December 16, 2009

The samurai version of hitting a bucket of balls

I finally figured out why the Japanese love to go the driving range and hit golf balls instead of play golf on a course.

It ties into the ancient samurai tradition of practicing for battle by first beheading a bunch of criminals. Beheading prisoners is to war as the driving range is to the golf course.

For example, the 60-something retired samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo said in Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, from the early 17th Century:
Yamamaoto Kichizaemon was ordered b his father Jin'emon to cut down a dog at the age of five, and at the age of fifteen he was made to execute a criminal. Everybody, by the time they were fourteen or fifteen, was ordered to do a beheading without fail.

Last year I went to the Kase Execution Grounds to try my hand at beheading and I found it to be an extremely good feeling. To think that it is unnerving is a symptom of cowardice.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

79 comments:

Anonymous said...

Racist.

Arnold said...

Somewhere in Orwell's collected essays (I can't find it at the moment) there is a reference to ancient Japanese samurais making their kids - if the latter showed any squeamishness about the whole execution process - eat rice the color of blood. Where Orwell got this allegation from, I don't know, but it makes me wonder if someone known to him had tracked down the 17th-century source mentioned here.

Every Japanese person I've ever known, male or female, has seemed utterly charming, polite, and harmless. I don't know whether this means that national character really can change under the stress of something like Hiroshima, or whether these Japanese persons are just uncommonly good actors. Anyway, with so many more obvious threats to civilization than the Japanese all around us, I can no longer find it in my heart to hate Japan, however disgusting its old samurai beheading / disemboweling culture and its treatment of prisoners during the Pacific War.

Evan McLaren said...

Of course, your best method for pleasing a woman is the warm, beating heart of an enemy. I mean, women'll say they don't like it, but they do. Makes them wet as October. - Titus Pullo

Middletown Girl said...

Plus the fact that Japan is a crowded country without much spare areas for golf courses.

It is forbiddingly EXPENSIVE to play real golf in Japan.

ricpic said...

Of course cutting off someone else's head must be "an extremely good feeling!" What a mendacious age we live in that every natural impulse has to be disowned by "serious" people.

Anonymous said...

We need some samurai in this country!

Eric Rasmusen said...

A military man recently wrote a book titled On Killing in which he says that most men find it very difficult to kill another man. I've wondered whether he was right, given what I've read about history; this samurai story is just one example of how many normal people haven't minded killing at all.

Skip G. said...

I remember the pictures of them beheading American military prisoners during WW2.
Harry Truman fixed that.

Anonymous said...

OT, but I had to say...surely Steve is busily typing a post on the latest results from the Detroit School District.

Everything wrong with our social policies, everything wrong with the "success" of the soft science gurus in selling their silly ideas to the public through the universities and the media for the last 40 years is epitomized in that sad city.

MarAkin said...

Steve -- the connection you make between past and present sounds pretty specious to me.

explain yourself.

Veracitor said...

In his book "History of Warfare," John Keegan suggested that the martial supremacy over many long centuries of armies from pastoralist cultures (e.g., Mongol hordes) came in large measure from their familiarity with killing, both of predators threatening their flocks and of their own animals (for provender and so-forth). See, e.g., his discussion near page 180 of the paperback edition.

In the sword-waving era the Japanese warrior (samurai) class probably had good reason to inure its young to butchery, and with no great flocks of sheep or cattle to practice on, humans of low status would do.

Of course now we can kill at long range with missile weapons so practice chopping up living creatures is not so important.

Anonymous said...

Do you know how expensive is to play on a golf course in Japan? Green fee for a single round is about $1500 USD. Most Japanese Golf enthusiasts can only afford to play at practice ranges.

Anonymous said...

OT:

Steve you wrote about republicans sticking to the white vote, and then using any influence they gain in elections to tighten border and immigration laws, as a way to stay in power.

