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23 May 2006

What is "The Crysanthemum and the sword?"

A Classic Analysis of the Japanese People - The Crysanthemum and the Sword  

 The Crysanthemum and the Sword is a comparative analysis written by cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict during the Second World War.
  Professor Ruth Benedict, a reknowed cultural anthropologist in the United States at the time, wrote this book as a study for the eventual American occupation government of Japan.  The rationale behind the book title The Crysanthemum and the Sword is a contrast between “crysanthemum,” referring to the culture represented by ikebana that holds flowers into an arrangement position by pins, and “sword” envisioning the aggressive/war-waging popular characteristic evidenced during the Second World War.  That the ordinarily calm Japanese people could become so aggression-oriented must have been incomprehensible to Westerners.
  Not everything written in the book can be easily accepted.  That the author was not able to conduct actual field research is a major factor, but now over 60 years has passed since its writing, and it reflects an analysis of an old Japan that has since changed.  However, there are some points that are valid in this era, and are still representative of Japanese society.

The Shame Culture
 The Japanese people are group oriented.  Rather than simply assessing the right/wrong of a situation, this orientation derives the influence for its actions and morality based on concerns on how outsiders perceive them.  The author analyzes and postulates that this is what controls the Japanese moral character.
 Internal spontaneous feelings such as religious faith or philosophy do not carry much leverage.  In other words, beliefs or a sense of righteousness/justice are not shaped by the individual.  During the war, the Japanese soldier with his “animal-like” loud war cry turned an abrupt reversal when he was captured and made into a prisoner of war.  According to the book’s analysis, the foundation and basis for this and other instances of a dual character can found in this cultural background.  
 This characteristic of dependence on the group has also been confirmed through genetic evidence.  It has been found that the serotonin receptor functions in the brain necessary for self assertion or expression are weaker in the Japanese.  The problem is that with this characteristic, there also comes a predisposition to usually restrain self expression and thus bear this emotional emptiness or burden; this holds the danger of potentially extreme reactions/outbursts to even innocuous things.
 Professor Benedict postulates that this “shame culture” is one of the reasons for Japan’s reckless entry into war after its isolation from the world, and that it is a major issue that postwar Japan needs to overcome.

21:25 Posted in Books, Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: Japanese

13 May 2006

American Architectual Heritage remained in Japan

Last week I went to famous theme park called "Museum Meiji Mura" that exhibites old time buildings in Japan including western style ones which Japan accepted for modernising its society.

It is located in Inuyama, Aichi Japan (Prefecture in the middle region of Japan, 2 hour SuperExpress train ride from Japan).  Please look at http://www.meijimura.com/english/index-e.html

There were beautiful buildings that were transported from where it was. One of the most famous ones is the former Imperial Hotel building which was built in Tokyo, 1923. Only Entrance Hall and the Lobby were exhibited. It was designed by famous American architect named Frank Lloyd Wright. This building experienced a very big earthquake occurred in the year its contruction was completed but it survived.


The inside is below.


It was like a Retro trip.

22:55 Posted in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: frank lloyd wright