One thing that I didn’t realize before coming to Japan was the non-observance of daylight saving time. Even in September, the sun would set well before 6pm, giving the city a different, night-time feel on my commutes home across the mountains, the perfect environment for quiet contemplation on the train.
The area in which we are staying is separated from the city centre by a set of low mountains. Despite the distance, this area feels like a seamless extension of the urban fabric. In some ways, I’ve found this area to be similar to back home, with ready access to nature even here in the city. At the beginning of October, I was able to squeeze a quick hike up 菊水山, which only took 45 minutes from door to summit. On the hike, I saw signs about a traverse trail that extends along the Rokko mountains around Kobe, which I hope to attempt and document in my next blog post.
I knew that it would be a challenge, coming to a foreign country without knowing the language, and it definitely has been. I’ve been learning so much about how I communicate and reflecting on the importance of having a background or cultural knowledge that can allow you to navigate society smoothly. Being able to read Chinese has been helpful for reading the kanji here, and I think that improving my reading comprehension in Chinese might be an unexpected benefit of my time in Japan. In addition, I’ve had to rely heavily on the help of Giulia’s Japanese language skills, for which I am deeply grateful. This reliance has, however, made me think about the place of unpaid labour and the additional burden I might be putting on her over the course of this placement, and what it means to rely so totally on someone to navigate society.
While I have been commuting by train, there are many diverse neighbourhoods between the office and our sharehouse, and walking the distance between stations has provided ample opportunity to explore and observe how cities and communities organize themselves in such a different place.