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Buck
06-22-2009, 10:21 PM
Sometime back, I poked at what PAG said (everyone needs a good poke once in awhile) in another thread and when I poked the concept of Nihonjinron popped out. In that thread, we both felt it was a topic for another thread and some other time is now. I think it is that time unless there is something in your eye. If not the time is now. For me, I choose now because I don't have nuttin' in my eye, not even a Fuji apple is the apple of my eye. :)

Before getting into Nihonjinron like an old pair of gloves, I think it should be mentioned that the idea of being superior etc. ties into, the result of, and underpinning the idea of Nihonjinron. At this I think of that really extreme Japanese writer Yukio Mishima as an example. I think there is this sense that the Japanese as a result of Nihonjinron they feel they are then superior and unique. So much so that no others can be like them in anyway etc. That kind of stuff, also I think is used by some Japanese to keep the "Daniel-sans" away from annoying them-JMO.

I think all that has to be discussed or known when discussing Nihonjinron.

Before anyone one gets belligerent (and I do have my faithful out of nowhere critics, God lov'em), what I said is just a starter. Don't attack the BBQ before you even put on the steaks. And you have to understand, it is a heck of a countries ego booster to have typhoons supposedly save your country, Japan, from two invading Mongol fleets under the infamous and feared Kublai Khan that attacked Japan in 1274 and again in 1281. And isolate yourself on an island for as long as they did. Com'on you can't not help to think in those times your darn pretty special to have divine winds protect you. That is right up there with stuff in early Judaism and Christianity. In this sense they are no different then that. Now 'nuff said, moving on.

This stuff Gregory Shepard wrote doesn't directly pertain to Aikido, but it does a good job explaining the concept of Nihonjinron. And how many westerner feel about Nihonjinron. After my moment on the ye' ol' soap box, I have included part of what Shepard wrote, and I provide a link to the whole enchilada.

Now my view FWIW, isn't typical. I have never been to Japan or lived there. I do think it would be tough to do so, based on what I know and have understood from many Japanese. My view, and stuff is, is from this regard. Me being white can't understand the black experience, nor can they understand my experience. Replace white and black with Westerner and Japanese, thus my core opinion. I don't want to be accepted liberally by the Japanese, and I respect their view. Even if I think it is a bit extreme. There are somethings we as westerners can't simulate and that kind of thing about the Japanese. Such as what shapes their thoughts and beliefs doesn't shape mine and thus that is an area that I can't travel. And what does it matter anyway. :)

The following is Shepard's views and they are strong, and damning. Which in fact is can be seen as Western superiority. Isn't fun when we all play the same game and share the same faults. I like Matthew 7:3-5 in the Bible that says, "Why do you alook at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Hey, am just saying.

Any discussion of contemporary Japanese music scholarship must take into account a disturbing movement known as nihonjinron (roughly, 'the question of the Japanese people') which has come to permeate virtually every aspect of modern Japanese culture. Reminiscent of Japan's World War II propaganda, nihonjinron is an attempt on the part of its writers to glorify Japan and Japanese culture, often at the expense of truth. In Japanese musicology, as in other fields [like Aikido], scholars are able to postulate the most absurd theories and find almost unquestioned acceptance of such theories, merely because they portray Japan in favorable light.

Since it does not appear that the Japanese academic community is about to level its aim at nihonjinron, it is incumbent upon Western scholars, not only of music but of all disciplines to abandon their reticence when dealing with shoddy methodology of any culture, particularly when that methodology has a not-so-subtle racism as its motivation.

The complete blog or what ever it is, is here:
Music of Japan Today: Tradition and Innovation (http://home.sprintmail.com/~emrichards/shepherd.html)

Enjoy the read! :)

Rabih Shanshiry
06-23-2009, 07:54 AM
Hi Phil,

Interesting topic. I see this as more a human phenomenon than a Japanese one.

I think you may agree that Europeans in general, and (white) Americans, in particular, are guilty of this. To avoid the politics of present day examples (which abound), I think we can all look at our recent history and recognize this - whether it be with respect to legal racial discrimination that existied until the 1960s or the reducation program that we subjected American Indian children a decade before that in an attempt to "civilize" them. That was really not so long ago - certainly not far enough removed that we should adopt think ourselves superior to other societies still struggling with those issues. (Not saying you are Phil, in fact, your post clearly indicates the contrary).

More broadly speaking, I think many/most peoples maintain a sense of superiority in some way. An interesting question to explore would be why this dynamic occurs, what its function is in helping form a cohesive society, and whether it is necessary.

I leave that to the scholars among us.

...rab

Ketsan
06-23-2009, 02:00 PM
Could be worse. The chinese are taught in school that they're not even homo sapians!

Don_Modesto
06-23-2009, 03:27 PM
Peter Dale wrote fascinatingly on Nihonjinron in his The Myth Of Japanese Uniqueness. He speaks of a cycle of inferiority complex followed by intense study, parity, and only then feelings of superiority and arrogance.

It happened with China from the 7-9 centuries and again in medieval times and with Europe in the 19 century.

C. David Henderson
06-23-2009, 04:05 PM
It's pretty typical in simple hunting and gathering societies to consider only those in one's own group and/or language as fully human.

In the context of this overarching pattern, the movement towards viewing "humanity" as encompassing all people is a fairly recent development, and one that has never been accepted by all of humanity.

Janet Rosen
06-23-2009, 06:27 PM
In the context of this overarching pattern, the movement towards viewing "humanity" as encompassing all people is a fairly recent development, and one that has never been accepted by all of humanity.

And sadly, it tends to fall apart as soon as economic stresses threaten any particular culture.

Mike Sigman
06-23-2009, 08:09 PM
In the context of this overarching pattern, the movement towards viewing "humanity" as encompassing all people is a fairly recent development, and one that has never been accepted by all of humanity.Well, by gum, if they won't accept our peace and love view of humanity, let's thrash 'em and *make* them believe as we do. After all, it's the right thing to do! ;)

Buck
06-24-2009, 07:58 AM
Hi Phil,

Interesting topic. I see this as more a human phenomenon than a Japanese one.

...rab

Thanks, Rab, your post was a good read, and made good points.

Buck
06-24-2009, 08:04 AM
Could be worse. The chinese are taught in school that they're not even homo sapians!

A...Ha! So they think, they are the missing link. :D Wow, didn't know that.

C. David Henderson
06-24-2009, 04:17 PM
Well, by gum, if they won't accept our peace and love view of humanity, let's thrash 'em and *make* them believe as we do. After all, it's the right thing to do! ;)

Or not.

I don't think a global concept of humanity entails any particular ideals about peace and love. Just that its not a "tribal" view, overtly at least, and that it is the historic exception, not the rule.

In fact, your quip points to the resiliance of us/them.

regards,

cdh

Buck
06-24-2009, 09:44 PM
Gregory's blog thingy tone doesn't look favorably on Nihonjinron. I have experienced some of us who like Gregory where the apple of their eye is Japan and the Japanese people. But when they run into all the different shades resulting from Nihonjinron, therefore, realizing their love is not returned by the Japanese get a little scorned. Rejection is hard and cold slap in the face to deal with when all you seen was beautiful cherry blossoms, and images of gracious O'Sensei and Mister Miyagi archetypal like senseis. When that "two face" moment happens people direct their dissatisfaction with the Japanese to those who will listen.

Usually, their feelings of dissatisfaction don't put the Japanese in a good light, yet the underpinnings of which the speak is a hope for the rekindling of the love affair. I think Gregory does just that in his blog thingy. I don't think this type of thing is very fair and is one-sided. He and others when they bring it up look at Nihonjinron as a negative thingy from their point of view. But that isn't the only view though the most heard.

Doesn't Nihonjinron have any good stuff connected to it? I say yea. not too many things are one sided. I am not a sociologist or psychologist type, and I haven't read every Nihonjinron ever written, or allot of it. But from where I sit, it seems to motivate and inspire toward a nation bonding closer together to new standards set, and maybe give better focus toward a direction in the modern world, and keep a nation from colasping in that way. And that kind of stuff. So many nations have a similar notion that parallels Nihonjinron. Some nations us it negatively end up in isolation fighting against the world, or positively and compete on a global scale as a 1st world nation.

Is Nihonjinron all that bad, I don't think so. I feel I am an open minded realistic individual who looks at both sides of the coin. I understand those apple of their eye has gone sour. But, that is a band wagon I am not on. I feel each nation, each culture is unique and they have to be respected. If not, then the bear you think is your buddy will end up eating you. And what right do I have to change them? If they don't want to think their poopie doesn't smell, then who am I to change that? And why would I? I don't have a licence to hold up a mirror to them. And again Matthew 7:3-5 does speak a truth.

