J is for Japan

Published April 20, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

Japan has the oldest surviving hereditary monarchy in the world, stretching back 2600 years. The first emperor of Japan, Jimmu is legendary, and may or may not have actually existed. It is said that he is the descendant of the sun goddess, Amaterasu.The Shogunate were the military might in Japan for nearly 700 years. The Shoguns were hereditary military dictators and de facto rulers. The emperor during this time acted more as a figurehead. The Shogunate fell apart during the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century, where the emperor was returned to absolute power.

One of the most famous Shogun, Oda Nobunaga, sought to unify Japan under the Shogunate. He managed to conquer a third of Japan before he was murdered by one of his generals, Akechi Mitsuhide. His successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was able to complete what Nobunaga started.

Miyamoto Musashi

Samurai are elite imperial warriors that protected the nobility. A samurai warrior without a patron was called a Ronin. They usually wandered the countryside looking for work and sometimes causing trouble as a bored man with is sword is sometimes like to do.

Japanese Samurai believed heavily in honor, and had their own code, called Bushido, or “Way of the Warrior-Knight”. Part of this code states that if a samurai was captured by the enemy, it was more honorable to commit suicide, or Seppuku than to be killed or tortured. Seppuku was a ritualistic suicide where the Samurai would disembowel himself with a Tanto (a small knife used for this purpose). Seppuku was also sometimes used as a form of capital punishment.

Shinju is where two lovers would commit suicide together (a la Romeo and Juliet). Usually due to social circumstances where they were not allowed to be together.

Nine tailed Kitsune with a woman.

Kitsune are a popular creature in Japanese mythology. Kitsune are foxes and are often depicted as intelligent, magical foxes that are able to take the form of humans. It it said that they grow a tail for every hundred years they are alive, and can have up to nine. There are two types of Kitsune, Inari foxes, which are “good” and often associated with the god Inari, and Yako foxes, which are tricksy and can be cruel. There are many tales of men marrying kitsune. They are most often portrayed as female, but can be both sexes.

For many years, rice was the currency in Japan.

 

Book recommendation for reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                Sci-fi

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8 comments on “J is for Japan

  • I have in the past year become a huge fan of Japanese storytelling. I really should do some reading up on their mythology as well, since I am a lover of mythology. This was an interesting post.

    By the way, I got your package at last and thank you so much! It is fantastic! Howl’s Moving Castle has been on my reading list (I love the Miyazaki movie version) and I read it in two days. Everything in the package is perfect.

    • I’m glad you liked everything! Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favorite books.

      I love Japanese culture. I’ve recently gotten into Korean culture and storytelling too. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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