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The Season for Japan

Buzz Poole
03/27/2012 - 00:00

In last weekend’s New York Times, author Pico Iyer, a British ex-pat who has been living in Kyoto for the past twenty-five years, wrote “Now Is the Season for Japan,” a lovely meditation on Japan and the nation’s healing process. The piece starts in Kyoto, observing the rock garden in the Ryoanji temple, where a poignant lesson is carved into a water basin: “What you have is all you need.” Iyer uses this adage to interpret how the year since the disaster has effected, and ultimately is strengthening, the national character of Japan by bringing into contrast how tradition and the new coexist: “[T]he quiet amplitude that is one of the special graces of Japan has a new resonance this year. . . . But deep down, Japan seems more vulnerable, and thus more wide open, than ever.”

Of course, Japan’s ability to honor thousands of years of tradition while embracing the newest of the new in all aspects of life is one of the country’s hallmarks, but as Iyer reminds his readers: “It’s hard for outsiders to appreciate how much, after more than a thousand years of fires and earthquakes and wars, Japan is primed for adversity.” The scale of loss and the total surprise of it could never have been predicted and it is hard to accept a silver lining in such an event but Iyer does identify an uplifting aspect of what has resulted from the tragedy: “[I]t also highlighted the resilience, self-possession and community-mindedness that are so striking in Japan; suddenly, the country that had seemed to insist on its difference from the rest of the world could be seen in its more human, compassionate and brave dimensions.” This is a unique perspective to be sure, but from what I know of Japan it makes sense. The Japanese have long prided themselves on a nationalism that only a citizen could appreciate. Perhaps, now, the rest of the world can better relate.

The good news is that tourism has rebounded in Japan: “Though foreign tourism to Japan as a whole plunged by 50 percent in the three months following the earthquake last March, as of January 2012 it was only 4 percent lower, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.” This Financial Times piece backs up Iyer’s claim and gets much more in-depth with regard to how the economy is slowly recovering in terms of supply chains and exports.

I can attest to the fact that Japan is an amazing place to visit. It has something for everyone, from history and culture to stunning landscapes, vibrant cities and welcoming locals. There are also deals to be had across the country in order to entice visitors.

Why not take a trip to Japan?

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