Monday, April 5, 2010

Navigating a Different Culture

One of the great challenges in visiting any culture, but especially Japan, is deriving meaning from your cultural context. In a country with a different system of writing, this can be particularly difficult. Before taking off, we worked with the kids on their katakana & hiragana, something that, with the advent of apps on iTouches, has become immensely easier to do. Now that they're here, they are getting better & better; the motivation is certainly higher. It's pretty cool to see them increasingly pick up on the symbols. Suddenly, a light goes off, and what was once just a jumble of strokes provides meaning to them. The code has been broken!

Another interesting aspect for me to observe is how richly brands play a role in helping you navigate a culture. The kids love watching Japanese TV -- especially game shows -- but they absolutely love watching the ads. Then, when they are out in the subway or the shops, and see the products, they are very excited. Maybe that's not a good thing... but, as it puts the food on the table in my house, I'm good with it. And it just happens to be a very, very fun aspect of this culture. I really enjoyed making ads here -- almost as much as I enjoy watching them & explaining the in-jokes to the kids.

There is this other tantalizing aspect to Tokyo; it is highly modernized, but is not necessarily Westernized. And that's an important distinction; it's probably the single biggest learning I'm hoping the kids take away from this trip. In my view, the world will continue to modernize, but, as cultures such as China and India continue to naturally expand their influence in the world, our collective future will become less and less Westernized. And that's not a bad thing at all; over two thirds of the world's population lives in Asia.

So, it's Anne & my hope that this trip will give the kids a compelling glimpse into the future, arming them with a lifetime's worth of insight into what may be coming their way as they grow older.

1 comment:

  1. The cows across your street aren't enough, eh?