The Mind of East Asia

The Mind of East Asia

The Mind of East Asia

The Mind of East Asia

Excerpt

It is one thing to discuss theoretically the contrasts between the East and the West; it is quite another thing to have long personal experience of them. I grew up in Japan and subsequently spent eleven years as a journalist in the countries of the Far East, from Japan to Siam, and so I had opportunities for getting to know the peoples of those countries reasonably well. From time to time I visited Europe and so was continually able to compare at first hand the occidental and oriental ways of life. Each time I travelled back and forth the process of re-adaptation was a difficult one; each time it required a conscious effort to get used to the other world.

In Europe I was always impressed by the industriousness of the people, their mental and nervous tenseness and their preoccupied expressions. Only a few persons manifestly possessed the gift for enjoying the present; the majority appeared to be concerned all the time about the morrow. To come here from East Asia was like suddenly exchanging a warm bath for a raw wintry landscape. In the East you have more time, are less preoccupied with problems of all kinds, and that is why in some way you experience the course of the day and current events more intensely. I have always thought of my years in the Far East as having been very full and consequently very long, while those spent in Europe seemed short and fleeting.

During the first few weeks of my visits to Europe it really seemed to me that the people here were slightly mad. How sullenly they went about their business and how they scurried around! Their entire happiness appeared to depend on whether or not they caught a particular tram or bus. No one here walked at a steady, dignified pace through the streets as the East Asians do and as I felt really befits a cultivated person. On fine spring days no one here sat out in front of his house contentedly sunning himself and looking at the first buds and flowers.

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