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tedehara
05-10-2005, 03:16 PM
Japan is a sad place today, just as Mishima predicted it would be. It is a desert of the spirit, a materialistic wasteland, a medium-size country off the mainland of China that is rich and empty of spirit and largely ignored by others.
Henry Scott-Stokes, whose biography, "The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima," is considered the defining work on the controversial writer's career. (The Scotsman)
Because many people consider the spiritual aspects of Aikido important, they also consider the spiritual life of the Japanese arts and people as important. Apparently this view is not shared by all.

I would be interested in hearing any thoughts on the above quote, from both inside and outside Japan.

DustinAcuff
05-10-2005, 05:39 PM
I lived in Japan for a couple of years when I was younger, and in general I would have to agree that Japan is kind of dead. They once were an extremely proud people who truly had their own culture, but after the disbanding of the samurai and the coming of the West they seem to have lost their cultural identity. I do not think that this will last much longer, Japan is currently experiencing its first generational gap, and will likely be a very diffrent place in thrity years. Don't get me wrong, I love Japan and hope to visit again sometime in the near future, but it is kind of sad that the most note-worthy things in Japan today are Sony, Mitsubishi, and Honda.

ChrisHein
05-10-2005, 06:59 PM
Japan is great at adapting new cultures, maybe they missed the boat on the American one.

-Chris Hein

awh
05-10-2005, 08:03 PM
I'm a relative newbie to Japan; my first anniversary is in a few weeks' time. Before Japan, I lived in Canada, a country which has also been accused of having lost its culture to the USA.

Many people express disappointment when they come here for the first time. I wonder if they were clinging to some romantic notion of Japan with kimono-clad damsels living in wooden houses up in the mountains, waiting for a samurai to come and carry them off.

Just before I left Canada, a good friend of mine who was already living here gave me some advice: "Japan is just a place." People here go to work. They go home. They pay the electricity bill. They cook dinner. They pick up their suit from the cleaner. They watch television. They go to pachinko. They ride the train.

Is that to say that the "Japanese spirit" is dead? Only if your idea of the Japanese spirit comes from old samurai movies. Japan's a country rich with artists, musicians, poets. Japan is a country from which many technological advances that benefit the world come. Japan's a country that takes its work seriously, and its fun seriously. Japan's a country that considers itself unique, sometimes to the point of being comical. And yes, Japan is a country whose occupants, like the occupants of any modern country, have work, school, and other mundanities taking up large chunks of their lives. All of these things together are the "Japanese Spirit".

Even though the spirit is not in the form that you were expecting it to be, it's there.

Zato Ichi
05-10-2005, 09:36 PM
... it is kind of sad that the most note-worthy things in Japan today are Sony, Mitsubishi, and Honda.
As opposed to what? Tea ceremony? When people start romanticizing cultures, they're inevitably disappointed when reality collides with their expectations.

Nathan Gusdorf
05-10-2005, 10:03 PM
but it is kind of sad that the most note-worthy things in Japan today are Sony, Mitsubishi, and Honda.

Actually, I would say its rather impressive that Japan is a leader in automotive technology in addition to virtually all electronic products.

maikerus
05-10-2005, 10:49 PM
As opposed to what? Tea ceremony? When people start romanticizing cultures, they're inevitably disappointed when reality collides with their expectations.

Excellent point, Rob. I've seen so many people disappointed when the Japan they expected and the Japan they met were different. This is true for Japan in general as well as expectations of hombu dojo training.

DustinAcuff
05-10-2005, 11:21 PM
Please do not get me wrong! Tokyo is my favorite place on earth. But, in the last couple generations I just find it disappointing that Japan has no recent claims to fame, stuff that they (meaning the people currently alive in Japan) have really created from nothing. I stand in awe of the things that have been accomplished by the earlier generations of Japanese, but I think that they have undergone such a profound shift in the last 100 years of their history they are kind of searching for their cultural idendity since it was removed first with the samurai and then later in the wake of WWII. I am not trying to be degrading to them, but I am somewhat disappointed at this point in thime with the transition they are going through and look foward to seeing what they become in the future.

