Pre-Japan trip: Conflicting emotions

Writing this in Newark Airport as I await my connecting flight to Tokyo. I'll be in Japan for 2.5 weeks - first half solo, last half with Kelvin and his parents. 

This will be my first trip to the "Land of the Rising Sun", and I'm feeling many conflicting emotions. I have been a fan of Japanese culture ever since I got hooked onto Sailormoon as a kid. Anime and manga were a hugely influential part of my childhood and teenage years. In junior high, we learned about Japanese culture, feudal history, and literature. In university, I studied the approaches of Japanese design firms, and tried to infuse my own work with the intentionality, simplicity, and elegance I admire them for. I've also become friends with a few wonderful Japanese people on my travels and in Canada. 

At the same time, I am very aware of the horrific acts against humanity that Japanese people carried out in the not-so-distant past, particularly against the Chinese. I was devastated as I read accounts of the Rape of Nanking, and even more so when I visited the Nanking Memorial Massacre Hall several years ago. When I visited Taiwan, the guide mentioned how the Japanese wiped out an entire mountain minority community. Most people of my grandparent's generation still refer to the Japanese as "日本鬼子“ - Japanese Devils. Before she passed away, a close friend of my Grandma's told me that her greatest fear was the sound of airplanes, because they reminded her of the time the Japanese invaded her village.

There is much that Japanese people should be proud of - from Ghibli films, to cuisine, to their people's kind hospitality. I'm personally still struggling to understand how a country that's created such beauty in art and society, also created the worst in humanity.

I have a deep admiration for Japanese people and culture, but also an intense fear. To my knowledge, Japan's dark history isn't being taught to future generations in the country. They have also never given a formal apology to China for their crimes during the war. It's important for the world to move forward, but I also know that forgotten history is often repeated.

I don't know what to expect when I finally visit Japan. Maybe new insights, maybe just more unanswerable questions. I'll embrace whatever comes.



TravelJessica FanComment