Saturday, September 13, 2014

Small Town Japanese Life in Second Life


Reality can’t compete with imagination.

Japanese Proverb



          During my recent visit with friends at a geisha house in Second Life (SL), I also had a tour of the town where the house is located.

          Having spent a fair bit of time in Japan in Real Life (RL) for a variety of reasons, (Significant Other is still impressed that I neither got lost nor impaired Japanese-American relations.  Truth be told, I’m kinda impressed myself!)  I had something to compare this sim to and I must say I came away very impressed by its lifelike feel.

          In this story, I’ll take you to this sim and describe it to you.  Those of you who are also familiar with Japan can keep me honest and, hopefully all of you my dear readers will take some time to visit.

          The sim is called Miyagawacho and can be reached by rezzing here.  It is based on a section of RL Kyoto the ancient capital of Japan prior to Tokyo and is considered to be the heart and soul of Japanese culture by many.

          Now, in RL, I haven’t been to Kyoto but I’ve been to much of Tokyo and the northern part of the main island Honshu.  (Long story about my wanderings across Japan and meet me inworld sometime and I’ll give you the lowdown.)

          Rezzing into town leaves me in front of the geisha house on a typical street in a Japanese small town.  Low storied buildings line both sides of the street.  Looking down one end a large temple looms.  Looking the other way I see a T-intersection and head that way.  (Maybe it’s Robert Frost’s influence but I’ve always been attracted to forks in the road.)

          Walking down the street, the building style is what one sees away from Tokyo or in its outlying districts.  Sliding panels serve as entrances to buildings.  Signs are in Japanese characters (naturally).  Lanterns hang from buildings.  Colorful noren hang in doorways.

          The detail is incredible as is the color.  Bus stops, mail boxes, and vending machines line the streets.  Street signs are authentic and right where I expect them to be.  The effect is almost photographic but it’s not.  Somebody very skilled scripted all this.

          The street layout is not one of those typical SL bland street scenes.  Streets are narrow as in RL.  The pavement brings back memories of strolls around Japan.  I can’t even read the posters on the walls as when I was there!  (I really appreciate it when folks go out of their way to make me feel at home!)  Bicycles are parked everywhere. 

          The realism extends to the small shops along the street.  These are not the usual SL fare peddling cyber-stuff but attempts at RL businesses like the shaved ice store across from the geisha house. Other shops offer typical merchandise.

          Running off the main street that I’m on are smaller ones and alleyways.  One leads to the countryside and then to a river bank where floating lanterns drift by.  The folks behind this sim have definitely done their homework!

          Returning to the main street, I reach the intersection and turn left.

          This takes me to an onsen, or hot spring. Going inside, I’m in the common area which leads to the men’s and women’s sections.  (This isn’t another type of sim so get your mind out of the gutter.)  The men’s has the traditional layout. A preparation outside of the baths.  The actual hot springs are in the rear of the building.

          Exiting, I walk along the street leading from the onsen.  I pass a small street shrine and enter a Zen garden at the end of the street.  (This looks like a good candidate for my Great Gardens of Second Life series.) 

          Backtracking, I return to the main street and stroll down to the large temple at the end.  I go inside and am reminded of similar visits to temples in Japan and Asia that I made in RL.  (Not to worry, I respect all places of worship not only my own churches and have not been thrown out.  I know a few clergy who are going to breathe a collective sigh of relief with this one.  Significant Other doesn’t worry on this score, knowing my respect for anything bigger than me especially when I don’t understand it.)

          This brings me to the end of my tour for now. There’s a lot more to see.

          What impresses me most about Miyagawacho is the faithfulness to detail including scale.  There is a closeness about the sim which can only be appreciated if one has walked the highways and byways of outlying districts, small towns and villages of Japan.

          One aspect that is haunting about this sim is that I never meet anyone on its streets.  There is a ghost town affect.  Sadly, I’m reminded of the images of the area surrounding the Fukushima disaster site.  (I don’t say this to be flip.  In RL, I have many Japanese friends and have spent too many hours with them watching the aftereffects of the 3/11 tragedy on NHK.)  

          The sim’s completeness is another example of its high quality.  There are no unused open spaces as in other sims.  What one would expect to see in a small Japanese town is there.  A good Japanese friend of mine shouldered surfed for part of my walkabout and was very impressed by the quality and attention to detail.

          I can give a strong recommendation to visit Miyagawacho to anyone interested in seeing a snapshot of Japanese life or what a highly realistic sim can be inworld.

          The residents who live the geisha lifestyle there have a very high standard of behavior and do not consider themselves to be roleplayers.

          Go, enjoy yourselves, and maybe you’ll see me wandering about!

          I would like to thank my friend and maiko, Kikuyumi (“Yumi” for short.) for taking me on my first tour of the town.        

          As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   

          I’ve included some pictures from walk through Miyagawacho.  However, these do not do the originals justice.  Please go and see this sim for yourselves! 

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          Open roads and safe fires!
Photo No. 3 Small Street Shrine
Photo No. 4 Zen Garden
Photo No. 8 Outdoor Hot Springs
Photo No. 10 Vending Machines
Photo No. 11 Mail Box
Photo No. 12 Temple
Photo No. 13 Temple Interior
Photo No. 14 Sidestreet



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