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Posts Tagged ‘reason’

The Meaning of Travel

August 17, 2010 7 comments

I’m not sure how or when I became a travel addict. Certainly there is an allure in going to new places, encountering unpredictable situations, and seeing unfamiliar things, but understanding where that feeling comes from takes a bit more thinking. Here’s what I came up with.

To start with, I think the opportunity to escape from daily worries is a major reason. Whether we know it or not, every day is filled with anxiety about trifling things that needn’t be worried about in the first place. As I pore over documents every day, wracking my brain for new ad copy, elegant translations and smoother rewrites, I become physically and mentally exhausted. After work I worry about what I need to do, what I haven’t done, what can’t be done but should be done. The amount of things to do in a day is simply overwhelming. However, the moment I step foot on the train or bus bound for my next destination, all of that is forgotten. Whether it be a day- or a week-long excursion, the time is my time, and I can think about things like the future, my humanity, the world around me, and the little things that often go unnoticed–things I don’t have time to consider most days. The lack of small worries lets me finally see the world clearly.

Next, there’s one of the most basic concepts in travel: movement. I truly believe that movement, both literally and figuratively, is freedom. I always bring along books to read on my train trips, but in the end only about five pages or so ever get read, because I just stare out the window at the things whooshing by, at scenery familiar and new. Just the ability to move, whether it be at a screaming shinkansen speed or rickety wanman clunker-train crawl (see photo), is exhilarating. It’s no coincidence that we say life is “at a standstill” when things seem to be stagnating and unchanging; movement, whether it  toward something or just movement’s sake, is liberating.

Movement also means we are going to new places, seeing new things. But why is that important? Because encountering new situations, people, and ideas helps us grow, especially when we don’t have the burden of everyday worries weighing us down, hindering our clear thinking. I have never gone on a trip and come back as the same person: whether it be to a small or large degree, I have always changed and grown through travel. My view of the world becomes different, and my perspective becomes wider yet more refined. Occasionally traveling alone only enhances these aspects further.

Onomichi

So get out there and explore, see everything you can while there is still time. Enjoy not only the destination, but the journey to get there. Appreciate small things, and don’t plan every day meticulously. Go somewhere nobody would ever think of taking a trip to, stay somewhere—a run-down hostel, a capsule hotel, a sleeping bag under the stars—you wouldn’t normally stay. Take every type of trip you can, at any chance you get, and you will not only experience more of the world, but will become a  happier person with a richer set of experiences.

A free mind, movement, growth, and new experiences. That’s the meaning of travel.

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Why I Live Here

February 3, 2010 7 comments

I am often asked what I like about living in Osaka. And because I have also lived in Tokyo, I am also asked whether I prefer Osaka or Tokyo. Besides the fact that my job and life are here, there are four primary reasons I prefer to live in Osaka over any other place in Japan:

1. The People
This is the number one reason Osaka is the most livable place I have found in Japan. People here are the most open-minded (including their attitudes toward foreign residents), are willing to help out strangers, and are basically warm and approachable. It is easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger almost anywhere you go, and if you need help because you are lost or unsure of something, just ask someone nearby and you will almost never be ignored. The “people” factor is not only my top reason for staying here; ask anyone here and you will likely hear the same thing.

2. Livability
With a metropolitan population of approximately 3 million, Osaka City is big but not too big, and despite the tri-city metro area population of approximately 20 million, it does not (for the most part) have the hellish commutes, snail-like traffic and infuriating crowds of cities like Tokyo or Seoul. There are many of small shops and businesses mixed in with department stores and chain stores, so you can easily find something that suites your tastes — the inexhaustible number of hidden places to explore is one of the city’s best features. Unlike its historical rival, Tokyo, Osaka is planned well, so you won’t get lost wondering the streets (I dare you to try explaining the order behind the urban planning and subway system of the capital). The cost of living is also more than reasonable in comparison. Finally, Osaka has many well-designed parks and waterfront spots, making for a pleasant urban environment. Despite its past reputation as a dirty, industrial city, Osaka has become a massive commercial center and one of the cleanest and most livable cities you will find.

3. Rich Culture and History
Osaka has played many roles throughout its history, including that of the imperial capital (as Naniwa-kyo), an important trade port and point for importing cultural innovations, a diplomatic host for Chinese and Korean visitors when the capital moved first to Nara and then Kyoto, the base of Toyotomi military power, the prime economic center and site of the world’s first futures market during the Edo Period, a major manufacturing center during the early modern period and period of high-speed growth, a temporary capital when Tokyo was burned to the ground in the fires of the 1923 earthquake, a primary commercial and trade center since the postwar period, and now an increasingly international city and central hub for Japan and East Asia. This rich history has given rise to a unique culture and a number of rich, deep-rooted traditions. Osaka is also the transportation hub of Kansai, the cultural center and birthplace of Japanese civilization, so you can reach places such as Nara, Kyoto, and Himeji in no time.

4. The Food
Osaka is historically known as “the nation’s kitchen” for its role in supplying and acting as a hub for the food industry. It is also famous for its cuisine — not luxury cuisine, mind you, but “B-level” (B-kyu) cuisine. The quality of okonomiyaki, takoyaki, ramen, soba, kushikatsu, sushi, and other foods people eat on a regular basis is outstanding. In addition, the large number of non-Japanese living in the city means there is a huge selection of international cuisine, too — Korean food in Tsuruhashi, for example. Delicious food at surprisingly low prices is definitely one of the city’s strongest points.