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Evanescence and Form: An Introduction to Japanese Culture by Charles Shirō Inouye (auth.)

By Charles Shirō Inouye (auth.)

This booklet explores the japanese proposal of hakanasa - the evanescence of all issues. Responses to this concept were quite a few or even contradictory: asceticism, fatalism, conformism, hedonism, materialism, and careerism. This booklet examines the binds among an epistemology of continuous switch and Japan's formal emphasis on etiquette and visuality.

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Example text

Perhaps it comes from a desire for comprehensiveness. And this, in turn, might be linked to inexperience with the formalized nature of the Japanese lyric. But why expect that they be comfortable with such formality? Why not question the limitations of established meanings? Why not doubt the comprehensiveness or appropriateness of an epithet or image? After all, they have not been trained to know the exact meaning of cherry blossoms. With training, the formalized reach of any image—cicada shells, autumn wind, and so on—can be learned.

In their role of establishing meaningfulness and purpose, are our dreams yet another pathetic delusion? Or are they a noble response to what the Buddhists call “this world of dust”? ” Such is hakanasa, the evanescence of a world (yo no naka) grown smaller and more sophisticated than the broader, more rural cicada-shell world (utsusemi no yo) of the previous era. As Miner suggests, the complications of human affairs are illuminated by a Buddhist moon and adumbrated by ideas from the continent about the dangers of attachment to anything in this world of dust and sorrow.

Through diligent study, self-cultivation occurs. But self-cultivation has a practical purpose. It secures one’s place in the social order. Consider the examination system in China. It survived for centuries as the principal way to find and promote talented people for positions within the ruling structure. No such examination system developed in Japan. 20 I know few high school students who consider themselves practicing Confucians. But I do know plenty of young men and women who study hard. The same might be said of Asian Americans who enter colleges and universities at higher than average rates.

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