I am not that involved into the Japanese or Japan where Nihonjinron effects my view of them, my training or matters to me. I would say I am respectful of what they call theirs and what I call mine. And if what they do (Aikido, cars etc ) is prime grade or not then I recognized it as such. It's like I drive a Japanese made car. I choose the Japanese car over American or Korean built models because the Japanese car is a better vehicle than American or Korean made. And so, because of that I am not going to mess with the Japanese car. I am not going to replace its parts with American parts when required- I replaced the old one hundred and ninety thousand mile engine with a used engine from Japan; all some years ago. I call it as I see it. All and all, I am not for or against Nihonjinron, it is what it is. It is part of dealing with and understanding the Japanese in a realistic -warts and all - light. :)

lbb
06-25-2009, 08:10 AM
Gregory's blog thingy tone doesn't look favorably on Nihonjinron. I have experienced some of us who like Gregory where the apple of their eye is Japan and the Japanese people...

I am not that involved into the Japanese or Japan where Nihonjinron effects my view of them, my training or matters to me. I would say I am respectful of what they call theirs and what I call mine.

But you do seem to be making the same mistake that believers in nihonjinron are making: to look on "the Japanese people" as a monolithic entity, to ascribe attitudes and behaviors to "the Japanese".

Buck
06-25-2009, 09:52 PM
But you do seem to be making the same mistake that believers in nihonjinron are making: to look on "the Japanese people" as a monolithic entity, to ascribe attitudes and behaviors to "the Japanese".

Mary, I am flattered you reference me with such reverence in the area of Nihonjinron which I recognize as something that doesn't effect me, but instead am respectful of and not quick to criticize.

As I said before, "am not that involved into the Japanese or Japan where Nihonjinron effects my view of them, my training or matters to me. I would say I am respectful of what they call theirs and what I call mine. All and all, I am not for or against Nihonjinron, it is what it is. It is part of dealing with and understanding the Japanese in a realistic -warts and all - light."

I find it interesting that Nihonjinron bothers some people. Maybe it would bother me too if I wanted in with the Japanese, simulate, if I lived there or something.

I am open minded and respectful of the Japanese. I can't criticize them beyond my limited experience or out of my vast ignorance of them. I not into thinking my culture is superior thinking I am lord or ruler over them insisting their culture and beliefs are wrong because they are different or because I don't understand them. I don't see them savages, as a result.

There is that old Handy saying that goes, "Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes." Pertaining to the Japanese wouldn't be Getas instead of shoes?

Please don't confuse respect for something as being a mistake.
:)

Back on point, Nihonjinron I read more criticizing it in English then the benefits it may have. Gregory is an example. There are two sides to every coin. Nihonjinron isn't something I am compelled to, or have a great interest. I am not sure if or how much it was effected Aikido or Aikido devleopment. O'Sensei was Japanese and I didn't know him so I don't know if he supported Nihonjinron. If he did to a great deal, does it effect my Aikido, no. But if so, then it brings in focus better O'Sensei personality and thus, Aikido. Which still doesn't effect me.

There are so many threads out there about ego and pride, and the sense of superiority Aikidoka have, I see Nihonjinron in that area for better or worse. That is the only thing I see how Nihonjinron plays in my world. I just wish it would help me improve my skill. :)

lbb
06-26-2009, 08:26 AM
You're making this much, much, much more complicated than it really is, Buck. My observation was a very simple one: that much as you're making critical observations of Nihonjinron, with its sweeping generalizations of Japanese character, you are pushing your sled down the same slippery slope as you talk about what "the Japanese" think and do.

Ron Tisdale
06-26-2009, 08:48 AM
Before anyone one gets belligerent (and I do have my faithful out of nowhere critics, God lov'em),

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16286

An easy way not to have critics, is simply not to speak. But personally, I don't think that would be productive.

Best,
Ron

Buck
06-26-2009, 08:52 AM
You're making this much, much, much more complicated than it really is, Buck. My observation was a very simple one: that much as you're making critical observations of Nihonjinron, with its sweeping generalizations of Japanese character, you are pushing your sled down the same slippery slope as you talk about what "the Japanese" think and do.

Mary, honestly, I am confused to what your comments about me have to do with the thread. And what point your trying to make. Personally, I don't think it matters to the discussion of Nihonjinron. Because of that I really can't respond, cause I don't see how me not criticizing the Japanese, because I am not qualified too is a slippery slope? And how that relates to Nihonjinron? You can email and we can work these things out. :)

Alfonso
06-26-2009, 10:33 AM
<pop>

there is no such thing as "the Japanese" is the point

</pop>

Buck
06-26-2009, 06:20 PM
Of all the dimensions and versions of Nihonjinron takes, it is the sense of cultural purity seen as racism by westerners, gets allot of fault finding attention.

Was O'Sensei guilty of this? Is or were any of his Japanese uchi-deshi and their organizations guilty of this cultural purity for the homogeny of Aikido to any degree. Is Nihonjinron taught to us through them indirectly through the culture and protocol of Aikido?

I think some western Aikidoka who I have read in forums and in discussions feel this to be true and display their dissatisfaction. I think we all compromise and feed into Nihonjinron keeping it alive, by having romantic notions of the Japanese and not realistic perspectives. Buy keeping Aikido traditions, culture, keeping to rules, and stuff we are giving our "yes" vote to Nihonjinron.

Every time, I step into the dojo and bow to the picture of O'Sensei, every time, I call the person teaching me "Sensei" and stuff, I am saying the I will uphold and keep that culture alive over mine. That includes following and upholding O'Sensei's message to the world of peace and love, how ever I translate that to be. By default, when I put that gi on and don that belt, I am to a degree (everyone has a different degree) supporting the idea of Nihonjinron.

We as westerners have our own type of Nihonjinron that I think is more complex, more diverse, more widespread and bigger then the Japanese ever could. For example that is not well known but had a huge impact on millions of people in the modern world was the idea of race purity of Planned Parenthood. Hitler took that and ran with it. A homogenize race isn't new, it is old as man. I think it could have to do with our genetic programming and our gene survival that has been perverted by so many peoples and organizations in so many ways. We as westerners who are disturbed by Nihonjinron only need to look at our cultural which dwarfs Nihonjinron and runs along the line of hypocrisy.

When we join Aikido and put on that gi and white belt and take instruction on protocol, learning humility and stuff; we need to realize what those actions mean, and what we are supporting. This is different from the casual or customary contact with the Japanese, like at a business dinner or that kind of thing. We sign on to Japanese culture often thinking we will be accepted with open arms, treated fairly, justly, and warmly by all as equals. The truth is we aren’t. We are not Japanese in their eyes. We are not capable of being them regardless how many costumes and forms of surface imitation, simulation etc., which we feel are gestures of good will, we try and master, we can never be them, just as they can never be us.

My personal opinion is that has to be respected, that we are different. Sure we are human and share those things and have things in common, but that doesn’t make us them. But, because we don that Aikido gi and are subjected to Japanese Nihonjinron via Aikido, we think we should be respected for our effort in their culture, and get angry when not respected for that effort.

We sometimes because of our views think our views are right, just like most other peoples of the world. That is something we share. We have as westerners have a long history of imposing our culture our ways on others just like other cultures. For me, Nihonjinron isn't something I am bothered by, but it is something I am aware of and respectful of it. Respectful in terms of the respect in knowing I have no right to, generally, mess with them.

oisin bourke
06-26-2009, 08:44 PM
I am open minded and respectful of the Japanese. I can't criticize them beyond my limited experience or out of my vast ignorance of them. I not into thinking my culture is superior thinking I am lord or ruler over them insisting their culture and beliefs are wrong because they are different or because I don't understand them. I don't see them savages, as a result.


You talkin' 'bout my wife?

Buck
06-26-2009, 09:23 PM
No, my ex-girl friend. :)

lbb
06-27-2009, 09:13 PM
<pop>

there is no such thing as "the Japanese" is the point

</pop>

Thank you, Alfonso.

Buck, if that still doesn't make sense, then I give up.

dps
06-27-2009, 10:45 PM
Way too much philosophizing.

David :confused:

Buck
06-28-2009, 12:45 AM
Being fair and open minded, I think there are positive things about Nihonjinron for the Japanese as a nation and a people. It pulls people together possibly keeping them from becoming a third world country. Provides a goal, and that kind of stuff.

