Communication as a foreigner, Spiritual reflection, and Anthropological Journalism.

Osaka. I just wrapped up the portion of the trip in Osaka. I stayed here from August 20th to August 23, and now I’m on my way to Mishima. Once again, I’m on the shinkansen express as I write this.

Traveling in Japan for 2 weeks has definitely given me a new outlook on the country and a whole new respect for foreigners in a strange country, whether for two weeks or two months or longer.  Learning to navigate in a country where English is not the native language has been entertaining in its own right, and it’s forced me to use what little Japanese I know in order to expedite information gathering.

I find that the easiest way to do this is to ask a simple question and listen for keywords. Usually, this involves speaking in a language that is universal across cultures, peoples, and languages: Gesturing. This, when coupled with the basic phrases allows one to understand general meanings.

Speaking as a communications major, the idea that the sender encodes their message transmits the information through a medium (phone, TV, vocally) for the receiver to receive and decode to understand is a huge thing in play as I wander throughout this country. It’s complicated by the fact that the information is literally being encoded in a language that the receiver (me) doesn’t understand fluently. This is where the gesturing comes in.  It gives a frame of reference with which to help decode the message that the sender is sending me, whether that is pointing down the hall in the direction I need to go, or holding up fingers indicating the platform number of the train I need to head to in order to catch the train I need to get where I am going.

In instances where the individual I am communicating with doesn’t understand what I am saying due to lack of speaking any English, there is another tool that I’ve been utilizing in order to help facilitate communication. It’s a device that, up until the last decade, was not usually carried on a person all the time. I’m talking of course, about smartphones. These things are wonderful tools, so long as they have power. Access to google translate has allowed me to type out basic, rudimentary messages and have it translate to Japanese for the person I am communicating with to read.

If for some reason my phone should fail, I also have a quick reference paper translation booklet in my backpack with phrases translated back and forth from Japanese to English which can help expedite this process as well, but it’s not as efficient. Luckily, I carry my “beast” on me for that added kick for power when I need it. The “Beast” is my battery pack which has a Capacity of 26,800 milliamps. It charges my phone several times and is capable of handling almost any power issue I have, short of charging my laptop, though I’m sure there are cables I can invest in, in order to fix this. I’m finding that having my laptop on me when I’m out and about is not really necessary. I can record everything I need to with my phone and when I get back to my room, transfer this information to the laptop which I’ve been leaving in my room while I’m out and about.

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The next part of my journey, as mentioned earlier, is to Mishima, at the base of Mount Fuji. This is the spiritual part of the experience I’ve been looking forward to since I started planning this trip. I plan on traveling to Aokigahara and climbing Mount Fuji overnight, hopefully, to watch the sunrise from the top of the mountain, some 3,700 meters above sea level. For me, these two things combined are akin to those of the Christian religion having an experience of “communicating with god”. For me, this is a time of meditation, and reflection while paying homage in a place that is so surrounded in mysticism and myth over the last several centuries, that you can literally “feel” the mythos in the air.

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I’m currently sitting on 26.2 GB of video footage collected up to this point in my trip, and I still have no idea how this is going to be pieced together for my final project for Anthropology 398. I’m sure something will make itself apparent, eventually. I just need to be patient, keep observing, keep documenting and hopefully, my creative tendencies will kick in, allowing me to make something worthy of this course.

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