Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bust Times

POTENTIALLY OFFENSIVE, SO I RECOMMEND DISCRETION.

Back in 1994, I took a recreational lecture course in Tokyo on the history of Japanese floral arrangement. The lecturer was, I gathered, high up on the Ohara School, and he'd been in that circle perhaps longer than I had been on the planet, but he never mentioned his academic credentials that's supposed to impress Japanese audience; he was just the nicest, humblest, but a darned smart man; I still have all my notes but I should have had a tape recorder to capture all his insights.

Among other things, he directed our attention to the newer direction of Japanese history, knowing the Japanese imperial family has Korean descent seeing Japan as a dumping ground of the powerful and influential that fell out of favor every time China/Korea had a regime change. He referred often to historian Amino Yoshihiko who started this "movement" studying regular people's lives in Medieval Japan, so no official documents and high literature, but things we used and pictorial description of regular folks. The Amino/Folk history showed a very different picture of the Japanese poeple than what was normally accepted even by ourselves. And this, in the 80's and 90's, was still a rather bold view.

To say the Imperial family is from Korea is similar to saying Jesus was Jewish; it's factual, but some take offense. The course opened my eyes, thankfully, to how much our history was rewritten to deify the Imperial family, and that it took place not recently but most probably over the last millennium-plus. I also feel reassured to learn more links to China/Korea. (By the way, anthropologists still don't know where the "race" calling itself the Japanese came from - I think there are at least three theories; I wouldn't be surprised if all of them are correct. )

In 1994 we were well into the Big Recession that started around 1990, although the government needed a bit longer to get its giant head around it. We also had a rapid succession of major Imperial events: a funeral in '89, weddings in '90 and '93, after a 30 year absence of such pomp and silliness, (the last one was a wedding in "59), and gazillion tax yen went into these shows.

The lecturer calmly told us to look back on our history, that it was when things were dire for the masses that what see call art/culture flourish. I've been in New Zealand since the end of 1994 so I don't know about the latest recession culture in Japan. But if we're heading towards a world recession, you and I should capitalize on it.

4 comments:

  1. Very interesting post Meg, but I'm puzzled as to why anyone would think that conservatives or Christians would be offended by the statement that Jesus was Jewish. The only folks I've found who think Jesus is offensive is the liberals and nonchristians.

    I don't mean to open up a can of worms here(!) The idea just struck me as odd.

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  2. I've had a few encounters as a student in the US with people I didn't know well who were offended by the Jesus=Jewish equation; I was young so I didn't have the guts to ask what ethnicity they thought He was. Similarly, the official line is that the Japanese imperial family is from Japan, I think, though the Emperor used to be called the Son of the Sun, or some such, which would make him a relative of the French royalty, and presumably, a few others as well.

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  3. Um any Christian who is offended by the Jesus=Jew comment, should read their bible. Jesus was a Jew there really is no way around it. Now if you would have said Jesus was an atheist, then that's offensive. I have had several people of Asian decent tell me that it's considered rude to call a Chinese person, Japanese or Korean Vietnamese, but to that extent I understand, because I'm Cuban and not Mexican or Colombian although still Latina but from different lands and therefore different traditions and even dialect.

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  4. Yeah... Some Japanese are offended when mistaken for Chinese or Korean, too. It's historical - and in recent history, us invading them, especially Korea, but our official/government policy not apologizing.

    One of the first things we learn in our history classes is how we were the boondocks of Asia and how delighted we were in being allowed audience of powers that be in China/Korea in exchange for studying technology, etc. But we've been behaving like we own the region for a long while now - though this side of the 80's we've been a tiny bit better-behaved.

    I'm a little skeptic about people who claim they can tell the facial features/racial differences, especially between the Japanese and Koreans myself... And, let's see if I get this right - I'm so fuzzy on my Asian history because we didn't cover them as throughly as we did Western (called World) History in school, but long time ago people from the Korean Peninsula went westward and helped (?) to build the basis of China until the Mongols came. So a whole lot of us living around East Asia are just distant cousins.

    I take all responsibility for inaccuracies and ignorance; I was a very distracted student in my youth.

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