Saturday, 11 April 2015

Soy Sauce 11

There is no ‘happy ending’ for the Japanese, and none in their novels and plays. Sympathy for the self-sacrificing hero, intensely suffering to live up to his obligations, is the only worthy theme. Repayment requires sublimating one's personal desires and pleasures. The pursuit of virtue is the only proper purpose in life. Happiness is a recreation in which one indulges when one can, but to dignify it as something by which the State and family should be judged is quite unthinkable. The idea that we pursue happiness as a serious goal is, to them, an amazing and immoral doctrine.
In their pursuit of virtue, the Japanese know no evil. Throughout their history the Japanese seem to have retained in some measure this incapacity to discern, or this reluctance to grapple with, the problem of evil.
Every man is a potential Buddha. The rules of virtue are not in sacred writings but in one's own enlightened and innocent soul. Why should one distrust what one finds there? One strives to clean the windows of one’s soul, and act with appropriateness on every occasion. Once any impurities are removed, man's essential goodness shines again. In the struggle we invented between Hobbes and Rousseau, the Japanese come down clearly on the side of Rousseau. Human nature is naturally good, and to be trusted. It does not fight an evil half of itself. Such a moral code is alien to them. They have no theology ‘shapen in iniquity, and in sin.’ They teach no doctrine of the Fall of Man. Their suffering is no judgment of God, and they have no categorical imperative or Golden Rule. Instead of accusing a man of being unjust, as we might, the Japanese would specify the circle of behaviour he has not lived up to. Instead of accusing him of being selfish or unkind, they would refer to the particular province within which he violated the code. Approved behaviour is relative to the circle within which it appears. 
Purification in Shinto lifts the burden from the shoulders of the individual and washes it away. And this social contract, as we will see, bestowed a benevolent Japanese blessing, and a tragic Western curse.

                                        ‘The Buddha himself
                                         Was once man like us:
                                         We too at the end
                                         Shall become Buddha.’

Friday, 10 April 2015

Soy Sauce 10

Whereas Americans cultivate a self that is unique and interact through the force of their individual personalities, Japanese strive towards a mature individuality through which they can fulfill their humanity by caring and considerate interactions with others. Social conformity is not a sign of weakness but a tempered product of inner strength. 
But the paradoxical divided priorities of required public expressions over private thoughts and feelings create a true dynamic internal tension in the Japanese. The great complexity and rigidity in etiquette and culture comes directly from the conflict between the expected behavioral façade and opinions one displays in public, Tatemae, and a person’s hidden true feelings and desires, Honne. 
The Tatemae-Honne divide also has a name. Ninjō is the conflicted human emotions that inescapably spring up in conflict with the values of Giri social obligations. The potential conflict between Giri and Ninjō has been a frequent theme in Japanese drama and literature throughout the ages. The classic example of ninjō is a samurai in a clandestine love affair with an unacceptable partner (of low social class or from an enemy clan). The samurai becomes torn between the obligation to his feudal lord and to his personal feelings, with the only possible resolution requiring shinjū double love-suicide. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and the Aeneid resonate. The Japanese have a strong tendency to suppress their own feelings. That's the Japanese character. They kill their own emotions.
In Japanese mythology, the gods display love and anger and other human emotions, but the stories are parables, designed to demonstrate how empathetic behaviour that results in positive relations with others is rewarded, and how actions that are individualistic or antisocial are punished by ostracism.
In modern Japan, the complexities of Tatemae-Honne and pressures of an increasingly materialist society have created an almost schizophrenic schism. The reclusive adolescent Hikikomori who withdraw so completely from social life, into extreme hermetic degrees of isolation and confinement, use a surrogate army of emoticons in their outreach emails, to express in their confinement what they would be unable to communicate if they ever left their rooms. Even the first Portuguese Jesuit missionaries could see this coming.

  ‘The Japanese are in general of a melancholy disposition
   and humor. 
   Moved by this natural inclination they thus take much delight and 
   pleasure in lonely and nostalgic spots, woods with shady groves, cliffs 
   and rocky places, solitary birds, torrents of fresh water flowing down 
   from rocks, and in every kind of solitary thing that is imbued with 
   nature and free from all artificiality. All this fills their souls with the 
   same inclination and melancholy, as well as a certain nostalgic feeling 
   with the results there from.’ 
                                                                    João Rodriques (1561-1633)

Thursday, 9 April 2015


4 Spring Salmon
1 Halibut
3 Cabazon
8 Rock Cod
6 Ling Cod
12 Dungeness Crab
100 Mussels
2 bags of Spot Prawns
2 bags of Clams
24 Oysters

Back to Samurai Road tomorrow.