I doesn't bother me what the Japanese think of themselves, but thinking highly has created a nation whose people are educated and all that. They have developed a strong sense of themselves and have achieved so much in a litttle time. Japane is a modern nation affording its people human rights, and stuff like that. Because of Nihonjinron.

Whether or not I am guilty of falicies in my arguement, Mary, keep in mind I am not arguing. I am observing and providing personal information on the subject.

I think people often don't see the big picture and get hung up seeing things only through a narrow or surface view.

We as humans work really hard to stick with the familiar and when outside of that we make it familiar and comfortable to us. To have things around us fit into our comfort zone, because we can't seem to function otherwise.

lbb
06-28-2009, 07:34 AM
I doesn't bother me what the Japanese think of themselves, but thinking highly has created a nation whose people are educated and all that. They have developed a strong sense of themselves and have achieved so much in a litttle time. Japane is a modern nation affording its people human rights, and stuff like that. Because of Nihonjinron.

Whether or not I am guilty of falicies in my arguement, Mary, keep in mind I am not arguing. I am observing and providing personal information on the subject.

Buck, "the Japanese" don't think anything. They are not a monolithic entity with a single hive mind. Do you agree or disagree with that?

Buck
06-28-2009, 09:22 AM
Mary, I am confused with your posts. :confused: It seems like you are talking to someone else about something else and addressing it to me. With that in mind, I really can't respond because I am not saying or thinking that. I think you are not understanding the thread very well. :)

All the advice I can give is to try and go back through the thread and re-read it- to get the main idea. Once you've got the main idea / the big picture then comment on that. That might help. I hope that helps. If you need more help I will be happy to try. :)

lbb
06-28-2009, 08:37 PM
Mary, I am confused with your posts. :confused: It seems like you are talking to someone else about something else and addressing it to me.

No, I'm talking to you, and I'm talking about what you're saying, and at least one other person reading this thread doesn't seem to have any problems understanding what I'm saying. I accept, however, that it is apparently impossible for you to understand. That being the case (and without any judgment as to why that is the case), I'm done here.

C. David Henderson
06-28-2009, 09:14 PM
Mary, I am confused with your posts. :confused: :)

She is saying, I believe, that you are talking about a very large group of people as though a particular concept -- Nihonjiron -- was a concept that they all shared. She is trying, I perceive, to point out that you should question the idea that you can characterize in a meaningful way this very large group of people in terms of this stereotype.

I also question some of your statements. For example, you suggest that "because" of this concept/attitude, the "Japanese" have been successful in a number of areas as a society. What basis do you have for this opinion?

What basis, for that matter, is there to say that this concept/attitude is different than, say, the stereotype of the acerbic New Yorker or the arrogant Parisian?

Why is the concept of Japanese 'exceptionalism' different than the concept of American 'exceptionalism?'

In ancient Greece, anyone from outside was a barbarian. The word "Xenophobia" is both a Greek derivative and reflection of this (stereotypical) concept/attitude.

A number of people have responded to your OP with the observation that "Nihonjiron" isn't all that different from ideas and attitudes that have existed in most if not all cultures.

When you talk about "Nihonjiron" as a concept/attitude of Japanese people collectively, you seem to be adopting a couple of the premises of "Nihonjiron" -- (a) that it characterizes everyone, and (b) that it is uniquely "Japanese."

Do you believe (a) and (b) to be true?

regards,

cdh

Buck
06-28-2009, 10:25 PM
Mary, I know you're frustrated. This isn't an easy topic, it is very complex. It is easy to get confused and frustrated, throwing your hands up in the air and walking away emotionally taxed. Especially as such things of this complex and foreign nature are hard to digest the meaning. They can seem so unclear to you. But let me try again and help you understand. :)

What I am saying is I am divorcing myself from any idea that I am supporting or rejecting Nihonjinron, and I am looking at it objectively, and just not negatively. And I gave reasons why. I don't judge the Japanese for their views of themselves. I am fine with how they see themselves because I have no reason to judge them in accordance with the idea of Nihonjinron. I am not affected by any thing that results from Nihonjinron in my personal or Aikido life.

I find that Gregory criticizing the Japanese's idea of Nihonjinron in his blog to be more of a personal shaded view of the Japanese. Gregory may have a personal justification for his views of the Japanese, though his error lies in him sounding exactly like what he is criticizing. He seems to be venting in his blog. It can then be said he too is guilt of a superiority complex that he points to the Japanese having.

So it made me think, hmmm... what are then the positive things that came about from Nihonjinron? Because as westerners, when we talk about Nihonjinron it often carries a bad overtone. Being fair and not one-sided, I posted some speculation on how Nihonjinron may have helped the Japanese and Japan, in say national identity for example.

Mary, I think the difficulty you have with me and this thread is misplaced coming from your presumptions. I offer these links and excerpt below to help you understand better this complex idea of Nihonjinron, and this thread.

FWIW. I don't judge or condemn these views, or make any criticisms toward them, nor do I support them. They are what they are and don't effect me. My purpose is to making them available.

http://junana.com/CDP/corpus/GLOSSARY18.html

and

http://junana.com/CDP/corpus/COMMENT2.html#1002297
Excerpts:

Japan's Sister: the Girl:
"She astonishes us, the modern young girl who is our Sister. Breathing the air of democracy, she wants to be ‘more equal' than anyone. Fiercely, she pursues university studies, or starts a career in offices, department stores, factories, and the professions. Her earning career usually begins earlier than those of young men, so her whims have great power over manufacturers. But the old virtues live in her; she is also tender, warm, accomplished in the graceful arts. Youth in its golden fling sometimes worries us. Yet we know our Sister is growing into the sensible wife and devoted mother who is the virtue of our Japan."
(Here is Japan, 1964)

This nationalization of lifestyle contributes greatly to the lack of available individual lifestyle imagination. To fit into this national imagination—this second skin of nationality—not only requires assuming the epic history of the nation as that of one's own past, but also, subscribing to a lifetime of practices, from cram schools and national exams, to drinks and sex out with office mates, or classes in ikebana (flower arranging) with "the girls."

Japan's Mr. Average:
the White-Collar Man:
We understand him, and love him, our representative White-Collar Man. The visitor might find him baffling: well-educated, even sophisticated, open to new ideas and new ways, yet suddenly curiously naive and sentimental. He aspires, through a company career, to the full life in the modern sense. For this, he will endure the wearying crush of the over-burdened commuter trains twice a day. Dutiful husband—he often defers to his wife—good father, hardworking, he still has extra vitality for active leisure.
(Here is Japan 1964, n.p.)

Daily practices thus acquire a (curiously) patriotic cachet, and so commuting for three hours a day with half a million others is not just a personal circumstance, but a collective—national—duty. To refuse, to complain, to allow the shadow of dissatisfaction1 to cross one's face, is to also step outside of the national circle.

Japan's Mother: the Housewife:
The Housewife is the heart of our world. As bride, mother, and wise grandmother she is the warm link between many generations. Her ways changed with equality in modern Japan. The voice of the Housewife today is an economic force, influencing consumer prices. Desire for privacy with her own husband and children accelerates the trend toward living in apartments. As new appliances free her from pre-war drudgery, the Housewife, too, influences leisure patterns. Fashionable, intelligent, in formed, she is even more vital in the lives of husband, children, and grandchildren amid today's changing Japan.
Here is JAPAN 1964, n.p.

mathewjgano
06-28-2009, 10:52 PM
Every time, I step into the dojo and bow to the picture of O'Sensei, every time, I call the person teaching me "Sensei" and stuff, I am saying the I will uphold and keep that culture alive over mine.

I don't look at it this way. I've practiced Aikido in a Shinto shrine and I don't feel like I'm placing Japanese culture "over" mine, despite adopting some uniquely Japanese behaviors. I look at it more like this: when I go to someone's house, I speak their language and abide by their customs as much as possible. It has nothing to do with superiority. Beyond that I do adopt affectations which resonate with my personal taste. Maybe it's because I'm the classic American mutt and grew up identifying with several cultures at once.

That includes following and upholding O'Sensei's message to the world of peace and love, how ever I translate that to be. By default, when I put that gi on and don that belt, I am to a degree (everyone has a different degree) supporting the idea of Nihonjinron.
Do you mean to include the idea of cultural superiority here? Perpetuating bunka, the traditional culture-based behaviors, sure; but not any innate superiority. Besides! Everyone knows the Irish-Norwegian-Danish-Crow-English-French-Japanese-American culture (my son's lineage) is the best! Seconded only by the Irish-Norwegian-Danish-Crow-English-French-American culture!:D

Buck
06-28-2009, 11:02 PM
A number of people have responded to your OP with the observation that "Nihonjiron" isn't all that different from ideas and attitudes that have existed in most if not all cultures.

