This book displays the uniqueness and creativity of Japan in terms of the interplay between traditional and postmodern perspectives. It deals with the traditional elements in Japanese culture in the light of or in contrast to postmodernism.
In this book, each of the chapters offers an analysis of the origins and development of an important aspect of Japanese culture, including religion (Pure Land Buddhism and Zen, Shinto and folk religions, Confucianism and Tokugawa era ideology), philosophy (classical Buddhism and the contemporary Kyoto School), literature and the arts (medieval poetry and drama, modern fiction and films), and social behavior (family system, feminism, nationalism, and economic growth).
The central, underlying theme is the uniqueness and creativity of Japan as seen from twentieth century perspectives. One of the fascinating things about Japanese culture is that, on the one hand, it seems to have held onto its traditional foundations with a greater sense of determination and celebration than most societies and, at the same time, it appears to have attained a position at the forefront of international modernist and postmodernist developments. The authors explore several approaches to this issue. One school of thought is influenced by recent Japanese writers and intellectual historians such as Mishima, Tanizaki, Watsuji, and Nakamura. Another approach is influenced by Western poststructuralist commentators such as Barthes, Derrida, and Lyotard. A third approach is to argue against the thesis known as nihonjinron ("Japanism" or cultural exceptionalism), by suggesting that the notion of Japanese uniqueness is itself a cultural myth generated by nationalist and particularist trends originating in the Tokugawa era.
The volume features an essay by Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, entitled "Japan, the Dubious, and Myself. "
Charles Wei-hsun Fu is Professor of Buddhism and East Asian Thought at Temple University. He is the editor of several book series in America and Taiwan and has authored numerous books and articles and lectured extensively throughout East Asia. Steven Heine is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History at Pennsylvania State University. His other works include Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dogen; Dogen and the Koan Tradition: A Tale of Two Shobogenzo Texts; and A Study of Dogen: His Philosophy and Religion; all published by SUNY Press.
"A major point of attraction is the cross-disciplinary approach of this volume, which deals with issues of traditionalism and postmodernism in the fields of Japanese religion, philosophy, literature, film, economics, and social structure. It also serves as a solid, up-to-the-moment introduction to the subject of postmodernism and Japan. The editors set forth an ambitious and sophisticated hermeneutical agenda for the volume that not only brings postmodern approaches to bear on the interpretation of distinctive aspects of Japanese culture but also considers various ways in which traditional and postmodern perspectives interact in the Japanese context. It shows how these interactions can work both to undermine, and to perpetuate, the Orientalist and 'reverse Orientalist' stereotypes of Japanese and Western scholars. " -- Jacqueline Stone, Princeton University