Diversity and Change of Japanese Society

Mythological Origins

The literature of Shinto employs much mythology to describe the supposed historical origins of Japan. According to the creation story found in the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, dating from A.D. 712) and the Nihongi or Nihon shoki (Chronicle of Japan, from A.D. 720), the Japanese islands were created by the gods, two of whom--the male Izanagi and the female Izanami--descended from heaven to carry out the task. They also brought into being other kami (deities or supernatural forces), such as those influencing the sea, rivers, wind, woods, and mountains. Two of these deities, the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, and her brother, the Storm God, Susano-o, warred against each other, with Amaterasu emerging victorious.

Subsequently Amaterasu sent her grandson, Ninigi, to rule over the sacred islands. Ninigi took with him what became the three imperial regalia--a curved jewel (magatama), a mirror, and a "sword of gathered clouds"--and ruled over the island of Kyushu. Ninigi's great-grandson, Jimmu, recognized as the first human emperor of Japan, set out to conquer Yamato. On the main island of Honshu, according to tradition he established the unbroken line of imperial descent from the Sun Goddess and founded the Land of the Rising Sun in 660 B.C.

Ancient Cultures

On the basis of archaeological finds, it has been postulated that hominid activity in Japan may date as early as 200,000 B.C., when the islands were connected to the Asian mainland. Although some scholars doubt this early date for habitation, most agree that by around 40,000 B.C. glaciation had reconnected the islands with the mainland. Based on archaeological evidence, they also agree that by between 35,000 and 30,000 B.C. Homo sapiens had migrated to the islands from eastern and southeastern Asia and had well-established patterns of hunting and gathering and stone toolmaking . Stone tools, inhabitation sites, and human fossils from this period have been found throughout all the islands of Japan.

More stable living patterns gave rise by around 10,000 B.C. to a Neolithic or, as some scholars argue, Mesolithic culture. Possibly distant ancestors of the Ainu aboriginal people of modern Japan, members of the heterogeneous Jomon culture (ca. 10,000-300 B.C.) left the clearest archaeological record. By 3,000 B.C., the Jomon people were making clay figures and vessels decorated with patterns made by impressing the wet clay with braided or unbraided cord and sticks (jomon means "patterns of plaited cord") with a growing sophistication. These people also used chipped stone tools, traps, and bows and were hunters, gatherers, and skillful coastal and deep-water fishermen. They practiced a rudimentary form of agriculture and lived in caves and later in groups of either temporary shallow pit dwellings or above-ground houses, leaving rich kitchen middens for modern anthropological study.

By the late Jomon period, a dramatic shift had taken place according to archaeological studies. Incipient cultivation had evolved into sophisticated rice-paddy farming and government control. Many other elements of Japanese culture also may date from this period and reflect a mingled migration from the northern Asian continent and the southern Pacific areas. Among these elements are Shinto mythology, marriage customs, architectural styles, and technological developments, such as lacquerware, textiles, metalworking, and glass making.

The next cultural period, the Yayoi (named after the section of Tokyo where archaeological investigations uncovered its traces) flourished between about 300 B.C. and A.D. 250 from southern Kyushu to northern Honshu. The earliest of these people, who are thought to have migrated from Korea to northern Kyushu and intermixed with the Jomon, also used chipped stone tools. Although the pottery of the Yayoi was more technologically advanced--produced on a potter's wheel--it was more simply decorated than Jomon ware. The Yayoi made bronze ceremonial nonfunctional bells, mirrors, and weapons and, by the first century A.D., iron agricultural tools and weapons. As the population increased and society became more complex, they wove cloth, lived in permanent farming villages, constructed buildings of wood and stone, accumulated wealth through landownership and the storage of grain, and developed distinct social classes. Their irrigated, wet-rice culture was similar to that of central and south China, requiring heavy inputs of human labor, which led to the development and eventual growth of a highly sedentary, agrarian society. Unlike China, which had to undertake massive public works and water-control projects, leading to a highly centralized government, Japan had abundant water. In Japan, then, local political and social developments were relatively more important than the activities of the central authority and a stratified society.