This article shows how that is a possibility. The recession has slowed immigration levels to the point where it will now take 8 additional years for whites to become the minority. This is all because of the last 18 months. Just think what would happen if we actually enforced our laws.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jO8jbAnwaP-wLfs93UGI-l_-llMgD9CKGBS00

Whiskey said...

Except that most Japanese are the descendants of peasants, Steve.

The likelier explanation is time and land crunch. You can drive a few balls in an hour. Versus 18 or even 9 holes.

Dutch Boy said...

Anyone who showed insufficient respect to a Samurai was liable to suffer instant execution at his hands (called "killing and walking on" in Japanese). When the Dutch and Portuguese started selling firearms to ordinary Japanese, the Samurai were appalled and the Japanese ruling classes swiftly confiscated them (while using them in their internecine wars).

Anonymous said...

Last year I went to the Kase Execution Grounds to try my hand at beheading and I found it to be an extremely good feeling.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose:

List of countries and territories by fertility rate
en.wikipedia.org

Japan, UN 2000-2005: 1.29
Japan, UN 2005-2010: 1.27, #184 of 195
Japan, CIA 2000: 1.41
Japan, CIA 2008: 1.22, #215 of 223

Somebody [I can't remember who it was - maybe "Nergol"?] at the old Spengler forums used to lament that one of the great tragedies of the 20th Century was not evangelizing Japan, just after the war, when we still had the chance.

These people have been nihilists since the dawn of time, and in the second half of the 20th Century, chemical abortifacients have allowed them to unbreed themselves right out of existence.

flenser said...

Depends on what you mean by "war". For samurai (and for European knights, and for "warriors" in general as opposed to "soldiers") the crux of the matter came to individual skill with a sword.

Chopping a persons head off is a difficult skill to aquire.

Henry Canaday said...

Maybe this is why the Japanese are so polite to one another. I have heard it said that an armed society is a polite society. But when you hang around with a bunch of veteran decapitators, perhaps you tend to take politeness to the next level.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the modern Japanese are so disciplined because they weeded out their boisterous, criminal element long ago. Those who think that Mongoloids are meek by default are wrong. Mongolians, Kazakhs and other traditionally nomadic Mongoloids can be pretty hotheaded and are not very studious.

By the way, does anybody know if Japanese families descended from samurais still tend to marry within their class? If they don't do that anymore, did they stop after WWII or earlier?

Eric said...

It's all about getting your elbow out in front.

TD said...

"I finally figured out why the Japanese love to go the driving range and hit golf balls instead of play golf on a course."

I started to surmise that it's because real golf is waaaay too slow for any right-minded human being, but then I remembered that they love baseball.

Anonymous said...

You're thinking way too hard here: it's a combination of social pressure to play golf and limited amount of space to do it in. Every Japanese salaryman who wants to make management needs to know about golf, but the only place most of them can afford to play is driving ranges wedged into urban/suburban neighborhoods and surrounded by a net. The alternatives would be not to play at all, spend a fortune traveling to distant courses, or maybe mini-golf.

Anonymous said...

Well I'm glad you explained that. It makes perfect sense now. Japanese prefer hitting balls at a driving range because samurai practised for battle by beheading prisoners. It makes perfect sense now that you mention it. Why didn't I think of it?

(don't read the above in a mean-spirited tone)

Anonymous said...

Not the best pattern matching I've ever seen there.

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, I know playing golf is expensive in Japan.

It's a joke.

rob said...

Rasmussen,

From the exerpt it sounds like it was hard to get people to like killing people. They had to get them started young with killing animals, and if Arnolds right, eating bloody-looking food. Then shame the ones who say aloud that they don't enjoy it.

Of course there're the occasional psychos for whom it comes naturally. That's not a compliment, by the way. Men who are really into killing tend to lack the discipline to march, not kill their officers, beat their wives, etc.

Sid said...

http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/06/science/exalted-warriors-humble-roots.html?pagewanted=all

Eric said...

