The Culture of Japan


… From afar to our country… came Confucius, Mencius, Chuang Tzu… the Sages of China, in addition to the teachings of the Dao, brought silk… Jasper… and something more noble and wonderful than Jasper, with the characters… And the characters’re not conquered us, and we subjugated the characters…Not that our language could be Chinese… But we triumphed not only over the characters. Our breath was like sea wind, softened even the teachings of Confucius and the teachings of Lao-Tzu… the Buddha suffered the same fate… not Our power to destroy. It is, to change them. [1]

Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927)

The Japanese sometimes compare their country with a trunk of bamboo, bound in steel and wrapped in plastic. This is the exact way. Tourist attractions that first brought the eyes of foreigners, and indeed something similar with an exotic wrapper, which sometimes Peeps through steel modern industrial Japan. It is easy to notice the new lines on the face of this country. Harder to look into her soul, to touch hidden from prying eyes with bamboo trunk, feel its elasticity.

Japan is located on Islands of the Pacific ocean. The Japanese Islands are in a zone prone to frequent earthquakes and typhoons. The islanders used to constantly be alert, to be content with a modest life, to quickly restore housing and livelihoods after natural disasters. Despite the natural disasters that constantly threaten the well-being of people, Japanese culture reflects the desire for harmony with the surrounding world, the ability to see the beauty of nature in both large and small.

Japanese culture is a unique phenomenon not only in the context of global culture, but also in some other Eastern cultures. It has continually evolved since X – XI centuries. C XVII until mid XIX century, Japan was practically closed to foreigners (only communication was maintained with the Netherlands and China). In this period of isolation Japan experienced creative development of national identity. And when after several centuries before the world finally revealed the rich traditional culture of Japan, she had a strong influence on the subsequent development of European painting, theatre and literature.

Japanese civilization has formed as a result of complex and multi-temporal ethnic contacts. Japanese culture in contrast with Indian and Chinese at the turn of the middle ages only was born, so it was inherent in the increased dynamism and a particular sensitivity to the perception of foreign influences.

In this paper I will try to reveal all the peculiarities of Japanese culture. In my opinion this topic is very relevant for Russia, as the Japanese skillfully preserve their culture, care about its conservation and enhancement. The Russians living in the country with a rich culture, one should learn from the Japanese.

In writing this work, I plan to use as the Internet as resources, and rich volume of literature on Japanese culture.

Part I: Cultural characteristics of the Japanese

A brief historical background

In the beginning I would like to tell you a bit about Japanese history, because I think that history and culture are closely connected with each other, and that in many ways, the story defines the culture of the country. The Japanese archipelago took present form 10,000 years ago. Next 8 000 years lasted Jomon era, when we lived a primitive hunter-gatherers. They eventually formed a tribe. The cultivation of rice came from Eurasia in the year 300 BC in Layeuski period. It is believed that Japanese nationality was formed during the Yamato period around the third century ad. According to legend, the Empire of Japan was founded in 660 BC, when the throne of Japan’s first Emperor Jimmu. During the first Millennium (from the year 660 BC) Japan was influenced by Korea and China, which had a higher level of civilization. In the year 604, the Prince Shotoku adopted its first Constitution. In the VII century from Korea to Japan came Buddhism, which later became the state religion of the country. In the early eighth century (Nara period) first capital was Nara, and then Kyoto. From the XII to the XIX century, the country was ruled by a military class of samurai. Since the XII century the country has actually installed a military regime, and Japan was ruled by shoguns (military dictators). In the XV century in Japan, civil war broke out that lasted 100 years. In the seventeenth century came to power, Tokugawa Ieyasu and announced closures of 200 years, when the relationship lasted only China and the Netherlands. But with the arrival in 1853 American Commodore Matthew Perry Japan starts to improve relations with America and Europe. The rule of the shoguns lasted until 1867 when the last shogun Tokugawa Yosinobu handed power mutsuhito of the Emperor (Meiji). Although the Portuguese and the Dutch had trade relations with Japan in the XVI-XVII centuries, they were very insignificant, and the country remained virtually closed to foreigners until the mid XIX century, when the United States signed with Japan Treaty. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Japan waged a number of wars, so that by 1910 had annexed the island of Taiwan, half of Sakhalin, and Korea. After the end of the First world war, in which Japan got the Islands in the Pacific ocean belonging to Germany, the country in the 30 years he led a number of local wars with China and the Soviet Union. During the second world war Imperial Japan began by attacking the American military base at pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. During the war, Japanese troops occupied many French and British colonies and protectorates in South-East Asia. In August 1945, after successful operations conducted by the allied forces, Japan capitulated, and on September 2 officially signed the instrument of surrender. Under the new Constitution, adopted may 3, 1947 Japan lost the right to have regular army, and the Emperor gave all legislative powers to the Parliament. In recent years has deteriorated the trade relations of Japan with the United States, and in the last year and political, associated primarily with the placement in the country of U.S. military bases. There are serious disagreements with Russia about the Kuril Islands, which Japan considers its Northern territories. Japan is a member of the UN, IMF, GATT, ILO, the Organization for economic cooperation and development. Japan today is a highly developed in economic and cultural respect.[2] Clearly the periods of Japanese history are represented in the table below:

The main Periods in Japanese History

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