If you read the articles published by the mainstream media about modern Japanese culture, you’ll find all the popular topics of salarymen who work 80-hour workweeks, the popularity of bizzare sexual fetishes, strange technologies, odd vending machines, and so on. These sorts of things are entertaining to people, and as a westerner, to read such articles is to be informed about Japan.
But to be well-read is not to be well-informed. Furthermore, most journalists are only exposed to and report on a very small sliver of a country’s reality, most often a very safe and travelable region, and in Japan the name of this sliver is Tōkyō.
Tokyo is a very important part of Japan with a very rich culture and interesting history, but to equate Japan with Tōkyō is a (one would think obvious) mistake. Though it is the capitol city, Tōkyō is only one city on the conglomeration of over 6,000 islands that we call Japan. Each area has its own unique culture, and you’ll be hard pressed to find in any of these areas any of the oddities that you read of in the news. I imagine some come here and might even find themselves disappointed. The society of the spectacle.
I’ve been writing articles and posting pictures here and there to share with you the beauty that I’ve found here, and none of what I’ve written has been about these strange things that the mainstream media portrays Japan to be composed of. This wasn’t intentional, these things just simply haven’t been what I’ve been seeing.
What is the cause of this bad journalism? I’d imagine partially that the journalists writing on these stories aren’t integrated in the local culture, but perhaps more so what is to blame is that they are reporting not on what they are seeing, but what they are expected to see. Sniffing out the good stuff. The media has become an entertainment network, and if the viewers are not satisfied, they will change the channel.
If you come to Japan and dare to venture outside of Tōkyō (which actually really isn’t all that bizzarre and is actually quite an amazing place to be), you will find rolling hills farmed for scores of generations, you will find uninhabited cedar forests that wind deep into untouched worlds that take you back in time, you will find falcons soaring over sky-blue rivers, and greatest of all, you will find things that you did not expect to find, and realities that stretch beyond the confines of the known world of your imagination.