Japan - from Asahi to Zen
Traditional terms, and a pop culture glossary through the eyes of a raw gaijin.
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Wa,   Wabi,   Waka,   Wakizushi,   Washi,   Windchimes,   World War II,   Writing

Social Harmony

Get things out in the open?    Lay your cards on the table?    Air your opinion?    Not in Japan my frriend.    How do you expect to maintain Wa with a (Western) attitude like that?

Wa, the harmony of the group, is the binding principle of Japanee society, with roots stretching back to the first constitution in 604 AD, and even before that, in the co-operative teamwork needed to cultivate rice in difficult conditions.    The Japanese value the maintainence of Wa way above any ideas of self-assertion, self-expression, individualism, argument or confrontation.

You're not an individual, you're a member of a group, and whenever you find yourself confused by the behaviour of the Japanese, I suggest that you try to think in terms of Wa and the Togethernes of the Group.    The Group, the Group, the Group - write it on your hand, tatoo it inside your eyelids, do whatever you have to do to remember it.    Remember wa, the harmony and togetherness of the group, and you'll fit right in. ;-)

See Also:    Haji,   Honne to Tatemae,   Nemawashi

Subtle Taste

Wabi and Sabi are the highest asthetic values aimed at by traditional Japanese arts.    Wabi emphasises a fundamental sense of quiet sadness, and the rejection of gaudiness.

See Also:    Cha no yu,   Haiku,   Ikebana,   Sabi

Thirty-one syllable poem, arranged in five lines of five seven, five, seven and seven syllables.

The precursor to Haiku

See Also:    Matsuo Basho

making washi

Traditional, handmade paper.

See Also:    Arts

Windchimes ( Furin )
cartoon Windchimes are hung from the eaves of houses in Summer.    I don't feel it myself, but for the Japanese, the gentle ringing of the chimes evokes a breath of cool air in the humid heat of Summer.

See Also:    Fusuma,   Futon,   Genkan,   Irori,   Kotatsu,   Shoji,   Tatami,   Tokonoma

World War II
A time when nothing bad happened.

The name used by some anti-Japanese revisionist historians to refer to the era surrounding the creation and unfortunate collapse of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, despite the heroic efforts of our God-Emperor.

See Also: The Rape Of Nanjing, Invasion of Manchuria, Annexation of Korea, Invasion of the Philipines, War in Papua New Guinea, War in IndoChina, Defeat in Pacific, Battle of Midway, Peral Harbour Attack, Nuclear Bombings, Surrender and shameful defeat by hated gaijin.

See Also: Comfort Women,   Chishima,   Defence Forces,   Kamikaze,   Okinawa

Japan has not one, not two, or even three writing systems, but a grand total of four different ways of writing their language.    Two of these are imported, and two are indigenous.
They are:
  • Kanji - the Chinese characters.
  • Hiragana - the main phonetic "alphabet".
  • Katakana - a system used to write foreign words.
  • Romanji - the Latin alphabet, as used in the West.

Note: Hiragana and Katakana are collectively known as the Kana.

In practice most writing is done using a combination of Kanji and Hiragana.    Although, the Japanese language can be fully written using only Hiragana and Katakana.    On the other hand, in comparison with Hiragana, Romanji is hardly used at all, and few if any local people would attempt to write Japanese using the Romanji alphabet.

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