What have I learned?
- Pretty much everywhere I went, no matter where I looked, I could not but help thing of this quote. It might seem like a stereotype, but the Japanese have style. Nearly everything is done in ways that are aesthetically appealing. From restaurants to signage to government buildings to kids' uniforms, and on and on.
- Like Montreal, bad restaurants seem to be illegal. While I didn't have any sushi, I had plenty of udon, ramen, gyoza, yakitori, and on and on. I ate Chinese food a couple of times, Indonesian twice,and one pizza when I could noodle/rice/yakitori no more. The food was simply great, whether a restaurant on the fifth floor of a business building, a basement of a department store, a hole in the wall (heaps of alleys upon alleys), or places just on the street. Only once did my lack of Japanese get in the way--a place right next to my apartment that I had been eager to try out. English on the sign outside, but only chalkboard menus in Japanese. Oops. Otherwise, pictures on the menu or the machine (some restaurants have machines outside where you order and then give the slip to the waiter/waitress), English menus or both.
- The Japanese national security community is very generous with their time. I had lengthy interviews with both active and retired military personnel, with academics, with Diet staff, and Ministry of Defense officials. The interviews with politicians will be in January when I return for two weeks. The only people who proved truly hard to reach? The media. Hmmm. I learned a great deal, both for my project and beyond as my curiosity led me to ask questions beyond the project of the moment. I will still have to transcribe about half my notes, and then I might figure out what I have learned. Lots of conflicting information.... but that is where the fun is--figuring out the patterns.
- I visited most of the sites I had planned to see, missing only a cemetery, Tokyo Disneyland, and a garden or two. I wish I had gone out of town, other than to Mount Fuji (which was beautiful). I didn't see much of Japan beyond Tokyo, Mount Fuji, and Yokosuka. I did see Hiroshima and Kyoto during my brief visit in January. I am tempted to go to Osaka in January as I happened to sit next to a Harry Potter performer at a gyoza place--he performs at the HP park at Universal Studios in Osaka. But since their HP is about what HP Orlando was before the expansion, I probably will not bother. But I should try to get out of town if only briefly over the weekend in between two very busy research weeks in 2017. I did learn once again that the Beatles rock!
- I learned some stuff about Japanese nationalism.
- Anecdata and statistics are two different things. I read plenty of stuff before I came here about how the population is aging, that people are not coupling, that they are not producing kids. And then I saw plenty of kids, teens, and young couples. Oh, and I kept walking into weddings when I went to shrines on weekends. But, of course, the examples of young folks do not really prove that the trends are not the trends. Likewise, the Japanese economy is supposed to be anemic, but I saw plenty of construction and cranes and virbrant businesses. Still, the marco and the micro are two different things.
- I learned of another declaration of independence. There was a Dali exhibit at the National Arts Center near where we were staying. Since our last day was a rainy one, this made for a fitting end to the trip. The Arts Center is a pretty amazing building--just a very neat design.
- I am so very glad I rented a phone--google maps made navigation possible. Easy to use the subways, hard to navigate the streets. So, thanks, oh powerful google gods!
LTC Junko Furuta went beyond the call of duty to make this trip successful. Finally, Takako Hikotani was and will continue to be an excellent research partner. It takes more than a village to do research like this, and I received so much help this month. I am most grateful.