November 5, 2012 at 1:57 AM

Japan’s Cultural Influence


Modern Japanese society is attributed to its momentous history, and the artifacts exposing the realities and traditions of past and present Japan. Cultural influences come from the ambitious Han dynasty in China, Korean customs, the spread of the Mongols, and the birth of Islamic advancement. Japan’s progression of cultural fusion from past events is reflected in today’s culture.

Many cultures had technological breakthroughs during the Paleolithic Era, such as the discovery of fire or the advent of the wheel, but little is known about Japan during this time. What is known is the geographical alignment.18,000 years ago, Japan was not a series of islands as it is today. The Korean peninsula, the island of Kyushu, Siberia and Holdcaido were all connected to Japan. Gradually world temperatures increased and as a result the land bridge to Korea submerged. New technologies from other countries became scarce. The impacts of the weather change were gradual creating scarce animal prey and dense vegetation. The Japanese people adapted by relying on the marine environment.

Today we can see evidence of dependency on marine life through Japan’s dishes and artifacts. Even though society progressed, the influence of that period continued. Japanese dishes such as Miso soup, Sushi, Sashimi, Onigiri and many other dishes reflect the strong influence of the surrounding aquatic environment. Artifacts such as Ukiyo-e, illustrate beliefs, tales, and landscapes on woodblocks. Ukiyo-e literally means pictures of a floating world. The Japanese have always seen themselves as an island on its own, even with the progression of time.

During the Yayoi Era, 300 BCE-250 BCE, society became more complex. The construction of buildings with wood and stone, wealth by means of land ownership, the introduction of wet-rice, the development of social classes, and trade practices were all contributing factors. Today the use of rice is a large part of Japanese commerce and trade distribution, so much so that even underground urban farms have been developed underneath business structures, to ensure the future of continued cultivation. Exporting is still a large part of Japanese economy as Japan continues to be a leader in the world’s economy because of its technological contributions. Even though farming is not as big a part of Japanese culture as it once was, Japan set sights on stimulating the farming economy by increasing exports of local agriculture through out the world.

Buddhism was introduced by Korean envoys in the Asuka reign. It was accepted as the national religion within 40 years. By 685, Buddhism was enforced as a mandatory religion. “Torai-jn” in ancient Japan, was the word used to define Chinese and Korean immigrants who became naturalized. The immigrants introduced many aspects of their language, culture, and traditions to their adoptive country. Japanese Art was believed to have followed the style of the Six Dynasties of China. During the Nora Period, the distinction of the Japanese upper class could be observed by their identification and patterning after the Chinese.

Today, Japanese people still practice Buddhism and continue to spread the wisdom of Buddha through out the world. The Japanese still observe an upper class system but now pattern their identification more with Americans and Europeans. Modern day Japanese fashion reflects a huge influence of both Americans and Europeans. Lolita fashion is a fashion that resembles children’s clothing of the Victorian era. Several variations of the Lolita fashion exist such as the displays with a gothic twist or sweet childlike resemblance. Kogal fashion imitates the California Valley Girl look, with girls who usually die their hair bleach blond and wear high-end designer fashion from Europe.

An unprecedented peace and security passed over the land by the hand of the powerful Heain dynasty, during the Heain period. After a break down in 792, local power holders were the main power surges. The widely known Shogun militia character developed during that Kamkuya Period, from 1185 to 1333. Shogun is widely identifiable image that the world relates to the Japanese culture.

The popular “Shogun” book and movie appealed to American culture and gave a great sense of what Japanese life was about. The Edo Era was centrally focused on its prevalence of peace throughout the period. Foreign trade was prominent and even though relations developed with the English and Dutch, the suppression and persecution of Christianity was strongly enforced. The “Shogun” tale even depicted the mark that Christianity tried to make on Japan, and their refusal to conform. Since there was such peace, the samurai warriors spent their focus on educating themselves in martial arts, literature, philosophy, and the arts. Out of this study became the now widely known tea ceremony.

Japan continued to be a peaceful country throughout history until World War II. During World War II, Japan teamed up with Germany and Italy against the U.S. in the fight against Hitler’s regime. The U.S. learned of a surprise attack that would take place in the Philippines during the war, but at the advice of an Admiral, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor instead. In retaliation, the U.S. launched a nuclear attack on Hiroshima. Although the number of people killed in the bombing is not known, it is believed to be around 150,000 people total. Today Japan and U.S. are considered allies and Japan continues its reputation as a very peaceful and low crime society.

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