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View Diary: Japanese Mind 2 – The Crane Wife Strikes Back, and King Midas (72 comments)

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  •  Is harmony the right word? (13+ / 0-)

    I think that "harmony" has been used classically to describe Japanese society for long enough that the true situation is a little obscured.

    To Western, romantic thought, harmony is a complementary situation set up between two people, groups, etc.

    To Japanese, honorific thought, the situation described as "harmony" is a reciprocal situation set up between the individual and his place in society and the myriad other ways of defining the groups he may or may not be within at that time or situation.

    Japanese "harmony" = Western "knowing your place and the responsibilities that come with your position to those above you, which are different from those below you at the time, and that one shall behave within that definition, for if one operates outside of it the balance of society is threatened interminably."

    Or something like that.

    One illustration I came across many years ago was about motorcycle gangs. In America, disillusioned youth would quit the confines to society to enjoy the freedom of being in a motorcycle gang.

    In Japan, disillusioned youth would quit the confines of society to... join the exact same social structure in the motorcycle gang.

    The United States for All Americans

    by TakeSake on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:16:23 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you for this thoughtful response (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak, ichibon, TerryDarc

      Besides being informative, it made me wonder about how the cultures might perceive the sense of injustice differently, especially this:

      Japanese "harmony" = Western "knowing your place and the responsibilities that come with your position to those above you, which are different from those below you at the time, and that one shall behave within that definition, for if one operates outside of it the balance of society is threatened interminably."

      How is one's position determined? Is there flexibility in movement?

      'A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit' Greek Proverb

      by janis b on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:36:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That question... (15+ / 0-)

        Has vexed everyone who has tried to study Japan, and I'm sure it's vexed everyone who grew up with it.

        I know that whatever answer I attempt will be incorrect and incomplete, but here goes:

        Position
        Hereditary
        This was the classic case in old times - certainly up through 1868. However, it can be adopted for the sake of continuing a name, line, school, etc.

        Organization
        The stereotypical corporation. The new recruit is hired out of high school or college, and starts at the bottom. There was a nice discussion about the apprenticeship experience in the other diary. If they don't make too many large mistakes they work up through the ladder on schedule.

        Family
        The son of a rice farmer becomes a rice farmer. The son of a fisherman becomes a fisherman. The son of a politician becomes a politician. This has changed a lot, upset by various wars and social upheavals, but it is a current that still runs strong.

        Flexibility
        On Track
        The person who works within the system will experience the flexibility of being able to move up. In many ways this amounts to something of a change of position, while it also remains comfortable and familiar.

        Off Track
        After the turn of the century, and certainly after WWII, Tokyo was the place to go if one wanted to somewhat escape the confines of ones hometown (furusato). I think that this partially drove the post-war entrepreneurial dynamic.

        The United States for All Americans

        by TakeSake on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:07:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you (5+ / 0-)

          for taking the time to contribute your understanding to my/our knowledge and appreciation of the culture. There's probably no correct or complete answer anyway, and if there was, we wouldn't have the pleasure the process of questioning and discovery brings. It must be a very complex and difficult endeavor for the individual to successfully negotiate a place, that both, diverges from and honors the traditional ways.

          'A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit' Greek Proverb

          by janis b on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:51:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  How do you explain Hideyoshi? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak, linkage, janis b
          •  Becuase Hideyoshi beat the odds? (5+ / 0-)

            I'm sure I'm not qualified to answer.

            But to me, Japanese historical figures have been mythologize to the point that there are not real people.

            Just like Japanese anime,
            They all assigned to the role, Hideyoshi's role is obvious.

          •  There are always a few who break out of (6+ / 0-)

            their assigned position and duties. Those who succeed brilliantly in the arts are quite often assigned a new position as official National Treasures.

            Every Japanese Buddhist knows something about the Sixth Patriarch of Zen in China, who was a "barbarian", that is, not Han Chinese, but rose to the top, and is thus a spiritual ancestor of all of Rinzai and Soto Zen in Japan. But not all Zen followers believe that a non-Japanese can understand Zen. This belief, of course, misses the whole point of Zen.

            To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self, and to be enlightened by everything in the world.

            Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

            by Mokurai on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:59:07 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Another example... (5+ / 0-)

            Is Yataro- IWASAKI, who built up Mitsubishi, started out as a farmer because his family lost their samurai status.

