Revisiting Japan while never even leaving London. Wandering around the Matsuri Japan Festival at Old Spitalfields Market, and reflecting on what drew me to live abroad. Plus, some really tasty food.
19.09.2009 - 19.09.2009 20 °C
I've been cocooning recently. Working from home and a spat of cooler weather has meant that staying in has been quite an attractive option. So for the past few weeks, other than the one day a week when I head down to my office, my life has pretty much taken place in a small radius of my flat, the outer limit of the radius being the N1 centre, which has a Sainsbury's, pharmacist and movie theatre. With the N1 centre, I want for nothing.
The other day I was re-reading some of the notes I had made after reading about Existential Migration, which I wrote about in my entry I'm not a Traveller, I'm a Migrant. Reading my notes at the time reminded me that I should be taking advantage of the opportunity I have created for myself by moving to England, and getting out and enjoying life in the city.
To that end, I have (for the past 4 days at least) made an effort to get out and see London. On Wednesday I walked up Caledonian Road and checked out Pentonville Prison, which I will admit isn't very high on the tourist trail, but it is a mile from my house and thought I should check it out, in the event there is ever an escape. On Thursday, after taking the train back from my office in Egham, I walked from Victoria Station to my house (about 4 miles), taking in Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and Soho along the way. Friday I walked around Camden for an hour.
Yesterday, I headed over to Liverpool Street station and the nearby Old Spitalfields Market.
Spitalfields used to be a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, but that was moved in 1991 to the new Spitalfields Market out near the Olympic site in Stratford. Today, the old Spitalfields Market is used as a space for restaurants, shops, bars and the occasional small festival.
Yesterday, there was a Japanese festival called Matsuri.
I quite liked Japan when I was there in 2006. I found it an interesting mix of the familiar and the strange. It is a very modern country (at least the bits I saw of it), and other than a proliferation of neon that you wouldn't see anywhere in the west, the cities seem pretty similar to those of Europe or North America. On the other hand, some of the customs are very strange to Western eyes, and I always had a strong feeling that I was an outsider in Japan. I've read accounts of those who spent more time there, and they all point to this - no matter how long you spend in Japan or how well you speak the language, you are always an outsider.
I was mulling this over while wandering around with my first cold Asahi beer, and realized that may be why I liked it so much. The research on existential migration focused my attention on a potential driver for wanting to live abroad being that I often felt like a bit of an outsider at home. I was popular and had lots of friends and good relationship with my family, but there was a nagging little bit inside me that always seemed to indicate that perhaps I didn't quite belong. In moving abroad, I haven't changed that opinion - I still feel like I don't quite belong. But that doesn't bother me now because I actually don't belong. I am a foreigner, so it is fine to feel foreign. In effect, I have changed my external circumstances to make them match my internal feelings. If you feel like you don't quite belong, move somewhere where you don't actually belong. Then everything is fine.
Anyway, I'll come back to the idea of existential migration in more detail in a future entry. For now, let's just wander around the Matsuri festival and enjoy it...
There was a lot of Japanese goods for sale.
I was mostly there for the food, though. I enjoyed a couple of Asahi beers, had a nice plate of sushi and some yakitori.
There was Japanese entertainment. The drummers were good, and I liked the children's martial-arts-cum-dancing display. There was a Shamisen player from Brazil. The shamisen is a 3-stringed lute. I found it a little too plinky-plunky.
Lots of people got into the spirit of the day and dressed in traditional Japanese dress...
...and taking pleasure from the Japanese activities and art.
All and all, a good day. I got out and got some exercise walking back and forth from my place and Liverpool Street Station (which I needed after the Japanese food and beer), I got to remind myself of the great time I had in Japan, and I got to ruminate a little more on why I undertook this adventure to live abroad in the first place. To experience a culture other than my own. Which I did at the Matsuri Festival, even if it wasn't quite the culture of the country I am living in.
It was good to get out the house and look at other lands.
Oh, and because I am a great flatmate, I bought my flatmates some presents. I present them to you now in haiku.
White cartoon feline
Hello Kitty Candy box
a gift for flatmates
Dewa mata atode!