What do you know about Japan? What do you want to know about Japan?
A myth is a traditional story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that is accepted as history Myths serve to explain the worldview of a people Myths are stories that are important to the culture of a people Myths are not lies A good definition of myth: “Myths are stories told by people about people: where they come from, how they handle major disasters, how they cope with what they must and how everything will end” ~ Robert O’Connell
According to Japanese mythology, two divine beings, the male Izanagi and the female Izanami, stood on the bridge of heaven and churned the ocean with a spear to make a small island of curdled salt. From that mystical beginning grew a string of islands – Japan.
Izanagi and Izanami looked at their creation and said, “Why should we not produce someone who shall be lord of what is below Heaven?” So they went on to bear the deities called kami who inhabited the land from that time forward.
The story of Izanagi and Izanami forms part of Shinto, Japan’s oldest religion Along with many other tales, this story was preserved by storytellers, who sang at religious festivals The stories were not written down until the 8th century (the 700s) For most of their history, the Japanese have believed that their country is favoured and protected by the gods called kami Kami are believed to dwell in all natural creations such as rocks, trees, animals, and the sky
In 1274, Mongol rulers sent a large fleet from Asia that landed on Kyushu, the southern island of Japan. However, a typhoon forced the invaders to retreat. In 1281, the Mongols returned with thousands of ships and more than 100,000 men. The Japanese in their smaller, swifter boats defended their island well, but again a ferocious storm destroyed most of the Mongol fleet. The Japanese called the storm kamikaze, a divine wind sent by the gods to defend their islands.
By 1281, Japan had twice been saved from invasion by a typhoon. How might this repeated experience influence the worldview of the Japanese people? How might it influence their view of people from other places?
Japan is a long, narrow chain of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean Japan is actually made up of thousands of islands, but most of the population lives on the four main islands of Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Hokkaido What do you notice about Japan’s major cities on the map?
Nearly 75% of Japan’s land area is covered by mountains; there is very little flat land Japan’s islands sit on a fault line in the earth’s crust, which makes it vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions Earthquakes also cause tsunamis, or giant waves, that flood the coasts
http://web- japan.org/kidsweb/e xplore/nature/q2.ht ml
On March 11, 2011 the most powerful earthquake since records began struck the northeast coast of Japan, triggering a massive tsunami http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44VapEk O7uw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiYiD1f gUz0
Thousands of years ago the Chinese saw the sun rise over the islands to the east and called this country jih- pen, meaning “the source of the sun.” The ancient Japanese called their land Nippon, meaning “land of the rising sun,” because they believed the sun rose over their land before any other part of the world.
The sun is an important symbol for the Japanese and is represented on their flag One of the most important kami is Amaterasu, goddess of the sun, who brings light and hope to the Japanese people
Our Divine Land is where the sun rises and where the primordial [very beginning] energy originates. The heirs of the Great Sun [the Emperors] have occupied the Imperial Throne from generation to generation without change from time immemorial. Japan’s position at the vertex [highest point] of the earth makes it the standard for the nations of the world. Indeed, it casts its light over the world, and the distance which the resplendent imperial influence reaches knows no limit (p. 263)
The beauty of Japan’s landscape is a source of pride to the Japanese people The changing of the seasons are celebrated by rituals, or special ceremonies Many of these ceremonies are based in Japan’s ancient religion Shinto, which values a love of nature
The ancient religion of Japan is Shinto Love of nature is the most important aspect of Shinto Kami are sacred spirits (deities) that form objects in nature (mountains, lakes, trees) When humans die they become kami and are honoured by their families Shinto does not have a founder or religious laws; for this reason, many people in Japan see Shinto as cultural rather than religious practice
Japan borrowed faiths from China and adapted them as their own: Buddhism and Confucianism Many Japanese people celebrate elements from more than one religion
Festivals called matsuri are held to honour the kami One of the most important festivals for the Japanese is known as Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) Cherry blossoms only bloom for a very short time every year Hanami (“flower viewing”) is a very symbolic ritual in Japan to celebrate the coming of the spring season Cherry blossoms represent: new beginnings, beauty, and the shortness and beauty of life
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year in March and April – it’s happening right now! http://www.vcbf.ca/ Explore this website with a partner and take note of something you find interesting to share with the class OR try find other major festivals inspired by the Japanese Sakura Matsuri
Like Canada, Japan has an Indigenous population The Ainu (Eye-noo) have a belief system that centers around nature The Ainu honour the 4 elements: earth, air, fire, and water Many First Nations peoples have similar beliefs Fire, water, wind, thunder, animals, and plants are thought of as gods called kamuy (kuh-moo- ee) who visit the Earthly world This is similar to the kami in Shintoism P. 269 “Nature and Culture”
For several thousand years, the Ainu lived in the northern part of Japan and had their own separate society and territory The Japanese began to take over Ainu lands eventually, and although the Ainu tried to resist they were defeated The Japanese officially made the Ainu land part of Japan, and renamed the island Hokkaido The Japanese assimilated the Ainu people into the dominant Japanese society The Ainu were not allowed to speak their own language or practice their own customs, and had to live in specific areas provided by the government Can you think of other examples where a dominant culture has tried to assimilate a minority culture?
What does it mean to be self-sufficient? Do you think it is possible to be self- sufficient in today’s world? Do you think it is desirable to be self- sufficient?
Japan is geographically isolated from other nations and they did not practice a lot of trading with other countries before the 19th century (1800s) Japan was still able to thrive because they were self-sufficient Farmers and fishers provided enough food to feed the people; wood for building and fuel came from the forests; silkworms and cotton provided material for clothing Even though Japan does not have a lot of arable land (suitable for farming), they have very fertile land that provides a longer growing season
Rice is very symbolic of Japan and its culture Growing rice is a complex process and requires a lot of moisture, which is brought by the monsoon winds For centuries, rice was the basis of Japan’s economy and monetary system Rice Art At one time, the value of land was determined by the amount of rice that it could produce and a person’s worth was based on rice production What other foods are important in Japan? Do you think Canada has a “food” in the same way that Japan does?
What does it mean to be a homogenous society? Canada is often referred to as a “cultural mosaic” whereas the United States is known as a “melting pot.” What does this mean in terms of homogeneity? A homogenous society consists of people who see themselves as having a similar nature and character For the Japanese, this was attributed to the sea, because most of the population lived along the coast and the sea provided a passage to communicate and trade not only goods but also ideas, beliefs, and values
Although the Japanese consider themselves a homogenous society, they have borrowed elements from other cultures to include in their own Can you think of an example from last class? The Japanese borrowed the Chinese system of writing in characters; they called the Chinese characters kanji Later they created a new system of writing combining kanji with Japanese characters called kana