I wrote before about one of the reasons I love Japan – the pursuit of perfection and attention to detail – and why I think that calls to the essence of who I am.
There’s another aspect that has been rolling around in my brain the past day or so since it clicked into place.
The Japanese have been known for being a culture who adapt things from other countries and build on them, making them better, and turning them into something essentially Japanese.
Ramen is one example of that, although I can probably list at least twenty things off the top of my head right now. The origins of ramen comes from China (as do innumerable other now-Japanese things). Without writing an academic paper on it, citing sources, and being really boring, I’ll just say ‘at some point, someone’ brought a noodle dish over from China to Japan and an interest was piqued. Instead of making the dish exactly as it was when introduced, they started to change things here and there – adding toppings, changing the noodles, putting it in soup, etc. – and ended up with ramen as it’s known today, which I think everyone could argue is a very Japanese dish. Iconic, even.
In fact, almost everything you think of as iconically Japanese could likely be traced back to having origins elsewhere. It’s not that the Japanese people are not original. To me, it’s that the pursuit of perfection through adaptation is more important. Some might say that lacks creativity, but I think it showcases just how creative Japan can be. To just take something as it is, even if it doesn’t quite suit your needs or tastes, is inefficient and sort of pointless really. To see something you like and then make changes to it, keeping what you appreciate and disregarding what doesn’t work for you, adding new ideas, takes innovation.
This has always been something I have admired. I just realized it’s because I do that too. I mean, I knew I did that, but I never really connected my love of Japan to the aspects of myself I actually like. “Borrowing” ideas from other people and tweaking them a bit to suit my own taste is something I’ve always done.
I don’t remember this myself but my mom has told me numerous times that I used to come home with crafts from preschool and reproduce them… only better. I still do that. The two items I sell in my Etsy shop were inspired by things I saw elsewhere but wanted to make myself after tweaking the designs to better suit my aesthetic tastes. My whole personality is based on traits I’ve taken note of in other people and adapted to my own behaviour and character.
I suppose it makes sense that I identified with the ingrained penchant to borrow and adapt to the point that whatever it is becomes thought of as representative of the whole when I first started learning about Japanese culture and history.