The earliest written records about Japan are from Chinese sources from this period. Wa (the Japanese pronunciation of an early Chinese name for Japan) was first mentioned in A.D. 57. Early Chinese historians described Wa as a land of hundreds of scattered tribal communities, not the unified land with a 700-year tradition as laid out in the Nihongi, which puts the foundation of Japan at 660 B.C. Third-century Chinese sources reported that the Wa people lived on raw vegetables, rice, and fish served on bamboo and wooden trays, had vassal-master relations, collected taxes, had provincial granaries and markets, clapped their hands in worship (something still done in Shinto shrines), had violent succession struggles, built earthen grave mounds, and observed mourning. Himiko, a female ruler of an early political federation known as Yamatai, flourished during the third century. While Himiko reigned as spiritual leader, her younger brother carried out affairs of state, which included diplomatic relations with the court of the Chinese Wei Dynasty (A.D. 220-65).

2. Cultural background: The Age of Feudalism First Half (Kamakura, Muromachi and Azuchi Momoyama Periods)

From the middle of the Heian Period, with the ‘increase in agricultural output, there emerged influential people and in turn, the samurai warrior class began to thrive (процветать, преуспевать, буйно разрастаться). Of these influential groups, the Heishi and Genji families were the most powerful and in 1185, at the 'Battle of Dan no Ura, the Genji clan overthrew the Heishi Clan. In 1192, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo became Shоgun (general, comander) and established his shogunate in Kamakura. This ‘heralded a period of 700 years of military rule until the Edo Period.

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo set up a stronghold (крепость) in Kamakura, established defences and installed a 'Lord of the Manor (поместье)' in each region, allowing him to assume control over the whole country. The defences in­cluded military forces and police. The function of the Lord of the Manor was to collect the land taxes (imposed on the peasants) each year.

The Shoguns of the Genji clan continued for three generations. After this, while Hojo was installed as shikken ('’regent'- правитель - an important post as advisor to the Shogun), a battle was fought with the Kyoto Impe­rial court forces. The Shogunate troops defeated the Imperial troops on this occa­sion. On two further occasions, however, battles were fought with Kublai Khan (1/) and his army from Gen (a Mongolian country)-first in 1274, the Mongolian forces attack­ed with a large army, 40,000 strong and then again in 1281, when a huge army of 140,000, including men mobilized from Korea, launched an attack. These battles left the Kamakura Shogunate in a weakened state. Samurai warriors who were vassals to the Shogun had large outlays of expense-readying armor, helmets, weapons and horses, as well as employing soldiers. Since they didn't feel that they were receiving any benefit from the shogunate the number of disgruntled samurai warriors grew. The Emperor, using these -samurai to his advantage, overthrew the Kamakura Shogunate and installed an imperial court centralized government.

However, this too, was short-lived when the military Commander Ashikaga established the Muromachi shogunate, once again in Kyoto. This period of history continued for 240 years. During this time there was great cultural development, not merely among the ranks of the aristocracy and Buddhist priests, but also among the people in general. Noh and Kyogen theatre flourished and in Kyoto, handicrafts such as Nishijin silk brocade (парча) and sword making developed. This time also saw port towns along the Inland Sea and on the Sea of Japan coast thrive - markets were held on appointed days with goods of all varieties being bought and sold.

Towards the middle of the Muromachi period, due to a struggle among possible successors to the Shogun, the 'Battle of Onin' broke out. This, in turn, led to a period of 100 years of war with powerful daimyo ((in Japan) one of the territorial magnates who dominated much of the country from about the 11th to the 19th century), or feudal lords throughout Japan, fighting against each other. Oda Nobunaga (Oda Nobunaga (help·info) (June 23, 1534 – June 21, 1582) was a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. He was the second son of Oda Nobuhide, a deputy shugo (military governor) with land holdings in Owari province. Nobunaga lived a life of continuous military conquest, eventually conquering a third of Japanese daimyo before his death in 1582. His successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a loyal Oda supporter, would eventually become the first man to conquer all of Japan.), using guns introduced from Portugal in battle for the first time, managed to unify the whole country. In 1549, St Francis Xavier (Saint Francis of Xavier, born Francisco de Jaso y Azpilcueta (7 April 1506, Javier, Navarre – 3 December 1552, Shangchuan Island, China) was a Navarrese pioneering Roman Catholic missionary of Basque origin. He came under the influence of St. Ignatius Loyola and was one of the first seven Jesuits who dedicated themselves to the service of God at Montmarte in 1534.[1]) brought Chris­tianity to Japan and this new religion was protected by Nobunaga.


