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UNIQUE QUALITY OF JAPANESE CULTURE

 

There is a certain thing I would very much like the Japanese people to be aware of.

It concerns the special national character of Japan and the unique quality of its people. Had they had this understanding in the depths of their hearts, Japan would not have experienced the tragic fate of defeat and national ruin of World War II.

There is an expression, "Know thyself." Expanding this, I would say, "Know thy country." Japan is no longer living in an era of national isolation. Now that almost everything is done on a worldwide, international scale, it is a "must" to know one's own country. Japanese should well understand what kind of role their country should play.

Unless they are able to recognize its raison d'etre, they will never be able to establish its true national policy. We can clearly understand this when we observe the conditions in Japan up to the end of World War II. Until that time the privileged class, the military clique, exerted an absolute power and a small number of people administered affairs of state in an arbitrary manner.

Because of this situation, people in general had no voice against those in power and submitted to being enslaved by them. This is still fresh in our memories. It is true that the country's leaders established the constitution and the representative system in the Meiji Era, and pretended that they respected the consensus of public opinion. In actuality, however, a small number of people held political power and finally the leaders launched the reckless war. It was like "advertising wine and selling vinegar."

Let us reflect on the known History of Japan. It was characterized by constant civil wars from its earliest days. Governmental affairs were under the total control of military men. Those who excelled in killing under the cloak of Bushido (Japanese code of chivalry) gained recognition and power. The winners of wars became supreme rulers.

Japan was pulled by this thick rope of violence until the end of World War II. It was suddenly snapped by the great impact of defeat. Unless all its people come to have a much deeper understanding of the meaning of this fact, a true national policy as a peace-loving country can never be established.

For the above reason, it is important to rediscover the rightful role of Japan. As we always say, Japan must be a peace-loving country, a country of art. This is a role which is contrary to its former one as a feudalistic military nation. It is the mission with which it has been entrusted by God. People frequently talk about the reconstructed Japan , but just a reconstructed country would not amount to much if it stopped there because, literally construed, this would mean only a "democratic country without military preparations." Its rebuilding is, or course, a matter of joy for us, but actually, Japan should realize the unique role it has in the world and contribute more to the welfare of the entire human race. This is the true role of the newly-born Japan.

Let me enumerate the reasons for the above statement. First and foremost, Japan is a country of great scenic beauty which is probably beyond comparison anywhere in the world; we always hear exclamations of admiration by visitors from other countries. There is also considerable meaning in the fact that climatic variations of the four seasons are very distinctly discernible. They manifest themselves in constant changes not only in the conditions of mountains, rivers, flowers and trees, but also in the overall atmosphere of Nature.

Concerning the four seasons, what Kyoshi Takahama* said a few years ago after a round-the-world trip clearly shows that the above is true. He wrote, "No country other than Japan has such clear distinctions in the four seasons. Since it is a rule of haiku** to include one of the seasons in every poem, a true haiku cannot be composed in any other country." Also, no other country is said to abound in such a myriad variety of plants and flowers and even in fishes and shells.

We can cite the cleverness of the Japanese people with their hands as one of their most outstanding characteristics. This means that they are particularly suited to art and crafts. The best proof of this is the fact that in the past countless numbers of superb art objects were created in Japan at a time when its History was a continuous record of civil wars. Even today we are struck with admiration for the excellent workmanship of those objects.

If only for the above mentioned reasons, I am sure you can understand what kind of mission Japan and its people have. We believe that the entire country should be made into a great garden for the rest of the world and that unflinching efforts should be made to develop its arts so they reach the highest possible levels.

In other words, Japan should establish two major national policies: developing the tourist industry and encouraging arts and crafts. Then, Japan should work to fulfill these objectives. As a result, it would contribute to the betterment of the thinking of the entire human race and would give it new and fresh recreations and amusements. In short, we should make Japan a country with a highly developed culture, a country of fine arts.

In no other period in History have all the people of the world been so afraid of war and so eager to seek peace as they are today. As we always explain, the ultimate cause of war is the fact that strife-consciousness still remains in human nature. A pugnacious nature originates in a barbarie mentality, of course. Although people always speak of their countries as having high civilization, the fact is that humanity as a whole has not out-grown barbarism as yet. The way to solve this problem, we believe, is to divert the direction of man's interest toward something else, and the most perfect direction is fine arts. In other words, we should convert the hell-like world of conflict into a heaven-like world of art. Peace realized under the threat of armaments is short-lived. Permanent peace can only be attained by a revolution of human thought. I hereby declare that such a revolution can only be achieved through religion and art.

In the above sense, I would like to say that what we need is not just a "reconstructed Japan," but a "reconstructed new Japan." I believe the only policy we can follow if we are to achieve this goal is to transform the entire nation into a country of fine arts.

 

January 1st, 1950

 

*Kyoshi Takahama (1874-1959): A master of haiku poetry in Japan.

**Haiku: A seventeen-syllable poem of Japan.

 

 

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