The question of ‘where’s your home’ is very political for me. Or, I just made that up and actually I’m just that pretentious. But to have and recognise or decide where my home is, it’s not an easy task. Administratively speaking, I have three houses where I reside back and forth. First, it’s in small barrack in old palm oil plantation somewhere in Riau, and currently it’s for rent for someone else. Second, it’s my home in suburb Pekanbaru, Riau, miles away from the plantation- a very calm and quotidian housing complex, also among the oldest housing district in the province. Third, where I currently live; Depok, Jawa Barat, due to studying in Universitas Indonesia. They are all actually my parents’, for I do not put my heart into concept of inheritance and I have strict rules over what belongs to me or my parents.
To satiable Deluzian concept of deterritorializing, reluctancy is the first thing that arrives in my mind when I think about staying and inhabiting. I believe it’s not necessary to determine where I belong, but rather to understand how this belonging concept changes over the years of learning and introspecting. However, I may still have a little voice whispering (or actually haranguing) about one particular city that I visited in 2014; Kyoto.
When I ask many people about the probability me picturing myself living in small flat in old Kyoto, not so few who raised their eyebrows. “Japan is very strict country, their work ethic is beyond belief, even for simple thing like neighbourhood ethic” said him once. Unlike the electric Tokyo, Kyoto is far from typical urban willy-nilly. Their zen parks are everywhere, and I found so many young women enveloped themselves in eloquent kimono, I also admire the way they treat woods for housing choice over insipid and languid concretes. And for tourist-friendly municipality, Kyoto is not really dense — it’s only 1,5 million people in whole district. Its environment is thick and tidy, yes it’s true, but somehow I feel liberated in the busy hour of society who refuse to stop working and creating — under capitalism, tee-hee.
Kiyomizu-dera is especially my favorite. Block of stores wrapped a pedestrian heading to the Buddhist temple. There, I was offered three mitarashi dango (the taste was spectacular) — it’s another reason why I feel trapped by Japan, their food is suitable with my, oddly, Sumatran tongue whose tastebud usually only reacts to strong food. Especially to remember Japan is not famous for striking flavor in their cuisine, with exception to the evil wasabi.
I find Japan is a place where craftmanship is above anything else. Their stereotypical delicacy, aptitude, and hardworking are among that attract me to blend and let myself molded in such developing culture who finds itself walking on a tightrope between feudalism and hostile affair with modernism. It’s so easy to find cases where Japanese ‘old’ tradition in something still persists and face so-called challenge in ‘instant, mechanic process of creation’.
The discipline reminds me of my mother, and my family in general, where we don’t discuss our feeling and it results in stoicism that grows stronger each day in me. This is unhealthy at some point when there’s humiliation for suicide survivors or the regime of politics of stability that roots heavily in Japan conservative style in governing its people. Based on this argument enough, it’s very unlikely young people of milenials who strive for better economics and just socio-political culture to even think that Japan is the best place to reside and make ends meet — given in Ginza alone, the land price has rocketed over the past 10 years, and in 2014, it was roughly 10 million Yen per acres. Not to mention, the austerity policy that Shinzo Abe has conducted due to unfriendly situation in East Asia politics.
A lovely man in Osaka once helped me out very persistantly and even took me back to hotel when I was lost in block of modern shopping center Shinsaibashi. In another time, a non-English speaking head restaurant tried so hard to figure out what I needed (it was lukewarm water), to the point she finally brought up a paper and pencil, asking me politely to draw. She apologised for making me have to sketch the ‘hot glass’ (she said ‘gomenasai’ repeatedly). This kind of attitude where they have sense of collectivity even for foreigners apparently has to come face to face with the ethno-economic social crisis where individualism is sounded by conservative party who urges Abe to make Japan capitalism ‘great again as it used to be back in the days’, although it means worsening the corrupt bureaucracy in Japanese government. In reality, turns out, Japan is very complex and it’s not just simply a country whose ‘tradition is abreast with modernity’. They have long and rich cultural history, and even to call them a homogenous country is quite disrespectful to their turbulant narration.
In Kyoto particularly, one often undermines the fact that beneath the realm of steady and tight Kyoto, there was a scrumble of communist purge in 1950-1960s where many Kyoto universities spied their suspected-communist professors, with crucial hand from Zen-Buddhism. And in the postwar (World War 2), Kyoto School positioned itself as significant roleplayer in restoring image of the Japanese colonialism in southeast Asia. This would contradict my previous point about ‘zen-park everywhere’ in Kyoto which derogates the complex position Kyoto has been put for itself since it became the capital of Japanese Imperial from 794 to 1868, but this is exactly my point; disclosing the Basho-style surrounding with narration of atrocities. Japan, and especially Kyoto, is ravaged by wars, earthquake, fire, and still stamped as the old days of Heian-kyo of being ‘tranquility’ and ‘peaceful capital’.
I grew up in regular-Joe Riau, where nobody would bat an eye with that province, and its society is stereotyped as wealthy people with no troubles except our corrupt local government– although the report on agrarian dispute shows the exact opposite for this argumentation. And I don’t know exactly when, I felt it’s lovely to live under the veil of people who think they know about us and call us names, but to reveal the real problem is suddenly a revolutionary act because nobody has ever talked about it. Where the craftmanship of Malay people has been forgotten for years and the question of locality seems a dull and banal inquiry, I see Kyoto (and Japan!) face the same dust tone of the world who constantly labels them; our lovely capitalist friend, miracle of the economy, austerity, ‘pure-blood’ Japan, tak kan hilang Jepang di Bumi, and so on.
Forgetting the fact that each place has its own bloody story, and perhaps far away from the center, yet for the periphery study, they would not be so much attractive for its so-called ‘tranquility’ and ‘peace’.