People here really stare at other people—not just at me. There’s a level obsession with the visuals of other people’s lives that seems counterintuitive to the respect they give each other.  

What I learned in Japanese class today says a lot about the culture:

The word for "beautiful" also means "clean".

The characters for the word "entertaining" literally translate to white face. 

There is no future tense. When talking about the future, the present tense is used. 

Does my love of architecture in Tokyo prove that I have a fear of what’s behind or inside or deeper here? Am I only comfortable with what's at the surface level? 

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I was recently introduced to Empire of Signs by Roland Barthes, a short book about his observations of Japan. I am nearly finished reading it and I am so relieved to hear someone else thinks about this place in such a similar way as I do.