We hope that general readers with an interest in Japan will find in these accounts of fieldwork a wide spectrum of illustrations of the grassroots realities of everyday life in contemporary Japanese communities, companies, institutions, and social movements.
The Japanese have two words: uchi meaning inside and soto meaning outside. Uchi refers to their close friends, the people in their inner circle. Soto refers to anyone who is outside that circle. And how they relate and communicate to the two are drastically different. To the soto, they are still polite and they might be outgoing, on the surface, but they will keep them far away, until they are considered considerate and trustworthy enough to slip their way into the uchi category. Once you are uchi, the Japanese version of friendship is entire universes beyond the average American friendship! Uchi friends are for life. Uchi friends represent a sacred duty. A Japanese friend, who has become an uchi friend, is the one who will come to your aid, in your time of need, when all your western friends have turned their back and walked away.
If the Emperor had not delivered his [15 August 1945] address urging the Japanese people to lay down their swords—if that speech had been a call instead for the Honorable Death of the Hundred Million—those people on that street in Sōshigaya probably would have done what they were told and died. And probably I would have done likewise. The Japanese see self-assertion as immoral and self-sacrifice as the sensible course to take in life. We were accustomed to this teaching and had never thought to question it.
Never settle for normal, Miss Lyons,” Shinzo told her. “Normal is not natural. Extraordinary is natural, and that’s why you’re here. To do something extraordinary.
Whereas, in the west, individuality and drive are considered positive qualities, they are not seen the same way, in Japan. In that country, if you are too much of a rugged individualist, it might actually indicate that you are a weak, unreliable character and that you are selfish, in a childish, willful kind of way.
I do wish men, when they're taking their leave from a lady at dawn, wouldn't insist on adjusting their clothes to a nicety, or fussily tying their lacquered cap securely into place. After all, who would laugh at a man or criticize him if they happened to catch sight of him on his way home from an assignation in fearful disarray, with his cloak or hunting costume all awry?
Being a samurai is all about selfless service and if the lord abuses the servant, it is no longer a situation of service; it becomes the situation of a victim. It is never acceptable for a samurai to be a victim. It is never acceptable to allow a lord to abuse you or rob you of your dignity. In such a situation, it is acceptable to walk away.
Bushido refers not only to martial rectitude but personal rectitude. We understand that in serving each other we serve our own interests. In serving our world, our world serves us. Allowing us to live in harmony with it.
Psychologically speaking (I’ll only wheel out the amateur psychology just this once, so bear with me), encounters that call up strong physical disgust or revulsion are often in fact projections of our own faults and weaknesses.
What alternative is there to the media’s “Us” versus “Them”? The danger is that if it is used to prop up this “righteous” position of “ours” all we will see from now on are ever more exacting and minute analyses of the “dirty” distortions in “their” thinking. Without some flexibility in our definitions we’ll remain forever stuck with the same old knee-jerk reactions, or worse, slide into complete apathy.