1. Hope2321
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    Hope2321 Member

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    Stuck with Japanese History?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Hope2321, Nov 2, 2011.

    OK this is very vague for the moment so go nuts!
    The areas im stuck are as follows:

    Tea ceromonies
    Japanese atire(what they wore and when, aparently some of the traditional clothes were worn on certain events or celebrations)
    Ranks(how were the ranks in martial arts trained back via 1500's? To be specific Edo- Meji restoration.)
    Spritual values( apart from shinto and even budhism) I guess personal values

    Ive done as much reaserch on this in wiki and even samurai wikipedeas, I just need anyones opinion of their lifestyle and perhaps how to explain the customs in the dialogs, and in the story im working on. The characters and the time period dates around Edo-Meji Restorations, 1500's-1700's

    Gomenasai for asking the obvious!
     
  2. seelifein69
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    seelifein69 Active Member

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    My best friend would know all about that.

    And my best friends name is Google ;] lol

    type something in like: Tea Ceremonies and Attire in the Han Dynasty

    and just go nuts!

    I'm writing ancient Egypt, so I thoroughly enjoy the Goog
     
  3. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    I might be able to help here, but I'm afraid I don't see any specific questions. What exactly are you stuck on?

    From a general sense, by far the most important thing to understand about Japanese culture (both modern-day and historical) for a Westerner is the general concept of indebtedness. The Japanese word for this is "on" (yeah, I know, really hard to search for). The general idea is that whenever anyone gives you a gift, does you a favor, etc., you are indebted to them in that amount. This goes beyond cultural obligations and is part of Shinto, the cultural religion of Japan. In addition to the debts that are traded back and forth in normal relationships and in business, there is a set of debts that everyone holds:
    • To your parents and ancestors: There is an implied debt for bringing you into the world and raising you well. This debt can be (mostly) repaid by, in turn, having children and raising them well, as well as by honoring the spirits/memories of your ancestors. This is also why so many Japanese people, once they have grown up, care for their parents. It's quite common to have three generations living in the same household in Japan.
    • To the Emperor: every Japanese person has a debt to the Emperor and to their nation through him -- this is such a great debt that it is impossible to repay it. This was the motivation behind the Kamikaze pilots in WWII: giving their lives in service to the Emperor was the best way to repay as much of that debt as they could.
    By extension, there would also be a debt to your feudal lords if you were living in that kind of system, both an explicit one for providing for you, and an implicit one for being under their authority.

    This concept of "on" is one of the major driving forces behind Japanese culture, and it's next to impossible to understand normal Japanese behavior without it. Two examples:
    • When asked if they would help an old lady carry her bags up a flight of stairs in a train station in their hometown, a group of Japanese students replied, "yes, of course!". Even if they never see her again, they are part of the same community, and she can help others in the community, which will eventually even out and repay her debt for the favor.
    • When asked if they would help an old lady carry her bags up a flight of stairs in Tokyo (or another large city they don't belong to), most of that same group of students replied, "no, of course not!" The reasoning behind this is that doing the old lady a favor makes her indebted to them. In a city they don't belong to, she has no way of repaying this debt, and helping her carry her bags is actually quite a great disservice to her. It would be culturally insensitive to offer to carry her bags -- this is something most Westerners have a lot of trouble understanding.
    • I was on a bus in Japan with a group of American students, and a number of older Japanese people came onto the bus. One of the American students offered an old Japanese woman her seat. The woman was grateful for it, and accepted it, but as she got off the bus, she handed the student a bus pass, insisting that the student take it. This was to repay the debt of giving the old woman her seat. The old woman was perfectly happy about it, but needed to close the "transaction" of the debt that she had been incurred with, since it wasn't terribly likely she would ever get a chance to return the favor.
     
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  4. Hope2321
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    Hope2321 Member

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    Ah sounds like me on an everyday basis, i absolutely refuse favours unless i know i can repay them in return, either someday or straight away. So that concept i understand,

    The story im working on is based near the Meji era after Japan opened its trade to europe or america. Also to note that im working on areas such as Hokkaido, I know the northern parts of japan weren't as affected, but also they had trade with the "ainu." just wondering whether there's any note to any battles or negotiations that may have occured in Hokkaido, I beleive the clan at that time was the Matsumae clan?

    Arigato ;)
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all you need do is google more creatively... and don't rely on wikipedia without checking the info with other sources... you can also learn a lot from novelists and non-fiction authors who've written about that period, so do some searching on amazon, as well...
     
  6. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    I thought the same thing upon initially hearing about it, and many Westerners feel the same way, but I can pretty much guarantee that the concept of on is quite different from what you mean. You might feel bad if you can't return a favor, you might even become devastated and lose sleep over it, but that still doesn't match the spiritual level at which the Japanese people feel this. It's part of their religion, and deeply ingrained in who they are as a people. The concept of on drives so many things in Japan -- you'd be surprised at how much it affects the culture. It is part of their minute-to-minute life.

    As mammamaia suggested, you need to do more research. My intention, which I now realize I didn't make very clear, was to give you a launching off point, things to look up and read about. I would love to give you references to the books I used in my Japanese anthropology class (which I took at a university in Japan), but I can't remember what they were, and I'll have a hard time digging up those names. I'll ping a few folks and see if I can find the names of those books.
     

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