I don't know whether this means that national character really can change under the stress of something like Hiroshima, or whether these Japanese persons are just uncommonly good actors.

More than any other nationality I've come across the Japanese are masters of not letting you know what's going on in their heads. It's drummed into them from a very young age - the polite apology for disturbing you, even if they're seething inside. The mask.

The Japanese don't have a absolute moral code. In the west we have Christianity and Judaism, complete with books that tell us what's right and wrong. Even if you're not a believer you're not immune from the cultural influence. The letters on the page don't change even after hundreds of years. Yes, of course interpretations change, and what I think of as "wrong" is different than what my grandfather thought was "wrong", but it's remarkably close. Do unto your neighbor and all that.

In Japan right and wrong are determined by whatever is happening right now in the culture. That's why, in the space of a generation or two, as a people they're capable of startling changes in national character. The Chinese and Koreans understand this, and that's why 65 years after WW II they're still terrified of a powerful and independent Japan.

flenser said...

In seventeenth century Japan there was a discipline known as tameshigiri, or test cutting. It was important that a katana had been tested on its actual target - the human body. There were "schools" devoted to this, as to all the other aspects of Japanese martial arts.

Tameshigiri was practised upon both live and dead human bodies. Passing this test added to the value of what were already very valuable blades.

A tester called Matsushige Asasuka once was performing tameshigiri, which involved cutting a body in half just below the ribcage. His failed to hit his stroke just right and nicked the blade. Ritual suicide was the only logical outcome.

This isn't Locke's seventeenth century we're talking about. But it still has aspects which are very appealing to a lot of people.

Anonymous said...

If you want to learn more about how difficult it is to kill search the web for information about a documentary called "the truth about killing".

Anonymous said...

I've lived in japan for 25 years.

1. Very few japanese were samurai. Most were serfs without swords and occasionally on the receiving end of swords.
2. The ones who descend from samurai families still tell you that, but not in the big cities where it would be considered really uncool.
3. Japanese admire skilled work in the extreme. They practice at many things and become exceptionally good at skills involving the hands.
4. They heap scorn on people (nations) who can't master skilled handwork.
5. The point of beheading was not necessarily killing, but becoming skilled at your profession, i.e., wielding a sword.

6. The cultural continuity is not cruelty, but skilled handiwork.

Middletown Girl said...

"Except that most Japanese are the descendants of peasants, Steve."

But most modern Japanese identify with the samurai warrior than with the lowly peasant when it comes to national pride and identity.
Lots of samurai films but how many about peasants? All Japanese prefer to identify with the samurai than with the peasants when they watch Seven Samurai. And Yakuza films are essentially modern samurai films.

Similarly, most Greeks were slaves or helots in the ancient world, but modern Greeks associate Greek glory with philosophers, playwrighs, warriors, etc.

And, how many Americans were really cowboys? Far more Americans were factory workers or farmers. But the Cowboy became the quintessential mythic American--at least up to the early 60s.

Middletown Girl said...

"Perhaps the modern Japanese are so disciplined because they weeded out their boisterous, criminal element long ago."

Read John Nathan's JAPAN UNBOUND. It is falling apart.

Middletown Girl said...

"Yes, I know playing golf is expensive in Japan. It's a joke."

I think Steve is turning Japanese. This was the most INSCRUTABLE joke I ever heard. They say Japanese don't show their real feelings, and now Steve is hiding his real humor. Was it meant to be self-parody? Or, was it a joke on Gladwellian logic--like Asians are good at math cuz they plant rice?

Anonymous said...

Taking thwacks at golf balls, just to see how far and straight you can hit them, is fun for the same reasons that going to a batting cage is, and seeing how many good, solid line drives you can hit.

Its harmless fun, a little excercise, and is de-stressing. Its something one can work to continually improve on. Its a better hobby for a population to cultivate than the hobbies our underclasses indulge in.

Middletown Girl said...

