Reaction

Walking on the sidewalk at night after the snow storm, I stepped into what looked like solid concrete, but was actually a large puddle of wet snow.

Solid ground collapsed

into cold, dark, wetness

never to hold weight again

 

Japanese advent of Westernization brought upon a perspective in Japanese culture that strayed from the non-symbolic, to the objective. During the Tokugawa period in Japan, the country was centralized and isolated, while with the advent of the Meji period and westernization, the Japanese people not only were exposed to western beliefs but acquired a more globalized perspective (Lecture 3/6). I was extremely disheartened in learning about this stray from evanescence, as personally I felt the Japanese perspective almost refreshing. Gone were the days of discovering and appreciating small moments of life as in the gardens of Katsura. Artists now tended throwing away the evanescence in their work and simply concentrated on the “big picture.” I feel this theme permeates not only through the Japanese perspective at this moment but also through Western philosophy as a whole.  Inouye mentions of how, “ rather than focus[ing] on bubbles drifting haphazardly upon the river of change, the rhetoric of progress comes to fixate on the current itself”(Inouye, 105).  While the Japanese people understood the “haphazard” mode of life through evanescence, I feel like this grounded perspective seemed as a way to gain control. Here, evanescence became, “either [being] progress or regression (Inouye 95). Upon reading this I asked myself, how could this last? How can you simplify something so insatiable and so incomprehensible as evanescent qualities of life? This reliance on form was contradicted in Nitobe’s description of Bushido, which in itself was characterized  (at face value) as the most symbolic and formalistic aspect of Japanese culture. Nitobe went on to say that, “having no set dogma or formula to defend, [Bushido] can afford to disappear as an entity; like the cherry blossom, it is willing to die at the first gust of the morning breeze” (Nitobe, 153). I feel like this statement clarifies what many misconstrue about this supposed westernization of Japanese culture. While the advent of form and linearization of evanescence became pertinent during this time, something like Bushido, the cherry blossom, or any symbol or entity could still change at any given moment or time. This makes me think that the Westernization of Japanese culture wasn’t actually a straying away from past philosophy, but a way to retain form in an ever changing society as Japan became more globalized (Lecture 3/6). Even then, this “western” idea of retaining form is cyclic, nothing can be held down forever, just as the cherry blossom or the ideology of Bushido. As Inazo puts it, “[form] can well repress the genial current of the soul. It can force pliant natures into distortions and monstrosities”(Inazo 110). We see that we can impose form on something, but if we rely too much upon it, it will cause us to distort the way we look at things and entrap us in fallacy. The Japanese looking to Westernization was reactionary, but at the same time they still realized that if they relied too heavily upon it they would suffer. I feel now, more than ever, that the Japanese attempt to achieve balance, but now adding the dimension on a societal level, rather than just with the individual.

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