5. Mental and Psychological Growth
Origins of Japaneseness
I think the Japanese are a very unique ethnic group. Moreover, I think that they are rare people in the world who are so rich in benevolent spirit. It is not so difficult for Japanese to believe that everyone is the same human being.
The reason why Japan has nurtured such characteristics is deeply related to that it is an island country. It was also because until the occupation by the United States in 1945, Japan was a very lucky country that had never been occupied or conquered by foreign enemies.
For those countries in the world, especially which are continental countries whose borders other countries, or which are isthmus or peninsula countries, they inevitably have been a passageway for other peoples to move, frequent invasions and conquests have occurred. Consequently, the people who live there have learned how to protect themselves each time in the long history. In other words, they became sensitive to ethnic differences, did not trust others so easily, and learned clever negotiation techniques.
In an island country which is protected by the sea around, instead of learning to avoid such dangerous experiences, the people were forced to be caught up in the so-called “island-country mentality” which lacked contact experience, even though they have strong curious, about other places in the world.
When you look around the other countries of the world, Britain, for example, is also an island country, and it is in the similar geographical conditions to Japan. But it is separated to other countries in Europe by only a distance called the English Channel which a tough person can swim across, and which has made a history of frequent aggression and exchange.
In the case of Japan used to be, the distance to the Asian continent was long, and crossing it used be the act that even the voyage by ship risked the life, and it was exactly the act to dedicate own luck to God.
However, the Korean Peninsula was a passageway of those people who came from the continent in an ancient time because there was a stepping stone called Tsushima on the mid way. And it also became a passage used to invade the continent by riding the momentum which conquered the Japanese archipelago like Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Thus, the Korean Peninsula became an avenue to realize ambition of the Japanese, and when the great power of Russia rose on the contrary, it was used as a buffer zone against Russia.
The Japanese as “un-weaning” child
I actually realized the characteristic of the Japanese when I went out to a foreign country and actually interacted with people of different countries and experienced the real differences not as a so-called knowledge.
I thought then that my finding on the characteristic of the Japanese was as a likening to the process of human growing to an adult.
In other words, in the process of becoming an adult, we must experience a decisive separation of ourselves from parents about whether we can “wean” ourselves or not.
This is own theory, but it seems to that the relationship between human beings and the natural conditions also is similar to this “parent-child” relationship on a collective level. That is, a whole local community had been closely connected with the land so to speak, especially during the feudal age when agriculture is the main living means.
In the case of Japan, there was another natural condition which joins an island country. Especially in the process of which the rule form of the nation was formed on the islands, the king or the emperor who was the ruler from the ancient times and the later leader from the samurai class had made a peculiar national form. That is, the national form was made by supporting each other rather than by a different race who conquered them.
The national form was forced to be waked-up by the Black Ships (American steam ships) experience at the end of the Edo period in the late 19th century. Consequently it brought urgently the artificial divine structure of the modern Emperor system, called “kokutai (national body)”, that was developed as a means of overcoming the invasion of foreign enemies in the early modern era.
Now let us contrast the national form to the above mentioned “weaning”. Then, we can find a turning point which whether Japan had experienced the weaning process or not as the decisive factor to form her national mental structure. After the Meiji Era (which was established after the Edo Era), the idea which the Emperor being topped as the big father for the big family of the nation established and had been maintained. And the mandate of worshiping and obeying the emperor had been forced among the people as if accepting the deliberate lack of “weaning.”
Meiji Ishin (the Japanese term of the civil war which brought the formation of the Meiji government), which is translated as Meiji Restoration in English, is definitely different from the civil revolution happened in Western Europe.
Let us compare “Meiji Restoration” with those civil revolution in Western Europe. Although the revolution in the Western Europe destroyed kingdoms and guillotined, such a dramatic process did not occur in Japan, and the dismantling of the Edo Shogunate called “Bloodless Return” of the formal power of emperor and transfer of the power to the Meiji government were accomplished.
During the process, it was the Western powers who manipulated the civil war between the Edo Shogunate and the new Meiji government from behind. In particular, they secretly provided military funds and modern weapons to the anti-shogunate side, thus worked to gain the upper hand of the new Meiji government.
