Every year in Japan, on the 12th December, a kanji (Japanese character adapted from Chinese) that received the most votes from the public is chosen, the meaning of which they felt defined the year. 2016’s kanji was 金, gold, a reflection of the pride that people felt when Japan brought home 12 gold medals at the Olympics in Brazil. This year’s Kanji was 北, North.
When I first heard about that choice, only positive thoughts rang in my head; for example, the mood in Japan is rising up due to the upcoming 2020 Olympics, or something to that degree. It didn’t really hit me that 北 was referring to North Korea and the fear surrounding the missile launches.
My view when flying out of London more than 3 months ago – not knowing at all what to expect with the threat from North Korea
It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about North Korea – it’s more that I find there’s no point in worrying about situations that you have absolutely no power over. I believe it’s incredibly unlikely that anything is going to come of North Korea’s missiles. Every so often, though – for example, watching the news and hearing that boats full of decaying North Korean corpses have been washing up on Japan’s shore – I feel awful. There’s a place just across the ocean full of people who aren’t being helped. Of course, North Korea is not the only place in the world where this is happening, but it’s just… so much suffering is happening in a place the same proximity to me right now that London is to Munich, and I’m powerless to do anything substantial about it. And it gets to me. Shouldn’t we be doing more?
An /actually/ spicy curry from an Indian restaurant in Takadanobaba
On that note, the kanji I’ve chosen for myself, as a reflection of my 2017, is 望. Ambition, desire, hope. We’re still 10 days away from the New Year’s countdown, but I know that kanji won’t change. If I thought 2016 was a mess, 2017 was someone spitting in my face and then throwing dirty dishes at me. But because of the challenges I faced, it’s been a year of growth. I’ve been able to plant my feet on the ground, and speak my mind, even if I didn’t always go about it the right way. I’ve been able to say goodbye, and then say hello to some of the most important people in my life. A year where I’d become devastatingly lost, but now I have a path ahead of me. A rollercoaster that was slowly heading down, suddenly dipped at a 180 degree angle, but is now on the rise. I’ve run out of analogies.
I was able to re-find my ambitions, my desires, my hopes, and I’ll clutch onto them tightly as I tackle the rest of my time in Japan. 良いお年を！
Everyone’s in the Christmas mood
As for the things I’ve been doing this week – I saw the new Star Wars on the day it came out here (15th December, Friday), which was actually a shocking disappointment of a film. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself otherwise. In any case, seeing Episode 8 on the day it came out in Tokyo will surely count for bragging points at some point in my life.
I also had my first Onsen (public bath) experience, which was genuinely life changing. Of course, there was the moment where I realised right, I’m genuinely going to have to get naked in front of all of these people, but when that was said and done I genuinely really enjoyed myself. When you’re naked in a room full of naked people, it’s not really a cause for concern, as I found myself concentrating more on being extremely warm in the hottest bathtub I’ve probably ever been in. (It also fixed my neck muscles which have been acting up slightly…)
Sunday (17th) had a visit to the Christmas market of Roppongi – I was fully expecting loads of bustling stalls in the cold, but the reality was a little different. Comfortable, built-up faux-German constructions that tried to give you the authentic German Christmas market experience, complete with glühwein and pretzels. Of course, I went for the glühwein, which despite being heated up super budget wine without any else to offer, still managed to remind me of being in actual Germany drinking Kinderpunsch.
There’s not much else to say – it’s ridiculously cold and I’m ready to be snuggled up in warmth after class finishes tomorrow for like… only 2 weeks. So until next post!
Cousin of the Tate Modern spider