Description of Japan: A New Series

Egypt and Japan: the two countries that stole my heart away. When I was hired against all odds as an ALT (Assistant Language

"Welcometo Japan" at Narita airport
“Welcome to Japan” at Narita airport

Teacher) via the JET Programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme), my boyhood dream of going to Japan finally came true. Now that I’m there, I would like to do something  Napoleon did.

When Napoleon invaded Egypt, he wanted to know everything about this country to better dominate it. That is why he had his scholars write an encyclopedia called La description de l’Égypte (The Description of Egypt). It would be impossible for me to write an encyclopedia on my own but I will try to understand Japan and explain my discoveries to the best of my abilities.

Why Try to Better Understand Japan?

I admire Japan because it could have been a third-world country but isn’t. When Japan was forced to open its doors to foreigners after 500 years of isolation, it could have become another European or American colony. Instead, during the Meiji Era, Japan modernized within a few years and was feared by other countries. A few years after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan recovered and became of the world’s most powerful economies.

I know what the history books say but I’m not satisfied with their answers. History isn’t just made by politicians: it is also made by regular people. There has to be something about the Japanese people and their customs that allow them to recover from catastrophes.

What Will This Series Contain?

Napoleon’s scholars tried to document everything about Egypt from its flora and fauna to its politics. Unlike Napoleon, I don’t have an army to document everything about a country. What I will do is document anything I find that is unique about Japan and thus, fulfill a part of my duty as a JET participant.

Japan is unique: it took elements of Chinese culture and Western cultures and made them its own. These influences, separated from the rest of the world by a sea and an ocean, were able to evolve into something new in the archipelago.

There is more to Japan than anime, manga and sushi (not that there is anything wrong with these things).

Japan and Only Japan?

Although I will be focusing on Japan, I will continue to write about other topics and maybe publish some fiction.


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