“Suzume Odori” – a type of local traditional dance which is annually performed in Aoba Matsuri festival in Sendai, Japan. Today I went to see my friend marching for the festival, which I haven’t gone for ages. I’m not the person who is interested in traditions, culture staff, and festivals? no way, too crowded! It was rare for me to hang out for such a huge event in the downtown because Japanese people are always fascinated with festive moods and I’m tired of it.
Speaking of Japanese festivals, there are hundreds of festivals and events happing all year around. In Spring, people love seeing cherry blossoms drinking outside, which is called Hanami party. Cherry blossoms start blooming from the middle of March so that we can tell the coming of spring when we’ve got fully bloomed ones in own regions. We also have fireworks festivals literally every city and small towns in Summer, Imoni festivals are held everywhere in my region, which is Northern Japan, to eat local traditional soup together.
Actually, the left picture of Imoni festival is the biggest one in Yamagata prefecture having the huge pot and the diggers to mix the soup.
This time, Aoba matsuri was taken place to celebrate the 450th birth of the regional load, who was one of the most famous Daimyo during the Sengoku period. You can see what Japanese Daimyo are and how they developed → Samurai, Daimyo, Matthew Perry, and Nationalism it’s one of my favorite videos of John Green and watch from 4:55.
Anyway, what made my perfect Sunday was the free beer I’ve got! I bumped into one of my friends who was selling beer at the festival and he gave it to us. A sunny Sunday couldn’t have been better without a beer, right?
Finns and Japanese people are both said that they are shy, honest, polite… sure! They wouldn’t become friends instantly with strangers unless they are drunk. Well, there’re many differences among both which apply to other countries so I’d only like to note what I’ve found some similarities between both countries during my student life in Finland.
They are both experts at finding beauty in silence. Throughout Japanese history, artworks which are pretty much simple and aesthetic especially in a form of painting, ceramics, tea cult, flower arrangement, and gardening.
There has been the idea of being entertained in simplicity and cultivating own cultural perspectives, which is called “Wabi-Sabi” rooted from Zen Buddhism. It offers an inspiration in your life by embracing imperfection as a worldview. I actually experienced this feeling in Finland when seeing everlasting ripples on a lake. My Finnish family also loved escaping to their summer cottage in nature doing nothing rather than going out and spending money when they had time. It was absolutely amazing to just soak in the silence moments while being comfortable and fostering own senses to smell, feel, hear, and enjoy every small thing surrounding us.
We take relatively a long time to get along. Yup, we’re like onions. Those who might think of Japanese people being kind to other people, that kind of situation only happens when they see people in need on the ground of having enough time in their schedule. Two of my Japanese best friends told me before that they don’t usually open their mind to people unless spending 1 or 2 years. Similarly, it was difficult for me to become a close friend with Finnish people compared to other Europeans.
Finnish and Japanese languages have many common words. Let me explain some of them for instance. A basic one is Kissa meaning a cat in Finnish but it’s a cafe in Japanese. And if you say “mitä?” in Finnish, (means what) Japanese people will understand you said: “Did you look?” Lastly, the funniest one to me is Ahonen, which might be the most common Finnish surname, however, in Japanese “Aho” literally means stupid and “nen” can be “I am” in the southern dialect. So it actually sounds “Hey, I’m stupid” when a random Mr./Ms. Ahonen introduces to Japanese people. Additionally, both pronunciations are easy and similar to each other in terms of the structure of vowels and consonants.
So here’re some similarities about two countries I’ve found interesting most. I hope you’ve got a sneak peek into Finnish and Japanese culture even a little.
This phase might sound a bit silly but I would have to say it loud for my sake. While living in Finland, everyone surrounding me repeated this all the time. Before I got to know how liberating it was to make a choice based on my feeling, objective viewpoints had controlled my behavior. I think this tendency derived from how our society has developed as closed villages, but I’m not going to talk about it this time.
Anyway, I was released from hassles for the first time by deciding things by own and saying no sometimes so as to feel comfortable with others. Being honest with myself made me conscious what truly matters in my life. However, when this comes to future careers, everyone might have wished one time how to make dreams come true while facing a gap between ideals and reality. When struggling dilemmas, we easily get discouraged from taking risks because we have to earn money to live today. How is it possible to build an ideal career by pursuing what you like?
A few days ago, I met one person who has own company launching 30 projects so far, he explained how he made his life doing what he loves. Firstly, it’s inevitable to do enough amount of works without pay as taking steps to a big scale of dreams. Through experience we get, the distance separating us and a future plan would be closer and closer. During a certain period of no payment, your engagement should be fun in terms of creativity, productivity, and happiness in your life. Trying whatever seems interesting lets us realize how to hit the next level. In fact, there’s no right or straight path to develop so that we would become capable of things that only we have done. That’s what I’ve learned from the conversation with him and that encouraged me in a way no one else could have ever done.
I was too afraid to fail, get poor, and be judged by people that my life is not successful. But I should be the one who’s confident most about own life by doing what I would love to do. Without the feeling of agreement about things I’m doing, I’ll never truly be satisfied even with large amounts of money in my bank account. Social status doesn’t shape who we really are. Focusing on what we do and how much it fulfilled our life are more important in a way to improve well-being in our life. So I started going places and events, joining small projects and meeting people outside of my comfort zone rather than just wait for a right opportunity to get a perfect job. Let’s see what I’ll get from failures and challenges because after all, do something is much better than nothing!
Since I came back to Japan, there’ve been always difficulties in eating out as a vegan. Japan was such a country of which dietary was plant-based and consists of a little amount of meat and dairy products. However, as the culture shifts to Western styles, people have become to prefer meat to vegetable more than ever.
What’s weird to be a vegan in Japan, is people always ask me if my dietary preference is based on my religious belief. Every time I get the question and I can’t always help laughing about the fact how they are biased due to the misunderstanding of other heterogeneous behaviors. Veganism has nothing to do with Halal or Islam. If I was a Muslim, why am I not wearing a hijab? I know vegans aren’t the majority anywhere in the world so that people are likely to be super skeptical about the nutritious balance of vegan dietary and the environmental impact of being vegan as an individual. However, isn’t that funny that how they get me so wrong? Well, I don’t usually counter back on them to show off the scientific references about the health and ecological effects of veganism. But for those who might have doubts about vegan, here’re some studies about the health and environmental facts.
Vegetarians and vegans have a relatively low BMI and a low plasma cholesterol concentration
Vegetarian diet is better for the planet, says Lord Stern
In Japan, there’s been a strong peer pressure to behave in the same way others do on the ground of our heterogeneousness. However, I would like to say it’s absolutely okay to be different. We never taught to be so as one of the petty traits in our society. Open-minded attitudes and respects towards different values are significant rather than flat refusals and aimless sympathies. Conversations with peers is what I absolutely love doing throughout my life. We can discover better ideas and absorb them into own routines if agreeable in order to improve own quality of life while valuing to a society. Although facing the suspicion against veganism, I’ll keep sharing my ideas to stretch out my friends’ and jerks’ perspectives.