Dear Japan,

I will be honest and tell you up front that I had my reservations about you. Uniformed, prejudiced and biased, I do admit, but I still persisted on what I thought I wanted to see you as. You see, I have been studying Chinese for a while now, and through that education and exposure to its people and culture, I started to receive a kind of subconscious indoctrination and narrow representation of who you are, especially when you have been, undoubtedly, a historical enemy for quite some time. I didn’t expect to find much to like about you: too clean, too polite, too orderly and elderly. But beyond your dominating pop culture of anime and tear-jerking movies, after a month in your presence, I’d say I’ve had a change in heart.

It’s easy to say that your hospitality was impeccable: safe drinking water, onigiri on every street corner, and world-renowned stationary. Let me tell you, I think you had me the moment I first stepped into the Loft. I never knew one could be so creative with levels and levels of practical goods in so many different ways. It was, to say the slightest, overwhelming, but in the best way possible. However, beyond your plentiful opportunities of shopping and convenient food, I am even more captivated by you and your society, culture, and economy.

Less than a century ago, war tore you to pieces, cities burned to the ground, staining the water black while its people turned into ghosts. To see it, in Hiroshima, was surreal (I’m not exactly sure where to find the right word to truly describe the feeling but surreal will suffice). How does one come back from that? The loss, the damage, the anger and hate? Resilience, maybe. You tell me.

And now I see how and where you are right now, with your crowded cities standing tall while the people within occupy the day, and light the night. Paul Scott (do you know him? You must) told us not to think of your economic resurgence post WWII as a “miracle” because you had all the right conditions to get you serious places from that time on. But I can’t help my fascination, because despite the rebuilding and development, you also maintained, I believe, a strong sense of Japanese-ness (loosely defining it as meaning a distinct tradition, or culture, or a synthesis of both). I saw this culturally through your advertisements on billboards, in the architecture and aesthetics, and of course religiously with temples and shrines scattered throughout the cities. Who you are and what you have become—an epicenter of pop culture, war, stationary, history and economics—well, you’re quite the place.

I guess I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to tell you now, but through the clutter about it all, I will say preconceived notions have never seemed sillier.

See you soon,

Lydia