Хубилай (23 сентября 1215 - 18 февраля 1294) - монгольский хан, основатель династии Юань в Китае.Чингизид, внук Чингисхана, сын Толуя и Соркуктани-бэги. В 1260 году перенес столицу Монгольской империи из Каракорума в Пекин, который был переименован в Ханбалык. В 1279 завоевал южный Китай. Оказывал покровительство буддизму.Главною его целью по вступлению на престол сделалось ниспровержение Сунской династии в Китае. После упорной и продолжительной борьбы Хубилай к 1271 г. овладел большею частью Китая, где решил основать новую династию, дав ей имя Юань. В 1279 г. погиб последний сунский император, и Хубилай окончательно упрочил свою власть над всем Китаем, учредив свою столицу в Пекине.

3. Culture Background: The Age of Feudalism The Latter Half (Azuchi Momoyama, Edo)

After Nobunaga was murdered, Toyotomi Hideyoshi succeeded as Shogun and reunified the country. Hideyoshi built Osaka Castle. Large numbers of vassals, merchants and craftsmen flocked to the castle town, with the result that Osaka became a large centre where commerce and industry flourished. Peasants paid land taxes according to the area of their fields under a land surveying system known as kenchi. The non-samurai classes were deprived of all arms, such as swords, spears, firearms and so on, under the katana-gari law, meaning that it became impossible for people to leave the village or effect a change in social position. Hideyoshi suppressed Christianity and attempted to invade the Korean Peninsula on two occasions, however he perished in the process.

With the death of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa leyasu seized power after gaining victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in the year 1600. leyasu had Edo Castle constructed in Edo (present-day Tokyo) and relocated the wives and family of the daimyo of more than 260 different provinces here. The daimyo alternated residences between Edo and their fiefs on a yearly basis under a system known as sankin kotai. This procession of daimyo, both ways, required huge outlays of funds. (Refer to diagram.) The Shogunate required the daimyo to spend vast sums of money, causing their financial resources to be depleted. During this time, Japanese merchants travelled to the countries of South-East Asia on special trading ships authorized by the shogunate. Trade with foreign countries prospered and with this, the number of converts to Christianity also grew. Fearing that Christianity would throw the government into a state of disorder, the shogunate increased suppression of this religion, which inevitably led to the complete isolation of the country. Japanese people and ships were forbidden to travel abroad and likewise, were unable to return from the outside world.

During the Edo Period, Osaka flourished as the number one centre of commerce in Japan. Ihara Saikaku's work Ninon Eitaigura, describes lively scenes of ships transporting loads of rice and thousands of wholesale rice stores lining the waterfront.

Social status in the Edo Period was clearly defined--people were classed as shi ('warrior'), no ('farmer'), ko ('artisan'), or sho ('tradesman'). Only samurai were allowed the privilege of having a family name and that of wearing two swords.

During this period of history the merchant classes thrived, Kabuki theatre and puppet plays enjoyed wide popularity and woodblock prints of the ukiyoe ('transitory world painting') style appeared for the first time.

In 1853, American warships, commanded by Commodore Perry, arrived in Uraga, bringing to an end the two hundred years of national isolation.

4. Cultural Background: The Modern Age (Meiji, Taisho and Showa Periods)

The fifteenth Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, handed over government control to the Emperor Meiji, thus bringing to an end the age of the samurai warriors, which had continued for seven hundred years from the time of the Kamakura shogunate.