When you talk about "Nihonjiron" as a concept/attitude of Japanese people collectively, you seem to be adopting a couple of the premises of "Nihonjiron" -- (a) that it characterizes everyone, and (b) that it is uniquely "Japanese."

Do you believe (a) and (b) to be true?

regards,

cdh

Dave, to address your comments.

Per your first comment: I think I was the first to say that in this thread.

Per your second comment. I am pointing yes, it is unique because each culture is unique. If the Japanese say they are unique, who am I to say different? What right do I have to say they aren't? I feel I should respect their view. I mean the Founders of this country framed a unique nation and hence a people called Americans. We feel unique. Differently then the Japanese and similarly too.

The purpose of all this was to show my neutrality, that I am neither a supporter or detractor of the Japanese idea of Nihonjinron. It is their thing, not mine. It doesn't effect my life. I am not going to criticize it because I am uncomfortable with Nihonjinron or because I have become jaded by it. I have no reason to support or reject Nihonjinron. I feel I am just observing, a neutral view that allows me to look at both sides of the coin without making judgements.

With that said, I feel it goes with out saying that Nihonjinron can't characterize everyone of course that premise as you put it isn't reasonable. Rather Nihonjinron isn't a concept that doesn't share some similar properties with other such concepts of other people. We are all human right, and the word unique really is difficult to apply in the true sense of the word. But, I am not Japanese and there is no other place on earth called Japan other then Japan. I think a parallel universe exists some where though. But until that is discovered I think we can say the Japanese are unique. They may different in their definition and connotation of unique, and see them selves in a unique way, and who I am to disagree. That is my point. And I feel this view provides me with the opportunity to see the idea of Nihonjinron and the role it plays in a greater scope. By not being judgemental I can see both sides, the good and the bad. And am able to see everything in between. All because I am not judging the Japanese and respecting thir view of themselves what ever those views are. Therefore, I am able to talk about Nihonjinron in an unbias and unpolluted sense.

I am not taking sides against the idea of Nihonjinron and the Japanese in how they feel about it. I have no reason too. In much of what I read like Gregory there is a tone of unpleasantness and he is against the idea of Nihonjinron. Gregory's bloc unfavorable toward , Nihonjinron, reflects allot of what I have read on Nihonjinron by many westerners. I am not like that, I have no reason to be. It is that simple. Even if I did, I think I would be respectful of that part of Nihonjinron.

That is it my friend. It ain't about me, but rather what I am not about.

Buck
06-28-2009, 11:34 PM
I don't look at it this way. I've practiced Aikido in a Shinto shrine and I don't feel like I'm placing Japanese culture "over" mine, despite adopting some uniquely Japanese behaviors. I look at it more like this: when I go to someone's house, I speak their language and abide by their customs as much as possible. It has nothing to do with superiority. Beyond that I do adopt affectations which resonate with my personal taste. Maybe it's because I'm the classic American mutt and grew up identifying with several cultures at once.


Yea, that works too. My point was because we agree to follow the customs and protocals of the Japanese instead of insisting on our own customs and protocals over the Japanese. Or, we follow and support the philosopy of O'Sensei thereby surrendering or compromising our own religious leaders, other leaders or our hero's etc. philosophies. We look to a Japanese to show us peace and happiness above anyone in our own culture. Which all is a way of saying their are superior. We support Aikido and its culture, we call the palace we train a dojo, we bow, we where Japanese clothes, we follow many of the customs. For most of us we perfer Japanese instruction over non-Japanese instruction, i.e O'sensei's students and their students etc. And because of that can we really should complain or criticize Nihonjinron and the effects of it- like Gregory did in his blog. As Aikidoka's which is our life-style and not musican's have to deal with Japanese musican's like Gregory, we are more involved then musican's in the Japanese culture, therefore, Nihonjinron is something we ought to deal with better than a disgrutled musican tried of having to suffer from the effect of Nihonjinron. A musican doesn't sign on to Japanese customs etc. but we as Aikidoka's do sign on. And should realize it comes with the territory and deal with it ( Nihonjinron ) and other things that make us uncomfortable. That is what I was getting at. :)


Do you mean to include the idea of cultural superiority here? Perpetuating bunka, the traditional culture-based behaviors, sure; but not any innate superiority. Besides! Everyone knows the Irish-Norwegian-Danish-Crow-English-French-Japanese-American culture (my son's lineage) is the best! Seconded only by the Irish-Norwegian-Danish-Crow-English-French-American culture!:D

Man what a family reunion that is! :) I would hate to be the relative who did the family tree. :)

mathewjgano
06-29-2009, 12:56 AM
Or, we follow and support the philosopy of O'Sensei thereby surrendering or compromising our own religious leaders, other leaders or our hero's etc. philosophies. We look to a Japanese to show us peace and happiness above anyone in our own culture. Which all is a way of saying their are superior.
I don't look to O Sensei and other Japanese spiritual leaders because they are Japanese though. I think anyone who would do so would be foolish (i.e. doing a "right" thing for a wrong reason)...which is, I guess, part of the criticism against nihonjinron: which culture a person is born in is arbitrary when it comes to virtue. I look to a Japanese person to show me something about peace because of what that person seems to have expressed...for all intents and purposes those people could have been Irish or from Saskatchawan...or even hippies!evileyes In other words: the Japanese cultural affectations are circumstantial and their importance lies along the periphery; they're merely a vehicle for something more central to the human condition.

A musican doesn't sign on to Japanese customs etc. but we as Aikidoka's do sign on. And should realize it comes with the territory and deal with it ( Nihonjinron ) and other things that make us uncomfortable. That is what I was getting at. :)
A musician will learn Japanese cultural affectations if they learn it from a traditional Japanese teacher. When a Japanese artist learns from a German artist, chances are good the Japanese person will perform the art with the German cultural affectations. Formal learning of any kind tends to resemble the form of its parent culture.

Man what a family reunion that is! :) I would hate to be the relative who did the family tree. :)
The funny thing is that most of that was easy to track down: I learned about it simply from asking my grandparents and parents. It was the French-American history itself, which spans about 400 years, that took the most amount of work...but we Ganos have always liked our history!:)

lbb
06-29-2009, 07:12 AM
Mary, I know you're frustrated. This isn't an easy topic, it is very complex. It is easy to get confused and frustrated, throwing your hands up in the air and walking away emotionally taxed. Especially as such things of this complex and foreign nature are hard to digest the meaning. They can seem so unclear to you. But let me try again and help you understand. :)

I understand just fine. I just don't agree with you.

Buck
06-29-2009, 09:26 AM
I don't look to O Sensei and other Japanese spiritual leaders because they are Japanese though. I think anyone who would do so would be foolish (i.e. doing a "right" thing for a wrong reason)...which is, I guess, part of the criticism against nihonjinron: which culture a person is born in is arbitrary when it comes to virtue. I look to a Japanese person to show me something about peace because of what that person seems to have expressed...for all intents and purposes those people could have been Irish or from Saskatchawan...or even hippies!evileyes In other words: the Japanese cultural affectations are circumstantial and their importance lies along the periphery; they're merely a vehicle for something more central to the human condition.

A musician will learn Japanese cultural affectations if they learn it from a traditional Japanese teacher. When a Japanese artist learns from a German artist, chances are good the Japanese person will perform the art with the German cultural affectations. Formal learning of any kind tends to resemble the form of its parent culture.

The funny thing is that most of that was easy to track down: I learned about it simply from asking my grandparents and parents. It was the French-American history itself, which spans about 400 years, that took the most amount of work...but we Ganos have always liked our history!:)

Matt,

I would agree with that too. I think your right, and I would say that human recognition of the existence of an abstract such as virtue is something that all human cultures share in a sense- regardless of how it is define or who claims they are the most. Therefore, your comments are useful, I think, in seeing another thing about Nihonjinron and the criticisms toward it. :)

Rennis Buchner
06-30-2009, 09:36 AM
Nihonjinron isn't something "Japanese" subscribe to, believe, follow. It is something SOME Japanese buy into to varying degrees. I have no issue with pride in your country, culture, etc, but the brand of Nihonjinron most people have issues with goes beyond normal healthy pride and basically pushes the idea of "the Japanese" as a homogeneous race and culture (it isn't, especially the later) that is utterly unique in the world and understanding it is completely beyond comprehension of outsiders, usually with a heavy dose of major historical revisionism, superiority and pure fantasy thrown in and is often favored among the more extreme ultra-right wingers here. There is often a large element of cultural naiveness involved in the more innocent variations of it.

