Japan has been able to develop its infamously unique culture and even retain it to this day due to many factors. Bergland (2014) explains that Japan was one of the last countries in the world to open up to Europeans as it closed itself off to most foreign trade at the end of the Sengoku period. Being closed off to the world allowed for Japan’s culture to develop somewhat independently of other countries in the Sinosphere (East Asian cultural sphere).
Bergland (2014) also notes that another key factor is that Japan was never colonized by a Western power, making it one of only a few countries in the world to possess an unbroken history of independence. The period between the 17th and 19th centuries was also the Sakoku, a time when Japan was completely isolate from the world and no foreigner could enter Japan during this period, nor could anyone leave the nation.
This unique cultural development has resulted in the Japanese culture we know today which is especially visible in the media and texts released by the Japanese. As explored in my previous blog, the 1998 film Akira is a manga animation, a style native to Japan and contains uncanny content which is a classic Japanese feature such as the 3 child espers. The film brings its lifelike element through most of its characters being ‘human’ and also through their emotional and relationship develop e.g. using themes of anger, resentment, pain etc. as drivers behind action and character relationships.
I actually re-watched the film to see how I felt upon second viewing and if I missed anything. My feelings and opinions did not change in that it was great entertaining material which exposed me to a Japanese style execution of film but it does not go deeper than that. I do not feel compelled to further explore Japanese culture or other Japanese texts specifically BUT the discussion of Korean culture and music in class has done so.
Akira is an intriguing text but does create personal ties for me. I am of Korean descent but am heavily detached from the culture, values and traditions as my parents and their families were born and raised in China. My parents then moved to Australia, where I was born so I am even more so disconnected with my Asian heritage and am very heavily Westernised. When people ask me “where are you from?” I find it very difficult to answer because my blood is 100% Korean but I speak Mandarin Chinese and have the cultural views from a Western stand point.
The exploration of Korean and Chinese texts and culture have a personal affiliation for me and evoke the want to learn more as I want to improve my cultural awareness of my own background. Despite Japan being so close in geographical location and even share similar language foundations, the cultures are so diverse.