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Why We decided to Go Online

Ever since our establishment sixty-some years ago, Fuji-Torii has been committed to selling not only authentic antiques but also hand-made/hand-painted contemporary artworks, so as to present perfect quality and "beauty that moves the hearts of all". With this belief, we have been continuing to operate our business solely through our store where we can personally greet our customers and urge them to take the artworks in their own hands. Mail orders and websites were therefore not an option.

However, in recent years I have been witnessing the standard of Japanese art in the global market on a steady decline, due to the influx of poor quality goods. Crudely manufactured craftwork, copy products "a la Japanese" mass produced in other Asian countries and "antiques" of no value except for the fact that they are old are now everywhere. This sad trend has finally come to overwhelm me. As an art dealer and a Japanese, I could not bear to let such inferior products leading people of the world into believing that they represent true Japanese art. Moreover, I am sensing a crisis to come, in that these non-value merchandise will eventually encroach upon the accumulated trust towards not only Japanese art but towards Japan as a nation.

Therefore, it has become my firm belief that, in order to save Japan and Japanese art from losing its long-standing credibility, we Japanese must first stand up for ourselves with responsibility and pride and introduce genuine artwork to the world. In realizing this mission, I decided to open this website.
I am convinced that once even the smallest of the artworks shown here reaches your door, it will testify on the depth and true beauty that only real Japanese art can possess.
Once again, in the coming series of this column I would like to convey what Japan really is and how it ought to be, through Japan's artworks nurtured by pure water, bountiful nature, the variance of the four seasons, two thousand years of tradition and culture, and the uniquely Japanese awareness towards beauty.

The Truth About Japanese' Knowledge on Japan

I ask you not to expect every Japanese to be able to illuminate you on Japanese history or art. In fact, I would say that nine out of ten Japanese can give you an accurate answer to neither of the two subjects. This goes to show that not all Japanese are well-informed nor interested in their own history, culture or art. Likewise, it's wrong to assume that every single Japanese you meet practices the way of tea or flower arrangement. When it comes to traditional performing arts such as Noh and Kabuki, my guess is that less than 20% of all Japanese have a passable knowledge.

Perhaps Japanese education should bear part of the blame. But an even deeper issue is revealed upon examining modern Japanese history. Japan opened its long-closed shores to the outside world in the Meiji era, and the subsequent deluge of modern western culture held the people spellbound. In its restless pursuit to catch up with the refined customs of the developed nations, Japan chose to leave its brilliant history, culture and art behind.

This neglect towards traditional beauty has resulted in grave repercussions in the proper evaluation of Japanese art, not only within Japan but overseas as well. For example, some generally held views on Japanese art today contain baseless information. As an art dealer, I have been quite concerned about this. Such false notions came into being because of biased opinions and elusory responses on the part of the Japanese to questions asked in the past by zealous foreign researchers and collectors. These dedicated researchers later made public comments or published research books including the misleading information, and many of them came to be acknowledged as established theories.

In my judgment, responding to innocent questions by foreigners with a simple "I don't know" would have been more sincere, no matter whether it concerned one's own country or not. Of course, art dealers like myself are also greatly responsible for such misunderstandings, and I believe each one of us must reflect deeply on this problem and vow to never repeat the same mistake.

Historically, artworks belonged to the privileged few and the general public rarely had a chance to even get a glimpse of them until modern times. I myself would not have been able to gain knowledge on Japanese art had it not been my vocation. But those who do have the obligation to protect and promote art in Japan have lost sight of their mission. They have been taken to western values that seem more stimulating than their own, and even forgetting how this beautiful country should be.

Since the introduction of U.S.-style market economy after World War II, the Japanese have been enjoying an affluent lifestyle. But such wealth is merely material wealth achieved through the feverish pursuit of American values. Today, many Japanese travel overseas and carry famous designer goods, but when it comes to knowledge of or appreciation towards traditional culture or art, 95% of the Japanese possess nearly none. In Europe, the degree of people's social status and honor parallel the depth of their knowledge for culture and art. Sadly, in Japan, this is not the case.

The irresponsible attitude on the part of the Japanese towards sharing information on Japanese art led to misunderstandings not only towards art but also towards Japan itself and its people as well. I've always held a firm view that, in order for Japan to truly be accepted in the international arena, the Japanese must first "learn about their own country and provide accurate information about themselves to the world, and stand up for Japan's position in the globe with confidence, not subservience."

For sixty years after the Pacific War, Fuji-Torii has been set on not carrying any tourist-pleasing designs such as "Fujiyama" or "Geisha-girls", even if some of our customers asked for them. This website only carries honest, genuine Japanese artworks made in Japan. And I intend to continue to express in this column only what I believe to be the truth, by providing accurate information on Japanese art as well as sharing my views on what the Japanese and Japan really are, and how they ought to be.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.01

Almost sixty years have now passed since 1949 when my father moved FUJI-TORII, a Japanese artwork and antique shop from Ginza to its current Harajuku-Omotesando location. As the person running the shop today I am proud to head what is now the oldest shop on Omotesando as, in the early 21st century, FUJI-TORII is a registered duty-free shop often visited by both foreign customers, diplomats included, as well as by Japanese.
Omotesando Street, now as globally famous as Champs-Elysesse in Paris and Fifth Avenue in New York, was originally the approach to Meiji Jingu Shrine so it might be considered strange that Japanese people hunting for overseas brands would have to come to this part of town to find the high-end designer brand shops. In contrast, people from overseas come here to buy Japanese works of art and something of a 'reverse phenomena' has occurred.
As a fine arts dealer and being Japanese, I accepted a request to write this column for both foreign and Japanese readers of The International Herald Tribune / The Asahi Shimbun to help Japan re-identify itself.

Real Internationalization
By conversing with large numbers of non-Japanese, initially about works of art, I have a feeling that those foreign people living in Japan today know rather more about the country than today's younger Japanese generations. This is especially true when considering Japanese artwork and culture; the foreign customers at FUJI-TORII are far more knowledgeable than their Japanese counterparts.
I have always believed that Japanese people must first learn about Japan if they are to truly internationalize our country and in the shop in Harajuku-Omotesando, it is often hammered home to me how little the average Japanese knows about his own country, how little interest they have in the nation and how sparse is their knowledge when measured alongside non-Japanese customers.

A Natural State of Affairs
I often tell frequent foreign customers that they should not address questions on Japan to Japanese people - particularly if such questions are about antiques; a business about which precious few Japanese have any real knowledge. Imari wear, maki-e (lacquer work), netsuke and u-kiyo-e (Japanese wood block prints) attract much attention from non-Japanese and are items that deserve the respect of expert analysis and commentary.
Recommending such a seemingly drastic course of action notwithstanding I must also say that it is quite natural that your average Japanese person in the street wouldn't know about Japan. Indeed, even with my criticizing them now, had I not been born in a world of antiques and art work, I too would probably not have been interested in Japanese antiques, art and the like - much less have had any reasonable amount of knowledge on the subject. Furthermore, since time immemorial, it has really only been the limited numbers of upper class Japanese that used Imari ware and lacquer ware decorated with maki-e. Ordinary Japanese never had opportunities to touch or even to learn about such items, let alone use them. In addition, by the start of the 20th century, netsuke and u-kiyo-e had themselves gone out of production due to the various forms of westernization in areas such as clothing and printing technology then sweeping Japan.

Japanese Know Little About Japan
After the devastation of World War II, the people of Japan were struggling to survive and could not afford the time or energy required of an interest in Japanese works of art. Economic growth and a return to the international fold in the decades following were then significant turning points on the road to national reconstruction and the people of Japan worked hard towards their relationships with other countries. An unfortunate side effect of this outward looking period though was the tendency to forget about their own land, their own country - Japan.
Nowadays, in the early years of the 21st century, I believe the number of Japanese who have been to watch Kabuki might total less than half the population. Numbers for those who have witnessed Noh and Kyogen might be lower still at fewer than 30 percent. I myself have never visited the Kokugikan in Ryogoku to watch sumo! This trait may of course be repeated overseas. In the USA, it might be true to say that not all Americans are interested in baseball and that not all Europeans like to watch the opera.
Everything depends on individual preferences, likes, dislikes and hobbies and for this reason, it is not reasonable to expect all Japanese to know everything about Japan. To that end, I would strongly recommend readers of the International Herald Tribune to improve their knowledge of Japan by asking the experts in various fields for the latest and most up to date and credible information available, and not only relying on friends and acquaintances.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.02

As I mentioned in my previous piece (published on Nov 29th), it is unreasonable to expect all Japanese to be aware of all aspects of Japanese culture. One reason behind this lack of awareness lies in the system of postwar education. Due to the Second World War Japan chose to abandon so much that could remind us of both wartime and prewar days and in today's information technology driven society, influenced to such a great extent by attractive and exciting forms of Western culture, your average Japanese has absorbed so much so blindly that they have become detached from their own background and culture.
Of course, it is not a scenario confined only to Japanese shores as all around the world that deemed inefficient from the viewpoint of Western society and culture continues to fall foul of those chasing high-growth and enhanced levels of production.
In addition, and of particular regret, many Japanese have recently started to see their history and culture as something of a burden on the road to increasing globalization. Such attitudes will, over time leave Japanese without a sense of the 'Japanese spirit' of old and such concepts of 'kindness' as it is fostered in Japan is being lost at the cost of weakening the very foundations of the country.

