Japan: The Human of History

May 26, 2010
By Nevin Daniel SILVER, Port Jefferson Station, New York
Nevin Daniel SILVER, Port Jefferson Station, New York
5 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Mortal Kombat painted my first picture of Japan. The intricate depictions of ancient fighting techniques, Buddhist architecture, and deadly samurai weaponry were all I knew. And then, I learned of geography and I saw a tropical island nation placed so precariously above Asia that one could not help but wonder if some other forces were at play, and shaped so ironically like the moon instead of the rising sun. But Japan first truly came into my life when I then learned history and could see a complex, booming culture deeply enrooted in traditional values that continually seemed to be able to morph with the ever advancing world today unlike any other entity I had ever known.

I often considered history as pointless and repulsive due to the lack of relevance many of the concepts we studied had with modern day life. Teachers frequently turned toward Karl Marx’s favorite saying “History repeats itself” in order to allude to the fact that history is significant due to its capacity to help us anticipate unforeseen problems. Yet, these pieces of historical insight often solely concerned the welfare and status of countries as a whole and the only individuals that we hear of seem to be only those with the utmost political power. I could hardly relate my own self to the being of a country. While a country has to manage global power struggles, and inconceivable quantities of money and people, an average human must deal with less concrete matters including relationships, success, ambition, and ethics. Very few of us truly aspire from childhood to become so ingrained in the political system that we would ever care for global history beyond the realms of academic necessity and trivial curiosity, and rather for the purpose of gaining some insight for the future. I certainly didn’t.

When all seemed lost for my appreciation of history, I came across Japan. The few pages devoted in my monotonous textbook on its history were absolutely inspiring. A nation whose history could not be generalized to the point where causes and effects of events could so perfectly be categorized but rather intertwined them all to form what seemed to be a living being standing alone among the robotic nature of other nations. No one could even dare to generalize the effects of both Shintoism and Zen Buddhism on Japanese politics and culture to the point where their individual characteristics and beliefs simply became those of religion in general. Their mysticism and the passionate asceticism of its believers could not be ignored. Though equally as enthralling philosophies had risen throughout history, never before had I seen such moral thought and emotion deeply infused in a nation’s nature . Its history seemed to lift me to a state of satori just as well as any meditation. From the difficulties the Japanese faced in choosing whether to Sinicize and the Taika reforms, to the struggle between the beliefs of the Buddhist monks and their indirect formation of the ultracivilized court of the Emperor at Heian (present-day Kyoto), to the apparent corruption of the bushi’s chivalry upon the establishment of the Minamoto bakufu or military government, Japan was able to reiterate to me the wonder and fascination associated with the complex nature of human beings and their interactions.

Japan never ceases to amaze me as I continue to see the effects of such intertwining of moral philosophy and society then evolve into the Japan of the present. Japan seems to be able to constantly carry its ancient societal beliefs throughout history. Today, these beliefs may react to growing technology and the emergence of the Informational Age. Still, the results have been astounding. “Japan, Incorporated” has risen and the Japanese have added an economical and technological exuberance the world has never before seen. Some are afraid these are signs that Japanese culture is being lost . People are losing sight of the ancient values of reverence to nature and to the pursuit of enlightenment as well as traditional chivalry and etiquette. However, to me, they seem all to normal for the human that is Japan. A lone figure isolated from the world around her, left to figure for itself the meaning of its existence. Conflicting emotions almost left her in shambles yet nature always showed her the path back. She then was abruptly brought into the world around her, later than most. But when she blossomed, she turned out to be more beautiful than anyone anticipated.

Similar Articles


This article has 1 comment.

on Jan. 6 2012 at 4:27 am
You have no idea how much this helped me! It was beautifully written! :)


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!