Yugawara Town, Kanagawa – Atami City, Shizuoka
The past few days I’ve stayed at some traditional Japanese style inns with other peace marchers (and even someone’s house), so I’ve been able to get to know the other marchers better.
I was surprised at how sad I was to say goodbye to these people that I’d only known for 2 weeks. I’ve come to realize that anywhere you go, you can make friends with someone if you’re stuck together for long enough. It really speaks to our similarities as humans, despite what we may think about our cultural differences.
I have had a lot of culture shock, but that didn’t stop me from connecting with some of the people in Kanagawa in such a short time. In fact, most of the time that drew me closer to people was through learning about their culture. I was not completely comfortable when I first came here, because I was far from home and everything was unfamiliar (including the small things I usually take for granted, like washclothes and knowing etiquette).
However, as the days went on I just kept asking about everything from the bows, to Japanese politics, to the intricacies of onsen (hot spring) etiquette. And before I knew it, I’d made some friends and actually felt comfortable (thanks also to the Japanese hospitality and kindness). I think we just need to keep an open mind when we try to understand people who seem very different from what we are accustomed to. Surely violence is not the answer to solving our differences when we can come to understand each other with a little effort, an open mind, and mutual respect (and that last quality is an important one in Japanese culture that I think everyone should learn from).
I’m sad to leave my new friends in Kanagawa, but I’m sure I’ll get to know some people in Shizuoka as well.