Unrelenting Beauty and Spectacle

Much like the awe of looking into the Milky Way on a black night, Japan’s infinite bombardment of the senses wrenches the mind.

Traditional Craft Museum, Kanazawa

Traditional Craft Museum, Kanazawa

Along with its numerous cultural attractions Japan is often marketed as a shopper’s paradise. There is so much stuff for sale—most of it stunningly designed, meticulously crafted, and exquisitely displayed.

Food Display

Food Display

Of course, if you are into cheap tchotchkes made elsewhere there are plenty of those in the tourist shops and hyaku-en (the 100-yen equivalent of North American dollar stores) too. But this post isn’t about the cheap and cheesy side of Japan.

On any given day when I think there can’t possibly be anything more fabulous to see, I turn a corner only to find another charming street of seemingly endless raptures. More galleries, food, drink, fashion or other surprises tucked into a narrow laneway suck me in like a magnet.

Street at Night. Photo Credit.

Street at Night. Photo Credit.

That’s topped by the infinite attention to detail of absolutely everything.

Child in Kimono

Child in Kimono

In addition to the urbane character of its cities, add the views from trains or skyscrapers and hilltops.

Tokyo SkyTree

Tokyo SkyTree

Splendid mountains. Quilted valleys.  Deep river gorges.

River Gorge

River Gorge

The architecture. The technology. The museums. The gardens.  The temples. The shrines. The music, dance and theater. Traditions going back millennia.

Tea House

Tea House

Torii in Meiji Shrine Park

Torii in Meiji Shrine Park

Often it leaves me stimuli overloaded the way I might feel if I ate nothing but sugar treats all day–aching with a discomfiting buzz. No wonder Zen meditation or emptying the mind took deep root in this place of relentless beauty, cultural bombardment and consumer glut.

I learn only to be contented.

I learn only to be contented.

The paradox of cacophony and serenity born from the same place. No wonder I often feel compelled to close my eyes for a few moments of black-screen rest. Some may think I overstate the case. Hardly. Sometimes, Japan’s unrelenting beauty and spectacle are shattering.

By Kendrick Shaw (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kendrick Shaw (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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