Her dreams were put to a bloody end when two nuclear warheads decimated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, the Japanese are a very patient people. On first glance, one might get the impression Honda wrote this in order to fire up the imperial troops on the eve of World War II, How may Japan become the greatest nation in the world? She should profit by the arts of civilization [that] she has learned during the 1,500 years that have elapsed since the time of the emperor Jinmu. She should move her main capital to the country of Kamchatka. She should build a great stronghold on Katafuto.
Once great cities spring up in Katafuto and Kamchatka, the momentum will carry on to the islands to the south, and the growing prosperity of each of these places will raise the prestige of the Edo to great heights. This in turn will naturally result in the acquisition of the American Islands(p. 499). Actually, this was written in 1798, at a time when the Japanese were bound to their island as English serfs were bound to the manor; this dream of a global empire would be nurtured for almost two hundred years to its fruition when the military began to conquer the islands of the South Pacific.
To Honda, the English are a source of inspiration. Kamchatka, the site of the future seat of government was chosen because of its identical latitude to London. England, at the time, had the greatest empire on earth. In advocating this move and the use of Western script, Honda might have believed that the Ultimately, the Japanese would choose to settle for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands since the British had not invaded those areas on a large scale yet.
Students of history know that in 1945, Japan surrenders to the Allies, becomes completely demilitarized, and developed an awesome economy based on high-tech products, automobiles, and a super strong yen. It also adopted the modern day system of political parties. For a fledgling democracy, this was an exciting time of change. Politics is an extremely dirty business, but the transition from the Age of the Emperors to the Western-style government of today was influenced by the Japanese loss of World War II.
Of course, this system had its opponents, Mishima Yukio, the famous novelist, playwrite, and aesthete, who wrote an impassioned essay a few months before his suicide promoting Oshios samurai philosophy of uncompromising moral commitment”which he presented as a sort of native equivalent of Nietzschean nihilism”as the only way to save Japan from the conformist mediocrity of bureaucratic capitalism and mass-consumer hedonism(p. 470-1). Yet even with the office of Prime Minister and a gaggle of bureaucrats in the House of Representatives, Japan still has a reigning emperor”Akihito, grandson of the famous Hirohito of World War II fame.
Looking for a way to strengthen itself after the economic ravages of World War II, the government did everything it could to increase production output and international exports. Because Japan no longer had to maintain a military-industrial complex, the focus was entirely on economic growth and rebuilding civilian society. In the late twentieth century it had truly become mired in the trap of mass-consumer hedonism. The people of the floating world would have certainly been able to realate to the Japan of today.
The main political problem of the twenty-first century is the support of an aging population as the birthrate had declined to abysmal lows. The Floating World has many definitions. To some, it is a way of life. To others, it is a perennially popular form of landscape art. To Iharu Sakaku, it was the former. Writing extensively about his town, his most common themes are sex and money. Much of Saikakus writing shows a fascination with the complexity, perversity, and foibles of human nature, about which he often makes wry and sardonic comments.
Relatively influenced by Confucianism, and by no means and unqualified exponent even of the merchant ethic, Saikaku is skeptical, too, about peoples religious motivations as identified with Buddhism and Shinto. These reservations indeed provide a perspective for his own ironic observations on the life of the merchant: driven by the pursuit of profit but eventually succumbing to the self-indulgence and luxuriance that success and affluence afford(p. 273). Every society endures periods of decadence when life is just too good. Japans floating world merchant culture was no different.
Prostitution and sexual perversion were par for the course and inordinate profligacy was not uncommon either. The young mostly sought the pleasures of the floating world to get away from the suffering that is life¦at least, that would be the Buddhist interpretation of its appeal. Living honorably is one of the most important values in the Japanese spirit. Hence, honorable death through suicide is necessary if one fails to act with honor in life. Literature, religion, political philosophy, and Japanese theatrical productions echoed these themes through several centuries.
Samurai warriors would rather disembowel themselves than live disgraced. Lovers would rather extinguish the spark of their own existence than live without the beloved. One true story of a rebel that fought on behalf of the starving citizens in his province was incredibly tragic. When the angry local authorities rejected his solution and tried to have him arrested, he took his own life rather than submit to arrest, Serious flooding in many regions resulted in severe famine throughout much of the country.
Unfortunately, the famine did not abate in response to traditional governmental measures for dealing with such crises. Oshio repeatedly offered policy advice to the new city magistrate through his adopted son, but his advice was angrily rejected. Finally, burning with indignation, Oshio distributed a firey manifesto addressed to the village headman, elders, peasants, and tenant farmers in every village who were given birth by heaven. [Oshio led many of his followers to attack the establishment.
] More than a month later, the police discovered Oshios hiding place. Rather than allow himself to be arrested, he set fire to the house he had been staying in and committed suicide with his adopted son(p. 469). The popular opera M. Butterfly was about a beautiful young Japanese girl so enamored with a disdainful, average looking American navy lieutenant, she takes her own life when she realizes that he had abandoned her for an American woman.