Edo assumed the name of Tokyo and the new era was named Meiji. In 1871, feudal clans were abolished and prefec­tures established (referred to as haihan-chiken). Governors appointed by the gov­ernment were dispatched to prefectures. The class system, consisting of warriors, farmers, artisans and tradesmen, which had previously existed, was done away with, all citizens being made equal. Thus, the common people, namely farmers, artisans and tradesmen adopted family names and were able to freely choose occupations and where they might live.

The government, in an attempt to catch up with foreign countries, had factories built throughout the country to boost the development of modern industry. To increase the strength of the military, a conscription system was introduced. To cover the costs of such efforts, compulsory systems of military service and the pay­ment of taxes were imposed on the people.

In 1894, in an effort to gain control of the Korean Peninsuala, Japan went to war with China (the Sino-Japanese War) and then again, in 1904, launched a military campaign against Russian forces in North-Eastern China (the Russo-Japanese War). After the Russo-Japanese War, Korea was annexed and became a colony of Japan. Finally, the military had a firm grasp on real power, allowing Japan to advance down the road of militarism. In 1931, Japanese forces launched an attack on Manchuria entering a Sino-Japanese con­flict which continued for 15 years. With its invasion of China and advance into Indo-China, Japan entered into conflict with the United States and its allies, rushing head­long into the Pacific War, which was to become the Second World War. After atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the American forces, the Japanese government accepted the Potsdam Declaration, formulated by the Allied Powers and surrendered. Even today, there are people who are suffering from the after-effects of radiation sickness-victims of the atom bombs. This experience must never be allowed to recur.

After the war, Japan was regenerated as a democratic nation. Under the direction of the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces, the Imperial Constitution or 'the Constitution of the Empire of Japan' was replaced by 'the Constitution of Japan'-a new constitution espousing democratic rights, respect for basic human rights and pacifism.

The time for co-operation with the nations of the world has arrived-Japan must cease to be 'inward-looking'. In this way, may wars of aggression be only ever things of the past.

5. Jeography of Japan: The Land and its description, climate.

The Japanese, like all other peoples, have been shaped in large part by the land in which they live. Its location, climate, and natural endowments are unchangeable facts that have set limits to their development and helped to give it specific direction.

Most people think of Japan as a small country. Even the Japanese have this idea firmly in mind. And small it is if seen on a world map. It is certainly dwarfed by its near neighbors, China and Russia, and by the two North American co’lossi , the United States and Canada, which face it across the Pacific. But size is a relative matter. Japan would look far different if compared with the lands of Western Europe. It is less revealing to say that Japan is smaller than California or could be lost in a Siberian province than to point out that it is consid­erably larger than Italy and half against the size of the United Kingdom.

But a more meaningful measure of a nation's size is population.

The division of the country into many small units of ter’rain underlay the division of the land in an’tiquity into a number of autonomous petty "countries," which became institutionalized by the eighth century as the traditional sixty-eight provinces of Japan. Nowadays the country is divided into forty-seven prefectures.

Despite the natural division of the country, however, unity and ‘homoge’neity characterize the Japanese. As early as the seventh century, the Japanese saw themselves as a single people, living in a unified nation. Today few if any large masses of people are as homogeneous as the Japanese.

Until the building of railroads and paved highways in modern times, communication by land within the country was difficult. But sea transport has always been relatively easy around all the coasts.

Agricultural people everywhere have developed a close attachment to the soil that has nourished them, but among the Japanese there is in addition to this universal feeling a particularly strong awareness of the beauties of nature.

In addition to peerless (бесподобный) Fuji, there are the famous "three landscapes of Ja­pan" (Nihon sankei)-Miyajima, a temple island in the Inland Sea near Hiroshima; Ama-no-hashidate, or "Bridge of Heaven," a pine-covered sands pit on the Japan Sea coast north of Kyoto; and Matsushima, a cluster of picturesque pine-clad islands in a bay near the city of Sendai, in northern Japan.

Unlike the vastness of the untamed American West, the scale of Ja­pan's natural beauty is for the most part small and intimate. The chief exceptions to the smallness of scale in Japan's landscape are the high mountains of central Japan and the long vistas (аллея, просека) of the northern island of Hokkaido.

