Much thanks to those of you who have endured my ramblings through to the end. This blog has been a challenge to write in many ways, and the patience of my audience cannot be commended enough.
Though originally intended as a “daily update” during my travels in Japan, the actual experience of travel quickly trumped my writing ambitions, and what was supposed to have been an up-to-date report transformed instead into a series of reflections reconstructed from notes and photos. Though Achira Iko! ends here, be on the lookout for the sequel next year when The Princess and I return to Japan—this time to move and live in Kyoto!
Though only two weeks long, my experiences during these travels were extraordinary. And it wasn’t just Japan—or even Kyoto—but something very intense, on the most fundamental human level, about differences in cultures and societies which deepened my perceptions of the world.
Through visiting Japan, two vital things changed for me—I felt a strong connection with my personal goal to become a professional writer; and an intense disconnection from a lot of the things that most people spend most of their time thinking about.
We live short lives in a vast world—and time waits for no one.
But of course, when others would ask me “how was my trip,” the answers which I longed to give, and the answers which they expected to receive, could not have been more different.
I mean, seriously—how do you sum up “It changed my life and my understanding of the world in the most wonderful ways” in a one minute water-cooler conversation?
Moreover, as I struggled through various attempts to express, or even hint at, such ideas, I found that others were either not interested in, if not in fact actively adverse to, that which I actually had to say on the matter.
Like the courtiers confronted with Gawain’s green scarf, they wanted the Lite version—form without function, style without significance. They wanted to hear “I saw a ninja,” or “I touched a samurai sword,” or best of all, “What I really missed about the States was…”
They didn’t want to hear that my experience was incredibly deep and meaningful. And they certainly didn’t want to hear that I had decided to move over there as soon as possible. They wanted a confirmation that they were in the right place, and that my appreciation for local things had increased as a result of my travels.
They wanted the satisfaction of a framed photo, not the dissonance of an open horizon.
“Achira Iko” literally means “Let’s go there,” but the implication is that “there” is a place distant to the speaker as well as the listener. Japanese is a language and culture of great subtlety. We Americans, by contrast, more or less need everything spelled out for us in bold print. So I will spell out the final message of this blog for my American readers:
Whether near or far, the boundaries that you think of as your limitations are merely the lines of an endless horizon. So wherever the edge of the world happens to be for you, don’t wait—rise up and go there. You’ll be amazed at what you will find.
This has been Achira Iko!
Until next time…