On the naive and relatively harmless end of things:

"One of Japan's unique features is that it has 4 distinct seasons"
I have taught a number of students over the years (at least 4 or 5) who were utterly shocked to find out that Japan isn't the only country in the world with 4 seasons. These people were all educated adults, but simply grew up never questioning some of the basic things they heard endlessly in their childhood, including this one. When confronted with the information that the 4 seasons are a universal thing, a couple of them were like "how could I have been so stupid" and a couple very vigorously tried to defend this belief explaining that in Japan the four seasons are very distinct, unlike in other countries. It took them awhile to realize that I have indeed lived here for the majority of the last decade and have actually experienced all the seasons Japan has to offer and that said seasons where no different than the ones back home. A couple of the other Japanese students who had travelled abroad had to come in and back me up on this one before the believed me.

or the endless discussions I've had with students over the years... "Japan has one culture and the Japanese are all the same.... well, expect those people in Kansai, they are pretty different. And Kyushu, they are in a land of their own. Not to mention those Tohoku people, they don't even speak Japanese... hmm, actually I guess we aren't all that much the same..."

On the more extreme end:

This one has been discussed online before but it is worth repeating here as a classic example. On NHK several years ago a scientist came on a program and presented a definitive study proving once and for all that the Japanese digestive system, in particular intestines, was different from foreigners and that the Japanese were incapable of digesting rice grown abroad because the Japanese had evolved to digest the kind of rice grown in Japan.

Or pick any number of Ishihara's "Japan Superior" comments made over the years...

If we want to relate it back to martial arts, another personal example was a couple of years back right after I got my first teaching license. I was with one of the other guys in the dojo (my senior in age, but very much my junior in the art) and a friend of his from another dojo and we were discussing my sensei and the future of the art. This guy from another dojo is pretty heavy in the "Japanese are different/better" sort of thing and commented right in front of me that my sensei "obviously" wants my dojo-mate to improve and get a teaching license because the idea of a Westerner getting it is completely and utterly unthinkable, he could never understand the art deep enough (he didn't know I had already gotten one). To his credit he did suddenly realize I was sitting right next to him and turned to me "Ah.... sorry" and then continued in the discussion like nothing happened, but that cat was already out of the bag so to speak.

Or the recent trend among certain "popular" kobujutsu guys (who happen to also sale a lot of books) who teach that historically Japanese did not walk as they do today and instead all walked the Namba-aruki style at all times in all situations and that was the NATURAL way Japanese did and should walk. Namba-aruki is a common method of movement in many traditonal arts where one moves the right hand and right leg (or left hand left leg) forward together with each step. These guys claim that the right foot forward, left arm swings forward method of walking everyone in Japan (and everywhere else) does today is a result of the introdution of Western footware and that this method of movement is not natural to the Japanese.

There are a lot of shades of grey in what is Nihonjinron, some more unconcious and innocent, some downright full of it. In any case, it is not something that all, or perhaps even most, Japanese buy into. I'm sure a could of verbal (or digital) diaherra will follow, but that is all I have to add to the issue.

Rennis Buchner

mathewjgano
06-30-2009, 02:05 PM
Nihonjinron isn't something "Japanese" subscribe to, believe, follow. It is something SOME Japanese buy into to varying degrees. I have no issue with pride in your country, culture, etc, but the brand of Nihonjinron most people have issues with goes beyond normal healthy pride and basically pushes the idea of "the Japanese" as a homogeneous race and culture (it isn't, especially the later) that is utterly unique in the world and understanding it is completely beyond comprehension of outsiders...

A good case in point might be my own teacher: I have heard of several folks suggesting that he, as a gaijin, cannot truly understand Shinto. Of course, Sendai Guji (who was 96th generation Guji) of Tsubaki O Kami Yashiro thought differently enough to accept him as a disciple and to award him the position of kannushi (assuming I'm understanding the formal phrasing properly); current Guji seems to agree with Sendai Guji. Kannushi-san's insight into taisai and norito seems to go well beyond that of your average nihonjin...and my meager sense is that he has a deep understanding. I recall making a visit to Ise and going past the first gate to offer gratitude with our Tsubaki group and many of the Japanese watching were quite surprised!
This kind of bias always reminds me of how I was growing up in my little trailer park: I've always been pretty accepting of others into whatever group I'm in, but any time I saw someone who wasn't from around there (and it was clear who lived there and who didn't), I had the sense that they were outsiders, essentially unable to be a part of my little group. I think part of this comes from that personal sense of home or family in which you're pretty much born into it, and if you're not, well you're not a part of it.

Ron Tisdale
06-30-2009, 03:17 PM
Japane is a modern nation affording its people human rights, and stuff like that.

Oh really??

Japanese society of Yamato people is linguistically homogeneous with small populations of Koreans (0.6 million), Chinese/Taiwanese (0.5 million), Brazilians (300, 000, many of whom are ethnically Japanese), and Filipino (245, 518 some being Japanese Filipino; children of Japanese and Filipino parentage).[3] Japan has indigenous minority groups such as the Ainu and Ryukyuans and social minority groups like the burakumin.
From Wikipedia, not a great source, but good enough to get someone interested started.

Because of Nihonjinron.

Wow, now that is a leap. Because of Nihonjinron as defined below:
Books on nihonjinron typically contain the following five premises:

Uniqueness: Japan, its people, culture, ways of thinking, social behaviour, language, etc., are unique
This uniqueness of the Japanese is rooted in the distinctive characteristics of the Japanese race or ethnos
Ahistorical essentialism: The peculiarities of the Japanese remain unaltered essentially throughout history, and indeed, it is often asserted, are derived from a prehistorical world
Homogeneity: The Japanese are homogeneous as a people, race, or ethnic community
Language: The Japanese language contains words and phrases that cannot be adequately translated into other languages, demonstrating the uniqueness of the Japanese race.

Japan[e] is a modern nation affording its people human rights???

Somehow I just don't see how that follows. Why don't you ask someone who is Ainu if they agree?

Best,
Ron

Josh Reyer
06-30-2009, 11:38 PM
Ron, God knows I rarely agree with Buck on such issues, but are you actually arguing that Japan does not afford its citizens human rights? And by this I mean to a degree unusual for a first world country? Is it your position that the Ainu currently do not have human rights in Japan?

To be sure, Japan's human rights are not thanks to Nihonjinron, nor is Japan's history of mistreatment and oppression of minority groups any less spotty than other developed nations. But it seems like you're taken a rather extreme view here.

Ron Tisdale
07-01-2009, 07:29 AM
Hi Josh, no, I certainly don't mean to be extreme. But if you look how Japan *does* treat it's minorities, in areas of health care, job opportunities, residence opportunities, etc...are you telling me that even today they don't have issues? Sure, of course there are basic protections in place as a matter of law...but what about the practice? If there are not issues, why do the Ainu and burakumin try to hide their backgrounds? Why do they have advocacy groups lobbying on their behalf? And that is without even touching how they treat their guest workers. To be clear, I am certainly NOT saying this from the perspective that the US or other Western nations have great records even now. I would really be hard pressed to volunteer in this country right now to be a practicing member of the Islamic faith. It too many cases, that can make you a target these days. Even if found innocent in a court of law. http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/06/29/florida.terror.redo/index.html

And of course, my main point is the linkage to Nihonjinron. That is the part that really blows my mind.

Best,
Ron (you live in Japan, all my information is second hand. So if you'd like to start a thread on that feel free. There are a few threads on e-budo that also address this, I believe.)

MM
07-01-2009, 09:03 AM
I would really be hard pressed to volunteer in this country right now to be a practicing member of the Islamic faith. It too many cases, that can make you a target these days. Even if found innocent in a court of law. http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/06/29/florida.terror.redo/index.html


I dunno, Ron. Do you ride around with terrorists wanting to blow stuff up? There was a case to be made that both *could* have been involved in transporting explosives. In the end, it was proven that one of them was definitely involved. Lots of hassle in the legal system for Youssef Megahed, but in the end, justice was served in this particular case. He was acquitted of the crimes. His "friend" in the car, Ahmed Mohamed, confessed and was found guilty.

