Chapter 7: Japanese Culture
Page 168 7— Japanese Culture Introduction There are many myths about Japan: Our myths arise from the fact that we are a group of narrow islands off the coast of Asia, coming only sporadically into contact with our continental neighbours down through the years. We take comfort in our homogeneity, in our capacity to absorb influences from the mainland at our own pace, in timespans measured by centuries rather than decades. For us, much more than for Britain, 'the jungle begins at Calais'—in our case, the Korea Strait. In essence, we see ourselves as a cosy village society where consensus is the norm and where we all live by unspoken rules to make life tolerable in a green but crowded land with few national resources ('The third opening', 9 March, 1996a, p. 19). The first challenge to Japan came in 1853 when an American fleet dropped anchor in Tokyo (then known as Edo) Bay and demanded that Japan open its door to trade with the world. Until then, the Shoguns had kept the country closed for 250 years. The reform that came with the collapse of the Shogunate and the establishment of a reformminded government under Emperor Meiji is known today as 'the first opening of Japan'. Japan's surrender in 1945 and the sweeping reforms brought about during the occupation by American forces constitute what is called 'the second opening of Japan'. This opening, like the first, began as a result of conflict with foreigners. Reforms that followed...
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