Moving Through Japan

Here in Japan (the people say) it’s about the process. Life is about the process. Everything good is made better because of the process. Everything bad is made tolerable by the process. For “at least it was a learning experience.”

Since all things are about the process, the long train ride, the strenuous airplane flight, and the time spent in the elevator shaft are all necessary to our experience of life. If one day we could teleport in the blink of an eye to another place, we would have lost the process, and possibly life itself. Although train rides have shortened to the point that we can travel nearly 200 miles per hour, the process still remains.

We remember the journey because of the weariness it brings, the technologically advanced reclining seats, the courteous stewardesses and conductors, and the exquisite food. Without the train we would not have the famed train station bento boxes. We would not have the adjacent department store complexes that awe visitors with their glossy interiors and expensive clothes. The process of life is embedded in these stations where people file in and out each day.

Transportation thus defines our lives. The train station here greets us in all magnificence as we step out of the train into a towering complex of escalators. Department stores rise ten, fifteen stories high and deposit the ascending shopper at the Happy Terrace garden. Underground, the maze of stores and eateries continues sometimes miles into the surrounding neighborhood. And from the hotel window 28 floors above, we see the trains, taxis, and people move through the stations in synchronized waves.

When thinking about Japan, what we remember most is not the garden or the skyscraper, the shopping or the food, but rather the trains, the buses, and the people moving through them. We recall the grand stations that ushered us in and out of cities, and the airports that brought us in and out of countries. The bustling crowds, the waiting, the moving is imprinted on our minds. The attractions fade into the background as our tour becomes one train stop after another. In the end we remember of the country only the unceasing, fluid motion – the process of being in Japan.



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