PeterR
05-10-2005, 11:53 PM
That's what you get for living in Tokyo.

I'm working at the most powerful synchrotron in the world, at night I live in a little village by the sea where the people are great. Young people range from the equivalent of the Valley Girl to participants of Philharmonic Orchestras. Japanese culture is alive and well as is just about everything, good and bad, from the West.

I really like living here but then I don't expect much more or less than I do anywhere I live.

Ulises Garcia
05-11-2005, 01:36 AM
Hi gang,

I've been to Japan a couple of times. It doesn't make me an expert or anything, but what I've seen is that, among all the high-tech and "westernization", it lies the hard working spirit and (mostly) deep respect that bushido translated into, for the modern age. True, it seems like the newer generations don't seem to care about such tradition, but I do have the feeling they will turn back. I am as romantic about samurais and swords and tradition as the next guy, but all in all it seems to be the natural evolution of any country. My best experiences were when I went to Nagano (Ina, if I recall correctly), which is more rural, rather than Tokyo/Shinjuku, which is all hi-tech. Mine is not the opinion of an expert. Just my experience...

U.

batemanb
05-11-2005, 03:25 AM
at night I live in a little village by the sea where the people are great.


Bloody miles from anywhere......

PeterR
05-11-2005, 03:26 AM
Bloody miles from anywhere......
Yeah great isn't it?

batemanb
05-11-2005, 07:09 AM
Yeah great isn't it?
Not when you're trying to get back to Gakuen Toshi late at night :D

Peter Goldsbury
05-11-2005, 08:18 AM
I would be interested in hearing any thoughts on the above quote, from both inside and outside Japan.

I think he's wrong on quite a few counts.
Japan is very much in the news in S E Asia. Some people in Korea and China are most upset that the history textbooks do not present a view of World War II of which they approve. But this does not prevent them from buying Toyota and Honda motorcars.

Secondly, I am not sure that Mishima is the best judge of the Japanese spirit. For many Japanese he represents a harsh and dark side, represented by the black sound trucks: an idea of national purity that harks back to the kokutai and the repression of the 30s and 40s.

How do you judge the 'spirit' of a people or nation? Do the supposedly spiritual aspects of football or baseball, if they exist, reveal the American spirit? They might, but I would hesitate to use soccer as any indication for an 'English' spirit, apart from the sort that you drink.

Over Golden Week, I went with friends to Izumo Taisha, the shrine in Shimane Prefecture. The weather was good and there were many people there. Ceremonies were being held in one of the buildings and the trees were festooned with omikuji (good luck charms that were not 'lucky' enough and which were attached to the trees as a way of asking the shrine deities to do better). Japanese tend to be 'practically religious', as one writer put it.

A colleague of mine spent part of the spring vacation doing her pilgrimage of the 88 temples in Shikoku, a practice supposedly started by Kukai. She does not have the time to do it all at once, so she does it in sections.

Just two examples, and of course we all know that it would be quite wrong to use these two examples to generalize about the entire population.

Best regards,

tedehara
05-12-2005, 12:37 AM
What counts is the observation, not the observer. I may not agree with President Bush's policy on social security, but I do agree it is an area of concern. Similarly, I am wondering if the observation by Mishima is a valid one, not that I agree with his overall position.

Currently Japan is an economic leader in Southeast Asia. However Korea already has Hyundai and Kia while China has Great Wall Automobile Holding, China Zhejiang Geely Group and Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Manufacturing. It is not inconceivable that Japan could lose it's percentage of the world auto market in the near future. Capital, facilities and expertise are all movable assets.

Certainly, the one thing Japan needs to do is to take responsibility for its actions during WWII. West Germany has apologized for it's actions and has had reparation programs. Japan needs to do the same, if it hopes to normalize relations with it's neighbors. Japan should not do this because of any political pressure by outside nations, but should take this policy because it realized it is the correct thing to do.

The spiritual level of a country is an intangible. Like the morale of an army, it is something both abstract and very real. One person can make a huge difference. It is not something that can be put to a vote, polled or quantified. It is up to each of us to develop spiritually and encourage others to do the same. This is where I think, Mishima's observation fails.

