The Problem of Japanese Identity

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Summary

For many years, the Japanese have been considered a peculiar phenomenon in terms of their culture and history. The concept of identity in the case of the Japanese has been rather ambiguous and is often based on speculations rather than experience. Japanese history is observed to attract more curiosity abroad than at home,  though most of the available knowledge has been based on third party accounts making it difficult for the Japanese themselves to actually understand their own identity. Basing on the present status of globalization, the isolation previously enjoyed by the Japanese in terms of their culture is slowly fading. In turn, it means that as a nation they are undergoing certain transformation that may result in a complete cultural overhaul. Therefore, if something is not done to clarify the history of these people, their identity may forever remain unexposed for the rest of the world.

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The argument herein is that the Japanese are not as homogenous in terms of language and dependence on rice paddies as the rest of the world would like to assume. The people of Japan went through a series of transformations that made them become who they are today. The fact that they were islated does not necessarily mean that they were homogenous and that they remained the same up until the external world managed to infiltrate their borders and interact with them thus influencing some elements of their culture including religion, commerce and social constructs, among others. Archaeological evidence suggests that Japan has overcome a lot of developments and lived through various changes for the period of time starting from the formation of villages and towns and ending with the appearance of market places. This implies that the secret of Japanese identity lies more within the internal history of the country and is not based on the foreign understanding of their culture shown by western scholars. Rather than focusing on what it means to be Japanese from an outsider’s perspective, it is important to grasp the concept of living in Japan over the years with reference to the history of this country researched by the archaeologists and Japanese historians. Despite of popular belief, the Japanese society has been significantly transformed, with internal influences often being at the forefront of these transformations.

Key Word: Isolated

Isolate is an English verb that implies separation one thing from others, in this case denotting the separation of the Japanese people from the rest of the world caused by their living on an island located quite far from other civilizations. The Japanese people have for many years been considered different, not just from the Europeans, Americans or Africans, but from other Asians, too. The Japanese culture in its purest form is by far the most uncontaminated and unaffected by western influence considering that this nation is situated far away from the rest of the world.

Isolation is important in understanding of the Japanese identity mainly because it is a basic assumption for most scholars that their isolation explains their history. In order to dispel this misinformation, it is significant to understand the concept of isolation and its true bearing on a culture. The fact the Japanese live in an isolated part of the world does not necessarily mean that they have not been subjected to changes in their culture and identity over the years. The concept of isolation here does not in any way exclude the possibility of a transformation given that there are a lot of changes seen in Japanese culture with the course of the time, and most of these changes cannot be attributed to interactions with foreigners but rather with other Japanese people from various parts of the islands. 

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