One evening not too long, my daughter surprised me an unlikely question about, of all things, Japanese baseball. I am keenly interested in Japan and always enjoyed attending baseball games during my many visits to that country, but still the question came out of left field.
“What is baseball to the Japanese?” she asked, explaining that “during the Second World War, Japan’s military government suppressed all things American, even the English language, but the Japanese continued to play baseball, even professionally.” She then added, almost innocently: “Didn’t they know it was an American game?”
I assured her that Japanese people knew the game’s origins well. Other than that simple fact, I had nothing specific to offer her. In the back of my mind, I sensed that the answer somehow connected to a broader mystery about the Japanese – how they can so readily adopt so much from abroad and never for a moment lose their sense of self or their commitment to steward Japan’s unique culture and values. Americans, when they adopt something foreign, often feel a tension between their identity and the new practice as if somehow indulging it makes them less American. Not so the Japanese.
Japanese culture has been popular in the west for years, with anime being woven into the fabric of pop culture. Westerners also visit Japan to learn about the country’s history and the samurai are an important part of it.
The traditional view of samurai are noble, honourable warriors who dedicated their lives to a singular cause. It’s no surprise that samurai have been featured in comics.
But how are they portrayed? Do mainstream comics like Marvel and DC remain faithful to what samurai stood for? Let’s take a closer look.
Throughout Japanese history, powerful women have been at the centre of the culture, constantly defying the odds and carving out a name to be remembered. From Tomoe Gozen to Masami Odate, Japanese women have picked up swords and thrown themselves into fights on their personal journeys to define who they are.
Not every woman has needed to pick up a weapon. In the case of Sei Shōnagon, she created a legacy by picking up the pen. A writer, philosopher and courtly woman of intrigue, Shōnagon’s story is a fascinating tale of how to appreciate the small things in life.
Ukiyo-e, aka Japanese woodblock prints, are among the most recognisable artforms in the world and there are several masters of the medium to be aware of. Perhaps none are more celebrated than Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, two men who redefined the genre with their breathtaking landscapes and vivid realism of nature.
Hokusai and Hiroshige are both responsible for shifting ukiyo-e from a style of personal portraits of courtesans and actors to the broader lens of landscapes and animals.
While both artists covered similar motifs, their styles were wholly unique. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the artistry of Hokusai and Hiroshige to see what set them apart.
In Japan, there are many remote places worlds away from the bustling megacities of Tokyo and Kyoto. The town of Yamanaka in Ishikawa Prefecture is one such place and writer Hannah Kirshner reveals the intimate details of this mountainous town in Water, Wood & Wild Things: Learning Craft And Cultivation In A Japanese Mountain Town.
Lyrical, vivid and beautiful, Kirshner’s book is a window into a part of Japan that few have explored in literature and from the very first page, you’ll be transported to Yamanaka and feel right at home.
Practicing philosophy invites the opportunity to bring it into aspects of life that you may not have thought about initially. In my case, I’ve become interested in the philosophy of Stoicism and over the course of learning, it’s made me curious to see how it could be introduced into other topics I find intriguing.
It’s for that reason I’m exploring Stoicism through the lens of sake brewing and how the four Stoic principles of courage, wisdom, temperance and justice is embodied in the sake industry.