Mishima's observation is a general view of the Japanese people. However the actual situation is one of specifics. Just like people have an idealized way for an aikido technique to work, they need to utilize it on the mat. To do that, they need to understand the specifics of the moment. Mishima offers a general view, but it is the specifics i.e. individuals, that will provide the real answer.

Like several people have pointed out, Japan seems to be in an area of transition. What direction it will take and how it will get there will probably appear within the next few years. Japan is an interesting place today because of this.

PeterR
05-12-2005, 12:51 AM
West Germany has apologized for it's actions and has had reparation programs.
Actually so has Japan - most recent apology by the current Prime Minister.

The current huff about the History texts is a bit rich if you ask me. The Chinese government has total control over its textbooks and there is some serious revisionism therein. The Japanese government has far less control and there would be a major stink if they tried to change that to something closer to the Chinese system.

Interestingly the anniversary of a particular more recent massacre is approaching in China. Methinks there is an attempt at redirection.

tedehara
05-12-2005, 01:39 AM
Actually so has Japan - most recent apology by the current Prime Minister.

The current huff about the History texts is a bit rich if you ask me. The Chinese government has total control over its textbooks and there is some serious revisionism therein. The Japanese government has far less control and there would be a major stink if they tried to change that to something closer to the Chinese system.

Interestingly the anniversary of a particular more recent massacre is approaching in China. Methinks there is an attempt at redirection.The politics of other nations are just that. There has to be a realization within the Japanese people to take responsibility for the actions of World War II. Foreign leaders are not interested in hearing the apology of a Prime Minister. It is not a Prime Minister's voice they want to hear. It is the voice of the Crane.

Peter Goldsbury
05-12-2005, 01:56 AM
The spiritual level of a country is an intangible. Like the morale of an army, it is something both abstract and very real. One person can make a huge difference. It is not something that can be put to a vote, polled or quantified. It is up to each of us to develop spiritually and encourage others to do the same. This is where I think, Mishima's observation fails.

It is not clear from the quotation offered whether these are Mishima's own words, or his biographer's. I took them to be the latter.

I think that to talk about the spiritual level of a country is to talk in stereotypes and I also think that such a generalization about an entire country is too wide to be of much value. Spiritual levels indicate highs and lows and I would be interested in hearing of countries where the spiritual level is high, or low, compared with that of Japan.

Finally, I am sure that people felt that Japan was going to the dogs towards the end of the Tokugawa period. Does this mean that the spiritual level was low at that time?

deepsoup
05-12-2005, 04:21 AM
Actually so has Japan - most recent apology by the current Prime Minister.

Reparations were made to the survivors of German concentration camps decades ago, however. I believe the (remaining) survivors of Japanese camps are still waiting.

Sean
x

PeterR
05-12-2005, 04:42 AM
I agree the Japanese government could go a lot further and some text books (privately published) are embarrassing but .... to what degree is a matter of opinion and for some it would never be enough.

I took exception to the idea that there were no apologies or payment of compensation. I also think that the latest round of Chinese protests are orchestrated to deflect criticism from themselves concerning upcoming events or as a counter to Japan deciding to cut development aid. They sure were not spontaneous and resulted in Japanese tourists seriously hurt.

I don't know too many Japanese that are not aware of their nations role in WWII and who was responsible.

tedehara
05-12-2005, 08:51 AM
.... to what degree is a matter of opinion and for some it would never be enough...You can't expect relations with other countries to be suddenly normalized just because the government fully apologizes. The Japanese government can't be pressured by outside groups into a full apology. This has to be a process of self-realization.

There will always be those who cannot come to terms with the past. There are people who will be sitting around a kitchen table in Georgia tonight, who will be complaining because the South lost the American Civil War.

Abasan
05-16-2005, 07:37 AM
I think Japan Anime and Manga stand foremost in current Japan culture. Yes its not a millenia old, but look at how it transcends borders and entertains millions. There's a lot of spirituality in anime if you care to look. Go Naruto!

I don't think Japan is without any sort of 'recent' innovation or success. Playstation 2 was one of the most important thing that has happened in the last decade and soon to be followed with Playstation 3.