For the Japan­ese one could say space is unsta­ble. I mean, even the ground is not sta­ble in Japan. You’ll feel an earth­quake every oth­er week. Thus time needs to have some sta­bil­i­ty, the rhythms of life, the year, work, school, the sea­sons, habits, con­ven­tions, rit­u­als and tra­di­tions. Time is both fleet­ing and eter­nal. Every event, every instance recurs, an its recur­rence pro­vides sta­bil­i­ty. Thus while time flows, the recur­rence of ele­ments pro­duce a con­tin­u­um, a sta­ble ground for exis­tence. French soci­ol­o­gist Augustin Berque has called this “The Myth­ic Field” a sym­bol­ic lay­er that lies over the Japan­ese city. The ele­ments that form it are tem­po­ral instead of per­ma­nent, and it is defined by actions rather than objects. This myth­ic field con­sists of local foods, the signs of con­ve­nience stores, the vend­ing machines, the fleet­ing bloom of the cher­ry-blos­som trees, the year­ly neigh­bor­hood fes­ti­val, the chimes on the train plat­forms, Japan­ese bureau­cra­cy and the emper­or. The myth­ic field con­tains tra­di­tion­al as well as con­tem­po­rary ele­ments, and peo­ple cat­e­go­rize them­selves and their sur­round­ings based on this lay­er.

Retroac­tive Tokyo Diary | mon­nik

I think this “myth­ic field” might be exact­ly what I find so com­fort­ing about life in Japan (and to an extent also in parts of South­east Asia, such as the Bali­nese coun­try­side).

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.