When I first landed at the Narita International Airport, I definitely thought it was entertaining. But to render the idea of what I felt when I actually arrived in the Harajuka area in Tokyo, that adjective should be centuplicated.
“Am I in Disneyland or in some Fun Land Park?” the question flew across my mind. I found the whole setting to be super amusing: people, streets, shops, temples, cats and even banks were absolutely colorful and inviting.
Even after many years of down-to-earth emotions, Tokyo still looks like a lively, 24-hour, non-stop amusement park experienced by 20 million people each day. It’s not news that Japanese people love to play; from pachinko to video games, and karaoke to theme parks, the Japanese have a peculiar feel on how to enjoy drinking, eating, traveling and dancing together. Tokyo’s visual background is almost comparable to a giant manga roll—a real-life comic book filled with funny pictures, videos, music and neon colors. Boys and girls, men and women are wearing the most interesting fashions on the planet, and they are showing off the majority of a brand’s bag, shoe, watch or dress for every square meter of the world to see.
But here …
Love is in transition.
Difficult to catch.
As it is all around the hectic present we are trapped in, to be honest.
In the Capital of the East, though, social models and pattern changes happen earlier than elsewhere. That’s true for love matters, as well; I can personally guarantee it.
Love relationships are not fashionable nowadays; it’s better to have money to buy a ticket for some exotic place. Love and marriage can wait …
According to a recent survey, this year’s St. Valentine’s date night might have had plently of vacant spots. The survey said about 60 percent of men ages 18-34 have no girlfriend, up nearly 10 percent in just a few years. A record 49.5 percent of women in the same age group have no boyfriend, up almost 5 percent.
Being a couple seems to be on the way out, a kind of bother.
Why is that? How could that happen? How come, in the cutest of the capital of the world, in which pictures of hearts and romance are visible everywhere, love isn’t a desiderable state?
There are at least two main answers to these questions:
- Due to the economic recession, the nature of intimate relationships before marriage is in a state of transition.
- Worst of all, intimacy has become irrelevant to most young people.
This lack of desire seems to resemble a sort of hikikomori, or a tendency to be pathologically reclusive, which leads leads people to shut themselves away from love.
Listen to what nearly 10 percent of young boys and girls are saying—“We are not in a relationship because we do not know how to be in one.”
What is, really, the big problem for dating, getting married or even splurging on the occasional dinner for two? One simple and nitty reality is that marriage has little to do with romantic love for most of the Japanese people. Girls in Japan used to tell me, “Japanese men just don’t understand romance.” (Are there any men in the world who do?)
But, what the hell? We can’t demand romance from our own family. Having understood that, even dating for romance or for sex (let’s not lie about this) does not exactly mean enjoying it for long periods of time.
Women grow very independent, self-confident and determined. They are able to take care of themselves. Men, instead, are less confident, are scared of responsibility, are concerned about money and have, virtually, very little to say.
We might also blame technology for the lack of love around the Japanese archipelago, but the Internet is a crutch, not a cause.
Perhaps we should also consider how love and Romanticism are presented in Japanese literature, movies and manga productions. In my opinion, the greatest writer of all has been Soei Shonagon, who completed her journal-book, “Makura no Sōshi,” better known as “The Pillow Book,” around the year 1002. Shonagon was a court lady to Empress Teishi in Kyoto during the gorgous Heian Era (794-1185). In those years, the main purpose of the people living at court was to write poems, to paint and to observe the beauty of nature and depict human feelings. With her journal, which is filled with lists of all kinds, Shonagon has been able to reach the deepest secrets of people’s hearts:
When I make myself imagine what it is like to be one of those women who lives at home and faithfully serves her husband—a woman who does not have a single exciting prospect in life, yet believes she is prefectly happy—I am filled with scorn. Often, these women are of relatively good birth, yet have no opportunity to find out what the world is like.
This was just one of many thoughts of Shonagon, a Japanese woman of a thousand years ago. I love her !
Nowadays, there are writers such as Haruki Murakami and Natsuo Kirino, as well as many others, who are talking of love in their fiction books and, quite often, their stories are about how “love hurts” or how “ love can drive you crazy” or even about “teenage couples who are eternally separated by terminal disease.”
Most of the movies follow the same pattern as the books: depressed, introverted, vacillating, extreme, fragile love.
The latest movie I have seen was “Norwegian Wood,” which is director Tran Anh Hung’s adaptation of the Murakami novel, which has sold around 4 million copies since its 1987 publication. The movie is dramatically stylish and has several emotional scenes, as well as great actors.
But how are love relationships depicted? Are they happy and healthy? They don’t look like it. We also have to consider, though, that a simple and happy love story isn’t that interesting—otherwise, Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t be eternally inside our hearts!
And after all this long digression in the Japanese sense for love, I could assert that love is having a pretty hard time globally-speaking, not just in Tokyo. It’s especially hard for those of us who are living in big cities.
Single life for women and men is becoming an undeniable reality. It does not count how beautiful or sexy we are (am I serious?); it’s a matter of blind fortune and compromise, folks! Love is in transition in Japan, and it is in the entire, lonely planet.
My suggestion, though, is to try to catch it whenever we have the right chance, to never give up no matter what.
It’s worth it, isn’t it?
Info about the blogger:
Fabiola Palmeri is a writer and journalist. She was born early in the morning on a snowy Jan. 1, in a lovely town in Switzerland. Her family moved back to Turin (Italy) when she was two years old, and she was raised in this fascinating, northwestern Italian city. After graduating from the Universita’ degli Studi di Torino (Turin, Italy), she decided to move to and work in Japan. She lived in Tokyo and worked as a newscaster and reporter for Radio Japan, the foreign radio service of NHK (Japan Radio Television). She also worked as a contributor while in Japan, and sent news to Italian newspapers and magazines, such as La Stampa and Elle Italia. She returned to Turin in 2000, just in time to experience the conversion to the Euro, and to feel, in her own country, as isolated as a foreigner. Her first fairy tale book, “Fiabe del sole più a est” was published in 2005. She is a contributor to the daily La Repubblica, as well as the daily’s website. She writes about Japanese subculture and society for magazines, such as Slow Food, and also maintains her own blog at nipponews.com. She loves to listen to and write short stories about love.