Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I just got back to Japan after a few weeks abroad. It's the longest trip away from Japan that I've taken in awhile. When I was in the waiting area before boarding the plane, which was mostly Japanese, I noticed that the Japanese people seemed peculiar. I remember feeling this in the past after long trips. It's like suddenly I'm aware of weird Japanese body language, fashion, behaviors and facial expressions. It made me self-conscious too. I'm sure this is a pretty common phenomenon, but it was odd because it was disproportionately stronger compared to a one week trip away. Maybe it's because I was in Paris, South Africa, San Francisco and Boston before returning and the variety of cultures scrambled my cultural blinders. It was also strange reading the International Herald Tribune on China's anger over recent statements by Japanese about ramping up their military while watching the Japanese news in the plane talk about the same thing from their perspective. It was like having two cultural identities coexisting in my head. Somewhere over the arctic, both cultures seemed mighty peculiar.


Weird isn't it. I went away this summer and moved about so much and between so many different cultures that three days after I got home, I woke up in the middle of the night and I really couldn't figure out where I was. Exactly the same thing happened to the friend who I went travelling with.

Just goes to show how much there is churning away in our subconcious.

Joi, are you saying that the two forms of media aren't totally impartial and objective? :) Japanese people are a little peculiar though. That makes them great, I think. Must be good to be home.

Joi, did you see the recent AP story about Japanese culture shock in Paris? I realize this doesn't characterize you or your thoughts, but it was close enough that it reminded me of your post.

I had a Japanese friend visiting me in San Francisco for the past week. It has been about 6 weeks since I've been in Japan--the longest period in the last two years--and I found myself strangely aware of any Japanese people around us all week.

It was as if my friend's visit switched me back into Japan mode, and my brain was trying to sort out why there were so many Americans around me. Little snippets of Japanese language floated above the din of English, and simple hand gestures and facial expressions identified Asian faces as Japanese when I had no reason to even care about their nationality.

The weird part was that my Japanese friend was completely unable to distinguish these people as Japanese--even those we interacted with.

I guess my colliding worlds triggered the non-verbal survival techniques I developed while living in Tokyo, but the result was a kind of cultural dissonance that made me feel out of place in my own country.

It not only happen when you spend some time in a culture different than yours, sometimes it happens even travelling to neighbour countries. News are treated in a different way, people don't dress like they do in your home country, cooking completely changes and even humour is different. At least that's the sensation I have when traveling in Europe.

Gen > in fact this is not really fresh news although several recent articles talk about it. The "Paris syndrome" was described in a book as early as 1991 (in Japanese). Here it is : Amazon

The Paris Syndrome, as a particular case of cultural shock, is well-known by French students learning Japanese, as it is often used to explain the differences between Japanese and French cultures and social behaviours...

After living long years in Japan, I experienced a "counter cultural shock" when returning to France. Some of the symptoms were somehow similar to the "Paris Syndrome" experienced by the Japanese in France...

I'll try to blog about this some time...

Joi > this temporary feeling of being "somewhere in between", or having two cultural identities at the same time, are often nice to experience.