Sunday, October 31, 2004

"A Japanophile Is Someone Who Doesn't Know Japan"

Over at [Translator's Note:], Zak gives us an "anti-Japan rant" titled "A Japanophile Is Someone Who Doesn't Know Japan."

The examples he cites are compelling. His opening example:

Right before I left we talked about the Japanese custom of burning treasured items along with the dead when they are cremated.

This is a long-standing custom in Japan, one that is still alive and well despite the lack of attention it garners. One of the main reasons there are so few good old flutes still around today is that families of deceased shakuhachi players will sometimes burn their flutes along with the body. The reasoning is that the more someone loved or held something dear, the more they will want it in the next life. This is why there are so many worthless old flutes floating around: if someone has 5 poor flutes and 1 excellent one made 100 years ago by a renowned maker, guess which one is likely to end up incinerated.

But . . . every society has its stupidities.

In Japan, as Zak points out, they often seem to actively destroy cultural treasures. However, as one of his readers points out, the Japanese do keep traditional skills alive. In the West, it is often the opposite. We attach great importance to ancient things, but no one knows how to use them anymore or really understands the fine details and human genius that went into their development. Which is the greater loss, I wonder.

In any case, I'll be reading [Translator's Note:] more often. Good stuff.

(Mug tip to The Tanuki Ramble.)

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