According to all official information, I live in a city called Tosa. It’s a small place in southern Japan on the island of Shikoku in Kochi Prefecture. Official information however is written based on technicality. In this case the technicality is that Tosa qualifies as ‘Tosa-shi’ by merit of the area that the city limits encompass rather than the total population. The -shi suffix is both a designator of a certain level of urbanisation and a measurement of a fixed area. To compare, the nearest -shi to mine is Kochi-shi. The capital city of the Prefecture. Of the Prefecture’s 330,000ish population, most live in Kochi-shi.
The reality of things however is that Tosa is a collection of farms and houses with a main street or two, a library, town hall and not much else. You wouldn’t think so to look at it but there isn’t really all that much around here. No martial arts halls, no drumming halls, no pottery workshops, indeed there is almost nothing beyond the two supermarkets and single izakaya (think tapas but Japanese). Initially I was more than slightly perturbed with being posted here. A large part of my joining this program was to dive head first into anything and everything I could. I would learn new things, practice old skills and over all get better all the while improving my Japanese. Well, my Japanese isn’t improving as fast I had hoped nor am I in a position to do many of the things that I wanted or planned on doing. However I am being given the opportunity to do something else.
I’m being given the opportunity to observe.
For better or worse, much of the information I personally am able to access and much of the information in general that is available regarding Paganism and Heathenry et al is in English and a large majority of it is written by North Americans or people living in the United States. This is important to point out.
Before settling down to write, I took a moment to catch up on Rhyd Wildermuth’s latest posts and in turn read an article on Strixian Woods (strixian.wordpress.com). Nor for the first time, I was reading about other people and their values and unconsciously wishing that I wasn’t Me. That I was them or lived a life like theirs. I actually felt guilty for using a laptop worth about three and a half Australian dollars, despite it being an old hand me down. Suddenly, my quiet life in the countryside of another country was something to be ashamed of when other people need to take drastic measures just so they can assist people on the street (c.f. Strixian’s latest article). I don’t even know why these other people’s lives were suddenly so much better, why having certain things was a source of guilt, why having a slightly sad little altar with no Praxis more significant than a few burned offerings and Rune draws caused me to feel lesser. For a change I’m certain that its not my own insecurities getting me.
What catalyses these things is, I’m pretty sure, that I am see morals/mores/ethics and philosophies and ways of living that I see a great deal of value in. Sure, if I am completely honest my life is objectively better. I have an apartment that is effectively paid for me, a secure job for at least the next 18 months with a not insubstantial salary. The problem, if it could really be called that, is precisely that however. Ironically. I think. There is no real inherent value in the life that I am living – other than being given a rare opportunity to develop as a person without many of the concerns that I, bizarrely enough, find myself longing to have.
There are two things worth remembering, or at least worth reminding myself. The first is that this job was always only ever a means to an end. It was a rare opportunity for me to break away from an old life and properly start my own. It is and always was, only ever going to be temporary. January is already over and I’m more than halfway through my first year here. The time is gradually drawing closer to when I will have to trail blaze once again. The second thing is perhaps more profound than the first. As I foreshadowed, many of the resources for Paganism and Heathenry stem from English and specifically North American sources. A quick glance at the state of the United States at the moment is more than enough to highlight that whether called such or not, the country is in a state of proto civil-unrest, civil war even. Recent years and events have shown that there is increasingly less patience on the part of the underclasses and increasingly aggressive behaviour on the part of everyone else. Conditions that aren’t being replicated elsewhere.
While I might otherwise want it to be so, my choice of isolation is one that I can be content with. It provides me with the chance to learn, grow, prepare and gird myself for a future and self that I am only really starting to get to grips with as I write this.