Japanese icon?

It was my first time visiting Japan. I was trilled! Before the trips, every time I mentioned about the trip to Japan to the people I had a chance to spoke to, several iconic images of Japan were mentioned in our conversation. One of the most popular one, is the temple. It is a must visit places, said a friend of mine. I did not get much of the idea.. until I arrived there. In my mind, my childhood memories of Japan began to become clearer. When I was a teenager, I had a girl guide’s friend from Japan. If I am not mistaken her name is Mihoko. When she first arrived, we took her to taste Kelapa Muda (young coconut juice). She loves it. She brought me a little geisha doll, which I still kept nicely at my mom’s place. My image of Japan has always been the softness in the way they speak, and mostly the politeness of their attitude. I thought Mihoko is a very polite girl. Everything she said is layered with words that is carefully chosen not to upset anyone, especially her Malaysian foster family. Mihoko introduced me to Japan. She never said no to any food we suggested her to taste. If she didn’t like it, she will say it’s enough. Otherwise she will politely ask for more. There is no geisha, bento, temple, samurai or oshin images in my mind at that time.. because it was only the beginning of Japan for me..

In my research I am interested in stereotypical icons a country’s projected to others. I am always interested in how this idea transmitted into images in people’s mind. Is it the childhood memories we had when we were growing up? Or, is the the constant advertisement and promotion we received in our everyday’s life? I don’t know much about Japan, and I was hoping that my first trip will provides some answers to my questions.. or at least able to guide my curiosity…What makes Japanese identity? I talk about politeness and attitudes in Japanese everyday culture.. and through my trips, this is clearly happening.. my childhood’s friend memories reappear.. and yes there are other stereotypical icons that everybody talks about.. but these ‘services of politeness and welcoming’ image from Japan.. for me is much stronger then other images… this is Japan..

Photo by NurulRahman 2010 (Copyright by Creative Commons and the author)