Ink-Stained Scribe

Past and Present

The picture on the right is not only my favorite shot, it is also a summarization of the at times conflicting but nevertheless striking coexistence of past and present in modern Japan. I used to think that much of what was said about the Japanese culture remaining rooted in old customs and beliefs somewhat of an outdated presumption of sociologist/anthropologist/philanthropists who came to know the culture before the current generations--my generation, and the ones directly before and after--became the face of society. To an extent, that is true--the younger generations seem as a whole more interested in video games and fashion, in makeup and manga, and in passing their school exams and taking part in their after school activities to pay attention to the history of their culture. But to have taken this as a shucking of the past was a misconception on my part. True, certain things are vastly different--I had a seventeen year old male student who is all but bilingual read the article "The Good Wife's Guide" today, and he gave me the very satisfying reaction of laughing himself half to tears over the lines "remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours" and "a good wife always knows her place." I would have thought that, with the continued gender separation and--to an extent still, sadly, greater than America's--stratification, the reaction would have been less emphatic than those of my classmates when we read the article in high school. Apparently, like America, earlier generations would not have found it so appalling. It seems that, though there are still gender stratification and more defined gender roles in Japan, it is not necessarily in order to socially elevate men over woman, as is evident in the article. One interesting point: women have long controlled the family purse strings in Japan, to the extent that they give each other member of the family (including their husband) an allowance. I'm sure that's something that is now on a case-by-case basis, but it interests me.

I have to agree with whichever author it was who professed that the Japanese ability to internalize seemingly conflicting sets of beliefs is a bit mind-boggling.

Anyway, that's as much philosophising and analyzing as I can take for one morning before work...