“So if you’ve got no job and runnin’ out of dough
And they moved the factory down to Mexico
Just pack your bags and don’t forget your Kimono
And you can follow me, honey, all the way to Yokohama”
From “Move to Japan” by The Band 1993
Do you remember the late 1980s with America’s manufacturing sector at a crossroads and Japan’s rising mightily? “How do the Japanese do it?” was the question of the day. Studies were done; books written. My memory of it all is pretty vague, but I do recall the so-called “Japanese miracle.” And now I’ve learned that before it, there were other periods of extraordinary Japanese growth and accomplishment.
Continue reading Innocents Abroad in Japan, Part 1
“War is the work of man.
War is the destruction of human life.
War is death.
To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future.
To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war.
To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace.”
His Holiness Pope John Paul II on February 25, 1981
Traveling from Hakone to Hiroshima, we had to change trains at Shin-Osaka. As our second train sat on the platform with its door open, I made the mistake of starting to board too early. Smiling Japanese passengers called me back. We had to wait for a cleaning team to go through the cars before we could take our seats. We’d never seen a team of train-car cleaners work before. All were dressed in white jumpsuits. One woman carried a battery-operated vacuum cleaner. Like nearly everyone else we observed in Japan, they worked quickly and efficiently
Continue reading Innocents Abroad in Japan, Part 2
“Wearing kimono and walking in Kyoto”
Sign for a kimono rental service
From the window of a speeding Shinkansen on a sunny day, the impressions pile up quickly. There nearly always seem to be mountains in the distance. In the foreground, every bit of land seems precious. All the arable fields are under cultivation, and in settlements, the two-and-three-storey residential buildings are grouped so close together that it seems it would be difficult to drive a car among them. As for passenger cars in Japan, many are smaller and boxier that the larger, aerodynamic styling we associate with the Toyotas and Nissans in North America.
Continue reading Innocents Abroad in Japan, Part 3