Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Images of old Japan
women on trial.
imitating Seppuku? My next post will be on this subject.
The society of traditional Japan was long held to be a good example of one in which shame is the primary agent of social control. Ancient Greece has also been described as a shame society. The first book to cogently explain the workings of the Japanese society for the Western reader is The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. This book was produced under less than ideal circumstances since it was written during the early years of World War II in an attempt to understand the people who had become such a powerful enemy of the West. Under the conditions of war it was, of course, impossible to do field research in Japan.
Nevertheless, depending on the study of members of that culture who were available for interview and study in the West, namely war prisoners at detention centers, as well as literary and other such records pertaining to cultural features, Ruth Benedict drew what some regard as a clear picture of the basic workings of Japanese society. Her study has been challenged and is not relied upon by anthropologists of Japan today, but one that has stood the test of time as an inspiration and starting point still useful for many purposes.
*If you want to see other photos of old Japan visit this site.