            He was colorfully portrayed in Ryomaden a few years ago.

            Perhaps these examples outside of the more traditional structure show that there are always opportunities for those who realize that not following the rules of society does not mean society won't benefit from it.

            Then again, during that 1853-1868 time there were many winners and losers across all parts of Japanese society.

            The United States for All Americans

            by TakeSake on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:25:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I might mislead you again, (6+ / 0-)

              I’ve never meant to say,
              There are no Japanese who can beat the odds.
              Of course there were, just like any other countries.

              But what I wanted to say was,
              We Japanese live in the fantasy world like:
              “everybody care each other, that’s why there were no crimes. We are uniquely peace loving people.”

              That’s not true, we are no different. There are good people and bad people just like anywhere in the world.

              What I wanted to say, and what I always tell my Japanese friends when they asks me why I always talk about bad things about Japan.
              Because we need to know bad thing about Japan in order to know what our hero fought against.

              I was listening the news contributing Pete Seeger.
              They were talking about his fight against US government.
              We never have that, even we did.
              We had a lot of people who fought for Japan, just like any other countries.
              We never learn how our heroes fought for us, because our government dumb us down.
              You may be able to read them about, since a lot easier to find the truth in English than Japanese.
              We can’t learn about our own history to appreciate our heroes.

              I want everybody to appreciate our heroes, so I want everybody to learn about the system they fought against.

              •  The recent secrecy law that was passed (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                This old man, janis b

                is a good example of what YFA is talking about, how the government wants to keep people in the dark. However, I disagree with her about Japanese people not fighting against the government. There are many NGOs where people take things into their own hands because they distrust the government and there were many demonstrations against the secrecy law--however, the government here has the press in its back pocket so they don't report on such anti-government activities. YFA is right that it's easier to find the truth in English than in Japanese.

                One question I'm often asked is why Japan committed atrocities in WWII. I think, and this is only my opinion, that there were two reasons. One is that Japan believed it had learned a lot from China in centuries past, but now Japan had the superior society, so it would kindly return the favor as a "big brother" to China. Of course there were imperialistic desires (what better way to Westernize than by imitating Western countries in this way too), but there was also a sense of altruism, strange as that may seem. When China fought against Japan, they were considered to be "unreasonable" not to accept Japan's "kindness," so they were treated badly, i.e. punished for not behaving appropriately. Also, the situation was different from anything Japan had experienced before, so the rules that kept order in Japan went out the window. I know this is simplistic and may be totally wrong, but I think it fits with the general Japanese way of thinking.

                •  Once again, I'm not talking about (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Hatrax

                  individual people, since
                  there were many Japanese fought against government.
                  But in order for us to appreciate them properly.
                  We need to understand the system and how needed to be done.

                  Like Chiune Sugihara  杉原 千畝;
                  "He was a Japanese diplomat who served as Vice-Consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania. During World War II, he helped several thousand Jews leave the country by issuing transit visas to Jewish refugees so that they could travel to Japan. " (by Wiki)

                  He is famous inside and outside of Japan.
                  And now Japanese is proud of him, there are big monuments in his home town.

                  But in order for us to appreciate him right is,
                  He had to sacrifice his career to do so and he knew that.
                  Japanese government and Japanese people treated him as a traitor when it happened, since we allied to German.

                  Those detail usual never hear about that, since it blacken the image of the Japanese system.
                  But that was what he really fought against, not German, he had to fight against his own people to do right thing.
                  We need to know that.

                  And whole Japan and China relation during world war II.
                  Your idea explains a lot about where the Japanese delusion about the war comes from, which I was always wondering.
                  Thank you.

              •  Please tell us about the history of the (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                janis b

                Japanese Communist party prior to end of WWII.

                •  sorry (0+ / 0-)

                  I don't know much about it.

                  I'll check.

                •  Japanese Communist Party (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  This old man

                  Wiki:
                  "The JCP was founded on July 15, 1922, as an underground political association. Outlawed at once under the Peace Preservation Law, the JCP was subjected to repression and persecution by the military and police of Imperial Japan. It was the only political party in Japan that opposed Japan's involvement in World War II. The party was legalised during the U.S. occupation of Japan in 1945, and since then has been a legal political party able to contest elections."

