One might think that in a culture so dedicated to the preservation of its history and traditions, innovation would be stifled. Yet, Japan has sustained itself with a trading economy and high numbers of technological patents. Through the TOMODACHI program, we were afforded glimpses into both sides of Japan in only eight days. From running my hands along the prickly roof thatching of a home maintained since the Edo period to our group barely outsmarting a single robot at a matching game, I inevitably confronted an unfamiliar type of tension that marked my first experience in Japan. Upon more reflection, I think my brief stay in Japan led me to the idea of branching out yet staying rooted. The former is more easily justifiable. However, what is the purpose of allocating resources towards preserving the past? Is this payoff greater than that of using those resources to advance and ameliorate more “relevant” issues?
There’s no right answer to these questions. For example, even the sight of the same tree gives people different ideas. Due to our dissimilar upbringings and current situations, we might see it as something to lean against, the source of a future home, a hoe already to a diverse family of critters, or as a single unit from root to stem. Japan seems t see significance in each component of the tree. From what I’ve experienced, I believe that the Japanese peoples’ meticulous attention to ensuring that their country’s roots are continuously being nourished has benefits and is something I personally would like to emulate.
Our visit to the open air folk house museum resonated with me, because I was able see, feel, and experience the creativity needed for survival in the design of the most seemingly basic of things, physical homes. It was amazing how efficiency and sustainability, both of which are hallmarks of Japanese society today, are easily evident in the design of the roofs, structure, organization and of the homes.
As we isolate new elements to add to the periodic table, create technology we once never even imagined, and forge a path of unprecedented discovery, paying homage to history is a way of staying humble. Especially in the 21st century, we tend to get caught up in our “intelligence.” Looking back at, but especially appreciating the innovation and raw curiosity required of our ancestors for survival is a reminder not to become too prideful our own modernity.Only with humility can we strive towards being “with and for each other” — “otagai no tame ni.”