Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Functional Traveller: The sound of silence (is too loud)

October 20, 2015 by Sera Down, contributing writer

The invention of the modern dorm (or party-house, depending on how you view it) has mostly curbed the amount of contact necessary between normal society and the rowdy youth.

Some schools, like Camosun, still have not adopted the dormitory model of student housing, whether it be due to financial or social reasons. For Josai International University, the issue lies merely in finding space (the campus lies directly in the heart of Tokyo) and as such, Tokyo campus students are outsourced to a collection of apartment complexes in a small area named Funabori.

The Functional Traveller is an ongoing column in Nexus (photo by Sera Down/Nexus).

The Functional Traveller is an ongoing column in Nexus (photo by Sera Down/Nexus).

The town itself is quite similar in demographic to suburban Victoria, brimming with plump elderly folk and young families. Housing is composed mainly of blockish apartment complexes and traditional-style homes, often coated in a delicate frock of disrepair. But despite the high population density, neighbourhoods are unusually quiet. Any small sound can be heard disrupting the chirping of cicadas in a canon of silence.

Wielding grocery bags full of Suntory highballs and obscure Japanese potato chips, my peers and I often indulge in a mild-mannered form of college party. Sitting around a small dining room table (often with one person borrowing a pillow or desk chair to sit on), we laugh, gossip, and discuss the shortcomings of our (barely) English-speaking professors because, let’s face it, who can afford $20 for the izakaya down the road? We have just as much fun, spending far less money.

Understandably, this is treason to the Japanese culture of silence. For the Japanese, home is a place of serenity, where even children settle into comfortable silence after a comparatively long school day. As international students, we are barbarians, crashing through the woods and bellowing foreign nonsense. Thus, a pattern of passive-aggressive warfare has ensued: we make noise past 10 pm, they call the police.

We sigh in defeat when we receive a letter dropped into our mailbox at some early hour about the ruckus we caused the previous night and that we need to be more respectful. I guess some things, like silence, really are lost in translation.

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