Japan's dense population and phenomenal agricultural production can in part be explained by the climate, which contrasts quite sharply with that of Europe. Whereas European agriculture is limited by summers that are overly dry in the south and too cool in the north, Japan has both hot summer weather and ample (изобильный) rainfall, which comes for the most part during the growing season from early spring to early autumn. This has permitted a much more intensive form of agriculture than in Europe, with consequently heavier agricultural populations.

The climate of Japan resembles that of the east coast of North America more than that of Europe, largely as a result of the similar relation­ship among land masses, oceans, and prevailing winds.

Thus, summer and winter can be unpleasant in Japan, but they are not extreme and are relatively brief. The remaining eight months of the year are very pleasant. The four seasons are clearly differentiated, and the progression of temperature changes is slow and quite regular, unlike that in most of the United States.

Typhoons, however, strike Japan with somewhat greater frequency and usually with more destructiveness to life and property, since the greater part of the Japanese population is concentrated on the southeastern seacoast, where the typhoons first come ashore.

Typhoons have accustomed the Japanese to expect natural catastrophes and to accept them with stoic resilience. This sort of fatalism might even be called the "typhoon mentality," but it has been fostered by other natural disasters as well. Volcanic eruptions sometimes occur, since Japan has many active volcanoes that are part of the great volcanic chain that encircles the Pacific Ocean. The largest active volcano, Asama-yama, devastated hundreds of square miles of central Honshu in 1783.

Japan is generally a rainy country with high humidity. Because of its wide range of latitude, Japan has a variety of climates, with a range often compared to that of the east coast of North America, from Nova Scotia to Georgia. Tokyo is at about 36 north latitude, comparable to that of Tehran, Athens, or Los Angeles. The generally humid, temperate climate exhibits marked seasonal variation celebrated in art and literature, as well as regional variations ranging from cool in Hokkaido to subtropical in Kyushu. Climate also varies with altitude and with location on the Pacific Ocean or on the Sea of Japan. Northern Japan has warm summers but long, cold winters with heavy snow. Central Japan has hot, humid summers and short winters, and southwestern Japan has long, hot, humid summers and mild winters.

Two primary factors influence Japan's climate: a location near the Asian continent and the existence of major oceanic currents. The climate from June to September is marked by hot, wet weather brought by tropical airflows from the Pacific Ocean and Southeast Asia. These airflows are full of moisture and deposit substantial amounts of rain when they reach land. There is a marked rainy season, beginning in early June and continuing for about a month. It is followed by hot, sticky weather. Five or six typhoons pass over or near Japan every year from early August to early September, sometimes resulting in significant damage. Annual precipitation, which averages between 100 and 200 centimeters, is concentrated in the period between June and September. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of the annual precipitation falls during this period. In winter, a high-pressure area develops over Siberia, and a low-pressure area develops over the northern Pacific Ocean. The result is a flow of cold air eastward across Japan that brings freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls to the central mountain ranges facing the Sea of Japan, but clear skies to areas fronting on the Pacific.

Two major ocean currents affect this climatic pattern: the warm Kuroshio Current (Black Current; also known as the Japan Current); and the cold Oyashio Current (Parent Current; also known as the Okhotsk Current). The Kuroshio Current flows northward on the Pacific side of Japan and warms areas as far north as Tokyo; a small branch, the Tsushima Current, flows up the Sea of Japan side. The Oyashio Current, which abounds in plankton beneficial to coldwater fish, flows southward along the northern Pacific, cooling adjacent coastal areas. The meeting point of these currents at 36 north latitude is a bountiful fishing ground.

6. Geography of Japan: Agriculture and Natural Resourses.

Between the ever present mountains and the sprawling cit­ies, less than 12 percent of Japan's land area is under cultivation. The soils of Japan, moreover, are on the whole not very fertile (плодородный). Nonetheless, a relatively long growing season, plentiful rainfall, unlimited hard work, and high agricultural skills have made it a very productive country despite its narrow geographic base.

