Japan and the West Essay

Japan and the West Essay

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From the moment Japan opened its ports to Western ships, Japanese people from all over the country played catch-up to Western technology, ideas, and beliefs. However, they quickly noticed that Japanese national and cultural identity was rapidly disappearing in favor of the seemingly more sophisticated Western style of thought. The Meiji Period, lasting from 1868-1912, was a huge pivotal point in the fusion of Japanese and Western styles. Novelists penned many works during this time, detailing the aspects of the transition from traditional to modern such as the benefits and consequences of moving forward versus centering life on core, old-fashioned values. In addition, new standards were set out on what defines a novel. The Essence of the Novel by Tsubouchi Shoyo and Fukuzawa Yukichi ideas pushed the framework of the Western novel as the more preferred style of writing than the Japanese writing style, as well as introducing contemporary literary criticism to the Japanese literary community. Despite many writers gradually accepting their criticisms, there were some pundits who believed that Japan shouldn’t blindly accept everything Western at the cost of their own, unique identity. Nagai Kafu’s The River Sumida and Kanagaki Robun’s “The Beefeater” explore the Western-Japanese cultural fusion, each placing their praise and criticism of Western indulgence at similar but unique points.
“The Beefeater” is a simple tale; it barely pushes two pages in a normal sized book. It merely portrays a man having beef at a restaurant, bragging to another customer about how good the beef is. He also marvels at Western technology, even calling the steam engine “the flaming chariot of hell.” It ends with the other customer leaving, leaving ...


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...ions of Chokichi from winter, spring, summer, and fall. The two stories do draw criticism from the same source, Western civilization. The reasoning of such criticism is the same as well. Japan in the Meiji period was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of culture, technology, and ideas Western civilization possessed. Japanese people had a hard time discerning them all and opted to cherry-picked the ones are the most interesting, eating beef for example, or embrace the values that are most likely to get rich or influential, a Western style education for example. Writers noticed this fact and either had two choices, go all out on Western culture or slow down the pace and enjoy traditional beliefs. Kanagaki Robun and Nagai Kofu took the latter, encouraging the Japanese reader to take a couple steps back and enjoy what their own culture has been doing for generations.

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