Now, it seems that there is more "evidence" against Youssef Megahed, only this time involving being a terrorist. I don't know what it is or how detailed. One source states this:

The evidence, from a search of the computer at his family's home, includes "numerous videos, documents and an Internet search history that supports Islamic extremism, jihad against the United States...," ICE alleged in court documents.

http://delawarelibertarian.blogspot.com/2009/06/meet-youssef-megahed-and-police-state.html

What's really happening? I guess we'll probably not know the truth of the matter. What do we really know? Youssef was traveling on a road trip with a terrorist. As a nation, we should investigate that kind of situation. A jury acquitted Youssef "of charges of possessing and transporting explosives". However, that was one portion of a larger question. Is Youssef a terrorist? That question is now being asked by Immigrations.

When I was sent overseas in 90-91, I worked alongside many members of the Islamic faith. I watched them set down the prayer rugs and pray at the appropriate times. I watched them guard us at specific places. We never thought twice about their ideals, their religion, or their devotion to keeping us safe.

There are many practicing members of the Islamic faith in the U.S. And many of them are not "hassled" at all. There's anywhere from 2-10 million Muslims in the U.S. How many can you count that have been "targeted" like Youssef? Bottom line for anyone, not just a practicing Muslim, is that if you're going to hang around with someone and take road trips with someone, it's best to know just what kind of person he, or she, is and what he/she is transporting or carrying with them.

IMO, anyway.

Sorry for the off topic post,
Mark

Ron Tisdale
07-01-2009, 09:40 AM
Hi Mark, the other person in the car WAS NOT CONVICTED OF BEING A TERRORIST.

This is exactly my problem.

The main person under discussion was found NOT GUILTY. And now the government is ignoring double jeapardy, and trying again.

There are plenty of people who have detailed the persecutions going on now in this country.

You and I will probably always disagree on this one. No biggie.

Best,
Ron (yeah, I've prayed in Mosques overseas...I keep wondering when I might hear the knock on the door)

MM
07-01-2009, 10:27 AM
Hi Mark, the other person in the car WAS NOT CONVICTED OF BEING A TERRORIST.

This is exactly my problem.


Hi Ron,
According to reports, "Mohamed pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists and is serving a 15-year prison sentence."

And "The plea agreement describes the 12-minute YouTube video in detail, and says Mohamed told investigators his intention in making and distributing the recording was to support attempts by terrorists to murder employees of the United States, including members of the military engaged in their official duties."

Mohamed was found guilty of being a terrorist.


The main person under discussion was found NOT GUILTY. And now the government is ignoring double jeapardy, and trying again.

There are plenty of people who have detailed the persecutions going on now in this country.

You and I will probably always disagree on this one. No biggie.

Best,
Ron (yeah, I've prayed in Mosques overseas...I keep wondering when I might hear the knock on the door)

Well, Youssef was found not guilty of federal explosives charges. IF (and that's a big IF) law enforcement has evidence showing Youssef has terrorist connections, then that is a very separate battle.

Remember, Youssef Megahed did not face terrorism-related charges. It was only federal explosives charges. However, Mohamed *did* face terrorist charges and plead guilty to them. Two very distinct things.

So, double jeopardy? No.

And what's life if we can't disagree sometimes. At least I know I can have a very civil, intelligent conversation with you in our disagreement. :)

Ron Tisdale
07-01-2009, 11:09 AM
Ah, you are correct about the other person.

There are plenty of better examples out there however.

Best,
Ron (well, we can at least *try* to remain civil ;))

MM
07-01-2009, 11:29 AM
Ah, you are correct about the other person.

There are plenty of better examples out there however.

Best,
Ron (well, we can at least *try* to remain civil ;))

Agreed that there are better examples out there. :) And knowing the gov't, I wouldn't put it past them to try some legal fine-line wrangling to get what they want. I just think that in this example, it's a bit more complicated.

And you not being civil? I don't think anyone here at Aikiweb would believe that you'd be uncivil. Maybe a pain in the butt. :D :eek: :crazy:

Hope you're looking forward to a great 4th!
Mark

C. David Henderson
07-01-2009, 02:41 PM
It's not double jepoardy in any event, since deportation is not a criminal proceeding. That's why the burden of proof is lower.

It's clearly legitimate and even important for the government to investigate the underlying facts; however, the remarks of the jury foreman suggest someone along the way didn't do a very good job of objectively assessing the strength of the criminal case, for reasons we'll probably never know.

I hope there is a more objectively sound case to take to a deportation hearing.

regards,

cdh

Buck
07-01-2009, 05:56 PM
Ron,

Since I rarely agree with what you say on many things you reply to me. You must understand, all I am saying is....Nihonjinron is something I am merely looking at. It doesn't have any effect on my training or my life. I don't experience it, and I don't think the Japanese are superior ( but only in reasonable limited sort of way with certain things they demonstrate superior stuff, i.e. recognizing Toyota is superior to Ford. Now, Mary disagrees with that. And it seems so do you. Fine. My opinion has really nothing to do with Nihonjinron, expect if I lived in Japan, or if I was Japanese. I do think the Japanese are unique, just as the rest of the other cultures on earth. Being unique like a finger print, doesn't mean they are not human, or that they can't have similarities to other cultures, or influences from other countries. I don't think it is an issue for me if they disagree with that. That is their right.

FWIW. :)

oisin bourke
07-01-2009, 06:12 PM
Ron,

My opinion has really nothing to do with Nihonjinron, expect if I lived in Japan, or if I was Japanese. I do think the Japanese are unique, just as the rest of the other cultures on earth. Being unique like a finger print, doesn't mean they are not human, or that they can't have similarities to other cultures, or influences from other countries. I don't think it is an issue for me if they disagree with that. That is their right.

FWIW. :)

Philip, not all Japanese believe they are a unique species. I wish you'd stop writing as if they do. It comes across as offensive towards a lot of people.

lbb
07-01-2009, 07:51 PM
Nihonjinron is something I am merely looking at. It doesn't have any effect on my training or my life. I don't experience it, and I don't think the Japanese are superior ( but only in reasonable limited sort of way with certain things they demonstrate superior stuff, i.e. recognizing Toyota is superior to Ford. Now, Mary disagrees with that.

I didn't say that or anything like that. Feel free to tell the world that you don't understand what I said, but stop saying that I said something I didn't.

Buck
07-01-2009, 08:45 PM
I didn't say that or anything like that. Feel free to tell the world that you don't understand what I said, but stop saying that I said something I didn't.

But you said....I was simply reinterating what you said :confused:
06-29-2009, 05:12 AM: I just don't agree with you.

Mary, what do you think of Nihonjinron?

lbb
07-01-2009, 09:13 PM
But you said....I was simply reinterating what you said :confused:

I'm sorry, Buck, but you were not. You said:

Nihonjinron is something I am merely looking at. It doesn't have any effect on my training or my life. I don't experience it, and I don't think the Japanese are superior ( but only in reasonable limited sort of way with certain things they demonstrate superior stuff, i.e. recognizing Toyota is superior to Ford. Now, Mary disagrees with that.

Your "that" has no clear antecedent; it could refer to any of several things. According to you, I either believe:

That you are NOT "merely looking at" nihonjinron
That nihonjinron DOES have any effect on your training or your life
That you DO experience nihonjinron
That you DO think the Japanese are superior, or
That the Japanese ARE superior

...or perhaps some combination of the above. In fact, I have not made any statement that could be construed as any of these.

Buck
07-01-2009, 09:25 PM
Philip, not all Japanese believe they are a unique species. I wish you'd stop writing as if they do. It comes across as offensive towards a lot of people.

ummmm......I think you are posting to the wrong person. :)

Buck
07-01-2009, 09:49 PM
I see the problem, I should have said, "Mary disagrees with me." Now do you or don't you disagree with me, I am not sure. :confused:

To get ahead start:

If you disagree with me that I am observing Nihonjinron and it doesn't effect my training or my life, and I have no strong feelings either way, and respect the Japanese as a culture, and think in some ways they are superior i.e. Toyota cars over Fords. And there must be some positive aspects about Nihonjinron. I like to look at both sides of the coin. Ron always disagrees with me.. But when does Ron ever agree with me? That is what he does, I guess. I respect that. And don't take it personally, or react emotionally or irrationally to his comments, that's just me. That is all I was saying that you and Ron disagree with me. And that is fine.

If you agree, fine.

Either way, I have read western critics of Nihonjinron. And, I have read Japanese authors who are supporters of Nihonjinron. All -n- all maybe 5 things on Nihonjinron. Its not allot. Because I am not an expert on Nihonjinron am not arguing anything.

