Japanese Culture: Its Development and Characteristics

Japanese Culture: Its Development and Characteristics

Japanese Culture: Its Development and Characteristics

Japanese Culture: Its Development and Characteristics

Excerpt

All the essays collected in this volume originated as papers comprising six sessions of the Tenth Pacific Science Congress, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, from August 21 to September 6, 1961. The way these six sessions came into being exemplifies a fresh step of development in studies of Japanese society and culture, happily evidenced on other recent occasions as well, and the temptation is strong to record this step in its historical context as the papers of this segment of the Congress go to press.

The new trend referred to is one of explicit collaboration between Japanese and American scholars in Japanese studies, important because it promises to relieve one-sidedness and enrich the field as a whole. It will be evident from the list of contributors to this volume that Japanese participated in the six Congress sessions in almost equal numbers with Americans. Each session, moreover, had Japanese and American co-chairmen and was organized under mutual consultation. In certain cases, joint participation in the session was the sequel to a period of collaborative research, though such close relationship has not yet become the rule. This joint organization and participation, a mere organizational detail in itself, gathers significance when placed against its proper background, the development of the study of Japanese society. Japanese studies have evolved through two or more stages, and we venture to point to intensified collaboration in research and reporting, evidenced to a modest degree in the present papers, as a primary feature of the stage now commencing. A glance at the past and present situations will point to such an outcome.

For a very long time after Japan first renewed her contact with the outside world in the middle nineteenth century, she remained the mysterious island nation of the Orient, best known for a few quaint customs and delicate arts-her geisha, haiku poems, woodblock prints, and embroidered kimono. Social science study remained rather casual, with exceptions in the fields of economics, politics, and archeology. John Embree's admirable community study, Suye Mura: A Japanese Village (Chicago, 1939), was an outstanding exception to the exoticism that tended to prevail even on the eve of World War II. His clear-eyed depiction of local organization presaged an era of close examination of details of Japanese society, an era that was hastened by the wartime imperative to acquire intelligence about all aspects of Japan.

After peace returned to the Pacific, Japan was revealed to be an area of extraordinary interest to social scientists of every hue. Some scholars have been lured to study her prodigious economic growth over the last century, or' her accompanying rapid and extreme social change, with cities developing into toprank metropolitan giants, where life of ultra-modern aspect can be viewed side . . .

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