Real Internationalization
'Kokka-no-Hinkaku' (The Dignity of the State) by Masahiko Fujiwara hit bookstores last year and in the months since has proven to be a best-seller.
Fujiwara is a mathematician by trade and has behind him a great deal of experience living overseas.
In his book, he focuses on the Japanese language system of education and the need to teach emotions as being more important for Japanese than education in foreign languages when considering what goes into producing internationally minded individuals; basing it on his own experiences and belief that "even if a person is proficient in a given language, if he / she is not rooted as a human being, he / she will never become a benefit to global society."
Evidence of this chain of thought lies in the large number of Japanese embarrassed when unable to answer questions on Japan asked by non-Japanese while studying or working overseas or even in Japan - not a problem that comes about as the result of a lack of foreign language ability that would help explain, but rather because they do not know their own nation well enough to respond confidently.

A Natural State of Affairs
The most crucial problem facing Japan today, however, is not Japanese ignorance and indifference toward their own country - it is the spreading and establishment of misinformation on Japan to be found overseas. Indeed, if non-Japanese readers of this column ask Japanese friends and co-workers questions about Japan, I would personally doubt some of the answers you may receive. A case in point: small cases named 'inro' were never used as 'inkan' (small sticks used to press upon paper a personal seal when conducting business) cases or as a form of identification but were rather fashionable pill cases hung from the waistband of well to do men during the Edo and Meiji eras. This is the most crucial problem.
With the passing decades, the Japanese have mislaid, forgotten even the concept of 'shame' while at the same time being content to spend more time and effort on 'keeping up appearances' and the rote repetition of stereotype answers to questions by foreign nationals.
Such attitudes and responses by Japanese can and do leave non-Japanese confused. If Japanese do not know about a particular aspect of their own nation they should simply say "I don't know." The courage to do so is the first step on the path to being properly recognized as a human being - the humble acceptance that not knowing gives them the chance to study such a void.
The weak and cowardly attitudes of the Japanese unable to respond with confidence when asked about their own nation is the reason many foreign residents and visitors misunderstand Japan.

Japanese Know Little About Japan
Our new Prime Minister's personal policy slogan is 'Beautiful Country' but what is the definition of 'a country'? It does not mean a domain, an organization or even a system. 'Country' means each person's feeling toward the history and culture of his / her place of origin - in other words; the sense of being a member of a given locale in one's own mind. The word 'beautiful' therefore depicts perfectly the mindset of the Japanese.
Japanese people have long coexisted with nature, as well as possessing a healthy fear and respect for it. It is in this same way Japanese respect others - with compassion and feeling. Such an outlook on life is sometimes criticized as being fuzzy and unclear but the real Japanese are far from ambiguous and far from fuzzy. If anything, such an outlook, part and parcel of Japanese DNA that aims to coexist without conflict, would serve the world well at the start of the chaotic 21st century.
This is the second of three pieces Mr. Kurihara will contribute to the International Herald Tribune. Look for the next article by the same writer on January 5th. (to be decided)

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.03

Living in Japan to the grave
During the Meiji Restoration, Japan looked west with the intention of modernizing as fast and as rapidly as possible. The government and educational institutions of the time employed many foreign engineers and scholars including such respected names as Ernest Fenollosa, Josiah Conder and Lafcadio Hearn to provide Japan with the most up to date knowledge the west then had to offer. Many are known to have stated their wish for Japan to remain unchanged at the time they left the country and others chose to commit themselves fully to their adopted nation by staying here for the remainder of their lives.
Indeed, several of my own foreign friends are looking at following in the same footsteps with their own stated intent to remain in Japan out of their own sense of empathy for this nation and her people. In contrast, however, many thousands of Japanese leave the country each year to gain permanent residency in a foreign land, in doing so, taking their assets with them. In my own opinion the main difference between the former and latter groups is based on the personal desires of those making the move abroad.

To keep and inherit
The Japanese were once a people of 'spirit,' their artists and creators especially so. Items for use on special occasions or in daily life were produced with the user in mind to the extent that individuality - in taste and style - reigned supreme. The field of art work is one I occupy today and as a profession I can safely say that when a given creator puts finances to the back of his mind and accepts a challenge - that is when true 'beauty' is created.
Japan in the early 21st century still retains such a spirit but the majority of those alive at this time are content with competition and monetary success as a means by which others are to be evaluated and ranked. Such negativity only leads to the Japanese manufacturing spirit of old suffering further deterioration - another step on the road to national decline. Mr. Fujiwara labels himself a 'patriot' as opposed to a 'nationalist.' When men love their own nation, individual leanings towards the right or left are of little concern and less import. Like Mr. Fujiwara, I have no intention to look for ways to strengthen our national border but rather to share my having been born in such a 'beautiful country' - handed down by our ancestors - with my, our children and grandchildren irrespective of nationality and race. This is my wish as a human being.

The Mission of FUJI-TORII
Designer / brand shops have opened one after the other in Harajuku / Omotesando so why do I continue on with my relatively small business dealing in Japanese antiques and works of art in what is arguably Japan's most fashionable and hip town? The answer is simple - my business is on a mission. An antique shop is a business that passes on the wisdom of humanity past to the people of the future. Dealing with new works of art, my mission centers on supporting the creators and craft workers still working and to leave behind their skills for future generations to enjoy. With more progress in globalization and more promotion of efficiency, many imitations produced around the world as well as products mass-produced for as little outlay as possible can be seen entering the 'arts.' Of course, not everyone you will meet is interested in works of art and the majority will never be able to afford some of the more expensive pieces but once a culture is gone, it can never be effectively restored - the 'authenticity' and 'skills' that go into creating art is based on such 'culture,' such 'spirit.' Let's not lose it.

Export of The Spirit
These days the term 'global standard' is heard again and again but I wonder exactly whom global standards benefit?
I sometimes see those in positions of higher social standing triumphantly retort "Accepting the global standard is the way it has to be" or "The acceptance of global standards should be the norm" and am left thinking that a global standard is something we should all benefit from; something used to help achieve true and effective levels of peace and freedom for all humankind. Shouldn't 'peace and freedom for all living things' be the true global standard?
I myself do not favor a specific religion nor do I have any particular spiritual leaning but rather believe that 'what and how I think / act as a human being' is more important than any religion. Many people are working towards making global peace a reality in the 21st century and I think "What can I do for them?" After WWII Japan exported a number of 'things' to the world and I want to add to these 'things' by giving others a sample of the Japanese 'spirit' of today and the very best side of Japan - integrity - but not only to countries beyond our shores; I would like these values to be issued once again to my Japanese brethren. I look forward to communicating with you all again via this or another similar such column.
Finally I thank all those who sent in comments and suggestions regarding my previous two articles in November and December. I would also like to lift my hat to FINEX president Mr. Nobuhiko Kuwahara and send my heartfelt appreciation to Mr. Watanabe and Ms. Yamada of English Media Group, The Asahi Shimbun. Many thanks all for your time and help.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.04

Signs in the Roman alphabet
In my opinion the Japanese nation is rather unusual in that its people have long since given up trying to appreciate the charms and traditions of their own background and culture.
Take, for example Harajuku and Omotesando - the area my own shop is located. The streets are lined with signs written in the Roman alphabet; so much so that it is actually hard work to find Japanese language signboards. The majority of these shops are selling 'western' goods such as overseas produced designer brand goods and mass-produced pieces from Asia.
To this end, for non-Japanese, as opposed to native Japanese, to really be able to lay their hands on genuine Japanese items the task is a formidable one but realistically it is perhaps only the foreign residents of Japan who can truly notice this phenomena as only a few shops, my own included, stick to selling genuine goods made in Japan.

