5 Le Hoang Yen

While I was riding in the car around New Hampshire, I looked out the window and saw the mountains.

Mountains with snow spots,

Connecting from one to another –




As a move towards nationalistic ideology, Tokugawa period of 1600-1868 in Japan has to be one of the most important turning points that marks a drastic change in Japan’s cultural perspective and introduces the first glimpse into modernism, or better known as Genroku era (Inouye Lecture). A notion of an evanescent world has tremendously influenced the Japanese to view their lives as unpredictable and fragile. “Prepare to live each day by dying each morning,” said Yamamoto Tsutenetomo in his book Hidden Leaves (Inouye 69). We have learned different ways by which Japanese embraced the idea above: shukke and dreams. But slowly, they have also realized that instead of working hard to conform to evanescence, they could also just relax and let loose.  With the rise of a hierarchical Neo-Confucian structure in Tokugawa society, merchants claiming little political power used their wealth to commercialize the floating world into “the world of pleasure, of the pursuit of money necessary to enjoy it…” (Inouye 70) The resulting hedonistic society, however, opposes a fundamental Buddhist concept of selflessness, the contrast embodied in the development of a prototypical modern woman with a fixed identity – a prostitute. Such a woman is modified to speak a common language, perform a specific function. There’s quite a paradox in how prostitutes are presented. On one hand, she is treated as a commodity objectified to serve men. On another hand, she represents “a pioneer of a modern, fast moving present marked from page one by the enduring relevance of cherry blossoms” who possesses a sense of self, one thing most men desired at the time. To a common eye, how are such women ought to be perceived when they entail both “positive” and “negative” judgments? Why does this unpleasant type of “self”, such as the identity of a prostitute, develop Japanese culture to a more progressive change, rather than hinder its growth?


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One Response to 5 Le Hoang Yen

  1. Profile photo of Karen  Lee Karen Lee says:

    I really like your drawing! And your poem is quite interesting – I like how many just the word ‘majesty’ implies so many things about how you feel about the mountain.

    It’s interesting that you address what the “common opinion” of such women should be, implying that there ought to be common opinions of whether something is “positive” or “negative” or not. I don’t know how to answer your question, but I think you’re also assuming that “positive” judgments are objectively “positive” and lead to progressive changes.

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