Modernization and Progress

Sarah Marakos

I was on my way to South Station Friday night, and when we were passing over the Charles River, I could only see the buildings and the water in the darkness of the night.

A brief view of the city skyline

Reflects against the water—

The train is pulled underground.

Once I finally grasped the concept of nonsymbolic meaning of things, we start learning about the symbolic world that Japan slides into with its modernization. Shinto becomes a form of monotheism, and the emperor is the symbol of the nation. “Largely by way of this apotheosis of the emperor as an unchanging and lasting essence of the nation, Japanese political culture gained a stable, authoritative point of view and, therefore, a perspective on the world by which the struggling nation could systematically express and extend the unified and unifying truth of its own culturally correct version of modernity.” Japan moved from the idea of local space to national space. (Inouye 111). At first frustrated with the contradictions, I now understand this concept best with the pictures of the two gardens. The Japanese view used to be like the garden where you have to see one thing at a time and walk through the garden to experience it. Now, with its modernization, Japan shifts more toward the view of the garden at Versailles, where you can see everything at once from one spot. Change should come as no surprise at this point because the world is always changing- evanescence just like we have seen over and over again. However, this is sort of a “new kind of evanescence”. Instead of things always changing in the same way, they are now changing but progressing. “Unlike evanescence in general, it has a specific direction. Progress expresses intention. It is pointed.” (Inouye 105). Now the Japanese saw themselves in the context of the rest of the world and were forced to modernize to keep up. However, with this Western influence, I am glad Japan still kept some of its original cultural values. The values and form in Japan will never die, according to Nitobe. “Chivalry is a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan than its emblem, the cherry blossom; nor is it a dried-up specimen of an antique virtue preserved in the herbarium of our history…The conditions of society which brought it forth and nourished it have long disappeared; but as those far-off stars which once were and are not, still continue to shed their rays upon us, so the light of chivalry still illuminates our moral path, surviving its mother institution.” (Nitobe 33).

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