The culture of Japan, in one paragraph.

From time to time, I get a nice e-mail wishing me well, and suggesting that I post about Japan. And my experiences here.

Well, I hate to day, there are countless dozens of bloggers from Japan. Premier of which is probably Arudou Debito, formery David Aldwinckle, an American who adopted Japanese citizenship.

A lot of these bloggers and would-be bloggers are 20- and 30-somethings who by some twist of fate or fortune, they have been sent to Japan. A number of Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, who are allowed a one-year “working holiday” in Japan by treaty.

I stopped looking at a lot of those blogs, because they all have this Will Adams or Commodore Perry feel to them: look at me, I am “among the first” to experience this shuttered island kingdom and gain its knowledge (or hit on its women.)

You read about five of those, and it becomes very boring.

If someone asked me, what I thought about Japanese culture, I would say, that the first thing you have to study and understand is this: famine.

This is a country of limited resources. The resources are its people, and the technology and wisdom to grow enough food. If not enough food got grown, the people starved. It was that plain. Everything about the organization of Japanese society, and about Japanese culture and cuisine, ultimately boils down to technology and traditions, that make sure people have enough to eat.

This is the far end of Asia. These are volcanoes that we live on. There are only so many rice paddies. And even though rice-growing is one of the most efficient and effective, calorie-wise, ways to grow food, there are only so many. 90% of the country is mountainous. And you must rely on Mother Nature to deliver.

If you study culture and cuisine, these are the underlying themes. This is what makes Japan and Japanese culture remarkable to outsiders. Many of us come from places, where plenty was more the rule than the exception (especially the U.S.).


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