In terms of Nihonjinron, I don't know of any culture who doesn't think they are superior to others, at some point. That is my opinon. You are welcome to agree or disagree. :)

Rennis Buchner
07-01-2009, 11:15 PM
Nihonjinron is one of those somewhat difficult to define things, although Ron's post showing 5 general characteristics is a decent enough rough benchmark. In general the idea that gets under many people's skin is that Nihonjinron goes beyond mere pride in one's culture, etc, and heads into the realms of "only Japan does this and no where else in the world can this be found or even understood" territory. Yes most people generally find their own culture to be superior, but the "proof" given in many Nihonjinron arguments is often demonstrably false. In the worst cases, many of the ideas pushed as a "praising Japanese culture" ring of white-supremacists claiming their views are merely a "celebration of white European culture". Anyways, for the record, I have read Western academic authors who have approached the term in a non-negative fashion as well, so your arguments of it being a Western (implied bashing) vs Japan thing ring false. Indeed some of the early major players in pushing the idea were Westerners writing about Japan. The problem I think many have with the idea, regardless of it positive and negative aspects, is that, while starting as an innocent enough attempt to define the main cultural values, ideas, mainstays of Japan, the idea as a whole has basically become an extremist view of a culture, which doesn't really lend itself to a fair, balanced, in depth or accurate reflection of how the culture really is. Like most forms of extremism, there are plenty of grains of truth and facts in there. It is the leaps of logic taken with those that make it a questionable window through which to view and judge a culture (or Japan's culture in this case).
This is different that just having pride in one's culture and prefering it to others.

I thought I wasn't going to get involved in this anymore?
Rennis Buchner

lbb
07-02-2009, 07:58 AM
I see the problem, I should have said, "Mary disagrees with me." Now do you or don't you disagree with me, I am not sure. :confused:

Philip...there's this thing in human communications called "context". It means that, absent strong cues otherwise, people tend to think that information presented as a unit is all somehow related. If you restate several of your opinions, and then in the same paragraph make the statement "Mary disagrees with that", or the statement "Mary disagrees with me", context indicates to the reader that you believe that I disagree with what preceded the statement. It doesn't matter if you use the word "that", it doesn't matter if you use the word "me", it's all the same.

You seem genuinely confused at my and others' interpretations of what you are saying, and perhaps this is the reason why: because, as you write, your thoughts are running faster than you can type (a common problem, we all have it) and you're not slowing down enough to provide the structure and context to make your written communication clear. You know that you've moved on and that you're talking about something else altogether when you say "Mary disagrees with me/that", but as I look at the structure of what you have written -- and remember, that's all I have to go on -- I make a reasonable interpretation based on context, and derive a very different meaning from your communication. If you want to strive for clarity in communication, you can't ignore structure and you can't ignore context.

C. David Henderson
07-02-2009, 08:53 AM
.... I like to look at both sides of the coin.... I have read western critics of Nihonjinron. And, I have read Japanese authors who are supporters of Nihonjinron. All -n- all maybe 5 things on Nihonjinron. Its not allot. Because I am not an expert on Nihonjinron [I] am not arguing anything. ...
:)

Well, Buck, it's true you aren't being argumentative. You are, however, giving a description of a phenomenon. It's that description people are taking issue with.

It's like saying, "I found this quarter on the sidewalk, let me describe both sides of it," to which a number of people say, "that's not a coin, it's a subway token."

To which you respond, "I'm not arguing, I'm just describing this coin I found. Feel free to disagree with my opinion that we shouldn't argue about the coin."

I kept wanting to ask you earlier how Nihonjiron affected your life or practice. Now I read that it doesn't affect you. So why is it important for you to understand?

regards,
cdh

oisin bourke
07-02-2009, 11:35 AM
No, I'm posting to you, that's why I quoted your post.:)

Reading Mary's post about context and rereading your post, I see that I MIGHT have misunderstood your comments, but it's still unclear.

You wrote:

"if I was Japanese. I do think the Japanese are unique, just as the rest of the other cultures on earth. Being unique like a finger print, doesn't mean they are not human, or that they can't have similarities to other cultures, or influences from other countries. I don't think it is an issue for me if they disagree with that. That is their right."

Who are "they"?

The "Japanese", or some other group?

Ron Tisdale
07-02-2009, 11:40 AM
Hi Phil,
No need to agree. Not even a little bit.

As others have already pointed out, the issue seems to be one of communication skills. FWIW.

Best,
Ron

Ron,

Since I rarely agree with what you say on many things you reply to me.

mathewjgano
07-02-2009, 01:16 PM
No, I'm posting to you, that's why I quoted your post.:)

Reading Mary's post about context and rereading your post, I see that I MIGHT have misunderstood your comments, but it's still unclear.

You wrote:

"if I was Japanese. I do think the Japanese are unique, just as the rest of the other cultures on earth. Being unique like a finger print, doesn't mean they are not human, or that they can't have similarities to other cultures, or influences from other countries. I don't think it is an issue for me if they disagree with that. That is their right."

Who are "they"?

The "Japanese", or some other group?

Respectfully, i don't see how "they" could refer to anyone other than the Japanese in general. If I'm not mistaken, he seems to say the Japanese culture, generally speaking, is unique, but that while being unique they also share many of the same traits as any other culture...like Aikido is a unique art filled with things found in other arts. I could be wrong, of course, in which case I beg your pardon.:)

oisin bourke
07-02-2009, 05:49 PM
Respectfully, i don't see how "they" could refer to anyone other than the Japanese in general. If I'm not mistaken, he seems to say the Japanese culture, generally speaking, is unique, but that while being unique they also share many of the same traits as any other culture...like Aikido is a unique art filled with things found in other arts. I could be wrong, of course, in which case I beg your pardon.:)

OK, so "They" (ie the 130 million or so Japanese) disagree with Philip's comment that they are not uniquely different?

Does that mean that the Japanese (all of them) regard themselves as uniquely different?

Painting with a fairly large brush, no? However, maybe I'm reading him wrong and he can clear up what he meant.

mathewjgano
07-02-2009, 06:44 PM
OK, so "They" (ie the 130 million or so Japanese) disagree with Philip's comment that they are not uniquely different?

Does that mean that the Japanese (all of them) regard themselves as uniquely different?

Painting with a fairly large brush, no? However, maybe I'm reading him wrong and he can clear up what he meant.

My guess based on what makes sense to me:
I don't think it is an issue for me if [Japanese people] disagree with that.
Definately painting with a large brush in my opinion...and I probably shouldn't have tried to speak for someone else. My appologies.

mathewjgano
07-02-2009, 07:26 PM
Sorry, I see what I did now. I need more sleep. Switching back to casual observer mode so I can stop muddying things up further...
take care,
matt

Buck
07-02-2009, 10:37 PM
Nihonjinron. In general the idea that gets under many people's skin is that Nihonjinron goes beyond mere pride in one's culture, etc, and heads into the realms of "only Japan does this and no where else in the world can this be found or even understood" territory.

Yes most people generally find their own culture to be superior, but the "proof" given in many Nihonjinron arguments is often demonstrably false. In the worst cases, many of the ideas pushed as a "praising Japanese culture" ring of white-supremacists claiming their views are merely a "celebration of white European culture".

First of all, I am glad you took the time post. Here are my comments. If a person says, they feel Japanese are unique (refering to the culture in general sociological and anthropological terms, the way most people do generally.) there are those who will make assumptions and jump to conclusions that person is using the word "unique" to support those who feel the Japanese are being supremacists, much like white-supremacists. Rather than like myself who is taking the word "unique" to be defined in the common terms which has no connection to supremacy as use by supremascists. Rather, (being) distinctively characteristic of only one person, group, or thing. In this case, in culture, way of life, etc.

I have never experienced that from those Japanese I have had known, so I am unaware of that. I have noticed they have pride in their culture, but not more then anyone else. This has been my experience. This simply means I have not experienced what you discribed. Though, I have read parts of Yukio Mishima, and read things about him, but I have not seen that extermism with those I have known. Also, I know the Japanese where a major player in WWII and what got them into the war. Those I know support the idea, they lost the war, but won the peace type of thing.

