Back in Town
February 23, Saturday
My final day in Akita. Seven weeks wrapped up in a single day. After the last student had left and the doors were closed I was called into the staff room. Everyone was present to wish me a proper goodbye. I was given a gift and a touching poster board signed by everyone. Half the staff then went home. With the other half I ventured out for dinner and drinks.
You know the drill. Sake (日本酒). Local food (きりたんぽ). Karaoke (カラオケ). A lot of fun was had by all.
The next morning came with a slight headache but no regrets.
I had thoroughly enjoyed seven weeks in Akita. The people were great. The food was delicious. If given the chance I would return. I suggest anyone given the opportunity visit Akita. But take snow boots. Trust me on this.
February 24, Sunday
Back in Tokyo. People everywhere. Temporary sensory overload. It was good to be back but 40 million people is a lot to stomach.
It took about an hour to readjust. It’s good to be back.
–Galapagos Syndrome (ガラパゴス化)-
This is an interesting idea that I learned while living in Akita. “Galapagos Syndrome” is a term that refers to an isolated development of a globally available product. The example I was given was the Japanese cellphone. The Japanese cellphone, see flip-phones, is an impressive piece of machinery. You can watch TV on, send an array of emoji, and run a host of Japanese applications. However the phone has zero marketability abroad. Because the Japanese market is quite different from others they often have trouble selling their products to others. This term was coined for their cell phones but applies to many things.
The Galapagos islands were special to Darwin because of their geographic remoteness. Being an island cut the Galapagos off from the mainland. Just like the Galapagos, Japan is a series of island cut off from the mainland. But unlike the wild animals Darwin discovered, the Japanese have often willingly withdrawn from the mainland and purposefully used the ocean a divider.
Japan is famous for having been a closed country for two hundred years. Foreign people; foreign goods; foreign thought, everything foreign was rejected. This exile left such an indelible impression that Japanese culture has yet to fully rebound.
This period of isolation has continued into commercialism. The demands of Japanese consumers are often so different from the rest of the world that businesses struggle to win both markets. Naturally there are exceptions to this, like Toyota.
But when you start viewing Japan as a type of Galapagos island, many of the eccentricities begin to make a lot more sense.