I came to Japan with only a bit of savings, the hope of getting an English teaching job, and a few friends that encouraged me to come here. The only aspects of Japan that I knew were that Ghibli existed, sushi, ninjas and geisha. I soon found out it was a little rare to come here without knowing much about the culture. The landlord of my first apartment outright asked me it if was the anime, boy bands, history, or food that brought me to Japan. I guess, in his mind, most people come to Japan because of the culture. I had to say it wasn’t any of them, but I was interested in learning about them.
I remember my Japanese teacher telling me that “Japan has four seasons” and being completely confused. My first thought was, “Of course! Why would it be any different?” This is because a majority of places in the world have 4 seasons. They may differ in temperature but locals from each place would still regard their country as having 4 distinct seasons with the exception of a few places in tropical areas where temperatures remain quite constant throughout the year. Over the years I have heard that same quote again, “Japan has four seasons,” and it is still a bit of mystery to me what it implies. Luckily, after a few years of living here I gained a little more understanding of why I have often heard this quote.
My hometown is full of a variety of trees that have leaves that change colors in the fall. We usually take a couple pictures, stop and appreciate the view for a second and then get on with our day. However, I remember going to Meiji Jingu Gaien for the first time to see the Gingko trees in their autumn glory. I took a few pics at the usual time that I normally would go back home but then became baffled by the other people around me. They were walking along the street and were completely amazed by these leaves. It was as if they had never seen a leaf change color before taking hundreds of pictures in various poses. Then, at the end of the street there were about 20 booths of food shops just set up for the season.
At first, I kind of smirked at how over the top the event seemed to be just for a few leaves. However, I then realized my own country doesn’t do its seasons justice. My hometown in Canada has beautiful changes of seasons with a variety of plants and scenery to enjoy. I think, though, because we are so used to our surroundings, we know the same leaves or flowers will come back every year. We don’t pause long enough and be grateful for what we have. I am learning to do that more and cherish those seasonal moments. I won’t take hundreds of pics like the people around me or go to popular parks that bring in crowds. However, I will remember to stop by a local park to enjoy the vivid colors of hydrangeas in the spring or look forward to eating muscat grapes in autumn.
outright (adjective) – open and direct
baffled (adjective) – unable to understand something; very confused
over the top (idiom) – too extreme or unsuitable
do something justice (phrase) – to treat something as good as it deserves
cherish (verb) – to love, protect, or care for someone or something