Japanese Culture in Comparative Perspective

Japanese Culture in Comparative Perspective

Japanese Culture in Comparative Perspective

Japanese Culture in Comparative Perspective

Synopsis

Japanese culture is inscrutable--but then, so is American culture seen from the viewpoint of the Japanese. As Hayashi and Kuroda make clear, the problem is one of perspective. Neither is really an enigma if the viewer can free him- or herself from the mother culture and look at the other culture from within its own context. Along the way, the authors answer many questions about Japan from the never-ending nature of its trade disputes to the reasons for the misconceptions of many Western writers.

Excerpt

Around the world, people are interested in Japanese culture. Chikio Hayashi and Yasumasa Kuroda Japanese Culture in Comparative Perspective presents some of the finest fruits of a sustained, collaborative, comparative, historical, sociocultural, and statistical study of this subject. Their quarter of century of working together, as well as the contributions of other co-workers, make this synoptic, well-integrated, accessible, English-language report a significant scholarly pursuit in several ways.

A first, major reason for attending seriously to the present work is its wise, contemporary, relevant definition of culture in terms of an implicit or explicit, rational, nonrational or irrational, historically created "design for living" involving both worldviews and human selves (their relatively salient social units and the characteristic ways of responding to the world). The diffuseness of Japanese identities and the salience of extended social units are powerfully illustrated in the present work. This contribution fits nicely with the rise of concern with modern and postmodern selves, the awareness of their constructed character, and the plural quality of the flows and forces tugging at and shaping socio- political identities in the contemporary world.

Second, I expect that the non-Japanese reader of this book will find both impressive and challenging the way it integrates findings from traditional literary, historical, and philosophical disciplines with those of the contemporary social sciences. It is important that citizens and scholars in this late modern age see such real examples of (necessarily partial) convergences in understanding between traditional philosophic, contemporary humanistic, and modern empirically oriented social inquiry. They, like I, will want to read more from Prince Regent Shôtoku, the Buddhist priest poet Saigyô, Norinaga Motoori's poetic commentaries, and Kenzaburô Ôe's intriguing Nobel acceptance speech, as well . . .

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