If this was a joke, we've all been had. Should we commit seppuku? Maybe we should. Imagine the news story tomorrow. "47 Commentators on Steve Sailer Blog Dead by Harakiri after Losing Face over Mistaking Joke for Serious Idea."

flenser said...

This caught my eye for some reason.

Six severed heads of Mexican police found.

I hope they used proper technique, whoever it was.

Anonymous said...

"I remember the pictures of them beheading American military prisoners during WW2.
Harry Truman fixed that."

That was the social expectation from war amongst Asian nations at the time. It's too bad more westerners don't know about the Chinese Civil War and the atrocities that took place, the Japanese invasion makes a lot more sense when you understand the mess that was China. Of course Mexico is starting to get there...

Anonymous said...

"These people have been nihilists since the dawn of time, and in the second half of the 20th Century, chemical abortifacients have allowed them to unbreed themselves right out of existence."

And yet they still have a relatively large island populated almost entirely by pure Japanese, with a quality of life that is higher than almost anywhere (even in backwater areas without good economic foundations). Seems like a model worth following to me.

"The Japanese don't have a absolute moral code. In the west we have Christianity and Judaism, complete with books that tell us what's right and wrong."

Not entirely true. Look at Western leaders and how they push Christianity on the proles but don't believe anything themselves.

Up until the Meiji restoration different castes were mandated by law to follow distinct forms of buddhism -- each came with its own moral code aimed at cementing that caste's role in society. Modern Japan is a little different because those barriers have been broken, and is still in a major change period: if you compare to England (a good direct example IMO) it's like the period when the Anglican Church was founded and the Great Vowel Shift was going on. I wouldn't expect the Japan of 50 years from now to look anything like the Japan of today, but the people will still be as distinctly Japanese as they have been for the last 500.

Svigor said...

Of course cutting off someone else's head must be "an extremely good feeling!" What a mendacious age we live in that every natural impulse has to be disowned by "serious" people.

Err...

I didn't see the word "mortal enemy" in there anywhere. Why would I get an extremely good feeling from beheading some poor sap who ran afoul of the local magistrate? If the fellow had me seeing red for some reason, maybe.

Ye gods.

Steve Sailer said...

It's funny that the Japanese have been diligently practicing their swings for hundreds of years, merely changing the size of the sphere they've been hacking at on the practice grounds.

Anonymous said...

"The ones who descend from samurai families still tell you that, but not in the big cities where it would be considered really uncool."

Why would it be considered uncool? Bragging is frowned upon? Or were they brainwashed to believe that the samurai were evil?

Middletown Girl said...

"This caught my eye for some reason. Six severed heads of Mexican police found. I hope they used proper technique, whoever it was."

In America cops win trophies. In Mexico cops become trophies.
Sounds like that freaking Peckinpah movie.

Anonymous said...

I worked with a group of Japanese software engineers in Phoenix. Some of them were so fanatical about golf that they would play 72 holes every weekend, even in summer when daytime temps were routinely well over 100 degrees.

Anonymous said...

We need to bring back beheading for silly neo-cons who constantly misuse the word "nihilist". Chop off a few heads of these chattering nitwits and the rest will shut up pdq.

Anonymous said...

And yet they still have a relatively large island populated almost entirely by pure Japanese, with a quality of life that is higher than almost anywhere (even in backwater areas without good economic foundations). Seems like a model worth following to me.

My point is that that population is now effectively halving every 35 years - it's a geometric progression right into extinction.

sabril said...

"This was the most INSCRUTABLE joke I ever heard."

I think he is making fun of people who come up with silly explanations for things rather than take the more sensible explanations which are un-PC.

For example, a few months back Steve had a collumn about some libtard who proposed that black children are unruly in school because of the tradition of audience participation in black churches.

P Coderch said...

I don't think Japanese in the 21st Century would do something in deference to customs from centuries ago. How many modern Japanese are even aware of Samurai customs?

David said...