What does 'Japanese' mean in the modern day?
In the days after WWII, the Japanese people really stopped paying attention to their own traditions, culture and artwork and this lack of focus on their own background, their own heritage, is proving fatal - as was covered in detail on three occasions last year - here on the pages of the IHT/Asahi; articles still available online at www.fuji-torii.com.
Nowadays foreign tourists visiting my premises often say "Omotesando is certainly a beautiful town but it is no different to New York." Regrettably this is reality in present day Japan and while it may be easy to point to Kyoto and Hida Takayama as 'traditional' Japanese areas, it should be borne in mind that these are what I will call 'staged towns' - not unlike native American reservations in the U.S.

Kadomatsu (New Year's decorative pine trees) and Christmas Trees
This year Fuji-Torii decorated the entrance to its shop with 'kadomatsu' as part of the New Year celebrations. A few other shops along Omotesando did likewise but I personally see the kadomatsu, the most traditional and important New Year's decoration, as something of a counterpart or counterbalance to the recently imported concept of the Christmas tree.
It must be said that the reasons behind the lack of kadomatsu could vary - religious views, economic issues and actual shop design but with Christmas trees displayed regardless of religion and kadomatsu serving a similarly celebratory role over the New Year why then have kadomatsu been so noticeable by their absence in recent years?

Onko Chishin - a method by which to understand the future
I'm not offering a platform upon which to stand and admire Japanese customs and traditions unconditionally. Some Japanese do not actually like or care about Japan, so, given this sad turn then, why do I bother to put pen to paper in this column? The answer is simple and centers on my belief that the Japanese method of existence, the foundation on which Japanese culture and tradition is based is one of the keys that will permit coexistence on a global scale in the century to come.
Civilization, like the progress of science throughout the 20th century and more recently computer technology is making the lives of human beings easier and easier. At the same time, however, it adds many problems to the mix of life on this planet of ours and as I see it, as is stated above; Japanese wisdom of old serves as one solution by which to start fixing these woes.
This is where an old Japanese expression; "Onko chishin" which could be translated as 'by knowing the past you will understand the future. (To be continued)

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.05

Clean Japan
Many foreign people visiting Japan, be they here on business or for sightseeing are surprised at the cleanliness of the towns and cities they visit. Of course, in most foreign countries, public spaces are kept clean just as they are in Japan but once you enter areas with no fixed cleaners, the situation changes. Certain countries and cities have legislation in place that passes the responsibility of keeping the town clean and tidy, free of garbage or snow to the citizens but in Japan, there is no such legislation, there are no such rules.
So then, why is Japan so clean without the laws mentioned above? Personally I think it is a result of the quintessential Japanese mentality handed down from generation to generation. My own shop faces Omotesando in Tokyo and our staff has cleaned the area in front of the shop, sweeping up the leaves in autumn and removing the snow in winter - morning in, morning out, rain or shine for six decades. We are neither forced to do so nor are we asked to do so.

Common sense
Cleaning up around the shop is, and always may be, regarded as nothing special - common sense in Japan, but it is because Japanese people think that cleanliness is more desirable than the alternatives that it happens.
Recently, due to the pressures of job efficiency, many professions have become specialized and most shops now outsource cleaning work. At Fuji-torii, all the staff clean the shop as we hope our customers will enjoy shopping in the clean premises we provide and with our wares looking their very best. Moreover, a little considered side of cleaning is that it is actually a great firsthand opportunity for the staff to get up close and touch the art we sell - thereby being able to study the beauty of a particular item prior to it leaving the shop in the bag of a customer. I hope thus that my staff, younger staff especially so, clean the shop not out of a need to do so as part of the job, but in order to improve themselves.

The Japanese frame of mind
So, what exactly is the source of the common sense and manners displayed by Japanese people? In an earlier piece I wrote about a best seller named 'Kokka no Hinkaku (The Dignity of the State)' by Masahiko Fujiwara.
Fujiwara writes in his book; Japanese are not possessed of any firm religion, and Japanese culture and spirit is actually based on 'bushido' (the spirit of the samurai) - a concept covered in depth in a book of the same name by Inazo Nitobe.
However, given that the number of people once said belonging to the 'Bushi (warrior)' class, including family members of the samurai, was rather less than 10 percent of the population in early modern-era Japan, in excess of 90 percent of Japanese were acting on this desire for cleanliness for the simple fact that it made them feel better. They were not forced to clean up and no religion made it a pre-requisite. Add to this the fact that Japanese tend to clean every nook and cranny once they start and I can only believe that this demand for cleanliness is based on a Japanese person's tendency towards hospitality - a national trait.

Ask oneself a question
Generally, Japan is not a monotheistic state. On the other hand, there is an old saying, "Ask oneself a question." As is demonstrated in this phrase, Japanese judge right from wrong and make decisions by way of their mental thought patterns. This has nothing to do with religion and education. People judge and decide based on their own individual feelings. Is something clean? Is it comfortable? Is it right? Their judgment is not influenced by outside powers and / or violence. For this reason they can often be seen sticking to primary belief(s) and principal(s) - sometimes at the cost of their own lives. In other words, they die for a cause. In this sense, they may be considered to have been possessed by the spirit of bushido - even they do not belong to the so called warrior class.
In modern times though I am afraid many Japanese make judgments based on personal interests and profit, without asking themselves whether their decision is right or wrong; the current trend towards individual profits being so important a deciding factor with material interest the most sought after ideal for some Japanese nowadays. (to be continued)

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.06

The Japanese and Japanese style manufacturing
Japanese automaker Toyota is anticipated to become the largest producer of motor vehicles in the world - finally surpassing the output of American and European companies - traditional hotbeds of automobile manufacturing.
Japanese automakers were once ridiculed as merely imitating American and European cars. However, they no longer merely imitate Western car design and production; the quality and prices of their products now being more than competitive and largely responsible for boosting domestic car production to the levels it currently enjoys. So, why is it that so many Japanese cars and other industrial products are proving as popular as they are around the world in the early 21st century? Personally, I see the diligence and product management abilities of the Japanese as at least part of the reason.
In recent years auto factories have increasingly been outsourcing their operations to other Asian countries with the result being that the number of cars actually manufactured in Japan has been decreasing year-on-year. In other words, as car makers around the world are now competing on a level playing field and under the same conditions, this is true globalization in practice. Under such conditions, I believe the prime reason behind Japanese automakers' successes when viewed against that of their Western counterparts can be laid at the feet of the Japanese people.

The Japanese work ethic - good or bad?
An acquaintance in the Japanese motor repair trade since the 1950s; a time most people were largely unfamiliar with cars, has told me that when he handles foreign cars, he cuts and grazes his hands and arms on burrs to such an extent that he has to cover his forearms to the elbows in a type of leather glove.
When working on Japanese cars though he had to take no such precaution as Japanese cars were completed to such specifications as to negate the need for arm protection. I think this story depicts the essence of Japanese manufacturing in a nutshell.
To carry this motoring metaphor over to my own work with Japanese antiques, and taking lacquer ware as an example, I would say that working 'inefficiency' on the part of the Japanese should actually be respected as odd as that sounds. Creators of lacquer ware pieces sometimes spend excessive periods reinforcing the wooden base of a given item or applying (lacquer) undercoats in far greater depth than that of topcoats and subsequent decorative aspects of the finished article. In terms of product efficiency / output and rates of productivity that tend to prioritize such concepts, these workers are far from ideal. I, however, am greatly impressed by such demonstrations of inefficiency when viewed alongside the 'norms' of accepted production methodology.

Personal challenges
Although born in an antique shop run by the same family for three generations, I myself received an education in the postwar-era that drilled us in the need for efficiency and productivity but, even while young, I often wondered why Japanese craft workers performed such time consuming tasks by insisting on taking care of 'invisible' details until one day a craftsman told me that if he did not strengthen the pieces he turned out by 'perfecting' the unseen aspects, the work would be incapable of lasting for his ideal period of time of 100 years - and would thus leave him less than satisfied.
His words brought me to my senses but this kind of activity displays the true spirit and feeling of the Japanese.
In other words, creators of pieces of art today are taking on the future upon the battleground of tradition, experience and knowledge. In addition, those creators recognized as having surpassed a certain level of performance keep pushing themselves regardless of cost and time constraints - further improvements in their work being thereafter considered as gifts from the gods.

