3 Luna-Smith Wesley

After the snow day, I noticed my walk to class was different because tree branches were hanging so low.

Low branches,

Heavy with snow.

Should I bow in return?


This week’s emphasis on success and failure further illuminates the duality of Japanese culture. When asked in class if we feared failure, I found myself clinging to the notion that failure simply means that a person is still on the path towards success. However, I imagine a Japanese perspective counter would be the assertion that success also means a person is still on the path towards failure. We are learning that in Japan, people counterbalance the evanescence of the world with strict adherence to form. In my reading of the texts, however, it seemed that adherence to form was causing more problems than good. In Hojoki, we see Chomei struggle with strict social etiquette required of nobility, but eventually his “lack of tactfulness and moments of improper behavior” (Inouye, 42) eventually lead him to become a hermit. The pressures of trying to meet these standards seem to warp Chomei’s view of society. Similarly, we see a samurai struggle with his conscious and the strict rules of the samurai in the Tale of Heike. Naozane chases down a Commander-in-Chief after battle, but when he realizes the warrior is a young man, he hesitates. Eventually, Naozane submits to form, “His senses reeled, his wits forsook him, and he was scarcely conscious of his surroundings. But matters could not go on like that forever: in tears, he took the head”  (Heike 317). Similar to Chomei, after murdering the young man, this samurai turns his thoughts towards becoming a monk as an escape from the strict rules of Japanese culture. From these readings, it seems like form can be a difficult virtue to uphold.

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One Response to 3 Luna-Smith Wesley

  1. Profile photo of Karen  Lee Karen Lee says:

    That’s an interesting way of looking at things. But don’t you think that the act of becoming a monk is in itself, a way of adhering to form? It’s a very common aspect of Japanese culture – the act of relinquishing ties and becoming attuned to one’s spiritual side.

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