3 3 6 D O C U M E N T 3 9 1 I M P R E S S I O N S I N J A P A N
never have been able to forgive myself for letting a chance to see Japan with my
own eyes go by unheeded.
Never in my life have I been more envied in Berlin, and
genuinely[4]
so, than the
moment it became known that I was invited to Japan. For in our country this land
is shrouded more than any other in a veil of mystery. Among us we see many Jap-
anese, living a lonely existence, studying diligently, smiling in a friendly manner.
No one can fathom the feelings concealed behind this guarded smile. And yet it is
known that behind it
lies[5]
a soul different from ours that reveals itself in the Jap-
anese style, as is manifest in numerous small Japanese products and Japanese-
influenced literature coming into fashion from time to time. All the things I knew
about Japan could not give me a clear picture. My curiosity was in utmost suspense
when, on board the Kitanu Maru, I passed through the Japanese channel and saw
the countless delicate green islets glowing in the morning sun. But glowing most
of all were the faces of all the Japanese
passengers[6]
and the ship’s entire crew.
Many a tender young lady, who otherwise would
never[7]
be seen before breakfast
time, was roaming restlessly and blissfully about on deck at six o’clock in the
morning, heedless of
the[8]
raw morning wind, in order to catch the first possible
glimpse of her native soil. I was
moved[9]
to see how overcome they all were with
deep emotion. A Japanese loves his country and his nation most of all; and despite
his linguistic proficiency and great curiosity about everything foreign, away from
home he still does feel more alien than anyone else. How is this explained?
I have been in Japan for two weeks
now,[10]
and yet so much is still as mysterious
to me as on the first day. Some things I did learn to understand, though, most of all
the shyness that a Japanese feels in the company of Europeans and Americans. At
home our entire upbringing is
tuned[11]
toward our being able to tackle life’s strug-
gles as single beings under the best possible circumstances. Particularly in cities,
individualism in the extreme, cutthroat competition drawing on our utmost energy,
feverish laboring to acquire as much luxury and pleasure as possible. Family bonds
are loosened, the
influence[12]
of artistic and moral traditions on daily life is rela-
tively slight. The isolation of the individual is seen as a necessary consequence of
the struggle for survival; it robs a person of that carefree happiness that only inte-
gration in a community can offer. The predominantly rationalistic education—
indispensable for practical living under our conditions—lends this attitude of the
individual even more
poignancy;[13]
it makes the isolation of the individual bear
even more keenly on the
conscience.[14]
Quite the contrary in Japan. The individual is left far less to his own devices than
in Europe or America. Family ties are very much closer than at home, even though
they are actually only provided very weak legal protection. But the power of public
opinion is much stronger here than at home, assuring that the family fabric is not
[p. 342]
[p. 341]
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