Eric, it's not true that the Japanese have no books.

ricpic said

> Of course cutting off someone else's head must be "an extremely good feeling!" <

Yikes. Include me out.

Anonymous said...

"Similarly, most Greeks were slaves or helots in the ancient world, but modern Greeks associate Greek glory with philosophers, playwrighs, warriors, etc.

Most Greeks were not slaves or helots. Helots were indeed a large majority of the Spartan population, but did not exist in other city states. Slaves may have been a third of the Athenian population. According to Donald Kagan, they were well treated; for example, they couldn't be struck for no reason. I don't know about the one working the silver mines though.

Anonymous said...

"You know in Japan, a round of golf costs 12,000 dollars, you play from rooftop to rooftop, and the balls are made out of rice somehow, and when you're all done you gotta go home and sleep in a tube."

-Dale Gribble

Peter A said...

"does anybody know if Japanese families descended from samurais still tend to marry within their class?"

Yes, as a rule. Japanese (and Koreans) typically are very picky on whom their children marry and will do extensive research into the family background of prospective spouses. (I think Steve has written about this in fact).

Concerned Netizen said...

"or whether these Japanese persons are just uncommonly good actors"

I am always amazed at the uncommonly stupid things people say on HBD blogs.

Japs aren't uncommonly good actors. They are just people. People are born liars, all of us.

albertosaurus said...

What most people mean as the Samurai are only the latest set of Samurai. The Togogawa shogunate achieved power by uniting the country with firearms that they had gotten from the Dutch. This was at about the beginning of the seventeeenth century. Earlier shoguns and samurai had been horse archers and lancers. The "Cult of the Sword" samurai achieved dominance because the Togogawa outlawed firearms.

This period - the Togogawa Shogunate - was not only a period of technological stasis but also a period of of brutal suppression of the common people. The Samurai did not use their swords to engage in duels between equals. They used the long sword for killing unarmed peasants.

See Okamoto's film "Red Lion" - not Red Sun or Red Beard. It's easy to get mixed up because Mifune stars in all three. In Red Lion (Akige) Mifune informs the peasants that the reign of the Samurai is ended - universal celebration.

The Meijii Restoration ended the rule of the parasitic samurai. It was not like what was portrayed in the American movie "The Last Samurai". Better to read the book or watch the Japanese film of the same name. The samurai were first put on the dole but many became outlaws and vagrants. The people rejoiced at their elimination.

For more than two hundred years Japan was home to a class of oppressors who practiced beheadings on the unarmed populace. The samurai sword was in fact good for little else other than chopping down peasants. In massed troop formations it was too long to swing. In individual combat a two handed slicing sword is easily defeated by a one handed stabbing sword.

Long swords were so out of fashion in the West that Henry had to import a French swordsman to deal with Ann Boleyn. Only in isolated, backward Japan were there a lot of men who were in practice with the long chopping sword. The samurai as a class had an environment where they could individually practice summary justice on the defenseless.

And yes, I realized that you were making a joke.

Concerned Netizen said...

"Of course, your best method for pleasing a woman is the warm, beating heart of an enemy. "

Typical HBD site comment. Quote from a wildly inacccurate semi-pornographic television show purporting to be about ancient Rome.

Yeah, that proves it!!!

Anonymous said...

And yet they still have a relatively large island populated almost entirely by pure Japanese, with a quality of life that is higher than almost anywhere (even in backwater areas without good economic foundations). Seems like a model worth following to me.

Very true. I'll take their "nihilism" over our wondrous "absolute moral code" any day of the week. Why not judge cultures by their fruits? Ours is the failed one.

kurt9 said...

More than any other nationality I've come across the Japanese are masters of not letting you know what's going on in their heads.

This is tatemae. In my childhood, we called this making polite conversation. I don't know why Americans make such a big deal of this because everyone practices this, not just the Japanese.

The Japanese don't have a absolute moral code. In the west we have Christianity and Judaism, complete with books that tell us what's right and wrong.