Diversity and Change of Japanese Society - №1 - открытая онлайн библиотека Agriculture reached Japan quite late-only two or three centuries be­fore the time of Christ. By the second century a.d. it was practiced in Japan in its essentially modern form in small dike (сточная канава, ров) -surrounded, water-filled plots of land, fed by an intricate man-made system of small waterways. Seedlings normally are grown in special seedbeds and later transplanted to the main fields; in earlier times transplanting was performed by hand, but today it is normally done by machine.

The productivity of the land has been further increased by double cropping wherever possible, usually between summer rice and various winter grains or vegetables. This sort of double cropping can be practiced in the half of Japan southwest of a line running from a little north of Tokyo to the west coast of Honshu north of Kyoto.

As a result of intensive wet-field rice cultivation and double cropping, Japan, like the rest of East Asia, has supported since antiquity much heavier concentrations of population than the drier or colder lands of West Asia and Europe.

Japanese agricultural methods, involving as they once did an immense amount of labor, were relatively primitive when compared with the large-scale, highly mechanized agriculture of the United States. Even with the aid of modern machines, it is still not very productive per man-hour, but it is extremely productive per ‘acre (0,5 гектара) -perhaps the most produc­tive in the world.

Japanese agriculture, however, is very efficient and even scientific in its own way. Almost every square foot of tillable (пахотный) land is exploited as fully as possible. The rice seedlings or other crops are planted in careful straight rows that fill every square inch of space. The soil is carefully tilled to a depth of one or two feet.

Even before modern times Japanese agriculture had become self-consciously "scientific," and many treatises on improved seeds and su­perior agricultural methods were written by eighteenth-century farmers. Virtually all the suitable agricultural land had been put under cultivation (except in Hokkaido, which then was still a largely undeveloped border land), and both the government and farmers sought by every means to increase production. Thus, the population of around 30 million with which Japan entered the nineteenth century was perhaps almost the maximum that could be supported by the country in its preindustrial isolation.

The opening of Japan to world trade in the middle of the nineteenth century and the centralization and modernization of its government dramatically changed the situation, permitting a surge (подъём, рост) forward in agricul­tural production. Advanced agricultural techniques now could spread more rapidly from more progressive areas to backward regions; cheap transportation by steamships and then railroads made possible a greater regional specialization of crops. Most of Japan's political modernization and industrial growth in the late nineteenth century was financed by ‘surpluses achieved in agriculture. Population growth, however, in time outdistanced agricultural production, and by the beginning of the twentieth century Japan had developed a deficit of almost 20 percent in its food supply.

In the early years after World War II food was in extremely short supply, and hungry people tried to grow crops among the ruins of the cities and on any other scraps of unutilized land, but as the country slowly restored itself such desperate efforts were abandoned and some particularly uneconomic pieces of agricultural land were allowed to fall out of use. Meanwhile a rush of new technology brought another leap in agricultural productivity. Chemical fertilizers, which were already widely used, became available in even greater quantity, and mechanization at last came to agriculture, permitting a sharp decline in the farming population. In the depressed conditions of the early postwar years, close to half the Japanese remained engaged in agriculture, but thereafter the percentage declined drastically (решительно; радикально). At present only about 8 percent of Jap­anese live in farming households, and a mere quarter of these devote themselves exclusively to agriculture. The great majority combines seasonal work on the ancestral farm with other employment or, more frequently, perform their farming chores on weekends and in the early mornings and late evenings while holding down nonagricultural jobs within commuting distance in factories, offices, or stores. For a while the farm work was done primarily by wives and retired parents, but the parents have mostly died, and the wives have joined their husbands in taking other positions, leaving very few full-time farmers.

Diversity and Change of Japanese Society.

The preceding brief account of Japan's historical heritage reveals a story of considerable diversity and constant change. It’s sufficient to correct some of the ‘facile (обманчивый) stereotypes with which the rest of the world tends to explain the Japanese and write them off (списывать со счёта). Perhaps their isolation and extreme sense of distinctiveness have left the Japanese par­ticularly open to such stereotyping.

