Naming of things: Nana’s Lawson

I had a dream of living in a city where nobody knew me.

When I came to Sapporo, Japan it was early march. Beginning of spring as one would suppose, but there still were mountains of snow on the streets, short days and long nights. At that time, I experienced some level of (foreign) anxiety. Everything felt heavy and unfamiliar.

My name may seem a bit long, so I decided to use my beloved childhood nick name Nana, which my family and close friends still call me. Just repeat the same syllable twice. Simple. In addition, Nana means “7” in Japanese. Maybe my purpose of coming to Japan was to retrieve my name or even give it a new meaning?

In front of the building I was living, there was a convenience store name Lawson operating 24 hours, 7 days a week. A super sensitive person may even say there is a certain sense of infinity to it. There are many convenience stores scattered all around the city and all of them look almost the same. Probably because I didn’t know any other people from except my work,  I felt some kind of comfort in going there and seeing the same people in blue and white striped clothes.

More than ever I realized I could find a solace in simplicity  and create my own story.

So there was Nanas’ Lawson.

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La Japonaise

Note: I am writing this in a form of observation and a mere opinion.

Since I came to Japan, some people have been asking me whether I have worn a kimono. I have never had a chance yet.  Due to my poor knowledge about kimono etiquette I wondered whether it would be appropriate, I wouldn’t feel comfortable and wouldn’t possibly want to offend other people.

Yet it is interesting that Japanese people seem to be very encouraging when it comes to foreigners trying on a kimono.

There are many types of kimono, accessories and it requires some skill to know how to wear it. Some can be worn on a daily basis and some for a special occasion. And there is also a man kimono of course!

Diversity! Diversity!

Maybe the one which I have seen the most is a casual summer kimono-like garment: yukata. ( Yukata: is a less formal wear, lighter with shorter sleeves, normally used in summer).

In the past and even till now, not everyone could afford a kimono and many of this garment as well as how-to-wear-it-skill passed from one generation to another.

I see Japanese people wearing a kimono or a kimono-like garment for a special purpose or just go to a conbini (convenience store).

Nowadays, people coming to Japan can rent a kimono for a day for the sake of culture experience.

Many fashion designers have been influenced by kimono’s layout and reinvented it into their own creations.

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Kimono Times

Yet. There is sense and sensibility. Some people have been discussing this issue and there are even cases of commotion over apparent cultural appropriation due to lack of awareness and portrayal of stereotypical views.

I think it is a complicated issue.

There are limits between reinvention, experience and cultural appropriation . But they may be very blurry.

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Yozakura Cherry Blossom at Night,  Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III ,1848,  Oban triptych.

I maintain that anyone should wear whatever their like. On another hand, garment is also a kind of social expression and the way we may represent ourselves to others.

Of course I don’t think one should imitate all the etiquette exactly, but do it at least with some sober portion of sensibility.

The richness of tradition is so that it transforms through times, yet there is an essence which cannot be lost.

Claude Monet - La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanes Costume), 1876

La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanese garment, probably uchikake)

Claude Monet, 1876

Question: Why Japan? Everything in its right place

“Why Japan?” is the question I hear the most either here in Japan or back home. Going to live in a country on the other side of the world doesn’t seem to be an easy decision.

For me, Japan was kind of a dream.  I thought about living in Japan for a long time before actually coming here, so it could, but the right place.

Indeed, Japan is a dream. Many people dream about Japan because of it is strikingly beautiful landscapes, unique culture and people. Amazing sakura petal rains, magical temples, manga and anime super planet and delicious food.

Indeed, it is one of the best places for traveling. Living and working here may belong to a completely different universe. In my case, at the workplace I am the only alien and  some of the rules we have to follow require flexibility and patience for someone who finds them unusual. I have no choice but to adapt, accept all my differences and at the same time try not to stand out too much.

“When are you coming back?” is the second question.

How long should I stay? When should I leave? Is it early to go home? Is it late to go home?

Dreaming a dream and living a dream may be very different things. In any case, I realize pursuing a dream may not come easy. It may be a very hard work and it takes a lot of patience.

Fortunately there is a reward.

During one year living here I feel I learnt so much and I realize there is still so much to learn. I am glad I pursued my dream. For instance, as my Japanese language level is progressing (still love fighting!), with each time it is much easier to communicate. I have also met the most wonderful people while being here. Being here taught me to learn to be more flexible and understanding. We are human after all.

Dream is a challenge.  I realize now I have other dreams and maybe something new to discover. This is not a final destination, but a journey.

Everything in its right place.

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Feature picture: The Gion Shrine in Snow, Utagawa Hiroshige, in 1834

A cape in the fog

Foggy bubble

During our visit to Shakotan peninsula, blue sky covered our heads and it was really warm. Yet, when we ventured forward Cape Kamui, we felt a change in atmosphere. It was a foggy and windy bubble which seemed to hang only there.

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Old tale

There is a folklore story concerning a young woman called Charenka. She was in love tim a Japanese warrior Yoshitsune Minamoto. It is said that when he had escaped abroad from the enemy, Charenka followed him to the cape, but soon realized she was left. In despair, she jumped off the cape and the rock at the edge of the cape is believed to be her spirit. It is said that she cursed all women on ships and the ships that had women on board started to sink one after another. During many years women were prohibited from entering the cape.

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Even now there is a warning sign, yet entering or not of course is up to you! This time the gate to Charenka’s path was closed due to strong wind.

It is believed there is a curse regarding Cape Kamui, yet the atmosphere is quite mystic  and even sacred. As nature could only be.

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