Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Midnight Sun and the Rising Sun

Nearly everywhere we travel, be it Paris or Yellowstone, there are bus loads of Japanese tourists taking pictures of each other in front of things. I first saw this in 1979 at the Louvre, watching Japanese tourists take happy snaps of each other in front of the Mona Lisa who was behind bullet proof glass. 
I did not expect to see the same in Finland. I expected most tourists would be other Europeans or North Americans whose cruise ships stopped by for a few hours, and that was the case, but there were loads of Japanese people there and I learned that FInnair has non-stops between Tokyo and Helsinki. I asked several people "why so many Japanese" and got several answers.

1. There is an obvious esthetic shared - they like clean lined design and for years, the iconic Finnish fabric and clothing company, Marimeikko, has had a big market in Japan as well as employing Japanese designers.


2. Moomims. They are characters who came to life 77 years ago, the creation of a Swedish speaking Finn, that went on to fame in 60 countries, especially Japan.  Moomins are to Finland what Disney characters are to the US.


3. Japanese people are nature lovers. They come from a very crowded island and are amazed by Finland's huge forests, hundreds of islands and vast amounts of untamed wilderness. 

4. Fascination with Santa and reindeer. 

And years ago, I read that there were large numbers of Japanese traveling to Lapland in the winter to see and, hopefully conceive a baby under the northern lights. 

And I think they feel comfortable with each other, their reticence to be forward, their nature to be very polite. 

We were at a folk dance performance, seated on benches on flat ground, and a man was standing in the aisle, blocking the view for many people, especially the woman near me in the wheelchair, and no one yelled "down in front" or made a move. After about 5 minutes, it took yours truly, the pushy American, to tap him on the shoulder and point to the people behind him. He looked horrified at what he had done and quickly left, out of sight. 

But while they have so much in common the language the Finns and the Japanese most share is English. Of course. 

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