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Modern Japanese Culture JPN 2102 Instructor: Fan, Lin Topic 1: Capitalism and Its Discontents & Topic 2: Animation Techniques & Worldviews University of Ottawa 1 Topic 1: Capitalism and Its Discontents The post war period in Japan raises the concerns of Japan’s national identity. The myth of homogeneity helps to suppress the discontented voices by categorizing them into a single ethic group. This paper will argue that although in the post war period the theories of a monoculture society in Japan strengthens Japan’s national identity as it socially constructs culture, language and ethnicity. Furthermore the myth of a unified homogenous Japan can be challenged by restoration during the Meji, period along with mass culture, the use of “demonic other” to create divisions between the people, and increasing number of newcomers. In order to understand the challenge the Meiji years plays to the concept of homogeneity in Japan, one must begin with the factors in the Tokugawa era that established Japan as a unique and sophisticated nation. During this time the was a great amount of stability in the nation and it was founded by the warrior Tokugawa Ieyasu who ruled the nation militarily for more than 250 years in the city of Edo. During this time there was a considerable amount of fighting by the localized peasant who displayed discontent towards the way in which the nation was being governed. The Tokugawa created a centralized “feudal” system in which more than 200 domains or “han” maintained fiscal and military autonomy, while their lords served an authoritarian government in Edo. The was a transition to the period known as the Meji restoration were there was a commitment to making Japan a more modern nation that would eventually be accepted as an equal by the West. The leaders wanted to break away from the individual feudal groups within the society and unify the nation into one collective family. The idea of nationalism was used as political ploy which in turn caused different dialects of communication that were used in Japan between citizens to be disappear. Thus the myth of homogeneity during this era was propagated through the government’s desire to have national unity among the Japanese citizens (Hill 337-57). 2 The formations of mass culture appeared in Japan after the Meji restoration period because at this time Japan began to import all kinds of Western cultural products such as railway engineering, the stock market, large-scale production and consumption of commodities. The rise of mass culture was happening in Japan at the same time as capitalism was developing. The society in Japan was focused around consumption through many avenues such as television, music, theatre and art. There was an emergence of mass culture particularly in the urban area as opposed to rural and the consuming citizens were able to express themselves. There was a strong American influence during created an atmosphere were individuality could emerge thus breaking the notation of homogeneity among the people. (Hill 337-57) The countries rapid economic group was a way in which the government was able to ignore the discontented voices of the nation. The economic period was a result of the Post World War II Japan and it occurred with the help of the United States as well as the interventionism policies of Japan. Japan was able to flourish during the “economic miracle” years due to the cooperation of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and banks in closely knit groups called keiretsu; the powerful enterprise unions and shuntō , good relations with government bureaucrats, the guarantee of lifetime employment (Shūshin koyō) in big corporations and highly unionized blue-collar factories. This economic growth was not social success among the citizens for the people of Japan as it caused many of them to suffer very serious illness because of the large companies dumping pollutants in the water near the residences houses. The government was not taking the concerns of these citizens seriously and they were slow to react as well the residents were scared to even bring up their concerns. Furthermore the government used the economic miracle as a way to push their agenda of attaining economic dominance over the West while it suppressing the voices of it’s citizens. The continuous emergence of large expenditures eventually led to a financial crisis in the middle of the 1800’s and it was followed by a reform of the currency system thus leading to the establishment of the Bank of Japan. There were still some companies 3 that remained to be growing such as the textile industry that grew the fastest and remained the largest Japanese industry until World War II. The work conditions in the factories were very appalling and many citizens wanted they’re to be some major changes to their condition but the government in power oppressed their voices (Ishida 886-89). Moreover the Japanese society around the nineteenth century consisted of two major groups the insiders and outsiders. The group that was labeled the outsiders were consider to be valuable member of the community but they would also be able to posses the ability to bring misfortune or calamity. This attitude among the conscious of the citizens allowed for them to view themselves as insiders and during the early times there was exclusive groups based on blood ties as well as occupations. Moreover this a social construct established by the feudal cast system at the time that contributed to the complexity of the two major categorizes that existed in Japan at that time. Distinguishing the people into a demonic classification system of either good or evil creates a destructive society. After the feudal regime was destroyed they use of categorizing someone as a demonic other became more popular among the Japanese community. The discrimination structures in place at that time in the society were transferred to the European and Westerns foreigners during their intrusions in their country. They categorized the foreigners as barbarians and demons through books and cartoon depictions. This was done to help strengthen the discourse of the outsider’s ideology that was rampant in the society at that time .The concept of separating the people into two opposing sides helps to deconstruct the myth of homogeneity as it creating divisions among the people rather than unity. The concept helped to weaken the myth of homogeneity amongst the Japanese citizens and it also helped to show that the demonization of one group is morally and ethically wrong (Aokia 205-300). The increasing number of newcomers in the society of Japan challenges the myth of homogeneity. The government has many strict immigration policies that impact its competiveness 4 among the industrialized nations. After Japan began opening it borders again there was not an attempt made to integrate foreigners into the society .The major countries that have had difficulties in trying to integrate into the Japanese society are the Korean and Nikkeijin. At the time of the colonial era Korean migrant came to Japan in order work as farmers as well as women were recruited in Osaka’s spinning industries. The Korean immigrants were not awarded citizenship even though they resided in the country for decades. The main reason why the government did not want to award them any form of citizenship was that it would go against the Japan’s self image as a homogenous nation. The Nikkeijin had similar experiences like the Korean’s in trying to assimilate in the society. They began to come to Japan because of the growing need for foreign workers. The government thought it would be fairly easy to distinguish between Nikkeijin and Japanese nationalist but that was false. They were marginalized in the society and thus were not discriminated that much compared to the Korean immigrants. Therefore the increasing number of immigrants helped to help demystify the idea of homogeneity in Japan (Takeda 75-91). The discourse in Japan of the theory of homogeneity can be challenged through the aspects of the Meji restoration, the production of a mass culture, the construction of the demonic other and the influence of immigrants. The myth is propagated in the society in order to preserve the purity of the Japan people rich and long history. The government uses this theory in order to suppress the voices of the communities and to try and form this delusional unified nationalism. Topic 2: Animation Techniques & Worldviews 5 The evolution of technology played an important role in the landscap
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