Far-sighted policy
I feel human beings are now at a significant turning point. When thinking about the direction in which we should be heading, I think Japanese tend towards hospitality as I wrote in a previous piece (available at: www.fuji-torii.com). We should really be thinking about the beneficiaries of certain products, services and information. In other words, for whom are we creating these products and to whom are we offering our services? It is time to look at these basic issues again. Needless to say, the beneficiary should be the customer and not the creators or suppliers of items / products, services and information. In other words, whatever is provided should be done so with the customer's happiness at the forefront. If this is the case then suppliers will benefit in the long term but at present we are putting the cart before the horse as rough, arrogant suppliers can actually scare away customers.
In Japan one word applies to mean "a national policy on a hundred-year basis" and this is an indication of our looking far into the future without merely focusing on profits. If possible, I would like to change the meaning of this word to refer to "the world's policy on a thousand-year basis" and thereafter apply it to each and every person on earth. (To be continued)

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.07

Second term - the finale
Mr. Kenichi Watanabe, former head of the English language side of the Herald Tribune / Asahi Shimbun last year suggested I write a column for his publication to take account of new thought patterns and viewpoints. Following his advice, I put pen to paper three times from November, 2006 to January, 2007 in what I will deem '(my) first term'. Enjoying this venture into the English language media, I then wrote three more pieces between February and April of this year - 'a second term' of thoughts and viewpoints. These are available online at www.fuji-torii.com with this piece the finale in the series - to date.
Throughout I focused on "Japanese people's viewpoints," (on certain issues) "(the) Japanese thought process" and "(the) hospitality of the Japanese" while trying to depict various aspects of Omotesando, Tokyo as it has changed or even remained the same over the decades since World War II ended. As an example I often referred to the various aspects of Japan that are disappearing; a one-time tendency to maintain a high level of cleanliness even in unseen areas as well as the desire on the part of domestic tradesmen to complete to perfection even the hidden parts of their final products. I would like to make it understood however, that in giving these examples, I have no intention to hail Japan alone as capable of such ideals and hope any readers I attract see this as the case.

Japan today
As any intellectual will be aware, Japan today is not the kind of nation her people can blindly admire - especially in fields such as politics, the economy and culture. According to a book titled "Saiko-shihaiso dake-ga Shitteiru Nihon no Shinjitsu" (ISBN978-4-88086-210-1 / Feb, 2007) written by Takahiko Soejima, Japan as we see her today is on the verge of a crisis; an independent nation under a strange form of 'occupation'. These potential woes notwithstanding, I continue putting pen to paper to at least, in part, attempt to protect the cultural side of my nation and her arts - even if economic and political recovery is impossible to help and is beyond repair.

Personal challenges
As the owner of an antique shop in Harajuku / Omotesando I am qualified to say that the Japanese antique, art and craft market is in decline - largely due to Japanese indifference to their own art world but also down to imitations or cheaper items from other Asian nations undermining the efforts of our own creators. It is in such a situation that my own shop is managed and, as odd as it might seem, prospers; not so much as a result of the location or above average management techniques but rather as a result of three generations of owner maintaining a simple outlook on life and work - whereby our profits are based on customer satisfaction.
As I mentioned in earlier pieces, items originally intended to produce in a customer a feeling of happiness can at times initiate a sense of loss and as is suggested in the Japanese phrase " (Honmatsu-tento)," - putting the cart before the horse / getting priorities wrong, it is down to those of us labeled (art) workers, managers and stockholders to think again how we should secure the end goal of our work by always bearing in mind just who and what we are working for and towards.

Life in the 21st Century
I think the real value of human beings can be measured in terms of how many people they make happy using their position in life and / or abilities. Such a value is not directly related to assets, position and status but in the modern world I do worry that individuals are paralyzed by competition as a form of self-protection as they strive to retain status - the result being a loss of mental balance.
To this end I think the key to living happily in the 21st century is in the retention of the traditional mode of thinking and hospitality of the Japanese; living ignorant of material values and lacking interest in the organizations and systems they belong to at any level being classed as better or worse than others but in the end - this choice is personal - up to the individual.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.08

Honkin Maki-e Wineglasses
Have you ever seen "Honkin Maki-e wineglasses" (gold lacquered wineglasses)? Using a Japanese maki-e technique, patterns are painted in gold on wineglasses by an Austrian company, RIEDEL. Unlike conventional European decoration, gold maki-e wineglasses are painted with real gold powder, achieving a luster and weight never seen before. Maki-e is one of Japan's traditional forms of lacquer craftwork and has a 2000-year history. The maki-e technique was originally used to decorate urushi lacquerware, ceremonial tea sets and furniture such as cabinets.
Maki-e is painted on Japanese urushi lacquerware; patterns are painted onto the lacquerware with urushi (a kind of lacquer produced from a special tree sap) and gold powder is sprinkled on the patterns before the urushi dries and hardens. This technique is similar to a sand picture that is produced on paper by sprinkling colored sand over a pattern drawn in glue. Substitute gold powder for the sand and urushi lacquer for the glue and you have maki-e. That said, maki-e production is not as simple as it sounds. Maki-e requires time and knowledge of a lot of different techniques and processes, many of which need to be repeated in order to achieve the finished product.

Maki-e Glasses
Until recently it was said that urushi lacquer could not be fixed to glass. However, our shop developed the technology to fix lacquer to glass and succeeded in producing the world's first gold maki-e wineglasses in 2005. We even showed that they are dishwasher proof, provided a non-abrasive detergent is used!
The lacquer design used on the curved surface of a wineglass is similar in design to Japanese paintings and expresses unlimited space. In addition, due to the transparency of the glass, the design can be seen from all sides. We are pleased to say that the technique has been highly praised as marriage of Austrian and Japanese craftwork and is the only contribution to wine-related culture made by Japan. We say that these wineglasses are artwork but they are also suitable for daily use. They have also been highly praised by Joel Robuchon, a charismatic figure of French cuisine. This may sound like an advertisement for my shop's product. However, gold maki-e wineglasses are not just a new product for our own profit. They were produced for larger purpose.

During a planning meeting, I heard an interesting story from a young Maki-e craftsman. When he told his girlfriend that his job was maki-e, she thought his job was chumming (introducing food to the water to attract fish) at a fish firm. The Japanese for "chumming" has the same pronunciation as "maki-e" and the young girl couldn't imagine traditional lacquerware from the world of maki-e! Sadly, it is not just a joke for those in the lacquerware industry. It is proof that lacquerware has become so far removed our daily life that most Japanese do not know even the word "maki-e." I wonder how much lacquerware Japanese readers have in their homes.
If you are not Japanese, please ask your friends and colleagues about how much lacquerware they own. I believe the answer will reveal a decline in the demand for lacquerware, a large turnover of craftsmen and decrease of successors to continue the trade.

The theme of the third term
It's not just lacquerware, Japanese people have been using fewer traditional craft products. I believe that's because, as I wrote in my first article, "Japanese do not know about Japan". (Herald Tribune / Asahi Shimbun, November 29th, 2006) Due to their own indifference to Japanese traditions, Japan has been losing its traditional culture and skills. Furthermore, the underlying Japanese conscience has been disappearing. As readers are no doubt aware, the true purpose for producing gold maki-e wineglasses is to protect the traditional beauty and technique of maki-e, by creating the designs on wineglasses which fit into modern life, not on old-type plates and tea ceremony utensils which are rarely used these days. My previous article, "The Fact and Cause of Disappearing Japanese Culture" attracted a lot of attention from readers. In this and the following 3 articles in this series, I intend to dig deeper and provide the reader with a wealth of concrete examples showing the decline of traditional Japanese culture in Japan.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.09

Practical Education
A foreign resident of Japan sent me a response to my last article, published at the end of May. Like me, he worries about the decline of Japanese traditional culture and assumes that the decline is caused by the Japanese education system. In fact, textbooks used in compulsory education (i.e. elementary and JHS), hardly touch on Japanese culture and tradition or even Japanese traditional artwork at all. Furthermore, as the news that some high school students were not qualified to graduate due to lack of credits revealed, high school education focuses solely on passing college entrance examinations and does not pay much attention to our history.
Another person commented that my article was partly negative and unproductive. I assume the sense of negativity the reader felt stemmed from my strong sense of urgency. I hope all readers are aware of my continual and practical efforts to educate people about Japanese culture through my antique shop business and the production of the Honkin Maki-e wineglasses I wrote about in my previous article.

