World Cultures Portfolio/Japanese Violence Journal
Dear Journal, Today I reflect on what its like living here in Japan. On one hand, our society exists so peacefully. We walk down the street in perfect safety. But on the other hand, at war lash out ruthlessly against our enemies. Back at home, we read what the west considers as gruesome cartoons. We just find them as just the normal way of life. How can this be? Why the contradiction?
On every street corner, one can find violent anime available for sale. Westerns consider the acts depicted as very gruesome. But we Japanese, we like it, and buy more and more of it. In America, kids go out and shoot people after playing Grand Theft Auto and other video games. They claim that the game provoked them to do it, but come on. In Japan, we don't fall for that nonsense. Japanese children don't get bad ideas merely by playing violent video games or reading cartoons.
Many consider our streets safe. Our capital murder rate lie at 1/6 of the United States' (http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/020421/japan_golden_recession_1.html). I feel free wondering the streets knowing I would get robbed and murdered.
However, our society has had a long history of violence. For a long part of our history, military leaders have led us. We have a emperor, but he merely exists as a powerless figurehead. Our creation myth states that the emperor got a sword from a dragon's tale from heaven. This gave him the right to rule. Long ago, civil conflicts brought upon the rise of warring families. Each battled the other for more land and resources. When Minamoto Yoritomo gained power, he unites the kingdoms and appoints himself shogun. At the general of the army, he held all of the real power. He set up a class of feudal warriors called samurais. You may recall for watching the movies that they fight with honor and valor and never give up.
Thus, this commitment to honor and strength continue to this day. We Japanese do not want to dishonor our families or give up in war. But some things we went too far. The invasion of Nanking show the brutal violence which we did. Even today we will not talk about the untold horrors we committed against the defenseless Chinese citizens.
For a long time, our nation had no outside influences. As an island, we don't get too many visitors, so we did not have many friends. Even in some points in our history, we did not let foreigners in at all. But at other points we actively adopted other nation's cultures.
When the United States limited immigration in 1924, we became angry. We knew that we couldn't let bigger countries push us around. We resisted their calls to limit the size of our armies. But the same time we knew that we needed resources to power our growing industries. That's the reason we invaded Manchuria. But why again did we act so horribly there?
And if you look at our actions during World War Two, our military still practiced its ruthless ways on allied soldiers. Our troops would rather die than become prisoners. Some gave their lives as Kamikazes, with the hopes of just killing a few foreigners. Toward the end, our resistance towards giving up held as strong as ever. The United States had to use two nuclear bombs to make us change our minds.
Why, even though our culture exists exposed to violence, we live safely and peacefully at home. But why then, do we become so violent abroad. Our traditions? Our strict and ordered society? Our knowledge of right and wrong? If not, then what? But the violence towards foreigners? Our nationalism, our pride, which leads us to superiority? I don't know. But it remains an interesting question nevertheless.