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Try Japan - the Galapagos of Cultures

Updated on January 2, 2012

Japan is the Galapagos Islands of cultural diversity. Isolated from the world, the animals of Galapagos Island diverged into a riot of oddball animals. Wandering the streets of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto you can explore the rare phenotypes of culture. People who dress up like Elvis Prestley and jive on the streets of Harajuku each Sunday, the sistas who tan themselves dark as burnt toast and corn-roll their hair to mimic Africans and the squeeky voiced thirty year olds businessmen who like to spend their evenings dressed as school-girls.

Cultures are divided into guilt cultures and embarrassment cultures. Western cultures based on Christianity and an all-seeing God are guilt cultures. You can never escape God's view because he is everywhere. In embarrassment cultures, if your neighbour didn't see it didn't happen. Japanese people don't invite you to their home like Westerners, they are more comfortable going out to meet and eat away from their own neighborhood. Travel is seeing as a time to break the rules. Visitors are people the Japanese can break the rules with.

Japan is also a craftsman culture as opposed to a business culture. Business cultures like China, Singapore and America are fundamentally about money and power. Artisan cultures like Japan, France, Italy and Germany value the arts and sophistication. There is a Japanese saying that to spend your life searching for the perfect Japanese maple leaf is noble. So you'll find the Japanese artist searching to make the perfect sword, pottery tea-cup or to grow the perfect miniature pine tree.

If you're a nature or outdoor adventure lover - you have everything from snowy Hokkaido, to temperate mainland and tropical Okinawa to explore.

Food lovers can discover the nuances of sushi, sashimi, noodles and umpteen other Japanese specialities. And the Japanese take on the international cuisines of the world. Pizza covered with tuna and corn. Hamburgers made with rice and soy sauce. Fine cuisines from Italy, France and Spain.

Japanese people are curious about Western people. It's a bit like being the raisin in the box of raisin bran. My first day in Yokohama I was invited to a Yokohama Swallows baseball game by a complete stranger.

Japan is safe. The kind of place where if you forget your purse in a coffee-shop, it will be waiting for you when you get back to the shop,

Japanese people will want to take care of you. When you ask for directions on the street, don't be surprised when the person takes the time to lead you to your destination. Or a stranger offers to share their umbrella in a downpour.

Many Japanese feel reluctance revealing themselves to other Japanese - The Japanese word for visitors is gaijin. Gaijin are special to Japanese people because there are no rules for dealing with them. Japanese people can express themselves more freely with Gaijin because Japanese society has no rules binding these relationships.


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