Harsh Reality
Most Japanese people do not know a lot about Japanese artwork, culture or traditions, because Japan has been ignoring them, instead choosing to focus on globalization. The cultural naivete can also be attributed to a post-war education system that has distorted our view of WWII. Moreover, a decrease in the number of job opportunities in traditional craft work and an increase of cheap goods and imitations manufactured by other Asian countries has weakened the traditional craft industry.
Traditional skills such as "maki-e," which I wrote about in the previous article, are improved by repetitive practice, just like learning the piano or the violin. The younger a craftsman is, the more he should produce, to train his skills until he finds essence of the beauty based on his established skills. However, the situation these days is too harsh to allow the craftsman to cultivate his skills. A young craftsman I knew worked part-time at a convenience store to supplement his meager income from maki-e. Ultimately, when he got engaged, he had to quit his maki-e job to work full time at the convenience store, for the stable salary the job offered. I designed the "Honkin Maki-e wineglasses" to help such young craftsmen.

Fundamental Mind-set Change
Even if it is traditional and is made with excellent skill, nothing can exist if it is not required. Even if bowls and tiered food boxes that have fallen out of use are beautifully decorated by maki-e, they will be a waste. "Honkin Maki-e wineglasses" were created with a fundamental change in mind: if the demand for urushi lacquerware decorated with maki-e is decreasing, we will decorate the goods that are in demand with maki-e. It is my fondest wish that real skills are passed down to the next generation through this production process.
Thanks to Mr. Wolfgang J Angyal, Riedel Japan President, and Ms. Yuko Yoshida, PR manager of Riedel Japan, the beautiful canvas of Riedel wineglasses, which come in various shapes to fit different wines and have been recommended by many sommeliers, are now decorated with maki-e. Last autumn, when Mr. Georg Riedel, the chairman of Riedel, and his wife, Mrs. Riedel, came to visit Fuji-Torii from Austria, a maki-e craftsman came from Kyoto and demonstrated how to paint maki-e. The young craftsman was given strong words of encouragement by an enthusiastic Mr. Riedel, however, such a successful example is very rare in the field of Japanese art.

Crisis of Existence
The erosion of traditional craftwork is not limited to Japan. I heard a story from a friend of mine who went to the U.S. He was interested in the spirit of Native Americans and sought silver jewelry made by Native Americans, but almost all the jewelry he found was made in China. The traditional craftwork, which was originally very different from the mass-produced, industrialized replicas, has been engulfed by an age in which efficiency and profit are prioritized. As a result, workers all over the world with real skills lose their jobs and cannot pass down their skills to the next generation.
Regardless of which country, traditional crafts are rooted in the skills and spirit of their own culture. They represent the pride of the nation. Some Japanese people say that they can live without traditional crafts. Sure, if they only want to exist, plastic products are enough. However, it sounds to me like they believe they can survive without Japan. I fear that they deny their own culture and traditions, perhaps even their own existence.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.10

Influence of Education
I usually write this series of columns in Japanese, and my text has been kindly translated into English through the good offices of Mr. Nobuhiko Kuwahara, president of Finex Co., Ltd. (www.finex.co.jp). I wrote my opinion about postwar education in Japan and it was translated into a sentence that read "The cultural naivete can also be attributed to a distortion of postwar education that has led us to believe that Japanese tradition caused WWII," in a first draft for a piece on July 25th. Ms. Chihiro Yamada, staffer of the English Media Group of the International Herald Tribune / the Asahi Shimbun, worried that the sentence could not convey my intention exactly and spoke up about it. Thanks to her advice, the translation was revised.
As this example indicates, translation has its limitations. Japanese is different from other languages (including English) and is sometimes complicated and less logical. I will write about characteristics of "the Japanese language" in future articles. What I wanted to say in that article was that Japanese tradition and culture have been partly suppressed in postwar education. I feel that such an education system is somewhat responsible for Japanese people thinking that they can live without Japan, as I wrote at the end of the previous piece.

True Recognition
After Japan's defeat in the Second World War, what Japanese people saw was the U.S., which enjoyed a materialistic way of life. Its information and images were dazzling for Japanese people who had lost confidence in the defeat. During the occupation, U.S. propaganda instilled the notion that American things were good and Japanese things were bad. Unfortunately, this notion had an affect on some Japanese manners and customs that have been cultivated for over 2000 years.
Japanese people accepted American things with resignation. They dreamed of an American way of life with unlimited resources as depicted in American movies and they have continued working hard to realize such a life, while ignoring Japanese culture and tradition. Prioritizing American things over Japanese tradition was in line with American occupation policy and also the Japanese government's policy. In such circumstances, Japanese people became unfamiliar with traditional craftwork and began to lose traditional knowledge.
Now, 60 years after the war, most Japanese people seem to think their own culture and traditions are too old and worthless. As a result, Japanese people began to regard justice and personal morality as less valuable. Only foreign readers of this series of columns who live in Japan and intellects overseas praise the Japanese virtue that is seen in our culture and traditions.

Abandon Self-interest
In pre-war Japan, not everyone was educated in high schools or colleges. Some of them served apprenticeships in craft studios or with merchants, and they emulated professional skills. This system is called an apprenticeship system. Most apprentices were 13 to 20 years old. They learned the spirit of producing and pleasure of service through labor when they were at the most impressionable age. They were proud of and satisfied with their job, regardless of educational background and income. Moreover, employers taught courtesy, manners, ethics and principles on behalf of their parents.The word "apprentice" must sound feudalistic to those who are or were educated in the postwar education system.
The apprentice system may be associated with an image that apprentices had to endure awful treatment in a clear hierarchy. However, such an image is somewhat overstated by novels and movies. The apprentice system was not something they just had to endure. There is another word to express Japanese labor style; "messi-boukou" This word is usually misunderstood to mean "to sacrifice yourself for the nation." The true meaning of the word is to abandon self-interest and serve society.

Re-recognition of Japan
Japanese people have long forgotten their own traditions and culture. In the traditional craft industry, this causes a decline of skilled workers and lack of successors. The younger generation, who do not use traditional craftwork have no aspiration to work with traditional crafts. They, who have a mistaken understanding of freedom, may feel uncomfortable with the formality and seniority system present in the craftwork industry. On the other hand, from a teacher's perspective, teaching everything from A to Z about the mind-set of production to such young people requires intolerable patience.
There are vocational schools and art colleges all over Japan, and many private institutes offering adult education classes hold classes to teach traditional crafts. They may be enough to merely preserve the basic skills of the traditional crafts. I, however, aim to preserve professional skills and the craftsmanship mindset.
To foster successors and to improve the traditional skills, I developed "Honkin Maki-e" wineglasses. With the new idea of integrating maki-e onto wineglasses, which can be used in a modern life, I aim to give young craft workers dreams and jobs. I also hope that the increase in demand will contribute to the stability of their life and improve their skills and awareness. What I most want to achieve in this project is for Japanese people to know the beauty of Japan and Japanese products, to reaffirm our traditions and culture, and eventually regain confidence and pride in our country. (To be continued)

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.11

The final chapter of the third series of articles
Previously in this series of articles, I wrote about a crisis in and an attempt to save Japanese traditional crafts, citing Honkin Maki-e wineglasses which are Riedel (Austria) wineglasses decorated with maki-e by craft workers in Kyoto. In the previous article, I wrote that Japanese people's disinterest in their own art and culture has been partly caused by the postwar education system. (Previous articles are available.) In this, the final chapter of the series, I would like to write about why some people feel that they can live without traditional crafts, and also without Japan.
The civilization of the 20th century was based on the principle of competition and the pursuit of wealth, although they are hidden behind democracy and capitalism. In line with these principles, we don't have any use for traditions and culture that don't create profit. The accrual of capital and assets has rapidly progressed under the name of globalization, crossing national borders in the pursuit of such gains. Under such circumstances, why is it that I try to protect traditional crafts and their techniques? Well, it's because I believe that culture and art are crucial for us to truly exist as human beings.

Distortion of Civilization
Certainly, life has become more convenient due to development of civilization since the Industrial Revolution. People can buy tons of goods which are sold at markets and can obtain a huge amount of information, all of which is beyond the imagination of anyone living 100 years ago. These things were thought to encourage prosperity. However, recently such prosperity has started distorting civilization.
While promoting materialism and financial gain, people have abandoned and forgotten the physical and the spiritual. These days people have started to doubt that they have chosen best science and technology and that civilization is harmless to the earth and other life on this planet. These are the big questions facing us today. 20th century civilization aimed at prosperity for all, but I wonder to whom and for what it was really developed.

Take Urushi lacquer as an example. Chemical paints were used instead of Urushi lacquer, largely for convenience, in postwar industrial Japan. Production of Urushi lacquer plummeted, although Japan was once called a country of Urushi lacquer. Lacquer is an eco-friendly material which is biodegradable and harmless even when it is burned. Why should we stop using the lacquer?
This year I produced "Lacquy-marker," which is a bookmark made using Urushi lacquer. A thin wooden plate, made in Japan, is painted with lacquer and decorated with various traditional patterns. (Available from November 2007) Through the "Lacquy-marker," I hope that Japanese people will re-evaluate lacquer, which is a natural material. In addition, I aspire to preserve the culture and traditions of Japan. The "Lacquy-marker" asks all people in the world to consider what the essential issues of the 21st century really are, in an age in where energy problems are critical.

