The Least Desirable
Recently it was reported that Nagoya is the least appealing city to live in Japan. Seeing as Nagoya has now won a different, but similar, accolade as the last one (when we were voted the most boring), I thought I’d post what I wrote about the last time we were reported as being the most boring city in Japan.
A life without purpose is a hard and difficult one to live. Aimless wandering, the cycle of work, the fatigue that comes from all of it. Since moving to Japan, I have a front-row seat to a lot of the tiredness that people can experience. People are truly exhausted. If you do a Google image search for “Japan sleeping” you’ll find a slew of photographic evidence of this.
In getting to know people and the culture here, you start to see many of the reasons for this. Life is rigid, the rules for interactions and behavior are vast, and the thought of mercies being new every morning seems hard to believe (unless it’s a national holiday when you don’t have to go into work).
Despite all this, it’s a familiar reality to the people here. It’s also the flip side of the coin from the culture I grew up in that touts and praises individualism and freedom. Despite being opposite, that doesn’t make it worse. There are so many beautiful things I’ve learned about order, rules, working together, and considering others more important than myself here.
That being said, I think that a natural human reaction to being hemmed in is to want to break free. I firmly believe that human nature causes each and every one of us to want to overstep the boundaries of what we know and think to be good, and test those waters. Growing up my parents would warn me of the dangers of not venturing too far into the woods near our house. You know what that made me want to do? Go see the woods! In times of stress, we often let our minds wander to the imagined scenarios and places where things wouldn’t be as stressful. In Japan, I hear and see of testing those waters often as it takes on the shape that this culture forges it in to. 英語を喋りたい！外国へ行きたい！I want to speak English! I want to go to a foreign country! More often than not, however, people want to come back. It’s comfortable here, it’s normal here, and it’s familiar.
Recently a newspaper, The Japan Times, published an article titled: Nagoya: The Most Boring City in Japan. In a country that can seem mundane and stressful, our city ranks as the most boring. How’s that for a badge of honor? Interestingly, some of the people I’ve talked to who are Nagoya residents say they understand. The article actually does a great job of explaining the historical roots of Nagoya being slighted by the rest of Japan. One such method was started by a comedian and has morphed into using a Nagoya dialect as the “default accent of humiliation.”
There’s this American in me that loves to hear this. Why? Because I want to defy the odds! I want to prove people wrong by showing them that the city I love isn’t the worst, it’s the best! But doing such makes me, or even turns the city into the hero. If I pause and examine these gut-reactions, and I acknowledge my Christian duty in this place, the narrative shifts.
I think too often we get hung up in Christian greatness. We love to celebrate influential people doing extraordinary things, receiving praise and accolade by the general public as opposed to only Christians. I’m not saying at all that these achievements are bad things. I have friends who I love, admire and respect who have written books and been influential in their fields. I think these are great things that should be leveraged for the exaltation and proclamation of God’s love to us in Jesus Christ. The problem enters in when we see these achievements and accolades and believe them to be measures of greatness rather than the very gospel which they proclaim. I think one of the reasons it’s damaging is because we miss out on normalcy. We miss out on things that God treasures and delights in. He loves you, your neighbor, the person in the cubicle next to you, and the people on your street no one ever talks to. God looks at them with love and compassion and asks us to be a part of His redemptive love to them by making disciples.
Living in Japan has been a challenge to be normal. Basic things that I have taken for granted no longer come to me as quickly. Language ability, a large circle of friends, even basic principles of the things I know and believe as being universally understood, just to name a few. God has been challenging us to remember that He loves the normal, He loves the weak, He loves the overworked, He loves those who are right next to us. We can’t get swept up in thinking another version of success is the definition. Success has forever been measured out in the unsurpassable sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary. This is the standard of greatness by which those who are called according to His purpose must remember, remind one another of, and tell the world.
So, while I love a good challenge (Nagoya is fantastic, I promise!), what an opportunity to be normal among those who are apparently the most boring in this entire country, for the glory of God.
I pray this encourages you to be a light for Christ where you are today.