Monday, September 12, 2011

Anthropology and Linguistics

I haven't been able to stop thinking today. I don't know if it's the fact that I feel better, or whether or not my being in Japan is actually starting to make sense. I'll take it as a combination of both and just accept it for what it is. I don't have time for questions.

My inner anthropologist and linguist are emerging rather suddenly, and I find myself at a loss for words when the two do decide to take hold of my thought process. For instance, the other day I realized, "In Japan, it's okay to wear socks with high heals while wearing a short dress. In fact, it's fine to wear socks with flip flops or sandals as well." While the inner diva in me was screaming, "Fashion no-no!" and trying not to vomit, the anthropologist in me took a moment to gaze (probably stare) in wonder. I asked myself: Is it the culture that lets this American/Fashion world taboo become socially acceptable? Or is it not even though as unacceptable, but natural or normal?" I took a moment to think even more and the debate kept circling in my head.

In Japan, it is customary to take off your shoes while entering a house. Unless you are entering a hotel room, public building/office, or other area where a "no shoes allowed" notice or sign is not hanging, you MUST take off your shoes. I've even been somewhat scolded for walking outside barefoot at home in Texas, even though it's quite common there, especially when you're at home, like I was. It's just something to get used to.

Taking the no-shoes policy further, I thought about how important socks or under-footwear is in Japanese society. In older homes, the tatami floor is too delicate for shoe soles, so it was very much customary to wear socks or go barefoot on the floor. I imagine that the socks were preferred because they held in the moisture of sweaty feet and the odor that accompanies them, but I can't say that for certain. If you put two and two together, it makes me believe that this everyday sight stems from that. And in that regard, I think it is quite smart and nice.

I am still getting accustomed to some of the Japanese commonalities of my apartment, but I have to say that they aren't bothersome. Sorting the trash and washing everything that can be recycled can be a bit annoying, but it makes sense. As an American, it makes me wonder why my country doesn't do the same thing. I'm not unpatriotic in the least bit, but when you think of us disposing of all sorts of garbage in the earth just because we have the room to do so, it makes us seem lazy and unappreciative of our land. I don't fully agree with the stigmas attached to the term American when used by foreigners.

The same goes with the language. While I am not fluent in the Japanese language at the slightest, I do feel that I am becoming quite accustomed to the language and how it is used as a whole. So much depth and tradition is attached to everyday words that it feels so rich to the tongue. I am understanding context and meaning, time and place, and formalities along with each term I hear and I'm happy to say it's sticking. I can't explain this very eloquently in my own language, and when I write, I feel that a lot of the meaning paired to words in English have been lost over time. It makes me want to read more Shakespeare.

I could write about this forever, but I need to finish doing my laundry. I am not sure how to make the washing machine finish its cycle . . .

Please let me know if you have any thoughts or musings on this topic. For now, that's all I have to say.

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