I arrived safely in Japan after a good flight–direct to Tokyo from Dulles on All Nippon Airways, flying up over northern Canada and Alaska. I left on Thursday and arrived on Friday, losing a day of my life that I will get back on the trip home, when I will arrive in Dulles 30 minutes before I leave Tokyo. Gotta love the International Date Line!
Now, about Japan: Virginia–my home-by-marriage–has one of the best state mottos around: “Virginia is for Lovers.” I don’t know how that was determined, exactly–I’m not sure what the criteria were, or if another state ever contested the self-designation [Idaho, for example, or maybe Vermont], but it is a very popular bumper-sticker and t-shirt. That motto was in the back of my mind, as I titled this post.
If you are now, or have ever been in seminary, you probably have heard of the Myers-Briggs profile. It is a test that reveals personality preferences, and it helps you understand yourself and the people you love better. After taking the test, you are assigned four letters that stand for different ways of interpreting the world, interacting with others, making decisions, processing information, etc. (So, for example, the first letter of anyone’s Myers-Briggs profile is an “E” or an “I”–standing for extrovert or introvert.) Well, according to Myers-Briggs, I am a strong “J”–this means I like order, structure, and organization. Spontaneity makes me nervous. The lack of a plan causes me anxiety. I have eaten the same breakfast every day for years. I color-code my calendar. My bookshelves are organized by subject (and alphabetized); my closet is organized by items and color. You get the idea.
Why bore you with all of this, you may ask? It’s because that after one short day in Japan, I must confess to feeling quite at home here; and I figured out why pretty quickly. Speaking about the country as a whole [while avoiding stereotyping every individual], Japan evinces a strong “J” personality as well. From what I have seen thus far, everything in Japan runs very smoothly, with clear direction, timely execution, and polite efficiency. The rules are straightforward and most everyone seems to follow them–cheerfully, I might add. In some strange way [that only fellow “Js” can understand], I find this all very soothing and relaxing. It just always feels like someone is in charge, people do actually know what is going on, and the threat of chaos is kept comfortably at bay. [I know what you’re thinking: it’s true, I am kind of boring–this is the downside of the “J” personality. We’re not the risk-takers of the human community. What can I say?]. I need to think more about whether and how this “personality” has anything do with with Japan’s religious character. (And what kind of personality does the US have? Does it have anything to do with our Christian background?) I’m going to let that roll around in my head for the next two weeks.
Oh, another thing I love about Japan–people here walk fast, too, which also makes me feel right at home.
I stayed just one night in Tokyo, to rest up for the long day of travel to Koyasan tomorrow. Last night, I unpacked a bit and went for a walk–my hotel is close to Hibiya Park, which is small, but very beautiful. This morning, it was pouring rain, but I went for a run anyway, around the grounds of the Imperial Palace–way too wet for pictures, though! I’ll try again when I am back in Tokyo for the last 3 days of my trip.
The pictures are from the train ride up to Koyasan.