Conservative but innovative; refined but hectic: does true harmony exist in the clash of cultural extremes?
If you want to understand Japan then this book is the ideal place to start.
Noodles, manga, movies, cars: it is virtually impossible to isolate ourselves from the Japanese products that have become a ubiquitous part of our world. But how did we get to this point? Tsai Yi-Chu draws on his decades of research into Japanese folklore to plot the trajectory of Japanese society against the axes of history, showing how the customs of crucial eras in history solidified into the traditions that still define contemporary life.
Japan, Inside and Out explores the way Japanese folklore has oscillated between embracing and resisting against outside influences. Take Shintoism, the religious system that revolves around nature for example. Traces of Buddhism are discernible in the architecture of its shrines and the names of its gods, and for a long time there was a syncretic relationship between the two religions.
And then there’s Japan’s renowned samurai culture. The samurai were once commoners, distinguished only by their martial prowess, before they rose to become a political ruling class in the reign of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Japan, Inside and Out shows how, despite the decline of the samurai in the wake of the Meiji Restoration, the samurai spirit lives on amongst the ordinary people where it first originated.
Blending his personal experience and observations with a depth of scholarship, Tsai Yi-Chu concisely explains complex ideas about history and culture, quenching readers’ desire for narrative while stimulating their curiosity towards Japan.