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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