Japanese culture is probably one of the most robust cultures of the entire history of human civilization. There are authorities that have surmised that this robust culture is among the greatest contributors to the way Japanese economy is seen. Japanese economy is among the most developed in the 21st economic dispensation and this has been attributed to the conservative culture that has described the Japanese historical lineage.
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Among these authorities are those who point to the fact that Japanese culture can be traced from as early as from the antediluvian times of the Jōmon period to the current times where it is considered to comprise of shades borrowed from the Asian, North American and European cultures.
This culture is further considered eccentric from the way it can be observed that in its history, there was some sort of isolation from the rest of its world during what was called the Tokugawa Shogunate straight to the times that are referred to as ‘The arrival of the Black Ships’ otherwise called the Meiji Period. This essay considers some of these authorities that have given incredible insights concerning the Japanese Culture and discusses their perceptions regarding the same.
The book that is going to be considered for this write-up is J. Thomas Rimer’s and Van C. Gessel’s, The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, Vol. 1: From Restoration to Occupation, which is an anthology that has different authorities talking about different areas of Japanese Culture and the way it has evolved over time.
One of the authorities that I will consider first is Mori Ôgai, the author of The Dancing Girl, who was a Japanese translator, physician, poet and novelist of renowned reputation among his contemporaries.
In his book, Mori greatly concentrates on the Meiji period where he wrote critiques that were based on the Karl von Hartmann aesthetic theories. He talks about a channel of Japanese culture that was reserved to the traditional ways of livelihood where the natives heavily dependent on the peculiarities of their culture such as language and artistic work.
As an artistic literati, Mori in The Dancing Girl talks about artistic works that are peculiarly specified for the Japanese women that has differentiated them from women from other cultures. This, he achieves by using the girl in the story to who also posses as the main character to discuss his theme.
Two areas of the Japanese culture that Mori talks about is Ukiyo-e and Ikebana which are Japanese words that are common to the pre-Meiji artistic works of the Japanese people. Ukiyo-e is a collection of pictures of a ‘floating world’ which are used by the girl in his book to make her outstanding and unique among her contemporaries.
The other area that he talks about is the arrangement of flowers which is another area that characterizes Japanese culture. So common is the use of Ikebana among the Japanese natives that it has remained an identity for their culture over time.
Natsume Sôseki, in his article The Civilization of Modern-Day Japan’ & ‘My Individualism’ majors on the history of the Japanese governance and human rights activism which is another area of Japanese livelihood that is of great interest to scholars interested in studying this great culture.
He discusses the instances of revolts of ordinary people that struggled so much for the freedom of their state in some instances risking their lives.
These are the tenets of the Japanese culture that according to him have made this culture such a wonder for many scholars that have been fascinated by its development and establishment over time. Continued struggle for freedom through activism, human rights proponents and such advocates for human freedoms have greatly characterized Sôseki’s work.
A term he uses to further this surmise is Nihonjinron which can loosely be translated to mean ‘theories about the Japanese People’ and does so by further discussing issues to do with Japanese sociology, linguistics, psychology and science; tenets that have all along characterized the Japanese Culture .
In the same volume The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, Vol. 1: From Restoration to Occupation, Kunikida Doppo talks about Japanese culture as regards its development in a material sense in his article dubbed, Meat and Potatoes.
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He begins by first surmising that Japan is among the highest in the whole world in terms of the Rational-Secular Values when it comes to the way the natives express themselves with their possessions and artistic work. It is his contention that the Japanese culture is greatly predicated on the conservativeness of its foods, artistic work, among other identifiers he talks about.
He further talks about Japanese culinary past where he talks about the robust and refined cuisine that has been with this culture from its inception in the early ages of their development. This culture in Doppo’s eyes is so eccentric that it has been taken up by Western cultures like in the US, Europe where dishes such as tempura, sushi and teriyaki are commonly prepared and enjoyed by these foreign locals.
One of the reasons that he gives explaining the probable reason as to why these dishes are opted for by exotic people is the way the diet is associated with the longevity of the people of Japan both in their cultures and livelihoods.
In addition to these areas of Japanese culture that are discussed by these different authorities, anthology also talks about specific areas of the culture that are also just as important pointers to their uniqueness. One of these areas of interest is Japanese clothing. This is an area that is probably the most outstanding identifier that makes it so distinctive.
From time immemorial, Japanese people have had distinctive clothing that are respective to both men and women separately and there are no garments that are shared by both sexes. Some of these native clothing are kimono, naga-gi which are special clothes that are worn by Japanese natives on special occasions. There are further peculiarities with this culture that may be considered complex and difficult for non-Japanese natives to distinguish.
An example here is the Tomesode (which is a kimono that is worn by a woman who is married whereas Furisode is one that is worn by women who are not married. The difference between these garments is very slight; in fact, Mori jokes about it by saying that ‘it is easier to differentiate mansion and a bungalow than it is to differentiate these Japanese garments’.
In a word, The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, Vol. 1: From Restoration to Occupation is a great collection of literary works by different authorities on Japanese culture and it is among the best anthologies that make the volume a great read. In addition to these sentiments, it is overtly clear in the volume of the central role that the Japanese culture plaid in the shaping of the livelihood of the people and the entire country’s developmental areas.
Viewed in another way, the Japanese society is one that can be considered a closely-knit unit that makes it fabric that has enviable moral code, robust economic culture and superb national heritage. It is in this view therefore that the said authors that have been discussed herein unanimously point to the fact that Japanese culture is one that stands out among the cultures of the East and Central Asia in their its eccentric moral fabric that is favourable for economic development.