Some have seen the Japanese as complete ‘esthetes (эстет) -the descendants of the delicate and sensitive courtiers and ladies of The Tale of Genji, or of medieval Zen artists. Others have seen them as merely the modern version of the arrogant, punctilious (педантичный, скрупулёзный, щепетильный до мелочей), rule-bound samurai of Tokugawa times. A common view among Japan's East Asian neighbors is that they are basically militarists, as shown by the long dominance of feudal military leadership and the brutal conquests by the Japanese army in modern times. A more recent stereotype, contrasting with militarism in content but paralleling it in the emphasis on single-minded fa’naticism, is of the Japanese as "economic animals," incomparably efficient in their organization and absolutely ruthless (безжалостный) in their willingness to sacrifice all else to their own economic gain.

Our brief run-through of Japanese history should show that the Japanese have changed over time as much as any other people, and considerably more than most. They have been extremely responsive to changing external conditions. Contemporary Japanese are no more bound by the patterns of feudal warriors or prewar militarists.

Our historical account, highly simplified though it is, should also have revealed that Japan does not have a simple, uniform society, but an extremely complex one. Though a homogeneous people culturally, the roughly 122 million Japanese display great variations in attitudes and ways of life according to age group and their diverse roles in society. A teenager and an octoge’narian (человек в возрасте от 80 до 89 лет), a day laborer and a corporation executive, a bank clerk and an artist show about as much diversity in attitudes as would their counterparts in any Western country. Almost anything that might be said about the Japanese in general would not be true of many and might be flatly contradicted by some.

But despite this complexity and the rapid changes that have swept Japan, foreign observers have commonly sought to find some one trait or tightly knit group of traits that would explain everything in Japan as it is today and was in the past. Japanese, too, in their self-consciousness have endlessly sought to do the same. Perhaps it is the feeling both share-that Japan is somehow unique-that encourages this search for some one simple explanation for this uniqueness.

In the past, Japanese frequently cited the unbroken line of emperors since antiquity as explaining everything about Japan, though our historical sketch has shown how little that had to do with most developments. Some scholars have singled out the samurai ethics of the Tokugawa period, seen through the militarism of the 1930s, as the key to modern Japan, and others have emphasized the hierarchical groupings in a so-called vertical society or the sense of dependence in human relations as the central elements in Japanese society. Such one-dimensional interpre­tations do offer some keen insights, but they are basically distorting for such a complex and fast-changing society as that of contemporary Japan.

Diversity and Change of Japanese Society - №2 - открытая онлайн библиотека The speed of change makes sharp analysis particularly difficult. The firm generalization of one decade may start to break down in the next and be almost gone by the one after. The salient features of Japanese life in the 1930s seemed quite different from those in the 1920s and even more different from those of the 1950s and 1980s. Japanese who have received their total education since the end of World War II appear to be almost a new breed when compared with their prewar parents, who continually complain that the younger generation has lost the old virtues. The speed of change shows some signs of slowing at last, but what the Japanese will be like in the future no one can tell. If one thinks about how much has changed in American life and attitudes decade by decade since Civil War days, one can realize how much Japanese too have changed during the same period, for they have been living through greater and more sudden shifts in their foreign relations and far more traumatic transitions at home.

A final problem in analyzing Japanese society is the uncertain ground from which we view it. Any study like this one is inescapably comparative, for one can make no statement about things in Japan being either great or small without having in mind some standard by which they are being judged. But what is that measuring stick? No two Americans have exactly the same attitudes or standards, and if we include other Westerners the diversity becomes still greater. And norms keep changing in America as elsewhere in the world. Whereas Westerners were scandalized by Japanese openness about exposing the human body in the nineteenth century, today they might consider the Japanese in some ways slightly prudish in such matters. Over time the picture of war-mongering Japanese and peace-loving Americans of the 1930s has been transferred into almost a mirror image.

Modern technology also tends to produce considerable convergence between Japan and the West. Without doubt, basic trends in Japan are flowing for the most part in the same direction as in the United States and Western Europe.

