A Diplomat's Wife in Japan: Sketches at the Turn of the Century

A Diplomat's Wife in Japan: Sketches at the Turn of the Century

A Diplomat's Wife in Japan: Sketches at the Turn of the Century

A Diplomat's Wife in Japan: Sketches at the Turn of the Century

Excerpt

Japan has a long history of contact with the outside world. Some of the greatest strides in Japanese civilisation have followed hard upon the cultural influences brought about by such contact. But as is the case with almost any society, insular or not, each infusion of foreign ideas was accompanied by a certain amount of social and political unrest. When contact was established with China in the sixth century, Buddhism, Confucianism, and the Chinese language began to play an important role in Japanese culture. At the same time, the semblance of a central government was formed.

Even though new heights of sophistication were reached in the elegant court life of the capital during the eleventh century, the imperial government still exercised only limited control in the provinces where feudal lords were the effective rulers, and civil disturbances were a common occurence. From the thirteenth century onwards civil wars increased in frequency, and by the arrival of the Portuguese in the mid-sixteenth century much of Japan had been devastated by civil strife. Although this first period of contact with the West was extensive, it was to last less than one hundred years. For once Tokugawa Ieyasu established control over most of the country and founded a new government at Edo, modern-day Tokyo, contact with the outside world was severely limited. All . . .

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