It is raining here in Zürich. An appropriate ending to a rich trip. Tomorrow the plane leaves for Bangkok and further on to Japan. Needless-to-say my emotions have been swinging this way and that, trying to come to terms with the discrepancy between the satisfaction of the lifestyle I’ve been living for the last month and that of the frustrating term in Japan. I know for certain now that I have to find a way out of the way I’m living there. It’s been eating at my soul for too long.
The constant encompassing of tourist holes is also affecting me, too, though. When I took the cog train to the top of the mountain, Gornergrat, above Zermatt, at 3100 meters, I found a shopping mall there! I stood there dumbfounded; couldn’t people let go of their need to purchase things and just stop for one moment to let the mountain be? Appreciate it as it is?
And that’s the thing about Europe, and the Alps, and a question I’ve been asking myself ever since I had a conversation with a Japanese couple the other day, in which we were talking about why people in Japan don’t hold precious their historical and environmental heritage in the same way as the Europeans. While walking along the gallery of huge mountainscapes in France I kept muttering to myself, “People are really full of themselves here.” By which I meant that there is an undisputed assumption that the Alps are beautiful, that the old villages are quaint, that the food is delicious, that life is “sane”. Never does anyone question the very idea of turning the mountains and villages, people’s lives as a whole, into a viewing stand, or letting the old things die away. It is like an enormous museum, which to me, are dead places, things which are not allowed to alter into something new. And that’s what tourism does here. It clings to antiquated ways without letting the images turn.
So I will return to Japan with a different sense of what the Japanese see in the world and how change is an intimate part of the way they live. The mountains there are not museums; they are living places and people are a part of that. Perhaps I can learn to feel the same way, more or less.