What we truly need
I am not a person who denies science and civilization and I'm not a retrospective person. I don't particularly advocate a slow life and don't believe in fashionable spiritual beliefs. However, the earth can survive only through mutual dependence among all living things from bugs to men, and human beings are but one of many species living on this earth. We should humbly consider that human beings have broken the earth and the chain of living things for their own selfish desires.
In this efficiency-profit-oriented age, every person has an individual thought and stance. We have to know whether we no longer need Urushi lacquer and why we forget tradition and culture. When we consider what we really need, what real affluence is and what real happiness is, we should listen to our inner voice, not the opinions of leaders of our organizations, who don't prioritize the individual and only consider immediate profits.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.12

I am pleased to say that previously I have written eleven columns and this is the 12th article in the series of articles (The columns are available at www.fuji-torii.com). I believe that the uniqueness of the Japanese language has affected the mindset and spirit of the Japanese people. In this column I would like to take as my theme the "Japanese language and Japanese people" in the 4th series which begins with this article.

Japanese language and Japanese people
The most surprising things for foreigners who visited Japan when Japan opened to foreign countries in the Meiji-era were the courtesy and diligence of Japanese people, not the unique culture of Japan or unique appearances, such as the "chonmage" hair style. The people were diligent and polite to anyone, regardless of rank or language barriers. Japan was highly praised in the international society before World War II due to this mindset and spirit of the people, as well as for the high language ability of some individual Japanese.
I have insisted for a long time that Japanese people should first of all have a good knowledge of Japan in order to truly internationalize the country. I wrote about the best seller "Kokka-no-Hinkaku" (The Dignity of the State) by Masahiko Fujiwara in the column in December (available at www.fuji-torii.com). Without referring again to examples from that book, I believe that Japanese readers of this column are well aware that even if a person is good at a foreign language or languages, unless they know about their own country, they will never "pass" as an international person. Recently, more and more Japanese people have studied and worked abroad. The number of bilingual people has been increasing. Given these circumstances, I would like to think afresh about our mother tongue.

Distinctive geographic features
Broadly speaking, most people living in Japan are the same race and use one language. This is a very rare case in the world. The climate is mild and there are four distinctive seasons. Blessed with clear water and abundant food, people have lived their lives based on a fundamental reverence for and appreciation of nature. Located in the Far East, Japan is an island nation geographically at the terminal point of culture and civilization in the world. Isolated from neighboring countries by the ocean, it was never occupied by foreign nations and its culture and language were never fundamentally transformed until after WWII. Under such fortunate circumstances, Japan has cultivated its own unique language and culture, while slowly taking in foreign culture and civilization.
Japanese people over the course of 2,000 years have fostered the characteristic spirit by which they assimilate foreign cultures and religions to Japanese indigenous culture, without denying any value to them or attempting to destroy them. Such a receptive and harmonious spirit is a key characteristic of the Japanese people and underlies the country's historical development. This spirit has also played a major role in the development of the Japanese language.

Adoption of kanji, or Chinese characters
The Yamato-kotoba, or ancient language peculiar to Japan, has been used since before the dawn of history and its source even today remains obscure. There were no written characters in ancient Japan. While keeping independent, Japan was continually influenced by its large and strong neighbor China. Japan learned the ways of nation-building and laws from China in the 1st century when several small "countries" were established in some areas. Japanese knew of kanji through importation of things Chinese. People officially started using kanji and wrote in kanji from the 5th century.
I believe adoption of kanji had a large impact on the Japanese people. Before long, people started to apply the pronunciations and meanings of Yamato-kotoba to each individual Chinese character, and began using mixed expressions in Japanese waka poems. That's why there are two ways of reading one character: on-yomi is the pseudo-Chinese reading and kun-yomi is the reading of a Chinese character in Japanese. Originally, people used the two readings to translate Chinese-written texts, called kanbun. However, later they started using both ways freely and gradually adopted kanji into the Japanese language as one element of the language.

Japan's own peculiar phonograms
Adopting kanji, Japanese people thus obtained written "characters." In addition, kanji's assimilation to the Japanese language brought about two big developments concerning the sensitivity and awareness of Japanese people. The first is that they became able to make a very quick judgment of meaning merely by glancing at a Chinese character or character complex, and together with this ability, a highly developed emotional imagination. I would like to write about this development further in the next column. The second development was the invention of a 50-character Japanese syllabary to express only sounds.
People simplified kanji and devised the Japanese syllabary in the 9th century. The system is peculiar to Japan and comprised of phonograms called kana, in contrast to mana, which was used to mean kanji. There are two types of kana - cursive hiragana and square katakana - and usage of both is different. Mixed usage of kana and kanji increased the manner and range of linguistic expression and description of Japanese things and feelings, and at the same time, I believe, added range and depth to Japanese people's sensibilities and emotions. People became able to read and write without memorizing countless kanji, and this drastically increased the literacy rate of the Japanese people as a whole, including women serving at the Court. This is the most outstanding achievement of the kana invention.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.13

In the first of four articles in the fourth series on the theme of "Japanese language and Japanese people," I wrote about Japan's distinctive geographic features which underlie the Japanese language, changes in the Japanese language and people as a result of the adoption of Chinese kanji characters, and the advantages of kana, the 50-character Japanese syllabary used to express only sounds. The other day, I was pleased to hear a comment from a Japanese reader of my column, who said that the article had given him greater awareness of the Japanese language as his mother tongue, which he had not paid much attention to before.

Some people say that Japanese people have little awareness of their own country. I feel that this is due to shortcomings in postwar education as I have written in previous columns (available at www.fuji-torii.com). Based on my experiences of meeting many foreigners and internationally connected Japanese people as an art dealer, I wish to give my readers a true picture of the reality of Japan. In addition, I hope that many more Japanese people, like the aforementioned reader, recognize the good points of Japan that they themselves tend to forget and that they will be proud of Japan as their birthplace.

Language and image
As I wrote in my previous column, kanji's assimilation to the Japanese language developed Japanese people's ability to immediately form an image of something in their mind when they hear or read a phrase. People can usually form pictures in their mind when they chat or read something. For example, when talking about your favorite football team, you may subconsciously recall the team's logo or the scene of a dramatic goal the previous night. It is possible to do this even if you have not experienced something first hand, such as when reading a Shakespeare play, you might imagine a balcony in the moonlight in medieval Europe, all based on previous knowledge.
In this way, people's thoughts and sense of awareness are inextricably linked to images. People also recognize and think about things through images. While we memorize things through words and letters, we complement our memories with phrases accumulated in the past. Japanese people understand meaning in a mere instant by glancing at a Chinese character or character compound, because they use Japanized ideograms of Chinese characters. Therefore the Japanese language is a language that can be recognized by a kind of image information.

A large number of words and characters
In addition to the adoption of kanji, the invention of kana was an essential contribution to the development of the Japanese language. There are two types of kana - cursive hiragana and angular katakana. Usually linguistically, if two different phonetic symbols depict the same pronunciation, one is selected. However, in the Japanese language hiragana is used for words depicting genuine Japanese concepts whereas katakana is used to express foreign or imitative words. Therefore the range of characters used in the Japanese language, which includes kanji and the two kana syllabaries, is probably the most significant characteristic of the language, as well as being an interesting point.
There are 1,850 kanji designated for everyday use and a total of 100 characters in the two kana syllabaries. Combinations of kanji and kana create a vast number of verbs, auxiliary verbs and adjectives and multiple combinations. Moreover, in the Meiji era (1868-1912) 50 letters from the Latin alphabet were also introduced to depict kana. With recent globalization, this has enabled Japanese people to incorporate words from various languages into the Japanese language as they are. In this way, Japanese people speak and write using a great number of words and characters. They deal with an unusually large amount of linguistic information, and make use of their ability to process image information.

