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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

02 April 2006

Cherry Blossoms (What we call "Sakura")

This is the season I can think the scenaries of our country are better than any other country in the world.

Streets and parks in the city are decorated with pinky-white cherry blossom trees. Please see the photo album. I have more pictures of cherry blossoms in the city.  

22:20 Posted in Tokyo Life | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: Japanese

11 November 2005

Controversy over Article 9 amendment

More than half of Japanese citizens disagree with amendment of article 9 of the constitution, which prohibites State's possesion of arms. Even among youngsters who never exprienced or know the stories about the war there exists strong opposition.

Even after 60 years, people's opinion about the Pacifist constitution is not greatly changed. No one wants the war. But some politicians want to change it.

Well, my opinion is since I am realist I agree with constitutional amendment.  But not now, in the future. One of the reason many people oppose the amendment is they fear that if the constitution is amended, our troops would be easily sent to anywhere by stupid politics. Recently Japan sent troops to Iraq to follow the order of Bush. Our country lacks civilian control functions in the politics. That means our country's democracy is not functioning well.

We have yet to review the mistakes we made in the past. Older generations never reflected how they were wrong in the past. We've been suffering the traumas of the past and have yet overcome it. One example is denying of Masscre of Nanking. We always regret the consequences of the war, not the cause of the war we provoked. We rarely talk about Manchuria and Pearl Harbor.

We have to study the cause of the past mistakes.

That is what we have to do to get ready for the amendment.

Some oppose it simply because they are passionate pacifist. They say they want to make their country completely non military state like CostaRica. But that is totally impossible taking current situation Japan is in into account.

We have the troops so called "Self-Defense Force" and foreign mercenaries mainly stationed in Okinawa island already. That means we need military force to protect our national interests. Also it is not good for our country to heavily rely on US military presence. US is our most reliable ally but the foreign troops who always prioritize their own national interest ahead of others after all.   

01:12 Posted in Politics | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tags: Japanese