Japan:

A State of Spirit that Never Ends

October 10, 2013  |  By Bogdan Ene, Romania

Japan:

Photo : Bogdan Ene

How do they manage to have such a huge success? Is it hard-work, intelligence, honesty, or all these together? Such questions you might ask yourself when you hear about Japan’s achievements nowadays. Personally, I have found that the answer to this question is even more complex after hearing his Excellence, Keiji Yamamoto, Japan’s ambassador in Romania, giving a presentation at a conference room in Brasov. He pointed out three main representative things about Japan: the Samurai’s code of true warriors, the tea ritual and the ethical behaviour of the country’s tradesmen.

The Samurai

Many of us have heard about these fierce warriors. The closest equivalent in the European culture were the knightly orders such as the Templars or the Teutons, who had a strict hierarchy and rules of good conduct, like the cult of poverty and the mission to defend the weak. Even though these religious-military orders resemble up to some point the spirit of the Samurai, they still remain different in many points. Following this line of argument, the Samurai could give up their lives without any hesitation while for the European knights suicide was forbidden by the Church. Moreover, the Samurai were loyal to the cause until they died, since the knights from Europe could easily give up their cause and start a new life as peasants, as some did during the Crusades. In the words of Mr Yamamoto, what made the Samurai specials was: ‘They represented the military class (Bushi), who were responsible for governing the Island of the Rising Sun for over 7 centuries. They were the rulers of Japan until the end of the 19th century, at the time when Romania achieved its independence from the Otoman Empire. The spirit of the Samurai (Bushido) stands as the image of what a man expects to see from a genuine warrior. Their ethical demeanor consists in giving up themselves and their needs and focusing towards the community, being prepared to assume full responsibility and die anytime. In this respect, the Samurai don’t even try to justify themselves and as a result they were eager to defend their sense of honour to the end. If they were into a situation in which they could not maintain their honour, they would do hara-kiri, which literally translates as ‘fulfilling responsibility’’.

The Tea Ceremony

This is another key element in the traditional culture of Japan. The motto which stands as a basis for it sounds like ‘once in a lifetime’. This ceremony is being closely connected to religious elements, like the shortness of this life and the worship of beauty. Despite the fact that it was initially practiced only by those people who were part of the upper classes, from a few centuries ago, the ritual of the tea became open for all, no matter their wealth or social status. One of the main focuses of this ritual is living the present, remaining rooted in the moment and enjoying the calm and beauty of the things around. Mr. Yamamoto said that ‘The occasion for preparing and offering tea to someone is unique. In this sense, the Samurai had a similar point of view of the world because they used to live with the perspective of death all the time. From this viewpoint, specific to the Buddhist faith, that everything is passing, comes out the idea of discovering the beauty in each and every moment. Every tea ritual is unique since each time is something different in terms of organization, ornaments or the way in which people taking part in it perceive the ceremony. Even though that something different appears all the time, it still concentrates around the beautiful things, many people attending it only for admiring the flower decorations, poetry or the precious cups. The tea ritual focuses on simplicity (Wabi) and calm (Sabi)’.

The Japanese tradesmen

Finally, another aspect that contributed heavily to the economic growth of Japan, placed by the most agencies as the 3rd economy in the world, is the mentality that lies behind their trades. According to His Excellency, ‘The Japanese merchants concentrated on the good that comes out of trade in three directions: the one who sells, the one who buys and the rest of us. They were more inclined to value the trust of their customers and the continuity in business, that was possible through respecting the contracts as was initially agreed, avoiding the bargains which can seem profitable today and turn into something else after a short period of time.

It appearsthe Japan has obtained lies in these three key elements that have influenced their society from its roots in many ways, making Japan one of the leading countries in the world. Their power comes from respecting their traditions in their spirit and adapting them to the globalized environment of today’s world.

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