The Rhythm of Takayama

Hi all, this is Ian from J-hoppers Hida Takayama Guesthouse. It has been nearly a month since I came to Takayama from Hong Kong, and I would say I have more or less got used to living here, meaning I won't get lost anymore going home and know where to get good food so that I won't starve to death. Now that I have got my bearings here, my goal in August is to do as much hiking as I can!

Before embracing August, let me first rewind a little bit to my first few weeks here. I was lucky enough to find a house to share with a Japanese, thereby not only saving me the hassle of looking for a suitable place and filling up the empty apartment with stuff, but also giving me ample chance to practice speaking Japanese and to have frequent interesting cultural exchanges. We are now taking turns making breakfast, which definitely adds to the fun of sharing a house together.

Speaking of cultural exchange, I was invited by the mother of a Japanese colleague two weeks ago to a mahjong game, which happens to be a staple part of elderly entertainment and also a popular game among youngsters in Hong Kong. Itching to play the game after coming here, I jumped at the chance without giving it much of a thought. But what awaited me at the mahjong table amounted to a sort of cultural shock. In Hong Kong, we discard tiles by throwing it out to the centre of the table, usually with some force that signifies the tile is no longer needed. And no effort is made whatsoever to separate tiles discarded by each player. When I threw away my first tile, my colleague's Mum, despite trying to remain calm, was clearly quite disturbed by my move. It was only after a few more rounds of tile-discarding that she confessed her shock to me. Apparently in the Japanese version, every discarded tile is arranged 6 in a row orderly in front of the player, thereby allowing other users to go back to each player's previous move easily without having to rely on memory. But what struck me was less the rationale behind the practice, but more its embodiment of  "Japan-ness". Japanese like everything to be neat and orderly, and try to avoid any uncertainties. This characteristic is beautifully reflected in the game of mahjong. If I have to make a comparison using music, Japanese mahjong is like classical music and Hong Kong mahjong is more like rock music. Anyway, the difference was interesting, and worth a bit more research. I would love to play the game again, assuming that the Japanese lady have not been intimidated by my "barbaric" way of playing the game.   

Apparently I have dragged on too long about the mahjong shock, and I will wind up here. I have a lot to look forward to in August, with all the hiking plans, and I just hope that I will be blessed with nice weather, and that I won't run into any bears on my hike. I will bring along my bear bells and sing out loud or talk to myself while walking. Wish me luck! 


Anonymous said…
Good to hear that a Hong Kong guy working in takayama, as our family will travel to Hida Takayama in December after Christmas. Something need your help ! ~ Gary
Anonymous said…
I can't help it and start laughing at your comical way of describing the majong session! This is really an interesting majong culture sharing in different country! Rock vs classical! Nice!

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