What is important here is that Japan’s political system after the Meiji Restoration has intentionally left the people in the lack of “weaning” i.e. in an immature state. As a result the people sadly were driven to war by their parents, and died in battle with shouting “Long live the Emperor”, and experienced a devastating tragedy of unconditional surrender.
And then the post-war era began. The United States which knew such a mental structure of the Japanese people dared not to punish or kill Emperor Showa who was a war leader, and it occupied the country without destroying such a national mental structure with putting him at the top of the mental structure of Japan. In this way it established as the core structure of the postwar system of Japan.
Through many novels by Ryotaro Siba, the so-called “Siba Historical View”, which has had a strong influence on the Japanese people, does not see the “lack of independence from the emperor” process in such a Meiji Restoration process, but rather on the contrary, I think that they were written to glorifying the achievement of the Japaneseness. He vaguely referred it to the process as kitai or baby devil by which the Emperor led Japan to the war, but at last, there was no mention of the trait on lack of weaning.
Looking at it this way, it can be seen that the modern history of Japan has been formed within the double “lack of independence from the emperor” before and after the war.
Therefore, from what I see, I believe that the true journey carried out by the Japanese will be to experience the effect of true meaning of independence from the emperor as well as the parents.
Regarding the details of analysis of the mental structure of the Japanese people, please refer to my separate article, 私の日本分析 (My Analysis of Japan).
At the bottom of the dilemma to survive
To tell the reality, I think that the mental structural tendency of “lack of weaning” seen in such “the lack of independence from the emperor” has changed the appearance and shape and has been formed obstinately concealed in the deep bottom of “the iron rule of securing the means of survival” described in chapter 1 of this book.
Even though we Japanese, in the homogeneous culture, can share the feeling or “the air” on something such as uncomfortable or favorite matters, it is difficult to see what it comes from.
In order to do so, it is absolutely necessary to get out of the bottom of the well and see the scenery from the outside. As my study abroad experience taught me, it bares the person. And from that nakedness, you can learn what kind of clothes you were wearing.
As you are feeling the “difficulty in life” which has already expanded like a “pandemic” to Japanese society for the last 20 years, the economic situation which is a pillar of physical infrastructure has been directly acting on our lives. But as to the psychological structure placing in the depth of all Japanese which tends to depend on someone, it is difficult to feel. Because it has been planted in their mind before known and so it has nurtured a quiet nature of the Japanese which does not say “no” explicitly in daily life. The cause of it is the same soil and it has worked effectively.
Or, for instance, in those areas such as nursing care, education, and even poverty issue, there is the common problem which those social issues tend to be thought as the matter responsible for the family whatsoever. This is because such the lack of independent mental structure is based on the habit which thinks that it is a familiar kinship problem before the idea that it is a social need.
Of course, family ties are irreplaceable. But those two different types of problem, which one should be solved by socially and the other should be entrusted to such family relationships, should not be mixed up and it is expected to be more effective if they are treated separately. For example, the “parasite” problem, in which an adult-age child cannot leave their parents for long period, is typical of such social issues which was left to the family instead. It is the example of a social approach have been overlooked.
In addition, the similar tendency can be pointed out in the workplace. The labor-management relation in Japan has modeled the typical family structure on the assumption of the family made-up of the bread earner and the full-time housewife. This structure has called the seniority system which assumes the lifetime employment.
Although there are differences depending on companies and industries, such a Japanese-style employment system has gradually changed over the past 20 years or so, and Western-style management has been taken in, with a focus on results and duties.
In particular, under the crisis of COVID-19, in order to introduce telework, it is absolutely necessary to clear the outline of individual work, and these changes are accelerating.
In today’s globalized business environment, more and more jobs are based on international movement, such as the job itself bringing about a foreign experience or hiring people who have already experienced foreign countries.
In addition, in response to the shrinking domestic market in Japan, the heat of overseas expansion of many companies and industries is increasing, and the number of working positions based on overseas work accordingly is increasing.
Even if the chances to go out to a foreign country is offered to you, it could be said that there is not critical difference because you still must clear the iron rule to survive whatsoever. Any way, it must be a sensitive issue that whether you can catch two birds with one stone, or simply ends up with get a job by chance in an international labour market.
This might be another fundamental dilemma in the global era.