The Japanese have a culture that works for them. Why should they adopt western thought, such as Abrahamic religion, when their own world-view works perfectly fine for them?

Likewise, I have my own world-view, which is also significantly different than Abrahamic religion. My world-view works fine for me. It allows me to become what I want to become, which is the only purpose of a world-view anyways. Why should I adopt Abrahamic religion when my own world-view works better for me anyways? The advocates of abrahamic religion are very parochial. They assume that because it works for them, that it will work for everyone else. Of course, this assumption is erroneous.

David said...

OT

WSJ story about "strategic" home loan defaults. Has map of states by "strategic" default rate. Here. Maybe rich in issues of HBD (immigrants), comparative climates, environments, regulatory structures. Steve went over this ground thoroughly all last year and prior, but there might still be some meat to pick off these bones.

Big Don said...

What is *par* for a head...??

Whiskey said...

Except the Japanese were not very successful, militarily, when the Samurai were ascendant. The Mongols save for two fortuitous typhoons would have wiped out the ineffective Samurai, and the failure of the Samurai against the weak, divided Koreans and Chinese during and after the Mongol period is legendary.

It was only after the Japanese REJECTED Samurai traditions and acted as soldiers in the Western European way that they ran across Asia. I'll note that the Mongols, once their advantages of speed/mobility and marvelous Compound Bows were destroyed, in the mud and muck and rain (bows disintegrated) and valleys and forests and mountains and rivers of Western Europe, they were failures. Mobility and speed fail when it turns into a slugfest (see Stalingrad, El Alamein, Bulge, etc.).

Killing the enemy usually requires a Roman/Greek infantry approach -- concentrate him in a mass, use your superior discipline and heavy infantry to simply overwhelm him. This requires not exquisite discipline in fine motor skills but discipline for every infantryman to stay in the line, and advance, steadily. No amount of killing animals can prepare ANYONE for the mass slaughter of the Western killing machine, which from the 5th Century BC onwards has been described by both victors and the defeated as revolting and nauseating in the extreme. It takes basically a tremendous amount of social cohesion and mutual unit-trust to achieve victory.

Middletown Girl said...

"Most Greeks were not slaves or helots. Helots were indeed a large majority of the Spartan population, but did not exist in other city states. Slaves may have been a third of the Athenian population."

I guess you're right. Still, most Greeks were not philosophers, playwrights, sculptors, etc. They were Joe Schmolopolous.


"According to Donald Kagan, they were well treated; for example, they couldn't be struck for no reason. I don't know about the one working the silver mines though."

Kagan should know better than to judge past history based on textual evidence. If we go by written document, the New Testament said, "turn the other cheek". Hardly the practice of Europeans.

Eric said...

This is tatemae. In my childhood, we called this making polite conversation.

It's not that nobody else does it. It's that in Japan tatemae is, as wikipedia says, of paramount importance.

The Japanese have a culture that works for them. Why should they adopt western thought, such as Abrahamic religion, when their own world-view works perfectly fine for them?

Oh, I don't see anything to disagree with there. The point was simply that their national character is more variable than ours over time. I wasn't trying to say ours is better. Just more different than most people suppose.

Concerned Netizen said...

Whiskey,

All very impressive, but how effective is this against an enraged Viking armed with a golf club?

Eric said...

I'll take their "nihilism" over our wondrous "absolute moral code" any day of the week. Why not judge cultures by their fruits? Ours is the failed one.

I don't agree with that at all. Any society that doesn't produce children is doomed. I'm not sure I agree with the "nihilism" characterization, but if they don't start having more kids, in a few generations they'll be swept away by a more dynamic people.

In any event, the premise upon which you've based your conclusion is false: they don't have a better quality of life than Americans. If you translate the average Japanese person's income into dollars it looks like a lot, but if you have to spend it in Japan it doesn't go very far. They live in shoe boxes, for God's sake. The wealthy ones get a rabbit hutch.

