Stories From Life in Rural Southern Japan - by Georgia Dorey
A three part series written for Kyūshi ~
When asked to write a short piece for Kyūshi’s online Diary about what I had learned from my time living in Japan, I was thrilled. To have a platform on which to recount the (literally life-changing) lessons that my time in Japan taught me was such a pleasure. Since I moved back to the UK there has not been a single day that I haven’t acknowledged how the lessons I learnt from that time have impacted the way I now choose to move through life.
I wondered how I could possibly begin to talk about a time in my life that taught me so much and has shaped me so profoundly, through one short diary entry?
The biggest lesson I learnt in Japan was appreciation. Living in the moment forms a part of almost every interaction of daily life in Japan. I have chosen to share with you three moments where this most struck me while setting up my life these, meeting people, and developing friendships.
It is important to stress that no country or culture could or should ever be judged by the experiences or opinions of one person. These are tales from my own experience and can be built on or discarded as you see fit.
Just over two years ago, after much hard work, focus and dedication I found myself on an aircraft headed for Japan. I was leaving my home, friends, family and job, to live and work in a small town in rural southern Japan. All I knew about Kajiki, was that it was located in the prefecture of Kagoshima. It was famous for Kajiki manju (a rice dough filled with sweet red beans paste) and an annual spider fighting competition.
A few weeks before I was due to leave, I met a charming Japanese couple in London, who were utterly baffled as to why I was leaving London, an incredibly vibrant and fast-paced city, for an area of Japan that they referred to disdainfully as ‘farming country’. I described how for the last ten years I had been utterly fascinated by Japan and that as a designer, numerous collections of my work had been conceived with an appreciation of Japanese culture at their core. However, my understanding of Japan was based purely on what I had learnt through obsessive reading and research. I described how through books, museums, exhibitions and encounters I had created an extensive view and understanding of the culture, and yet had never actually set foot in the country. I explained that now was the time to see, experience and immerse myself in the part of the world that had held my fascination for so long.
Read the series…
Story 1 – Patience
I had anticipated that the setting up of my life in Japan would be quick and that things would function seamlessly. What I had not anticipated was the ceremony with which people carried out their daily tasks and interactions. This was so different to the ever- streamlined and increasingly impersonal world I’d left behind…
Story 2 – Focus
In Western culture, one of the first (dreaded) questions you are often asked upon meeting someone new is: ‘what do you do?’ We tend to use this as a tool by which to judge the new and unknown person standing before us, as a way to discern where they sit in comparison to you on the socioeconomic scale. In Japan, I quickly learnt that the go-to first meet question is often ‘what are your hobbies?’…
Story 3 – Awareness
One of my favourite things about Japan is the fact that they observe 72 seasons. Based on the ancient Japanese calendar, in which the year is divided into 24 and then 72 separate seasons. This means that a change in the seasons can be noticed and celebrated every 5 days…