I've been traveling through Japan's most southern island Kyushu last week. With Jonathan, who lives there and helped me, and his incredible microbus. What a journey it turned out to be. Completely different than Tokyo, but in many ways, actually the same. At first it was like I was seeing a completely opposite, different country, a rural Japan versus the metropolis, but I started to realise a powerful connection that surpasses all this and makes sure that they cannot exist without each other: the people.
I saw old and young. I saw ancient homes long abandoned and new homes being built. I saw young people that left to the cities and their parents that stayed behind. I saw grandparents and grandchildren. I heard stories about generations and how they are connected yet separated, each speaking fondly of the other, longing to be united. I saw entire ghost towns deep in the mountains, alongside young families arriving from the city and new houses being built. I saw dedication and perseverance, hope, loneliness and happiness.
I saw a lot of weight to carry, yet also a surprising lightness surrounding it.
And I saw memories, in a harsh mountainous landscape shaped as if it had physically made space to store them. Memories like old homes, new homes, torn down, built up everywhere. Everything alive, connected by a neural network of roads and power lines running from place to place.
But above all, I saw people that understood. That deeply respect and understand their roots, their relationship to the place they live in, the country and culture they live in, the past and future generations they live with and without, and how this makes them to who they are today.
They profoundly understand the weight they carry, and in a world where it seems like we're all uprooted running around in circles, feeling like we're all alone raising our little families in an – at best – seemingly indifferent world around us, I think this kind of understanding just might be important. Not only for us, but for our grandchildren.
I think I'd like to dig deeper into this one.