One of the things that's been striking me reading upon Japanese history and culture is surprise that Bhuddist/Shinto/neo-Confucian philosophy doesn't seem like a more appealing alternative to Christianity and the Western intellectual tradition. One hears so much about "wisdom of the East" that I expected to find some very compelling alternate ways of thinking of things.
Now admittedly, I'm coming from a very Western set of assumptions. Individuality, rationality, empiricism, etc. are very important to me. And they don't necessarily have a lot of place in the traditions of Japan. It's not a howling wilderness, to be sure. There's some stuff there of great aesthetic appeal, and although I don't find the communalistic and fatalistic elements of their traditions appealing, I think there are some interesting things to be learned from the emphasis on balance found in the culture as a whole and in past-times such as Go.
There are some books that have been recommended to me specifically on Japanese aesthetics and thought that I haven't got to yet, so maybe there's still more to find. But overall, I've got to admit that I keep finding myself to be terribly, terribly glad that I live in modern America rather than feudal Japan.
In comparison, while there are many things I'm glad of (from modern food preparation to anti-biotics and the computer I'm writing on now) about modern society, I don't get nearly the sense of relief at not being from that place and time when reading about the ancient Greco-Roman world or about Europe during the last two millenia. (Not to say that I wish I'd lived in the past. I'm glad enough to be where and when I am. But I don't get the sense of profound relief not to be living in that time when reading about the history of Europe that I do when reading about the history of Japan.)
Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
5 hours ago