The low country

© Grigoris A. Miliaresis

In Europe, when we say “low country” we mean Holland, the Netherlands. And of course, geographically speaking we are correct but if we come to the concept of lowness itself, I doubt there is any other country, people or culture where this idea is more pronounced than Japan and the Japanese. This characteristic is so prominent in this country that sometimes I really wonder how it happened and the Japanese didn’t create structures of the most bottom heavy shape there is: the pyramid.  (Even though, they actually did build quite many mounts with a rather similar shape).

Why? It might be because vital room is scarce in this land which, even though larger than most European countries, is 75% uninhabited because of the mountains. Come to think of it, it might be because of the mountains themselves: living among all these mountains, the biggest of which, the emblematic Fuji-san is the perfect image of a triangle, this idea became embedded in the national unconscious of the Japanese and they recreate it in everything: the way they talk, constantly humbling themselves, the way they sit and sleep, the way they built their houses or they way sumo wrestlers build their bodies. Everything is low, close to the ground.

My personal explanation is that living on such an unstable land the Japanese feel the need for some stability; since the ground itself doesn’t provide it, they try to imitate it in their lives like some sort of homeopathic magic, a wishful thinking that will protect them from all those times when the earth moves or when the winds become so strong that they sweep things and lives. For any reason, it’s interesting to watch how this idea of lowness permeates everyday life and how nobody notices it; like here, in a very central, very urban café in the city of Kawasaki, less than ten minutes from Tokyo station.

Grigoris A. Miliaresis is a journalist and translator. He has worked for many newspapers, magazines and publishing houses and specializes in the Internet, the martial arts and Japan where he has been living for the last few years. 


Γρηγόρης Μηλιαρέσης
Γρηγόρης Μηλιαρέσης
Δημοσιογράφος και μεταφραστής. Έχει συνεργαστεί με πλειάδα εφημερίδων, περιοδικών (τόσο του γενικού όσο και του ειδικού τύπου) και εκδοτικών οίκων και με ειδίκευση στο Ίντερνετ, τις πολεμικές τέχνες και την Ιαπωνία όπου και ζει τα τελευταία χρόνια. Από το 2012 μέχρι το 2016 έγραφε την εβδομαδιαία στήλη στο "Γράμματα από έναν αιωρούμενο κόσμο" και το 2020 κυκλοφόρησε το ομότιτλο βιβλίο του. Περισσότερα στη συνέντευξη που είχε δώσει στο

Η αναδημοσίευση περιεχομένου του (φωτογραφιών, κειμένου, γραφικών) δεν επιτρέπεται χωρίς την εκ των προτέρων έγγραφη άδεια του


Japan drinks and goes home (*)

They drink. A lot. They drink at festivals, at restaurants and cafés, at karaoke parlors, at onsen, at bars, clubs, on the street, at...

In the shadow of the Buddha

It’s been almost five years since I found myself for the first time in the Kotoku-in temple in Kamakura and, after doing the small...

The day of the rooster

Casual visitors passing in front of the Otori Jinja, the Shinto shrine in the Senzoku area of the Taito municipality of Tokyo, ten minutes...


If you talk with those standing and selling “The Big Issue” in the western entrance of Shinjuku Station they will tell you with certainty...

Blunt edge technologies

“These photos are why I'm trapped in Tokyo forever” is the title of an essay that was published recently, first in “Medium” and then...


I fell in love with the Japanese folk festivals/fairs (matsuri) as soon as I saw my first one. First of all it’s the colors...

Rice and foxes

If there was ever a popularity contest for deities in Japan, the contestants would be three: the “saints” Kanon Bosatsu and Jizo Bosatsu from...

The silver city

It was first put on the map by the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, Ieyasu when he decided that the country he managed to...