Culture of Japan
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The recorded history of Japan began when the Yamato clan, based in Kyoto, managed to control other family clans and groups in western and central Japan. This was in approximately A. D. 600. In Japan, Buddhism was introduced through its interactions with Korea during that time. China influenced Japan much in the 700s, and the imperial courts, similar to ones in China, were set up by the Yamato clan. The authority of the imperial courts was undermined in the ensuing centuries, and the vied control was taken by the powerful gentry families. A fame distinct class of warrior clans (Samurai) was rising at the same time (Japan, 2000).
The growing culture and nationalism of Japan are occasioned by the nation’s desire to develop a more autonomous foreign policy and to enhance its military power. Many Japanese people are committed to realize the return of the ever powerful Japan in the past (Harootunian, 2000). Fomenting nationalism among the people of Japan is considered a very vital development increasing and support for a well-built military. Even though in the past, such degrees of nationalism would be restricted based on the nation’s recognition of its fierce expansion all through East Asia in the early 20th century. In modern times, the society of Japan has greatly seen a lot of changes. The recollections of the actions of Japan prior to and after the WWII are slowly fading away (Dower, 1999). Compared to Japan, China is experiencing a dramatic power increase. Japan happens to be one of the few nations of pre-historic times with the almost homogenous population. Modernization has significantly played a role in the nationalism of Japan. Modernization started in 1869 with the inauguration of the “Meiji Restoration.” Before that time, the policy of the government of Japan was to deter the entrance and influence of the rest of other nations on it. However, the Opium War of Britain against the United States and China put pressure on Japan. Japan was thus forced to leave its policy of isolation and to start the formation of the modern nation (Hobsbawm, 1992).
In the following years Japan began adopting more developed systems from the United States and Europe. One of the systems was the sovereignty concept and the nature of the Government as evident in the Prussian Empire. It was characterized by the establishment of a state which was highly centralized. Previously, Japan was a kind of federal state. Its basic unit of organization was ruled by the feudal relations. Consequently, Japanese got a more clear awareness of themselves. People of the country began regarding themselves as Japanese. This was a clear indication that they stopped seeing themselves as citizens belonging to a clan. They became members of a big Japanese nation (Hein and Selden, 2000). The Constitution of the Empire of Japan or “Meiji Constitution” was introduced in 1890. Since that year, Japan has all along been a constitutional monarchy. A new Constitution was established by legal advisers to the Allied occupation forces and approved by the Parliament in 1947. The constitution gives equality based on sex, extends suffrage to all mature citizens, emphasizes the postwar renunciation of the emperor, concerning claims to the divine nature, and assigns the emperor a symbolic duty as head of state. The Parliament of Japan referred to as the Diet comprises the House of Councilors together with the House of Representatives.
The desirable political model adopted in pre-historic times became the one that rescued Japan from Asia for both political leaders and powerful intellectuals. All the same, this was not an indication that Japan was completely westernized. The main agenda was to study the western system of politics and technology as well. There was a suppressed awareness amongst the people of Japan that they were not like the whites. The Japanese regarded themselves as superior to the rest of the world in spiritual and cultural matters (Takemae, 2002). From pre-historic times, the culture of Japan was greatly influenced by the culture from China and Korea. However, with the Meiji Restoration, the nation started to feel that Korea and China were inferior in matters of culture. They depicted this by detaching themselves from other Asian nations. Japan adopted imperialism unconditionally in the 1930s and invaded some Asian countries. This fact was seen as a move to liberate the people of Asia from the powers of the West. The WWII in the Pacific between the United States and Japan was described as a racial war that was remorseless (Connor, 1994).
All through a bigger part of the postwar times, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a conventional part with close connections to business and the national bureaucracy, controlled the national politics. The LDP was in ideally a coalition amongst semiautonomous factions leaders, and its trademark was intricate backroom deals and compromises. The split of the party took place in the year of 1993. It resulted in a number of factions ending up as independent political parties. The national realm and the ministries of the Government wield a lot of power (Estor, 2007). Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the levels of the elite in the national bureaucracy were given a lot of respect. In quite a number of areas, the ministries established a certain policy, and the politicians approved the opinions presented by the bureaucrats (Shirane and Tomi, 2001). The respect and prestige accorded to the ministries of the Government have plunged since the 1980s as a reaction to the economic downfall and largely publicized incidents of incompetence and corruption. The 1947 Constitution renounced the use of the force of military and bans the state from keeping armed forces. All the same, Japan maintains what is called a ‘self-defense force’ with enough weaponry and personnel anchored by the growing Japanese budget.
As to the religious matters, Shinto is a modern term for a system of religious gods and beliefs concerning the connection between persons, the environment in its nature, and the state at large. Shinto’s teachings refer to Japan as the unique land of gods. The religion in Japan does not have a formal scripture or dogma (Estor, 2007). Based on the history of Japan, Buddhism and Shinto have influenced each other in their coexistence in Japan. Shinto is closely related to a nationalist ideology and the imperial family. Buddhism was brought to Japan from China and Korea. It has two main branches: Teravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Generally, Teravada Buddhism is the branch of religion that takes course in Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia; whereas Mahayana is the branch of religion that impacted the Japanese, Korean and Chinese civilizations. Teravada means "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching" in Sanskrit. Teravada teaches the availability of salvation to a chosen few and more in particular to people who endeavor to gain enlightenment and do good works that will promote the ability of that person to surpass the snares of the mortal existence. The Teravada teaching focuses mainly on monastic communities.
Currently, Japan is speedily building a legal system of military. The nationalistic sense and culture of Japan are rising, specifically towards North Korea (Cwiertka, 2007). This nationalism is somehow different from that which was experienced before 1945 that centered on arms. Under the Japan-US security administration, there is no objective of implementing armed force against the West, specifically the United States and Europe. Japan apparently learnt one thing from the WWII that it had to cooperate with the United States. Instead of being the sense common to the people of Japan, it is a turn of phrase of the lessons learnt through the people in power who consider that it was the United States’ power that defeated them in the WWII. Therefore, since then, Japan has become a chief economic power in the world. Japanese culture and nationalism is thus a response to what the nation perceives as a changing power balance in the East Asia.
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