The Language
In the Japanese language, Japanese people use a great number of words and characters that include many meanings and images, and employ language that undergoes complex transformations. In other words, the language "hardware" of Japanese people that is necessary to operate the large-capacity program of the Japanese language would seem to be unique in the world. This program includes not only the separate usages of words and characters but also the features such as abbreviations and honorifics, characteristic of the Japanese language. Japanese people coin new words using abbreviations, and understand their positions by honorifics. Moreover, using words implying values enables them to communicate large amounts of information. I will write about abbreviations and honorifics in more detail in the next column.
As I have written in this and previous columns, I feel that language and characters do not only convey information, but also relate to the thoughts and feelings of the Japanese people. In Japan, there is a traditional belief that words themselves have energy and influence all things. Without even raising the example of prayer, the idea that man's consciousness creates all things has existed since prehistoric times. In other words, meaning that the energy of man's words and characters materializes. Recently I feel that the wisdom of ancient saints and philosophers and that of cutting-edge quantum mechanics is coming together.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.14

Name and honorific title
Regarding the first article in this fourth series (available at www.fuji-torii.com), Ms. Esashi, who is in charge of English media group of Asahi Shimbun, received feedback from her foreign friend who said that she thought it is unique that Japanese people's name has meanings.
My daughter Akiko was born on November 2, which is in autumn in Japan. When spoken, "aki" means autumn and "ko" means a child in Japanese. Her name is written (Akiko) in kanji; (A) has a meaning of one's successor, and (Akiko) means a child who lives in Asia. (Ako) is short for (Akiko) and is a nickname expressing the parent's attachment to the child. In this way, names of Japanese people have several meanings and manner of expression in writing, and reflect parents' deep affection for their children.
Each expression in kanji (Akiko) in hiragana (Akiko) and in katakana (Akiko) conveys different impressions. In addition, the Japanese language has many honorific titles. People use various combinations of name and honorific titles such as (Akiko-sama), (Akiko-san) and (Ako-chan) depending on place and circumstances. Sometimes they say (Ako) without an honorific title. Japanese judge the situation and relations between the speaker and other persons by honorific titles that the speaker uses or does not use.

Meaning of honorifics
Japanese language has a rather complex variety of honorific forms, which includes honorific titles. Japanese honorifics not only indicate politeness, and which are thus equivalent to please or "sir" in English, or clear-cut hierarchical relationships, but also indicate the speaker's respect, affection, or diffidence toward the person being addressed.
Japanese honorifics have several types: an honorific locution expressing the speaker's humility ("humilifics"), honorific language, and courteous language. Japanese people understand the speaker's position, values, circumstances and personal relationship to themselves through the type and words he uses. For example, when we listen to a person speaking on the phone, we can understand the relationship between the two parties involved and the speaker's awareness of the other party. This shows that Japanese people express their awareness through honorifics.
What I want to emphasize is that a spirit of respect for seniority and social harmony underlies the honorific usage in Japanese language. Honorifics are also an expression of the Japanese people's reverence, humility, and feelings of awe and veneration to all things in creation. However, I regret from the bottom of my heart that usage of honorifics has become increasingly tentative and even adults these days use expressions like a teenager without giving thought to their social position and situation. I feel this is due to shortcomings in postwar education and at the same time to the fact Japanese people do not recognize the virtues of their own country and culture.

Abbreviation and coinage
Japanese people create new words by an abbreviation of some word or phrase, like my daughter's nickname as I wrote at the beginning of this article. This coinage function is another characteristic of the Japanese language, since each Japanese character has its own meaning. Take (Ura-hara) as an example. Ura-hara means "a back street of Harajuku", Tokyo, which is full of shops and culture for the youth.
This place name was newly coined from (Ura) which means a back street and (Hara) which is short for Harajuku. The vocabulary of Japanese steadily increases via such abbreviations and coinages.
However, a new word like (Ura-hara) sometimes has homophones like (Ura-hara) which means "opposite". Although the difference between them is very obvious if they are written, Japanese people distinguish the meaning and appropriately use them in conversation according to context and situation. Moreover, they judge a speaker's age, occupation and things of interest to him by his words and the way he uses them. The reason why the Japanese language may be called "a devil's tongue" by non-Japanese people is the large number of such homophones.

Wording and writing
In addition to honorifics, abbreviations and coinages, the Japanese language has another distinctive characteristic. The wording is different depending on the speaker's age, gender, birthplace, living environment, social position and occupation. Conversely, Japanese people when conversing or reading understand the speaker or writer's character and circumstances to some degree through his particular wording.
They also form a portrait of a writer's character through the shapes of his written characters as well as the writing utensils he uses, which may be an extension of such interpretation through wording. If I write this article like a young girl using cute, rounded characters or so-called gyaru-moji ("gal-writing"), most Japanese readers will think it is written by a young girl. If a person writes a letter using traditional utensils like a writing brush and India ink, most people will think the letter is from a somewhat aged and artistic person. These things come from the fact that language for the Japanese is seen to be based on pictorial images, as I wrote in the previous article.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.15

Deterioration of language level
The other day, I received comments from a reader concerning the incorrect use of words and honorific language of Japan's youth. It reads: "This is because modern Japanese no longer want to be defined by the way they speak, and just like other nations Japan is finally losing arcane and socially irrelevant speech patterns."
Certainly, as the reader wrote, old and beautiful words have a tendency to go out of use throughout the world. It may be one example of linguistic evolution in a sense. However, I wonder what such a phenomenon really means. It is up to individuals to decide whether older language patterns are merely difficult or carry deep meaning. I fear that language simplification leads to deterioration of language level and cultural diminishment. With this apprehension, I have been writing this series of articles for almost a year.
In meritocratic society, many people may think seniority and position are relics from an earlier age. If you use simplified language, you do not need to be sensitive to words you use during conversation and communication. I know that more and more, in developed countries, people can freely use words irrespective of their gender, age, position, and so on. However, I believe that being sensitive to words you use activates your brain and that accepting your gender, position in society and situation matures you and brings peace of mind.

Disruption of the country
Obviously, there are many values in the world and you may have varied opinions and ideas, depending on your position and interest. Considering business communication and management in recently globalized society, simplified language or unified language may be convenient. However, people do not live for immediate profit and efficiency only. People live according to their inner mind, which cannot be calculated by monetary values.
In Japan, there is an old saying; "Corrupt language leads to collapse of the country." Nowadays, old and beautiful Japanese language has been disappearing and using such language seems to be out-dated and even "stiff-necked." Well-mannered and decent persons are even thought to be weird. In my opinion, such misunderstanding stems partly from the postwar Japanese educational system which has taught the meaning of freedom incorrectly and partly from blind acceptance of the Western way of thinking and its systems, based on the belief that the prewar educational system and Japanese way of thinking caused the war.

The Japanese mind
Japanese people, who have a spirit of acceptance and harmony, as seen in the old saying "revere harmony," are by no means a belligerent nation. I think that WWII came about because people of all concerned countries wished for peace and security of their family as well as that of their country and because of their desire to maintain the nation's pride above and beyond short-term calculations of gain or loss, even to the extent of sacrificing their own lives. Such wishes and desires are common in any country regardless of race or religion.
Looking back at the history of nations, control of language or redrawing the map of culture via authority and use of force has led to collapse of the country itself. Maintenance of security and capital integration by some countries apparently seems to build a borderless and peaceful world. However, more and more people are becoming aware that such a world will be a mono-polar one centered around a particular source of capital or organizational structure, and also it will be a world dominated by material desires and anxiety and administered through control of food and energy supplies. People are starting to blow the whistle. The reason why I continue writing stems from this sense of crisis.
I believe and hope that people can recover the kindness of human nature if I can help preserve and pass on the Japanese language and culture, which have been deteriorating very rapidly under the name of a global standard, and continue in my efforts to transmit the essence of the Japanese mind and the Japanese way to people of the world.

This column is the final one of the fourth series of essays, "Japanese Language and Japanese people," and I emphasize that I am a patriot, not a nationalist. There should be no problem that I love the culture and language of the country in which I was born. I desire to ask foreign readers; "Are the culture and language of your own country being preserved?" The other day, an Asian customer who came to my shop said that the same problem (of collapse of culture and country) is occurring in his home country. It is not limited to Asia. In European countries, many traditional manners, customs and cultures have been lost as well. There are a large number of countries in the world which have their own culture and language based on their own history and wisdom. This diversity contributes to human development. I believe that respecting different principles and co-existing with each other, without clinging to one particular set of values or a narrow view of one's own profit, is the way that human beings should be.
God destroyed the Tower of Babel by a confusion of tongues. I have thought, however, this was not just a punishment of the conceited humans but also an expression of God's love, for the further growth of the human.
The next essay will be the first in the 5th series of essays and will be titled "Energy of Beauty."

