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Japanese Culture

Japanese Culture: Fourth Edition

Paul Varley
Copyright Date: 2000
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  • Book Info
    Japanese Culture
    Book Description:

    For nearly three decades Japanese Culture has garnered high praise as an accurate and well-written introduction to Japanese history and culture. This widely used undergraduate text is now available in a new edition. Thoroughly updated, the fourth edition includes expanded sections on numerous topics, among which are samurai values, Zen Buddhism, the tea ceremony, Confucianism in the Tokugawa period, the story of the forty-seven ronin, Mito scholarship in the early nineteenth century, and mass culture and comics in contemporary times.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6308-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Major Periods and Cultural Epochs of Japanese History
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Chinese Dynasties since the Time of Unification under the Han
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Author’s Notes
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. 1 The Emergence of Japanese Civilization
    (pp. 1-18)

    Much mystery—and controversy—surrounds the origins of the Japanese people. Before the end of World War II, it was generally believed that human occupancy of Japan dated to only about 4000 b.c. and that the inhabitants of that earliest period were Neolithic or New Stone Age people. Then, in 1949, new archaeological finds dramatically revealed that humans had lived in Japan from a much earlier time and that there had been a Paleolithic or Old Stone Age before the New Stone Age. Today, a conservative estimate of the date of the beginning of the Old Stone Age is between...

  8. 2 The Introduction of Buddhism
    (pp. 19-47)

    The sixth century inaugurated an epoch of great vitality in East Asia. After some three and a half centuries of disunion following the fall of the Han dynasty in 220, China was at length reunited under the Sui dynasty in 589. Although the T’ang replaced the Sui in 618, there was no further disruption of national unity for another three centuries.

    The period of disunion in China produced conditions favorable to the spread of Buddhism, which had been introduced from India during the first century a.d., and it was largely as a Buddhist country that China entered its grand age...

  9. 3 The Court at Its Zenith
    (pp. 48-76)

    In 794 the court moved to the newly constructed city of Heian or Kyoto, about twenty-eight miles north of Nara. The decision to leave Nara was apparently made for several reasons. Many people at court had become alarmed over the degree of official favor accorded to Buddhism and the manifold opportunities presented to Buddhist priests to interfere in the business of state. Their fears were particularly aroused when an empress (Shōmu’s daughter) became closely involved with a faith-healing priest named Dōkyō (d. 772). Before the loss of his patroness, who died in 770, Dōkyō rose to the highest ecclesiastical and...

  10. 4 The Advent of a New Age
    (pp. 77-90)

    Thehaniwafigurines of armor-clad warriors and their mounts and the numerous military accoutrements dating from the protohistoric tomb period are plain evidence that the fighting traditions of the Japanese go back to remote antiquity. There is, moreover, the strong likelihood that these traditions were nourished uninterruptedly in the provinces even during the centuries when an elegant and refined cultural life was evolving under continental influence in the central region of Japan.

    One of the principal steps taken by the court to strengthen its control as a central government following the Great Reform of 645 was the establishment of a...

  11. 5 The Canons of Medieval Taste
    (pp. 91-139)

    The chieftain who emerged during the course of the Minamoto-Taira War of 1180–85 as the supreme commander of Minamoto forces was Yoritomo (1147–99). Unlike Kiyomori, the Taira leader who died in 1181, the second year of the war, Yoritomo deliberately avoided entanglement in court politics in Kyoto. Instead, he remained at Kamakura, his base in the Kantō, throughout the war, treating the pursuit and destruction of the Ise Taira as secondary to the establishment of control over the eastern heartland of samurai society.

    The government that Yoritomo founded at Kamakura is known in English as the shogunate, after...

  12. 6 The Country Unified
    (pp. 140-163)

    The last century of the Muromachi period, following the devastating Ōnin War of 1467–77, has been fittingly labeled the age of provincial wars. Although its first few decades witnessed the blossoming of Higashiyama culture, the age was otherwise the darkest and most troubled in Japanese history. Fighting raged from one end of the country to the other. The Ashikaga shoguns became totally powerless, and the domains of many daimyos were torn asunder either by the internecine warfare of vassals or by great peasant uprisings.

    Among those most directly and adversely affected by the Ōnin War were the Kyoto courtiers,...

  13. 7 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture
    (pp. 164-204)

    The great peace of more than two and a half centuries that followed the founding of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1600 was made possible largely by the policy of national seclusion which the shogunate adopted during the late 1630s. To many historians this policy, carried out amid fearful persecutions of both native and foreign Christians, has appeared as an arbitrary and extraordinarily reactionary measure whereby the Tokugawa, in order to preserve their national hegemony, terminated a lively century of intercourse with the countries of western Europe and reinstituted harsh and repressive feudal controls over Japan.

    The seclusion policy, which was...

  14. 8 Heterodox Trends
    (pp. 205-234)

    The Tokugawa system of rule was shaped by the first three shoguns, who ruled from 1600 until 1651. During this half century the shogunate pursued policies—including national seclusion, alternate attendance, and the confiscation (on the one hand) and transfer (on the other hand) of daimyo domains—that increasingly strengthened its control over both the daimyos and the country as a whole. Some scholars have speculated that if the shogunate had continued on the same course it would have transformed itself from a rather loose, hegemonic government into a centralized monarchy.¹ But, after 1651, what appeared to be a drive...

  15. 9 Encounter with the West
    (pp. 235-270)

    In 1844 King William II of Holland dispatched a letter to the shogun of Japan warning him that the quickening pace of world events made continuance of the Japanese policy of national seclusion both unwise and untenable. The development of steam navigation, for one thing, now enabled the ships of Western countries readily to penetrate the most distant waters of the world. China, as noted, had already suffered military defeat at the hands of the British in the Opium War, and Japan could not expect to remain aloof from world affairs much longer.

    Although they debated it among themselves, Tokugawa...

  16. 10 The Fruits of Modernity
    (pp. 271-303)

    Japan went to war with China in 1894–95 over the issue, to put it euphemistically, of Korean independence. Korea had traditionally been tributary to China, a relationship that gave the Chinese a kind of protectorate over the foreign affairs of the peninsular, “hermit” kingdom. Victorious in 1895, Japan received, among other rewards, the colonial possessions of Taiwan and the Pescadore Islands. Moreover, by fully exposing the weakness and ineptitude of the Manchu government, it helped precipitate an odious round of concession grabbing by the powers in China during the late 1890s that has been described as “the carving of...

  17. 11 Culture in the Present Age
    (pp. 304-352)

    After more than three and a half years of fighting, unconscionably prolonged in the last stages by the fanatical unwillingness of its rulers to recognize that further resistence was futile, Japan finally acceded to the ultimatum of the Allied powers from Potsdam in July 1945, and in August surrendered unconditionally. The last agonies of the war produced, on one side, the horror of suicidal air attacks bykamikazepilots—who were exhorted to re-create the glorious defense of the homeland by “divine winds” directed against the Mongol invaders of the thirteenth century—and, on the other side, the unspeakable holocaust...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 353-362)
  19. Glossary
    (pp. 363-366)
  20. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 367-372)
  21. Index
    (pp. 373-384)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 385-386)