AN03_Ch12: Empires in East Asia- Ancient and Feudal Japan
Timeline: ~6000 – 300 BCE
FS: Japan’s Uniqueness is Defined by it’s Geography.
Main Idea: Shintoism is an indigenous faith of Japan that is representative of Japan’s unique geographic and cultural qualities. The diversity and majesty of Japan’s geography can’t be ignored by native or visitor. The influence of Japan’s natural condition on its ‘world view’ is evident in the Shinto faith.
I. Geography: Refer to the maps on the course website.
1. Over 1000 islands.
2. Four Main Islands (Refer to map exercise completed in class)
1. ~80 % covered by mountains
a. Terrace Farming
b. Political Fracturing
2. Geologically Active
a. Volcanic Activity
b. Hot Springs
c. Earthquakes/ Tremors (if occurring under water there is chance of a tsunami)
C. History of Asian Mainland Influence
1. Avenue for Cultural Diffusion
a. Through Korean Peninsula
b. Across Korea Strait
2. Indigenous & Migratory Cultures Clash and Combine
a. Jomon Culture (Indigenous- Pre 3rd C. BCE)
b. Yayoi Culture (Product of migration from Korean Peninsula. Thrived 300 BCE – 300 CE)
c. The Yamato State (Product of migration from Korean Peninsula. Possible origin of warrior-clans)
Refer to Crossword Puzzle
A. Indigenous to Japan with the earliest traces dating to the Yayoi period. Its development is fueled and guided by Japan’s environment and the people’s interaction with it.
B. No single person is credited with starting the faith.
C. Important components include…
1. Uji (and its associated Kami)
2. Priest and Shamans
Priests are often responsible for conducting the day-to-day rituals at a Shinto shrine. Shamans have the distinction of acting as intermediaries between the natural world (physical) and the supernatural world (non-physical or spiritual). The shaman’s services may be sought by members of the faithful who wish to have supernatural entities (Kami) assist them in some effort. Or, the Shaman can be an investigator who looks for explanations in the supernatural world for things that occur in the natural world. (2)
3. Icons (Phallic Symbols = fecundity, water = Purity)
These are physical representations of natural or supernatural forces. Iconography is a common part of many faiths. (3) These icons serve a multitude of uses in Shinto, to include fertility. (4)
4. Animism ( Kami + Anthropomorphism)
Shinto is a faith that accepts the existence of a Life force that’s in nature. The supernatural elements that represent the life in all natural things are called Kami. Kami are anthropomorphic and thus are subject to the same swings of emotions as humans are. The role of the shaman is increasingly important in light of this phenomena.
5. Shinto Shrine
In the Shinto shrine you will find elements of each of the items mentioned above. The shrine will often have a Torii mark the location or gateway of the building. There are times when the Torii will be in or near a body of water (pool or pond) and surrounded by a natural setting (woods, park, garden, etc.). (5) The most famous of all Shinto shrines in Japan is the shrine at Ise. This shrine is dedicated to the Kami Amaterasu and is the shrine traditionally associated with the Yamato uji (the family of all of Japan’s emperors). (6)
IV. Mythological Origin
A. Chronology Though the mythological origin of the archipelago and its people dates back to pre-historic times, text alluding to this past is dated late in the 1st Millennium CE (after Prince Shotoku- 6th C. CE). (7)
B. Creation Myths (Role of Amaterasu) The islands were a product of a divine birth. Creation myths describe the origin of the islands and its people- the future Japanese. (8)
C. Yamato Clan Myths created a cultural foundation from which developed the historical view of the imperial dynasty. The dynasty is traditionally accepted as having a special relationship to the Sun goddess (Kami Amaterasu). It is the ‘Sun’ that appears on Japan’s national flag today. To this day, Japan is called “Land of the Rising Sun”.
V. Summary Activity: Why it matters now.
An openness to adapting innovations from other cultures is a hallmark of many societies, especially those that have been subject to significant ‘historical forces’.
(1) Korea Strait is ~120 mi. wide.
(2) Other cultures of the world have individuals who play similar roles as the shamans of Shintoism. For instance, some Native American cultures employ the services of individuals who interact with and use the forces/ spirits present in nature. These people were erroneously called ‘Medicine Men’ in American folklore and popular culture.
(3) Refer to the icon controversy between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches of the High Middle Ages.
(4) Fertility symbols, sometimes referred to as Phallic symbols, can be icons whose physical appearance resemble the male reproductive organ.
(5) To see a Torii in our area (NYC), placed in a setting that befits the symbol, you may visit The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The structure was last seen there by me in 2004.
(6) According to Ms. Helinski, Japanese teacher at Stuyvesant HS & a native of Japan, the funds to maintain the Ise shrine are raised from donations by the faithful. The shrine is rebuilt every twenty years so that it appears ‘brand new’ despite its centuries of existence. In addition, the construction of the shrine is based on a technique that does not use nails or mortar.
(7) Earliest Chinese record of Japan dates to 1st C. CE
(8) Refer to the readings on Japanese myth and Amaterasu.
– Handout Map
– World History: Patterns of Interaction