7 Lee Karen

Passing through the wind tunnel, saw the trees…

The empty bird’s nest

shakes

with the wind.

ousam

 

In Nitobe Inazo’s Bushido – the Soul of Japan, we learn that Japanese women were also duty-bound to certain actions, the most striking one being that she does not bring disgrace to her family in death: “…little as she was taught in anatomy, she must know the exact spot to cut in her throat; she must know how to tie her lower limbs together with a belt so that, whatever the agonies of death might be, her corpse be found in utmost modesty with the limbs properly composed” (123). This acts as further reaffirmation of the strongly group-oriented mindset of the Japanese – that while individuals have individual value, their greater worth is in how they function as a unit of a bigger whole. As the passage shows, women were no exception to this rule; even in death, they were expected to fulfill their duties. This idea of duty to the very end compels me – after all, most people, when facing death, are more likely to be too caught up in thinking of their own survival to think of others. In the case of Bushido however, even as they leave life, samurai (and so, the entire Japanese people) are expected to be thinking of the betterment of their family (or whatever group they are a part of). In Western cultures, this kind of selfless action is most often seen in heroes – as an extraordinary person who can rise above themselves for the better good. The fact that this attitude was expected from all individuals, regardless of gender or age, is probably one of the reasons behind Japan’s astonishing strength at the time – and to an extent, even today.

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