Negative Energy in Japan

This morning I returned to Jerusalem from a four-week trip in Japan. This was not the first time that I felt negative energy there, but this time I felt it so strongly, probably because I flew there immediately after the end of the first semester at the yeshiva, where I had such a powerful experience full of positive energy. The gap between the yeshiva and Japan was just too much to get used to in a single day. But on the other hand, I felt that the longer I stayed there, the more negative energy I became filled with.

I used to think and still think that this strong negative energy in Japan stems from sociocultural factors. Many people seem to be constantly afraid of something, thus seem depressed, and they depress others around themselves in turn. Even their seeming politeness seems to be nothing but a reflection of their constant fear of being disliked by others and other kinds of sociocultural fears. During these four weeks I saw few naturally smiling happy faces in Japan. I have also come to a conclusion that excessive consumerism there only serves as a kind of materialistic compensation for lack of inner happiness among many people living there.

The only place where I could feel positive energy among all the places I visited during this trip in Japan was the synagogue in Kobe (I am sure that I will be able to have a similar feeling in Chabad Center in Tokyo, which I have never visited). I spent the whole Passover there, so I had enough time to shmooze with two young Chabad rabbis sent from New York to Kobe to help the rabbi of the community. Shmoozing with them was not only intellectually inspiring but also spiritually uplifting. Actually, all the Chabad emissaries I met in Kobe deeply impressed me. The two most impressive things about them are their mastery of English, Hebrew and Yiddish and their joy of life. I have started to wonder what educational system Chabad has to produce such amazing people whom the present Japanese educational system will never ever be able to produce.

During the Passover in the synagogue in Kobe I had also a chance to shmooze with an Israeli acquaintance of mine whom I had met there a few times in my previous visits. He had a very interesting explanation about why Japan is so full of negative energy and so many people seem depressed (as well as why the synagogue is devoid of such negative energy). He explained this in physical terms. Although I could not verify his explanation scientifically, it made sense to me. But of course, I also think that sociocultural factors contribute to the negative energy rampant in Japan.

I know that writing about something negative emits negative energy, but I have decided to do this as a catalyst, hoping to recharge myself with positive energy in the second semester at the yeshiva, which will start in several days.