Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Soy Sauce 5

Japanese culture was shaped by an extreme sensitivity to social hierarchy, honour, virtue and duty, Apollonian patterns that played out in every action, from war to childrearing. Some Japanese values are clearly Confucian, and came over from China as the Five Ethical Principles of the philosopher Mencius.
The first is the concept of filial piety, the affection between father and son, implicit as a debt and duty to repay one's parents and ancestors for the privilege of existence. If a funeral hearse drives past, you must hide your thumb in a fist. Thumb, in Japanese, is translated as ‘parent-finger,’ and concealing it is considered protection for your progenitors. Even my dog-eared copy of the Hagakure, the Book of the Samurai that accompanied me around Japan, written athousand years after Mencius recorded his principles, exalted this first commandment.

‘To find a retainer with a loyal heart one need look no further than the house of a warrior who is faithful to his parents. A warrior should remain committed to his parents from the depths of his soul, or else after they have passed away he will be filled with regret for what he should have done.’
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure- The Book of the Samurai, 1716

The second of Mencius’ ethical principles was loyalty to the Emperor, implicit as a debt and duty to repay him for the same privilege. The third criterion described separate functions for husband and wife; the fourth a proper order between old and young. This was still doctrine, a samurai millennium later.

‘As time passes and men age and deteriorate, set your pace to catch those ahead of you and start living healthy and you may fulfill your dreams of long servitude to your lord. When everyone excels it is hard to stand out, but as others start to decline it becomes much easier to achieve greatness.’
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure- The Book of the Samurai, 1716 

As was the fifth element, trust between friends.

‘You will know who your true friends are when you get sick or distressed. If one you thought was your friend keeps his distance from you during trying times then he should be considered a coward.’
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure- The Book of the Samurai, 1716

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