Saturday, July 08, 2006

uniquely Japanese - the Yamato discipline

This picture is taken outside the Oita station, and the person sweeping the sidewalk is a guard manning a building near the station. It’s early in the morning at 6:00am, and he had a broom and a bin with him sweeping up litters - cigarette butts and what have you. These little scenes of public spiritedness and discipline is still much the norm in this modern yet traditional society.

The Japanese is well known for its discipline and community spirit. Though, the majority of the population lives in cities, however beneath the veneer of modernity and high tech one finds a highly disciplined community of people who keeps their tradition and culture. A 20 minute by bullet train from the center of bustling Tokyo would take one to the outskirt where there are plots and plots of neatly cultivated rice fields. And in the midst of the fields and the farming community one would find the most modern high tech plant - making the chic digital camera.

Since its modernization drive in 1876 which began with the Meiji Restoration when Japan decided to open up to the world, it has absorbed the best of the west in hard sciences and continued to keep its tradition and culture. Over ther 130 years since, there runs in the society a symbiotic cord of modernity and tradition that is uniquely Japanese – a Yamato (大和) spirit of samurai discipline and an orderliness & perseverance nurtured by an agrarian society that often has to fend off earthquakes and typhoons.

Be it the rice fields or the state-of-the art high tech plants, they are run and managed by a people who is disciplined, orderly, and hierarchical. And out of discipline and orderliness is a society that produces your Lexus's, Cefiro's and Ixus's.

Sunday Mart - Shinjuku Central Park

If you know where to hunt, bargains are still available despite the exorbitant prices in Tokyo.

The Sunday morning mart beside the park in Century Hyatt Shinjuku. A dvd could be had for Y100 ($1.39)

Fertility shrine

A two and a half hour train ride from bustling Tokyo by the North-east Shinkansen takes you to a beautiful hot spring resort located in the mountain set amidst lush green rice fields ( Located in the hot spring is a fertility shrine revered by the locals.

Fertility shrines honoured in the Shinto style tradition. This shrine is decorated with white folded paper and a big rope made of rice straws hangs at the entrance. A smaller straw is draped around the object of veneration. Shinto shrine is made from wood which typifies nature, and usually set in the woods.

When Singapore was Shonan To during WW II, a huge Shinto was build in the woods in McRitchie Resvoir.