Much of their infrastructure is built with borrowed money. Conservatives in the US complain (with good reason) about a debt/GDP ratio of 40%. Japan is over 130%, the highest in the world. They went broke chasing a Keynesian mirage, and as soon as people in other countries stop lending them money (which must eventually happen, as it will happen to the US), they're in for a drastic decrease in standard of living. Far more drastic than ours.

Anonymous said...

Why has whiskey gotten everything so backwards?

The Mongol invasions of Japan were by no means certain affairs. While the first invasion was somewhat successful, the Mongol force stalled and retreated to their ships when a typhoon wiped out their fleet. The second invasion was never able to advance beyond the beachhead before it too was wiped out by yet another typhoon. The Japanese won great military successes against the Koreans and subsequently the Chinese during the early phase of the Imjin war. Their primary failing was that they lost pretty much every naval battle and were unable to resupply. While the second phase of campaigning did not fair so well, it wasn't much more than expected given that the Chinese and Koreans were more prepared the second time around.

The Mongols managed to actually win the battles they fought in Europe. They did defeat Hungarians at the Sajo river and also a combined Polish and German force at Leignitz.

Stalingrad was a failure for the Wehrmacht precisely because of their failure to execute their preferred manner of fighting, maneuver and envelopment. There is a reason it's called Kritzkrieg and not Slogkrieg. The reasons why the Germans lost was because Paulus' advance repeatedly stalled due to lack of fuel and Hitler's interference as to how the battle was to be carried out.

As for the rest you are simply parroting whats-his-face; that Greek antiquities historian turned Western Neocon triumphalist. An entertaining historical theory with a questionable factual basis. The differences between shock and maneuver aren't as great as Hanson thinks they are.

Anonymous said...

I figured Steve was either making a weird, weak joke...or really, really drunk.

dormouse said...

It isn't just the axer who has to worry about skill: the axed has a stake in it, so to speak. Beheading "cleanly" was such a difficult task during the times when it was the preferred mode of execution, that competent beheaders made excellent money and were in demand. This was not cruelty--it was a mercy.
Henry VIII promised Anne Boleyn that a famous expert SWORDSMAN would be imported from France to do her in, and not the local ax-man, who could take a number of wacks to do the job.
I recently had the misfortune to come across one of those horrible cell phone video murders the furiously sectarian, jealous, mid-eastern worlders make from time to time, often featuring relatives who have "dishonored" them. Two Russians or Chechens slowly sawed off a young woman's head in front of her boyfriend after carrying on some sort of interrogation with her. Both woman and boyfriend had their mouths taped for some reason. Maybe they were in an alley somewhere.
While it was too blurry to be gory it was one of the most hauntingly horrible things I've ever seen, and I can't un-see it.
But it gives me some idea of what James Joyce meants when he said history was a nightmare from which he was trying to awaken.

Anonymous said...

Much of their infrastructure is built with borrowed money. Conservatives in the US complain (with good reason) about a debt/GDP ratio of 40%. Japan is over 130%, the highest in the world. They went broke chasing a Keynesian mirage, and as soon as people in other countries stop lending them money (which must eventually happen, as it will happen to the US), they're in for a drastic decrease in standard of living. Far more drastic than ours.

Except that most of Japan's debt is domestic debt, meaning they owe money to themselves (this is possible due to high savings rates amongst their citizens), whereas the US has all debt owed to foreign countries. Primarily China and Japan.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree with the "nihilism" characterization...

All in due time, little grasshopper, all in due time....

Anonymous said...

"Long swords were so out of fashion in the West that Henry had to import a French swordsman to deal with Ann Boleyn."


How about the 3 Musketeers, circa mid-1600s? I know they were all about muskets, but didn't they carry long swords? Or were they short? In any case, they had to invent the guilletine to get the dirty work done during the French Revolution, one early and rarely cited example of the improved technology that began in that era.
Dueling with swords remained a part of military life until the 19th century, didn't it?

