Sunday, July 11, 2010

Foreigners' Questions about Japan (1) What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of modern Japan?

Male chauvinism. When I told westerners that my wife was housewife, some of them thought that I forced my wife to quit her work. It wasn't true, quitting her job depended on her own will and a condition (our new house was far from her office.) I admit that male chauvinism still remain in Japan, in particular many elderly people and some younger people. But times are changing. Japan is behind western people about gender equality, however, it's getting to improve.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A trip to meet two heroes for Japanese (2)

My family and I parted in the meantime. I went to Kouchi city to see a exhibition and museum of Ryoma Sakamoto, who is a hero among many Japanese.

He was a swordmaster, an entrepreneur, and a peacemaker in the last part of the Samurai era (1860s). Japanese think that he is one of the most important people of Japanese modernization.

What did he do? The Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum said as follows:
In short, Ryoma was a man who triggered the collapse of Shogun's feudal government. In the 1860s, the government had no power to refuse western nations' requests (for example, trading on unequal treaty) and lost power to control regional feudal lords. Some people thought that the government couldn't defend Japan from western nations, and therefore supported the overthrow the government and establishment of a new unified nation under the Emperor. He was one of those man.

Ryoma succeeded to make partnership between two powerful feudal groups even though they were opposing. Both groups thought to overthrow the government by force, but Ryoma thought to avoid civil war. So he proposed to a lord a plan in which the government returned political power to the Emperor. The lord proposed the plan and the government accepted it. In addition, Ryoma wrote the way of new government: establishing the parliament, new law system and modern navy, trading other nations on equal treaty (the old government shut down trade with any nations except China, Korea and the Netherlands for over 200 years.), etc.

His action and plans affected new Japanese modern government strongly. He was assassinated by an unknown person in December of 1867. The new government was established in 1868.

He is very popular among Japanese of all ages, especially this year. Because one of the most popular TV drama series this year picks up Ryoma as a main character. So there is a temporary exhibition displayed in front of Kouchi station.

Right: Ryoma. Left: Iwasaki, the founder of Mitsubishi. Iwasaki was a friend of Ryoma. Both of two were born in this prefecture, lower-class samurai. In particular, Iwasaki was very poor.

The Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum. It exhibits Ryoma's career, background and his letters.

My opinion about Ryoma is simple: If he didn't exist, there is a possibility that Japan would have failed to modernize peacefully, otherwise terrorism could have happened. Like many other Japanese, I also think he was great.