Monday, October 6, 2008
When asked to give my take on Japanese culture I think of both modern and traditional aspects. I think modern Japanese culture is very Westernized, maybe even more than in China. I know that the Japanese really emphasize scholastic achievement, as they do in China, and the children are extremely applied and hard working. Martial arts training is integral to the culture, with many different art forms--Aikido, Karate, Kempo, all stemming from ancient roots. I have a son who studied Karate before Taekowndao ( Korean Martial Art) and I can tell you there is much formality in the dojo (Japanese for classroom). When Shogun (starring Richard Chamberlin) came out in the late 70's I was in 6th grade doing a report for social studies on Japan. I wish we were watching this film for this class too, but from what I remember, it depicted the masculine and feminine sides of Japanese culture pretty clearly, as does the Last Samurai. Also, in both films there is a Samurai adoptee, a white man learning and embodying the Samurai code. I think of both these films as good martial arts training, by observing the quickness and agility that the training, both physical and mental, accomplishes when both characters are faced with adversity. Inherent in both men is how their spiritual growth occurs along with the embracing of the customs and ways of the Japanese. Honor and a Zen like mind are more important than anything else. I remember as a kid always being facinated with the beautiful Kimonos, especially worn by the Geishas ( artists). I love the cherry blossoms, and bonsai. Traditional Japanese culture is so Zen, and infiltrates all aspects of life, from gardening to fighting. To be good with the ink in calligraphy (Kanji) is to be good with the sword--its all in the wrist. I know this concept is similar to ancient Chinese culture, from my study of Chinese marital arts and yoga. I also think of the Japanese healing art, Reiki, which is similar to Chinese Qigong, both of which I have studied and use in my therapeutic practice. As part of my second degree Reiki training, I had to learn to write a few characters in Kanji which was really cool. Overall, honor, grace, dedication, and discipline are so deeply ingrained in Japanese people even today. Even daily tasks like taking tea--for example, the Japanese Tea Ceremony are made special in a very formal and artful way. I am looking forward to enhancing my understanding and experience of Japanese culture by exploring Japanese theatre, which I have not yet had the chance yet. I do recall being at Arigatos for dinner one night with my friends looking at the array of masks doning the wall in the sushi bar area. We were all asking each other, "Which one reminds you of me?" Most of them made me laugh because they had many diferent expressions, from angry to dumbfounded. I guess what makes me laugh the most is facial expressions and gestures that people have. Its not enough just to hear someone's voice--the face must convey more than the voice. A picture always paints a thousand words more clearly. I love making silly goofy faces with my son Ian. Its what makes us both laugh hysterically to the point our bellies ache!