Blogs, Miami Globe Trotter

Miami Globe Trotter: Japan speaks in silence

The day starts at the Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Though a popular tourist destination, many people actively worship and pray here every day. // Jamie Servidio

The day starts at the Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Though a popular tourist destination, many people actively worship and pray here every day. // Jamie Servidio

Japan has left me speechless, and I mean that quite literally.

On the outside, Tokyo looks pretty similar to any major American city. There are tons of people, busy streets, skyscrapers, and the like. When I stepped off the train to this city that seemed so familiar, I was immersed into a city on mute. No one cursed at me to get out of the way or aggressively pushed past me to make it to work on time. No homeless person asked me for spare change, nor did I cringe at the odor from mountains of garbage lining any street corner.

Yep, I was definitely in a foreign country.

In the six days I was in Japan, the silence followed me. On the streets, on the subways, in the restaurants, from Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka to Hiroshima, Japan was quiet.

At first the absence of sound startled me, awkwardly realizing why foreigners often stereotype Americans as loud and obnoxious. I noticed every conversation my friends had, every crinkle of snack packaging, every scuff of our boots on the pavement.

But when I stopped talking and started listening, I noticed everything. I figured out the train system and noticed the flow of traffic. I started to stay left, and was quiet on the metro, in respect of the businessman’s tired eyes after a long day at work.

Tall stalks of bamboo tower towards the sky in Kyoto’s bamboo forest. // Jamie Servidio

Tall stalks of bamboo tower towards the sky in Kyoto’s bamboo forest. // Jamie Servidio

On the train traveling to Hiroshima, I was seated next to an older gentleman who didn’t speak any English. When the beverage cart rolled past, he asked me if I wanted a coffee (I’m assuming) in Japanese. I tried to tell him I was all set, but he bought me a cup anyway. There was a complete language barrier, clearly, but as we sipped our coffees in silence, I had an idea. I took out my camera and began to show him the moments I had captured since arriving in Japan.

We communicated seamlessly without speaking, giggling at the pictures of my friends sleeping on the train and “oooohing” at my photos of the temples in Kyoto.

When the train came to my stop, I smiled at the man and extended my hand. Looking into his eyes as I shook his hand, I felt connected to this man that I exchanged a maximum of 10 words with over our hour-long train ride next to each other.

Silence often has a negative connotation in American culture. For example, the harsh shush of a librarian or a mother’s use of the quiet game to get her children to settle down. Silence in Japan felt peaceful and respectful. I never felt constricted or suffocated by the quiet; I felt free.

I wandered through a bamboo forest. I watched the sunrise at the Heian Shrine in Kyoto. I sat on a bench in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. I savored the freshest seafood and hot udon soup at local restaurants. The best moments of my time in Japan were muted.

There is only so much of a country you can see in a week, but I really feel like I experienced Japan once I shut up and started paying attention. That is certainly something I will carry with me as I head to Shanghai. Until next time!

Jamie Servidio is a junior majoring in journalism. In the next 112 days, she will be circumnavigating the globe with Semester at Sea, stopping in 12 countries along the way.

February 2, 2015

Reporters

Jamie Servidio


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Shakey Rodriguez, the Miami high school basketball coaching legend, vividly remembers the first time ...

It was a good day for the Miami Hurricanes basketball team. They moved up to No. 6 in the AP Top 25 ...

Erykah Davenport and Shaneese Bailey made key plays back-to-back late in the game and four players s ...

1. MARLINS: Jeter's Fish trade Gordon. Stanton next?: While others spend -- like the Angels to ...

Five years and two days after being fired as FIU’s football coach, at least one report declares form ...

William W. Sandler Jr. Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education earns national recognition for it ...

Retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez gives "Major League" advice to UM’s fall graduating c ...

Becoming the Man of the Hour ...

Always a little bit of a flair for the dramatic. ...

A scholarship created by retired Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez and born out of his love ...

The University of Miami women's basketball team capped its seven-game homestand with a 79-31 wi ...

University of Miami senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios earned 2017 first-team 2017 CoSIDA Academic ...

The Hurricanes and Colonials square off at noon Saturday in Washington, D.C. ...

University of Miami men's basketball player Chris Stowell is an active member in the Hurricanes ...

Eighteen Hurricane student-athletes graduated from four schools and colleges at the University of Mi ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.