Middletown Girl said...

"It's not that nobody else does it. It's that in Japan tatemae is, as wikipedia says, of paramount importance."

And, I always thought tatamae was a rug made out of hay.

Tatamae probably works with Japanese because many of them are timid and shy. Not knowing how to express themselves, they politely hide themselves.

Anonymous said...

Any society that doesn't produce children is doomed. I'm not sure I agree with the "nihilism" characterization, but if they don't start having more kids, in a few generations they'll be swept away by a more dynamic people.




People have this tendency to assume that present trends will carry on indefinitely into the future. It's not that long ago that the big fear was overpopulation. Now everybody is worried about countries dying out.

Japan at present is overpopulated. It can lose half its current population and still be a powerhouse country. Obviously it can't lose its entire population and do that, but there's no reason to assume that will happen.

The same is true for America. It was a better and healthier country fifty million people ago, and a big part of what's killing it is all these new people.

Europes present problems stem from a lack of will, not of manpower. The Europe which ruled the world did so with far less people than it has at present. But they were radically different people. Quality is far more important than quantity, and in fact at a certain point quantity has a negative impact on quality.

Eric said...

Japan at present is overpopulated. It can lose half its current population and still be a powerhouse country. Obviously it can't lose its entire population and do that, but there's no reason to assume that will happen.

Overpopulated by what measure? Do they have trouble feeding their population, or have trouble controlling disease as a result of overcrowding?

The lack of children is a bit more insidious than the raw numbers indicate. A society in demographic decline has a much larger percentage of older people past their most productive years. Not only is that a drag on total productivity, but it also means there's less political will to deal with medium and long-term problems.

Of course the population will stabilize at some point. But it may do so as a result of an influx of people from other places.

Anonymous said...

Of course cutting off someone else's head must be "an extremely good feeling!" What a mendacious age we live in that every natural impulse has to be disowned by "serious" people.

Err...

I didn't see the word "mortal enemy" in there anywhere. Why would I get an extremely good feeling from beheading some poor sap who ran afoul of the local magistrate? If the fellow had me seeing red for some reason, maybe.


Read Oliver, particularly his speeches from the Birch period and his short book The Yellow Peril .

Oliver, who read at least fourteen languages, once admitted he had been a dismal flop at learning even basic Japanese. That was one of his big influences on his profoundly biocentric worldview.

Harry said...

There's a great hour long documentary for free available in its entirety on Hulu.com about Japanese high school baseball.

It's fascinating as a cultural case study. You see all the major cultural differences through how they play and approach baseball, especially during some big annual high school baseball tournament they have there.

Anonymous said...

Of course the population will stabilize at some point. But it may do so as a result of an influx of people from other places.



Other places are subject to the same influences affecting Japan. China has a lot of people, but they're getting older also. The world population will go into decline, that is inevitable.


Overpopulated by what measure?



Overpopulated as in overcrowded.


The lack of children is a bit more insidious than the raw numbers indicate. A society in demographic decline has a much larger percentage of older people past their most productive years.




The same is true of a society is which population is climbing steeply - most people are not in their "productive years". But all current societies passed through such a phase intact.

In any case a society does not exist in order to function as a unit of economic production. That's a backwards way of looking at things.

Anonymous said...

When I read about Japanese men groping their women on commuter trains I think of the Rape of Nanking. The instinct is still there, though sublimated a bit, and I think they might do it again when American influence wanes.

Anonymous said...

When I read about Japanese men groping their women on commuter trains I think of the Rape of Nanking.

That whole groping thing is overblown and sensationalized. Japanese sexual harassment/crime rates are lower than those in the US of all races.

Anonymous said...

"That whole groping thing is overblown and sensationalized."

Eh, I'm not so sure. I've known several women who lived in Japan for a few years and they all complained of frequent subway gropings. They thought it was far worse in Japan than in the UK or US.