chapter  12
Britain at Expo' 70 in Osaka
Pages 9

More than anything else, what initially struck us all was the 'difference' between Japan and our own familiar environment and culture. While this was something that we well knew in theory, and was exciting in prospect, the immediate sense of being in an 'alien' environment, where everything was different, from the most basic social customs or cuisine through to aesthetic values and literary traditions, was something that posed difficulties for all of us. While we were all happy to adapt to and experiment with what we ate, for example, the near impossibility of buying some of the basic British staple foods, such as cheese or cereals, meant not only an instant modification of diet, but also a recognition that 'Western' food was far from being the international norm. Prawns seemed to come with everything. We considered the Japanese version of other staples, such as bread and milk, distinctly unappetizing, and rumours circulated that Japanese milk tasted as it did because the cows were fed on fish! So, while we were comfortably accommodated in Western-style flats that would have been luxurious for many contemporary Japanese, and were in many ways insulated by our employment from the lives led by most Japanese, everywhere we went, every contact that we had with local people, did tend to reinforce a sense of difference. Where friendships were formed this became less prominent, but this awareness of difference, which will be familiar to many who have lived in Japan, was, if anything, heightened by our youth and generation. We had come from a Britain of miniskirts, the Pill, the Beatles, rock festivals, student protest, women's rights and unconventionality. Japan, by contrast, seemed dominated by conservatism and conformity, full of men and women who married when they reached the right age rather than when they fell in love, and where few women sought a career.