Untraveled path to rural Japan

Bomi Yoon

By Shin Hye-suk

 

In the intricate tapestry of life, choices often define our journey. Robert Frost’s iconic poem, “The Road Not Taken,” encapsulates the perpetual contemplation of alternate paths and the lingering curiosity about what could have been. We all harbor these wistful musings, wondering if another choice might have led to a more fulfilling existence. It’s an eternal dance between what we know and what could have been, a dance I found myself revisiting amid the tranquil beauty of rural Japan.

Having spent my formative years in a bustling metropolis, I yearned for the serenity of Japan’s rural countryside — a road less traveled, an escape from city life’s cacophony. The recent remarkable depreciation of the yen has transformed this yearning into both a personal quest and a strategically sound decision.

My recent journey led me to the hot spring haven of Fukuoka in the Kyushu region, nestled in the embrace of Japan’s volcanic terrain. Steam gently rose from the earth, a reminder of the latent power beneath. As I pondered the potential risks of volcanic activity, the reassuring smile of an elderly resident, a living testament to living in harmony with nature, and the nourishing local products eased my anxieties.

As I encountered a nonagenarian in the village, someone who had never ventured far from her birthplace, I was struck by the simplicity and contentment of a life lived in one place. The unwavering peace she exuded made me wonder if such tranquility could be found in settling down. In that moment, captivated by the allure of rootedness, I reflected on the potential source of such peace.

In the heart of the village stood the Senbei confectionery shop, a four-generation legacy of dedication and humility. The genteel proprietor, bowing with reverence, embodied a virtue seldom encountered in the fast-paced modern world. Their commitment to upholding tradition and preserving their ancestral heritage spoke volumes — a silent testament to the power of legacy and resilience.

The rural landscapes, though seemingly unassuming, held a deeper human resonance that transcended the glitz and glamour of any bustling city. They whispered of a simpler existence, rooted in tradition and community, where the passage of time was marked by the changing seasons and the rhythmic flow of life. My journey through rural Japan was not just an exploration of the untraveled path but a poignant reflection on the essence of a life well lived. In the quiet embrace of the beauty of nature and the steadfast determination of its people, I found a profound appreciation for the virtues of simplicity, humility, and the enduring legacy of tradition. In this overlooked corner of the world, I discovered a path less traveled yet brimming with the richness of the human experience and warm emotion.

 

Shin Hye-suk (sinesu@naver.com), whose English name is Shindy, completed a Ph.D. in sociology, has devoted two decades of her life to academic pursuits at a university in Japan. She is also a flower artist and has served as president of Rotary International Korea.

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