Before coming to Japan I had never lived anywhere except in my hometown. I coldn’t imagine living in another city, let alone another country. My biggest concern was finding a sense of community in a hugely densely populated country such as Japan. My hometown (Nanaimo) is a mid-size city on Vancouver Island, and I was born and raised on a small island in the harbour (Protection Island). Literally 2 km long by less than 1 km wide. My idea of community came from the close ties all member of our small island felt towards each other. I couldn’t imagine finding “community” in a big city.
But living in Japan has opened my eyes and I have been truly blessed to have moved to a place with such wonderful community spirit. But what is “community spirit” in Japan? Where can you find it? The answer is: everywhere! There are regular community events, such as neighbourhood clean-up, spring festival, Boy’s Day, Girl’s Day, Sports and Health Day, and so many more. There are also city held festivals such as Obon Matsuri, Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, International Festivals in many cities run by local international centers, regular Jazz festivals, and so on. There seems to never be an end to the number of community run events you can attend, year-round. And every one of these events is run by hundreds or even thousands of community volunteers, who do it just to help create a good time for everyone in their community.
These events are always high energy and extremely fun, with lots of games, live performances, live music, dancing, traditional costumes and drumming. People takes these events as opportunities to wear their yukata or kimono, pull out their dusty taiko drums and flutes and have a great time. Food vendors sell a huge variety of traditional and contemporary treats, other vendors sell an assortment of toys for kids, goldfish, even turtles!
So my initial worry about not being able to find a sense of community spirit in a big city has been relieved and I now realize that in a densely populated area there is the potential for even MORE community spirit. The Japanese have really worked well together to make life enjoyable in a densely populated country and have the idea of community has flourished here. I am now excited to be part of such a lively and vibrant community and look forward to taking part in as many community events as possible!
From SSE Ohtsu in Shiga Prefecture, Edward
PS- Please post your ideas about “Community in Japan” below in the comments section!
Edward, SSE Ohtsu