Japan Through the Looking Glass by Alan Macfarlane

By Alan Macfarlane

This enjoyable and eternally marvelous publication takes us on an exploration into each point of jap society from the main public to the main intimate.

A sequence of meticulous investigations progressively uncovers the multi-faceted nature of a rustic and those who are much more striking than they seem.

Our trip encompasses faith, ritual, martial arts, manners, consuming, ingesting, scorching baths, geishas, relatives, domestic, making a song, wrestling, dancing, appearing, clans, schooling, aspiration, sexes, generations, race, crime, gangs, terror, battle, kindness, cruelty, funds, paintings, imperialism, emperor, nation-state, urban, politics, executive, legislation and a language that varies in response to whom you're conversing.

Clear-sighted, continual, affectionate, unsentimental and sincere - Alan Macfarlane exhibits us Japan because it hasn't ever been visible ahead of.

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Additional resources for Japan Through the Looking Glass

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You crawl in through a low entrance, after having walked along the ‘dewy path’. You take off your watch. indb 35 13/5/08 16:34:38 36 japan through the looking glass stage of separation from the mundane world and entry into a sacred space which is found in rituals of many kinds. There is a tokonoma in the background, a sort of shrine that has a calligraphic scroll hanging in it, a flower or other precious object, a reminder of otherness. But there are no gods or spirits present anywhere in the ceremony.

These include potters, swordsmiths, paper makers, lacquer workers and calligraphers. This tendency to reassert the value of traditional art-crafts has been particularly pronounced since the rise of the nationalist movement after the Second World War. Within what we roughly lump together as ‘Japanese art’, there are in fact a number of striking and contradictory traditions and aesthetics. indb 23 13/5/08 16:34:36 24 japan through the looking glass One opposition is between the Chinese and the native ways of representing and establishing beauty.

Yet attempting to argue this may be seen to be orientalism in reverse. As I shall explain in more detail when we leave the Japanese mirror, the encounter with Japan is partly written in that tradition of ‘Utopian’ thinking which has been a feature of Western thought since at least Thomas More’s Utopia in the early sixteenth century. In other words, I have constructed the book so that, among other things, it calls into question some of the assumed, ‘natural’, beyond-question features of a Euro-American world view.

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