It IS, therefore it is okay
aka: "it's the Japanese way."
I have a thing about acceptance of something just because. My mother used to be a believer (hell, she probably still is, but how would I know) that because something IS, it is okay. You know, the government says something, therefore it MUST be correct. Something is in the shops, therefore it MUST be in fashion and so on.
I guess I'm a bit more cynical / stubborn / realistic / awkward though. I question things. I have very strong opinions about a lot of things and have to constantly try to think before I speak. I'm generally pretty good at this, I think. And if something pisses me off... I don't want to always be polite and nice and accepting about it.
Of course, that isn't the Japanese way.
It's only little subtle comments from the Japanese that let you know they aren't as happy with things as they like you to think they are. Such things as, 'my husband is away on a business trip. It's SO relaxing without him here.' ETC.
Anyway, I want to go further into this: Take two conversations I had with Japanese friends today:
We went to Nikko today (photos will be uploaded / downloaded (I don't know the difference) as soon as I get the chance). I've been to Nikko before but we explored some other bits that I'd not previously been to, such as the lake area and the waterfall, as well as the temples I saw last time I went there. The weather was lovely and we had a really fun day.
Taking a taxi from the station to the waterfall: the taxi driver approached the four of us (two Japanese, two Gaijin) and told us the taxi would be cheaper than the bus. Naturally, because I'm so streetwise (aka: bloody suspicious/cynical/paranoid) I wasn't immediately convinced and thought we could be being scammed. Not so my J. friends. Anyway, it turns out the (bloody expensive) taxi may have worked out cheaper than a bus, but we were charged 1000 yen (about £5 or US$10) EACH for a 40 minute taxi ride (4000 yen total for the ride). And we had to take another one later on.
Commenting on this later, I said it was an outrageous amount. My J. friends said, yes, but it's cheaper than the bus and is 'the countryside'. I said, yes, but the bus is hideously overpriced and a total rip-off, compared to a 290 yen bus ride in Tokyo of a similar time period. My J. friends said, they had to make a living. I said, it wasn't right or fair or reasonable just because it was a little bit outside of Tokyo.
I gave in and changed the subject eventually, realising nobody was going to give on this argument and it was going round in circles.
Earlier, whilst in the taxi, one of my J. friends started talking about a monkey show. I was angry. Now, maybe I'm a hypocrite as I eat meat and have a few pairs of leather shoes BUT I feel very strongly about how animals are treated by people (in laboratories, in captivity, to entertain people, etc. Even dogs being left in the house, alone all day, or birds in cages really pisses me off). Anyway, words like 'sweet', 'cute', etc got me pretty riled on the subject and I launched into a little opinionated piece about drugging, beating, punishing, extracting teeth, starving if they didn't perform, etc.
My J. friend said: 'but they enjoy it'.
Worse still, later on, when she was talking to taxi driver number 2: she turned to me and said: 'Jo, you're right. They beat them. Often until they bleed.'
My point is: I wish people would stop just accepting things.
Another thing, and I apologise for this whole rant because we did have a fantastic and very fun day:
Nikko area is beautiful. Really beautiful. Driving through it though saddened me deeply. I realised there wouldn't have been a single moment I could have taken a photograph of the wonderful scenery without a bloody electricity pylon or cable in view. It amazed me. In a bad way. And then I remembered: Alex Kerr, in 'Dogs and Demons', had spoken about the exact same thing.
How could this have been allowed to happen? Such an area of beauty, littered with such an ugly sight?
I did spot a wild monkey sitting at the roadside though which made me happy. Actually, we were going around a steep curve at the time and I kind of shrieked with excitement. I guess the driver was used to that kind of reaction. Luckily!