                  I don't know much about them,
                  Now you can see the poster everywhere in Japan saying,
                  "Take back Japan from US" though

        •  What Americans see, at most, is "Tokyo Story" (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ichibon, linkage, janis b, Hatrax

          from the 1950s. Elderly parents visit children, are ignored at best. A daughter-in-law does take the time and she shows them the new Tokyo being built. Then going back the grandmother becomes ill and dies. Every frame carries value.

          Something changed in Japan.

          Catching that moment in a culture is not what you would expect to see, going to a movie. "Gravity," it's not.

          The film was rated recently by members of the Director's Guild at the very top. Above "Casablanca" and "Citizen Kane." Finally, everybody got around to seeing it.

          "I hesitate to agree with Ted Nugent...."

          by waterstreet2013 on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 05:48:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ikiru (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            janis b, TakeSake, waterstreet2013, Hatrax

            Kurosawa's movie "Ikiru" (To live) has that same plot point - the children (young adults) being very selfish in how they treat the father (the main character) and do not notice that he is dying.

            I don't think many Americans have seen Ikiru, as it does not have any Samurai or Toshiro Mifune in it.  It does however have Takashi Shimura, who gives a riveting performance with very few spoken lines.

            The movie captures Japan in transition, just at the end of US occupation.  I highly recommend the Criterion Collection DVD, which has an optional commentary soundtrack, plus interviews with some of the actors.

        •  Thank you for (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Hatrax

          helping me to prove the point.

          "Tokyo was the place to go if one wanted to somewhat escape the confines of ones hometown (furusato)."

          And that is the major factor of Japan’s current problem.
          The little town near us, the percentage rate of over 65 years old is astonishing 94%!!
          The proof, the current Japanese system can’t be sustain.

          And Japanese government try to make it work by not flexing  the system but enforcing them.

          Right now, it’s mandatory to learn, how beautiful and special our hometown is.
          A lot of school curriculum dedicate to that.
          There are a lot of pressure about we should love Japan more.

          •  Just wanted to add to this: (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            YellowFroggyAttack

            Ikawa, an administrative district of Shizuoka City (though as remote as possible, culturally and physically, from downtown as possible) has a population of 378 and exactly four elementary school students.  There are other districts up in the mountains where the population figures are listed in the city directory as "X"... meaning that there are houses and infrastructure and an administrative presence, but zero residents.  In our town, I teach in a junior high school that was built in 1972 to accept 550 students.  We have 42 today.  It really is rather Children of Men-ish.

            The "love your town" curriculum falls under an instruction set that's been ominously dubbed "Moral Education" (Doutoku).  The rest of it tends to consist of lessons in blind patriotism.  While I think it's great to have pride in your community and country, the purpose of this, I think, is to whitewash the problems.  

            Odds and ends about life in Japan: 1971wolfie.wordpress.com

            by Hatrax on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:10:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Well-put (4+ / 0-)

      Thank you very much.

    •  I found this idea of "harmony" (7+ / 0-)

      to be more pronounced in the parts of England where I have lived. "Getting above yourself" is a social faux pas. Acting demonstratively or letting emotion show is also considered either low class or foreign. I wonder if the similarities between Japan and Britain can be put down to having a large population on a small island, where having a codified set of manners, and keeping feelings under wraps, are ways of ensuring society doesn't spin out of control.
      In Britain, those who really don't fit in, either because they're ambitious or extravagant, tend to emigrate. Many families have a few members who have done this. What do people do in Japan if they don't fit in?

      "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

      by northsylvania on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 05:03:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thorstein Veblen, in his magnum opus (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ichibon, Hatrax, janis b

        The Theory of the Leisure Class, wrote that Japan and England demonstrated those phenomena more than anybody else in the world. Which is saying something, in comparison with, for example, French, Prussian, and Russian aristocracies up until the French and Russian Revolutions, and the return of Prussia to Poland after WW II. The Meiji Restoration and the disarming of the samurai is a similarly important event, but it took the defeat in WW II followed by the US military occupation government to put a real dent in the system, and the consequences are still working themselves out.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:07:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The same (0+ / 0-)

        We immigrate to the different countries.

        Especially a lot of Japanese women thrive in different countries.

        Yoko One is one example.
        Did you know she attempted commit suicide in Japan?
        And they locked her up in a mental institution for that.

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