Vernicious Knids

Random musings and snapshots about life, love, travel and everything in between...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Nonconformity...

Back in 2001 I travelled to Himeji to visit the famous Himeji-jou (Castle). It's billed as the most beautiful surviving (i.e. non-concrete) castle in Japan and is also called Shirasagi - the White Egret. After spending a few hours wandering around the spectacular castle grounds I decided to visit the temple complex on Shosha-zan (Mt Shosha). I took a 25 minute trip on the number 6 bus from Himeji station to the Shosha bus stop and then caught the cable car to the top of the 371m mountain hill. It's a famous pilgrimage spot and has been around for about 1000 years. I was one of only a few people wandering around the grounds; it was incredibly peaceful.
(Lanterns - April 2001)
Since then, Shosha-zan Engyou-ji Temple has become famous as one of the locations used in the shooting of "The Last Samurai". Several of the temple buildings and Buddha images have been designated important cultural properties. The shot of the lanterns above is one of my favourite photos of my time here in Japan as the solitary gold lantern among the green ones reminds me of the Japanese proverb deru kugi wa utareru - the nail which sticks out will get hammered. This seemingly simple proverb neatly encapsulates the overwhelming pressure for all members of Japanese society to reside together in harmony and to conform to the expected patterns of group behaviour. It's also a reminder that no matter how culturally attuned I am, like this lantern, I will always stick out in Japan.
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16 Comments:

  • At 7:00 pm, Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said…

    A wonderful post, with a great peoverb to learn from.

    Michele sent me here.

    You are invited to my 300th post, which will be on from Sunday evening British time to Tuesday evening. Hope you'll be there!

     
  • At 7:30 pm, Blogger verniciousknids said…

    JLP: I accept your invitation with pleasure! Glad you enjoyed the proverb.

     
  • At 7:59 pm, Blogger panthergirl said…

    Wow... that proverb is very telling (and like you say, very representative of Japanese culture), but it disturbs me too.

    I'm the ultimate non-conformist, and I've taught my kids to be independent thinkers. I couldn't live in a culture where conforming was *required*.

    Like you, I'd get hammered constantly.

    Here via michele. Great photo.

     
  • At 7:59 pm, Blogger sage said…

    I love the proverb and enjoyed the picture, it reminded me of my visit to Japan right after college many years ago. I also scrolled down your blog and was impressed with your book list--your descriptions make them all sound interesting and worthy of reading. Hefre from Michele's.

     
  • At 8:06 pm, Blogger Me:) said…

    Reached here from my "Next Blog" button. Interesting as you too live in Japan. Will come back later!

     
  • At 8:13 pm, Blogger verniciousknids said…

    Panthergirl: I'm constantly thankful that I had the opportunity to be raised in a country where individuality was permitted. They always say you have to leave home before you appreciate it!

    Sage: Reading is definitely one of my passions; I'm pleased I can make them seem interesting for you too!

    Me:) Welcome...the "Next Blog" button offers up lots of surprises!

     
  • At 8:25 pm, Blogger utenzi said…

    Let's just hope that like the gold lantern you stand out for your beauty, Knids. If you stick out like the nail, and get hammered, things will be much less pleasant. I think you're more like the lantern!

    Michele sent me.

     
  • At 8:33 pm, Blogger verniciousknids said…

    Utenzi: You're making me blush!

     
  • At 11:43 pm, Blogger Bearette24 said…

    it's an interesting proverb because we have one in the US that's pretty much the opposite - the squeaky wheel gets the grease. ie, if you make a fuss or stick out, you'll be noticed! i do think harmony has its benefits, but conformity is disturbing (to me anyway)...

     
  • At 11:45 pm, Blogger Bearette24 said…

    re me's comment, i used to use the "next blog" feature a lot but i just found scads of porn :(

     
  • At 10:53 am, Blogger Stepherz said…

    Such an interesting proverb since we believe in America so differently. Everyone wants to be "different" here but we are all followers really. Unique is a rare quality.

     
  • At 10:05 pm, Blogger verniciousknids said…

    Bearette: I hope that wasn't what "me" was expecting when they clicked!

    "Blind" conformity disturbs me...

    Stepherz: So true...generally people who are truly unique tend to be ridiculed or rejected by society.

     
  • At 5:00 am, Blogger My float said…

    Lovely analogy, VK. Japan sounds like such a lovely place to live. I guess you can stick out no matter where you are. I stand out in my family, with most of my cousins and relatives conforming just because they don't want to make different choices.

    Hey, I just remembered I have a question for you. Are you going to stay in Japan permanently?

     
  • At 10:45 am, Blogger verniciousknids said…

    MF: You've asked the most difficult question for an expat to answer...I plan to stay until I no longer enjoy being here...in other words - I have no idea ;) But I really do miss the beach and wide open spaces and fresh air!

     
  • At 7:42 pm, Anonymous sticky-outy nail said…

    i missed this post somehow and just read it now. ah. profound vk, and i imagine i have a fair understanding of where you're coming from.
    i never, ever thought i would say this, but there's a lot to be said for conformity and the sense of community that is so apparent here. i'm sure they're linked somehow, but this isn't the space for me to go into it. hehe, perhaps i'll blog about it sometime.

     
  • At 11:31 pm, Blogger verniciousknids said…

    S-ON aka GG: Nice choice of handle! I'd love to read your perspectives on this sometime.

     

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