Because of the attitude you describe by some western writers who liken the Japanese pride (Nihonjinron) to be equal to white-supremacy does that have any basis on the writing of authors such as Mishima, and for the reasons for Japan to be major players in WII? Honestly, it sounds like the criticism of Gregory and other westerners is an extreme. I don't hear that type of criticisms like from those western writers in Aikido, or other Japanese cultural things like that in the US. I don't think I ever experienced, at least that I am aware of, Nihonjinron in Aikido, other Japanese cultural things, or from those I know. Again, I don' t live in Japan where it might be a different story. I don't know.

Anyways, for the record, I have read Western academic authors who have approached the term in a non-negative fashion as well, so your arguments of it being a Western (implied bashing) vs Japan thing ring false.

FWIW, I was stating that I have read things that discuss both sides. I look a both sides of the coin, not arguing or judging or anything like that. I don't know enough about the arguements make for or against Nihonjinron. I don't know much about Nihonjinron. Point is, I know that am aware that there are arguements on both sides. I don't take sides because there is no reason for me to do so.

Indeed some of the early major players in pushing the idea were Westerners writing about Japan. The problem I think many have with the idea, regardless of it positive and negative aspects, is that, while starting as an innocent enough attempt to define the main cultural values, ideas, mainstays of Japan, the idea as a whole has basically become an extremist view of a culture, which doesn't really lend itself to a fair, balanced, in depth or accurate reflection of how the culture really is. Like most forms of extremism, there are plenty of grains of truth and facts in there. It is the leaps of logic taken with those that make it a questionable window through which to view and judge a culture (or Japan's culture in this case).
This is different that just having pride in one's culture and prefering it to others.

So, the Japanese are extermists that don't look at their culture in a balance, fair, in depth, or accurate reflection. Oh wait, that sounds like our polititians, political parties, politics and the media :D.

It's true that some Western writers helped advocate the idea of Nihonjinron. Then there are western writers in their criticisms who liken the Japanese to white-supremacists. I hope then that someone who isn't on board with either views isn't singled out and well.....you know, what us westerners do in these cases, history tells us that loud and clear. I am starting to see better what is going on here.

And then it is true Japan's extereme view of its self is different than from how other cultures see themselves according to western writers and those who support these writers' views?

A very good and informative post, that really clears things up. I am glad you posted. Thanks. :)

C. David Henderson
07-03-2009, 08:23 AM
... If a person says, they feel Japanese are unique (refering to the culture in general sociological and anthropological terms, the way most people do generally.)

Most people use general sociological and anthropological terms?

Generally, reputable sociologists and anthropologists would question a theory that proceeded by suggesting that "Japanese culture" is a monolithic entity with uniform distribution. The burden of proof would be on anyone who suggested -- as you have and continue to do -- that a tradition like nihonjiron was widespread enough to justify speaking, not of its particular adherants, but in terms of an entire modern nation.

People who do talk this way are political ideologues.

there are those who will make assumptions and jump to conclusions that person is using the word "unique" to support those who feel the Japanese are being supremacists, much like white-supremacists.

But this is a straw man. Rennis has described the range of beliefs associated with nihonjiron, and makes it clear that the terms is not always but often associated with extreme right-wing views.

Rather than like myself who is taking the word "unique" to be defined in the common terms which has no connection to supremacy as use by supremascists. Rather, (being) distinctively characteristic of only one person, group, or thing. In this case, in culture, way of life, etc.

First, you've utterly failed to make the case that Nihonjiron is characteristic of the group you identify (the "Japanese.") In fact, you've denied this is what you mean even as you keep repeating the idea that it is what you mean.

Second, "every snowflake is unique," right? Why is this a distinction that makes a difference especially since:

I have not experienced what you discribed. Though, I have read parts of Yukio Mishima, and read things about him, but I have not seen that extermism with those I have known.

Moreover,
I don't hear that type of criticisms like from those western writers in Aikido, or other Japanese cultural things like that in the US. I don't think I ever experienced, at least that I am aware of, Nihonjinron in Aikido, other Japanese cultural things, or from those I know.

So it's not characteristic of the Japanese, from your own experience? Why not talk about it in terms of "those Japanese who" then?

Again you say:

I look a both sides of the coin, not arguing or judging or anything like that. I don't know enough about the [arguments made] for or against Nihonjinron. I don't know much about Nihonjinron. Point is, I know that am aware that there are [arguments] on both sides. I don't take sides because there is no reason for me to do so.

Never mind that its only a subway token -- what arguments exist "for" the idea that only Japan has four real seasons? That only a Japanese person could master an art well enough to recieve a teaching certificate? That the Japanese are a homogenous racial and cultural group?

So, the Japanese are extermists that don't look at their culture in a balance, fair, in depth, or accurate reflection. Oh wait, that sounds like our polititians, political parties, politics and the media :D.

That only follows if someone takes your intellectual shortcut and asserts that Nihonjiron characterizes "the Japanese" generally. That's why some find your generalization "offensive." That's why we have been arguing with you, even if you don't really engage with the point we are making to you.

I hope then that someone who isn't on board with either views isn't singled out and well.....you know, what us westerners do in these cases, history tells us that loud and clear. I am starting to see better what is going on here.

GIGO. Unexamined premise, unreliable conclusion.

A very good and informative post, that really clears things up. I am glad you posted. Thanks. :)

Ironically, it should have.

cdh

Buck
07-03-2009, 09:13 AM
Most people use general sociological and anthropological terms?


No, I am pointing out my use of the word "unique" is not referring to supremacists. :)

Generally, reputable sociologists and anthropologists would question a theory that proceeded by suggesting that "Japanese culture" is a monolithic entity with uniform distribution. The burden of proof would be on anyone who suggested -- as you have and continue to do -- that a tradition like nihonjiron was widespread enough to justify speaking, not of its particular adherants, but in terms of an entire modern nation.

Well if you think so. But, I guess, I messed up assuming too much from some people reading this thread, and their sensitivities. Opps. :blush:

People who do talk this way are political ideologues. I guess the smilely ":D" didn't work. I was just being light and jovial.

But this is a straw man. Rennis has described the range of beliefs associated with nihonjiron, and makes it clear that the terms is not always but often associated with extreme right-wing views.

First, you've utterly failed to make the case that Nihonjiron is characteristic of the group you identify (the "Japanese.") In fact, you've denied this is what you mean even as you keep repeating the idea that it is what you mean.

Second, "every snowflake is unique," right? Why is this a distinction that makes a difference especially since:

Moreover,

So it's not characteristic of the Japanese, from your own experience? Why not talk about it in terms of "those Japanese who" then?

Again you say:

Never mind that its only a subway token -- what arguments exist "for" the idea that only Japan has four real seasons? That only a Japanese person could master an art well enough to recieve a teaching certificate? That the Japanese are a homogenous racial and cultural group?

That only follows if someone takes your intellectual shortcut and asserts that Nihonjiron characterizes "the Japanese" generally. That's why some find your generalization "offensive." That's why we have been arguing with you, even if you don't really engage with the point we are making to you.

GIGO. Unexamined premise, unreliable conclusion.

Ironically, it should have.

cdh

Wow,:eek:, I was just making observation and comments, not a formal argument for or against. As I've said, I am not an expert on Nihonjinron. I respect other peoples and their way of life, I have never experienced or been on the receiving end of Nihonjinron. But, it seems there is allot of people who feel Nihonjinron is a very bad and ugly thing. I was not aware it was such a sensitive issue for allot of people from what I am getting here.

Well, I will plainly say, regardless of what others think or feel on this subject. I have no feeling about taking sides on the issue, and it doesn't effect me or my training. Thus, naturally, I don't subscribe to it, or condemn it- it is something not important to me.

I want to thank everyone making me aware of the sensitivity that is associated with Nihonjinron for some. It has been very educational.

From this experience of this thread I can say, Nihonjinron -generally at its bare bones- seems not to be uniquely ( not in the racism terms it has been associated in some circles) associated to one people. It seems it is something other people can feel so strongly about. I must be very careful in my discussions.

At this time, the bulk of this thread is verging to becoming OT. Plus, it seems to be a very sensitive subject for many, which I didn't quickly realize- my bad. In this case, I will not continue to respond unless something really interesting etc. comes up. In this way. I want to rub people the wrong way making this a highly charged and emotional subject, indicated by some that it is such. That is not my purpose here.

Again, thanks to everyone, and again I apologize for not being aware of the sensitive issue of Nihonjinron that is for some. I have enjoyed reading the responses, all of them, especially those that point out all that stuff, I didn't know or was aware of. It has helped me out the next time I approach the subject of Nihonjinron.

Happy Independence day to all! :)

In civility tact, and diplomacy and a very healthy dollop of respect,

Phil. :)