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Japan: The Fusion of Tradition and the Modern Essay

Perhaps considered as the most powerful state in the Asian coast, the country of Japan can boast of its stability economic and cultural wise. Japanese culture has been known all over the world because of its authenticity and uniqueness. Shaped by a diverse and rich history, Japan honed the progress of its nation despite of the isolation period during the Tokugawa period and the difficulties from the Second World War. They have successfully brought the developments necessary for them to be recognized as part of the powerful states.

Japan is one of the few countries which successfully embraced modernity while maintaining their traditional beliefs and practices. Currently, Japan is famous for its technological advancement and innovation where its continuous development brought them to be the second largest producer and most modern technology after the United States (Vogel, Yuan, & Tanaka, 2002, p. 4). From this perspective, it can be seen that their technology serve as an evidence of their incorporation of some Western characteristics.

After the self-imposed isolation, Japan began to open itself to the outside world with the primary objective of expanding economic trade and knowledge. After and prior to the opening, Japan has been consistent in maintaining their traditions. In this discussion, it will be essential to determine first the traditional culture that is still being practice today by Japan in this modern time. Subsequently, as time progressed, it will be discussed how Japan have incorporated some of the Western cultural or social attributes into its traditional environment.

Japanese is prominently known for instilling uniformity into its people and their culture conveys it clearly. Though there are external thought and culture – such as Christianity – which entered the Japanese society, it only created minimal impact to its citizens. The consistent homogeneity that the Japanese has can be seen in their diverse practice of Shinto festivals, Buddhist ceremonies, Confucian ethics, Christian weddings and Christmas celebrations (Reischauer and Jansen, 2003, p. 216). They practice these traditions stemming from a variety of school of thought but do not necessarily create divisions.

This aspect to describe Japanese culture is further elaborated by Edwin Reischauer and Marius Jansen (2003) as: The homogeneity of Japan’s mass culture can be attributed to many sources, but two factors stand out in particular. These are the extraordinary uniformity the society already had when the Japanese entered the nineteenth century and the determination of the government in modern times to develop a unified citizenry through political centralization and uniform education. (p. 217) The efforts of the government in developing Japan amidst the modern time retain its traditions.

However, a sector of their society became highly affiliated with and influenced by the West. There are traces of English language which can be heard in Japanese. Words such as ‘terebi’ (Television), ‘beisu-booru’ (baseball), ‘jamu’ (jam), etc. are English words spoken by the Japanese as they hear it. These refer as English ‘loanwords’ which encompassed 5 to 10 percent of the daily Japanese language (Stanlaw, 2004, p. 1). Mainstream culture such as television became influenced by the West as well. TV programs comprised of different formats from high-end news show to complicated academic TV programs.

However, the most prominent part of Japan which has been highly derived from Western origins is Japan’s modern technology. Though this particular influence is not considered as cultural, Western technology and the roots of modernity became great patterns for the Japanese economic growth to be possible. From the building of transportation, to improving arsenals, then developing the latest technology in entertainment, science, medicine, and education; technology became an essential part of Japanese lifestyle.

In Japan’s case, it can be seen that by the arrival of Western modernity, the tradition and culture stayed intact and solid. There is still a gap in terms of beliefs and philosophies between Japan and the West. The influence that the West inflicted is still overpowered by the Japanese identity. References Reischauer, E. O. , and Jansen, M. B. (2003). The Japanese Today. USA: Harvard University Press. Stanlaw, J. (2004). Japanese English. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Vogel, E. F. , Yuan, M. , and Tanaka, A. (2002). The Golden Age of the U. S. -China-Japan Triangle, 1972-1989. USA: Harvard University Asia Center.


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