BLOG POST #2: Japanized or Americanized?

Ok. So I know I said I’d wait till I finished reading JapanAmerica before writing a book review, but as I’m progressing through this book, I’m consistently overwhelmed (in a good way) by the amount of Japanese influence that has reached America. It’s interesting because I’m currently writing an essay concerning Western media imperialism during the American occupation in WWII. Combining what my research suggests with what the author of JapanAmerica is saying, it almost feels like Japan and America’s relationship is purely based on giving and taking. Of course, that doesn’t sound so bad since we’re taught as kids that giving is good but in the context of Japan, she’s pretty much contributing to American culture in a gesture of “owing”. Perhaps it’s not so applicable in the 21st century, but there was a time when Japan essentially gave back to America out of a sense of obligation. That’s just my speculation of it, mind you, so don’t go around spewing this to your friends and family as if any of this is factual. But back to my “speculation”, according to Akio Isagashi*, the Americans chose a very convenient timing in history to impose their Western values and culture. What period in time, you ask? Well, the American occupation of course. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese were in a constant state of fear and anxiety. They lost their homes and their loved ones, they had lost significant amounts of land and resources. There was the threat of radiation (effects of which still linger around in present day) through which people have suffered long term defects. Among everything else they had lost, they most importantly lost hope and identity. Who is to blame for the bombing after all? Had there been identifiable soldiers running around Hiroshima and Nagasaki shooting citizens at point blank, they could at least link the physical threat to a leader. But with the nuclear bombs (which eradicated along with its victims), there was no verifiable trace. That being said, the Japanese felt utterly hopeless. So it’s understandable that when America occupied, the people of Japan were like sponges. Anything that could give them a sense of identity; if they could just get back that feeling of knowing who they are, they readily and eagerly immersed themselves into American cinema and it was through this abundance of movies that Japan adopted a mindset full of Western values.

Ok. I don’t want to go too much in depth with this topic yet because I want to finish this book and then come back with a bucket full of info. Meanwhile, you can do your own research and correct me if you feel like I’ve misinformed you about certain things. But to be fair, I did say that it was mostly speculation so please don’t hurt me.


Starting New – Reconstructing My Literary Identity

So, recently I’ve been reading a lot of books. That’s big news right there. Why should you care? Here’s why; my reading of books is a significant event because there was a period of time in which I had wilfully neglected heart-wrenching, emotionally captivating, and beautifully constructed novels in favor of rotting away on social media. A dreadful move on my part, I must admit. Up until now, I had only thought of reading novels but I had never mustered up the energy to physically lift up a book and invest my heart and soul in it. That, of course, all changed when I started university. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’ve NEVER read a book, far from it actually. When I was younger, I was an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction alike but for some reason, there came a time when I just stopped immersing myself in the lives of tyrannical historical leaders and crime-solving Belgian men.

Starting university made me realize that books, no matter in what context, are essential to human development. They show you aspects of life that you may never see; they describe to you (and in some ways make you feel) all kinds of emotions that have yet to be discovered by your frail little heart. Simply put, books are just absolutely wonderful. Too bad I had wasted so much time just “thinking” about them and not reading them for myself.

When university course enrolment came around, I enrolled (and am currently still enrolled) in a humanities course known as AP HUMA 1435: Japanese Culture, Literature, and Film. And that was it. I took it. No hesitation, no second thought, nada. (This would have been more dramatic had I told you that I was searching for a Humanities course for literally hours).And since I’m being brutally honest here, I’ll even say that I didn’t dare read the course description either. Quite frankly, I didn’t need to. My initial infatuation with all things Japanese had me instantly hooked and because my infatuation ran as far deep as anime and manga, I was practically jumping for joy at the prospect of discussing those two in the lecture. After rebelliously selecting a course solely based on its name, I even dropped a social science credit (a mandatory one, might I add) in favour of an elective. But that’s an embarrassing anecdote for another time.

So I took this humanities course and it was the best decision I had ever made. No, we didn’t discuss anime and manga as in-depth as I had anticipated but the professor (Professor Ted Goossen, a man whose lectures I thoroughly enjoy) had so much more in store that, dare I say, surpassed the value of manga by a long shot. He introduced us to traditional Japanese literary geniuses. At first, they came in the form of short stories. These stories were at best 40 pages long, others only 3 pages long, but their lasting impressions were that of 1000 paged books. These stories had an element that I had never encountered in Western literature and that was, emotion. Not human emotion, but natural emotion. Emotion in its purest form. Japanese literature evokes emotion in ways that Western literature often does/cannot. It reflects feelings of joy, jealousy, fear and sorrow through nature and when you’re reading these stories and imagining these emotions in play, you achieve a better sense of the feelings being projected. For me, personally, it was because nature didn’t have a personality. What do I mean by that? I mean that people are all different, whereas nature is not. A tree is a tree. In their most basic forms, all trees possess the same elements: roots, barks, leaves. People are not as similar because you cannot strip a person of their differing physical elements. Even if you did, those elements will leave an “impression” of sorts, one that has shaped their psychological makeup. That being said, emotions are products of the heart and mind. No two people will have the exact same heart and mind and thus their reflection of emotions usually differ. It’s like how people always say that everyone deals with grief in varying ways. Some people throw themselves into work as a distraction; some choose to wallow in their sorrow until it can pass, others decide that they will be someone else so that deep down, they have an excuse to not cope at all. All these reactions and coping mechanisms will project emotions differently then. Nature can’t do that. If the sky is gray, it’s glum. If the sun is bright, it’s warm. If the birds are silent, they’re asleep. If the clouds are floating, they’re wandering. Nature doesn’t have multiple interpretations in which a reader can get lost in. That’s why, when Japanese traditional authors wanted to signify that the mood is changing, you would need to pay close attention to the environment. It’s beautiful how these stories are written. Really. In fact, my extremely pathetic attempt at explaining it to you will do no good. You’re just going to have to pick up a book written by a Japanese author (not a contemporary one, though they are very, very good as well), and just immerse yourself in traditional Japanese writing yourself.

Well, this turned out to be a rant of sorts. That was not my intention at all, in fact, I was hoping to make my little post sound a little more elegant and put together but because I am neither of those things, it’s hard for me to understand how elegance and put-togetherness work.

P.S. I’m currently reading a book called JapanAmerica. Hopefully, I’ll finish it by the end of the week and have a book review (amateur review, duh) up later this week.

Thanks for sticking around, pals.
Until next time.