2. Individualism has been seen as a characteristic feature of the modern world. How do we see the issue of individualism being dealt with in the works we have read? Discuss examples of individualism in both modern and pre-modern texts.
In the works we have read, the characteristic of individualism has played a strong role in the lives and decisions of three characters in particular. The characters Basho, Chockichi, and Okada all display similar acts of individualism in their own stories as they depart not only from their homes but also the traditions that have helped shape their lives for many years. These characters leave behind the familial and societal values that were vastly present in Japanese tradition. With their decisions to be individuals, they obtain new attitudes and standards that relate to, money, education and security. The new values attitudes are what brought Japan into a modern way of thinking and left old values and traditions behind.
Individualism is the belief in the primary importance of the individual and the virtues of self reliance and personal dependence. Basho shows his independence by leaving his home front and traveling north. He does this in order to see new places, visit sites of earlier poets, and to spread his views. For Basho traveling is a way of life, and because he travels alone one could say that Basho is very much an independent individual. Throughout Basho’s Narrow Road it seems as if there is a lack of people he encounters on such a long journey. The reader does not know if this is because Basho chooses to leave out the people he meets from his story or because he truly does not encounter many. In any way, the lack of people in the story puts the spotlight solely on the main character, Basho. With this, Basho rejoices in his individualism by going against traditional Japanese values and the unknown. Basho can be described as a pre-modern individual. His journeys are not for money or to enhance his social status; they are for his own personal benefit in order to see more of Japan and to become inspired by nature and its beautiful surroundings. Traveling for Basho is his life, unlike many traditions of Japan where supporting a family and working are a way of life, he chooses a different path. By this Basho chooses a life that is centered around himself and based on personal dependence and happiness.