country is very much like another, but I think that view exposes just how shallow-minded, and wrong, it’s possible to be. I’m fortunate enough to have travelled to a number of countries in the course of my lifetime, and no one country has ever been remotely like another. You do need to scratch beneath the surface sometimes, of course, and get off the beach and meet the locals, but that way you discover the real joys of travel, and occasionally adventure: Something you’ll never truly appreciate if you’re not prepared to make the effort.
However, for now, I can only dream of the hustle and brashness of exploring the streets of Akihabara at night, slurping ramen in Shinjuku’s Piss Alley, or savoring the mingled smells of river water and cooking along Osaka’s Dotonbori, hiking on Mount Tsukuba or along the old trail of Nara, and so many more places and experiences I want to one day explore and absorb… But, that could be years away, although I live in hope eternal that it might be sooner!
In the meantime, one of the joys of SL for me is the large Japanese contingent, who have succeeded in bringing a little bit of their homeland into the virtual world for us all to enjoy and explore. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, you’re almost guaranteed to find it, from the neon paradise of Neo Tokyo, to the city lights and back alleys of Kyori City. There’s the ultra-realistic urban settings of places like Mitsumi Town and Rieri, or the reconstructions of historical villages and townships, and the peace and tranquility of countless temples, shrines and retreats. Even if you’re not particularly a fan of Japanese style and utility, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to your taste amongst the endless variety of settings scattered across the Grid.
Best of all, if I can’t find what I’m looking for, virtual living allows me to create my own version. And that’s precisely what I’ve started to do: I’m build my own unique, Japanese-inspired home in cyberspace. Loosely modelled on the sakura avenues of Saitama and the Mama River in Ichikawa City, with my own personal flavours and quirks, along with an old-fashioned, traditional house of shoji screens and tatami flooring, it’s a place I can escape to and pretend I’m really there. It’s great!
I know that I may be over-romanticising the country, and Japan – like anywhere else – is not without its faults and problems, but when I make comparisons with my own country, there is much that I find attractive about Japan and the Japanese, and I can’t help thinking that if I had gone all those years ago as a teenager, I’d probably never have come back; but that’s how it goes, and until I finally get to fulfil my dream, I’ll just have to make do with the virtual substitute… Although, that’s not so bad, either!
Chelle – Country Road