Still, when all is said and done, the Japanese do remain a very distinctive people with norms in some fields quite different from those that prevail in the West. Significantly, some of these norms have behind them long historical antecedents and therefore may be all the more likely to persist into the future.

One thing, however, is certain. Japanese society is too complex and too rapidly changing to fit into any tight, neat model. Certain traits obviously mesh (сцепляться) more closely than others, though they all hang together in a relatively smoothly operated whole.

8. The Group and the Individual: what is the difference?

The human race is made up of individuals, but each is born and for the most part lives his life in a group context. Various societies differ greatly in the relative emphasis placed on the individual and the group. Certainly no difference is more significant between Japanese and Americans, or Westerners in general, than the greater Japanese tendency to emphasize the group at the expense of the individual.

The Japanese are much more likely than Westerners to operate in groups or at least to see themselves as operating in this way. Whereas Westerners may at least put on a show of independence and individuality, most Japanese will be quite content to conform in dress, conduct, style of life, and even thought to the norms of their group. Maintaining "face," originally a Chinese term but one of universal applicability, is much on Japanese minds, but it is face before the other members of the group that most concerns them.

The balance between group and individual is in flux (постоянное изменение) in Japan as elsewhere, and there are signs of con’vergence (сходимость) in this regard between Japan and the West. Modern technology clearly produced conditions in which more individuals could win economic and other forms of independence from their families or other groupings than in earlier ages.

The Meiji leaders were the first to recognize the necessity of putting more emphasis on the individual and rapidly got rid of strict class barriers and the whole feudal system, making of the citizenry individual taxpayers and candidates for universal education and military service. Individual rights were written into the 1889 constitution, even though they were strictly limited by the provisions of law; industrialization bit by bit produced greater individual economic freedom as in the West; and the 1947 constitution brought a great number of clearly defined and unrestricted individual rights, which the courts have rigorously enforced since then. Thus the balance between the group and the individual has shifted greatly in Japan during the past century.

Once these differences were clearly embodied (воплощённый) in the family, though this is no longer the case. The premodern Japanese family, known as the ie, might include subordinate branch families under the authority of the main family and other members who were distant kin or not related at all. It also gave absolute authority over the individual members to the father or else the family council. This sort of family was to be found particularly among the more prominent members of the feudal warrior class, rich merchants, and certain peasant groups.

The modern Japanese family is in structure not very different from the American nuclear family, though with a strong survival of the stem family system. Parental authority is stronger, and family ties on the whole are closer.

Diversity and Change of Japanese Society - №3 - открытая онлайн библиотека The differences from the West come out more clearly in extra family groupings: villages, companies.

Whereas the American tends to see himself as an individual possessing a specific skill-a salesman, accountant, truck driver, or steamfitter- and is ready to sell this skill to the highest bidder, the Japanese is much more likely to see himself as a permanent member of a business establishment-a Mitsui Trading or Mitsubishi Heavy Industry man-what­ever his specific function may be.

Diversity and Change of Japanese Society - №4 - открытая онлайн библиотека Diversity and Change of Japanese Society - №5 - открытая онлайн библиотека Schools, particularly at the college level, are another important area in which individuals find group identification. Very few students attend more than a single university, and throughout life individuals identify themselves and are identified by others on the basis of the university they attended.

Groups of every other sort abound throughout Japanese society and usually play a larger role and offer more of a sense of individual self-identification than do corresponding groups in the United States.

Naturally, large groups are often subdivided into smaller ones. The work team or office group is an important social as well as operational subunit within a factory or business. There is a particular solidarity among persons of the same age in villages, business firms, and the bureaucracy. Political parties and ministerial bureaucracies often are divided into sharply contending factions. Student life in universities centers on "circles" or interest groups, whether these be for various organized sports, hobbies such as photography, more academic concerns such as the English Speaking Society, or political action groups. Students for the most part develop the bulk of their social contacts within the one such group they choose to join. In society as a whole, artistic and intellectual life tends to break up into small, exclusive, club like groupings, which support their own publications and do not mingle much with one another.