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.16

Confusion in art market
The art market, including painting, arts and crafts, antiques and contemporary art, is in chaos over the world now. A cross-border influx of financial capital, inflated by illusion and speculation, into the art market is causing the chaos, like the "bubble economy" in Japan about 20 years ago. This "hot money" does not pursue art itself. It is only speculation, without appreciation of beauty.
Investments on a worldwide scale by Chinese and Russian money, or by investment funds, bring waves of speculation one after another, and recently numerous art works have been traded at high prices far from the reach of proper collectors and museums, which is reminiscent of the bubble economy in Japan.
Some 20 years ago, due to changes of Japanese financial policy in accordance with international financial capital, prices of art increased several fold in parallel with real estate price increases, and later they fell below the pre-bubble economy prices after the collapse of that economy. Skyrocketing prices of art works drove out genuine demand for beauty and the following slump eroded public trust in the art market.
Of course, from the perspective of capitalism, it is quite natural that a person who purchases at the highest price has a right to own the work. And wild ups and downs of prices are essential to make a profit. However, I wonder if such "economic fundamentalism" is applicable to painting and art works, which are shared assets of all humanity.

Outline of the fifth series
Not all art works are expensive or priceless, although, generally, antiques and art works are thought to be expensive, and sometimes indeed priceless. It is true that some works may sell for several billion yen, like a Buddha statue by Unkei that was sold in an auction recently, but genres of the art market are wide-ranging and run the gamut in quality and price. Even fakes exist.
This does not pertain only to art works. How a person feels about prices of goods and services depends on his/her sense of values and concept of money. Once there was a famous advertisement of an auto-maker; "There is an expensive million yen, but also is a cheap million yen." Depending on our sense of values, we find different worth, even if the price is the same. Likewise, depending on knowledge and awareness of art works, we see different values in the art works.
During the bubble economy period, a foreign customer said to me: "Japanese people are poor. Many of them can buy expensive European cars, but only a few people are aware of the value of Japanese art works." As a Japanese, I felt ashamed. Unfortunately, it seems that Japanese people find higher value in foreign designer bland goods than in art works made in Japan.
Needless to say, art works may be nothing but useless for those who are short of daily foods and in need. We should thank God that we were born in a country where we can appreciate and enjoy art works, while countless people lack even minimum food and medicines in many countries.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, demand for art works and artistic surroundings have changed during the past 20 years. I have been writing the column entitled "Japanese People Do Not Know Japan" (back numbers are available at fuji-torii.com) since autumn 2006. In the fifth series which starts with this article, I wish to write on "the mechanism of the art works market," "values and price standards of art works," "framework of art works," and "raison d'etre of art works" as well as the fundamental theory of what comprises the concept of beauty, comparing the Japanese art market to that of the world.

Useless for life
Art works are originally useless for survival instinct and species preservation, which are fundamental aspects of human nature. However, appreciation of and desire for beautiful things may be a proof we are human beings, in a sense.
Behind such activities, we can catch glimpses of human's complicated consciousness and desires.
At the present time when everything is evaluated according to monetary values, even art works that are the reflection of the human heart have become objects of speculation and are losing their original meaning. Moreover, behind the scenes, systems and mechanisms are devised to inflate prices, without any regard to appreciation of beauty, which sometimes destroys the worth of the art work itself.
I believe the 20th century was an era of material culture and the 21st century will be an era of spirit. As the capitalist system degenerates, I can't avoid the feeling that the world is becoming some sort of dark and inorganic place. Under this chaotic situation, I believe that appreciation of art works is one key whereby people can live human lives.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.17

Born in the house of an art dealer
As I wrote in a previous article, (the first part of the fifth series, which is available at fuji-torii.com), the current art market is dominated by global financial capital, and the evaluation and pricing of works of art around the world is confused. Although recently the number of opportunities for me to write articles or produce art works or paintings has been increasing, I am originally the owner of Fuji-Torii, a shop selling antiques, arts and crafts. Born into a family of fine arts dealers that has been active over three generations, I have been surrounded by works of art for as long as I can remember. Since childhood I have subconsciously learned of the spirit of creativity, influenced by the painters and craft workers whom our shop dealt with. I also created paintings, designs and plastic works of art at an art club when I was a student.
During my training, everyday I bought and sold at art auctions where tens of thousands of works from all over the world were collected, regardless of genre, and I saw numerous examples of architecture and fine arts at historic sites and museums overseas. Since my mid-20s, I have single-handedly managed the shop's buying activities. Through my own experience of seeing and actually buying and selling a huge amount of art, I came to doubt the present evaluation and dealing of fine arts, and started to write the fifth series in order to sound an alarm.

The truth becomes obvious
Under such circumstances, I hope to write about the true value and price of fine arts, revealing details of the trade and distribution of fine arts that may be unfamiliar to lay persons, and increasing awareness and recognition of fine arts as well as the concept of beauty. Put simply, why are there different prices for two types of works that seem to be similar?
For example, I will explain why the price of some ceramics are a few hundred dollars while other ceramics sell at a much higher price, such as an old Chinese ceramic that recently attracted attention within the art market after it was sold for ten million dollars at auction, even though these items may seem to be similar.
I will write about the concept of beauty that I have been used to and have learned of since my childhood; the meaning and value of fine arts; and their prices and distribution. As an active art dealer, I wish to reveal the truth to as many as readers as possible, to engender familiarity with fine arts and simultaneously dispel any doubts or distrust held concerning fine arts. First, I will write of the concept of beauty.

Basic premise
Please keep in mind that, as a basic premise, there are two types of beauty and four kinds of arts. The two types of beauty are naturally occurring beauty and artificial beauty. The four kinds of arts indicate collectors' items, academic value, pure arts and fine arts. In this article, I will focus on the difference between the two types of beauty.
Works of art range across genres such as paintings, sculptures, ceramics, lacquer ware, dyeing and garments, even if we limit our view to Japanese art only. Regardless of genre, artworks are divided into two types. One such type is entirely created by man: in other words, it is an artificial beauty. The other type is naturally occurring beauty, such as pottery without painted decoration, which is created by fire and other natural causes. This natural type includes contemporary art that presents beauty through performances.
I believe and hope that people can recover the kindness of human nature if I can help preserve and pass on the Japanese language and culture, which have been deteriorating very rapidly under the name of a global standard, and continue in my efforts to transmit the essence of the Japanese mind and the Japanese way to people of the world.

Created by man or by nature
Of course, although this categorization is not limited to artworks and can similarly be applied to the things around you, differences between the two types are an important point when trying to comprehend works of art. Artificial beauty has been pursued through culture and a long history: it is created by a person's awareness and the individual's energy to receive evaluation from others. On the other hand, naturally occurring beauty is the beauty of chance operation, borrowing energy from nature and the cosmos, and it is evaluated by people and society after it is created.
For example, beauty that is seen in classic or modern works of Nihonga (Japanese paintings) and lacquer ware, which is a representative art of Japan, is created by artists who continue to enhance their techniques and spirituality. Irrespective of whether it is appreciated by people, such beauty has been accepted by all people and is evaluated consistently, regardless of societal changes or the passing of time. Pottery such as Bizen-yaki and Shigaraki-yaki, or ceramics with natural paintings, which were originally created for daily use, and wooden folk art that enables you to appreciate its handmade quality, are fine arts created by the awareness of people who have evaluated them. I will examine the two concepts of beauty in greater detail in my next column.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.18

Two Big Categories
I wrote in the previous article (which is available at here) that artworks are divided into two types: one type is beauty entirely created by humans, in other words, it is an artificial beauty. The other type is beauty that naturally occurs and later is recognized as beauty by a third party. I would like to speak in more detail about artificial beauty in this article.
Cho-kin, or metal-carving, is one example of artificial beauty in Japanese art. Artists need a long period of training to master techniques of carving a chunk of metal into various forms and also have to continually hone their sense of beauty. The same may be said of virtually all other fields of artistic endeavor in Japan, from Japanese-style painting and lacquer ware to woodworking and clothing. In my definition, artificial beauty is created by individuals to be appreciated by other individuals.

To bring a smile
Artificial beauty brings people a sense of satisfaction and of being moved as the end result of the artist's own joyful process of creation and continual improving of technique. Artists create works as if driven or possessed by something.
Improved techniques and the heightened sense of beauty that they acquire through the process of creation in turn make their work ever more fascinating to themselves. One result is the pleasure and satisfaction they feel from being able to leave to posterity evidence - their art - that they have lived in this world.
On the other hand, viewers of the works of artificial art will be moved, and at the same time they will admire artists because they recognize in a work the artist's long period of training and effort, something which they cannot achieve themselves. And also might they not feel an urge to own and keep a particular work of art forever? The joy of creation leads to another person's smile, and this is the basic premise of artificial art and underlies also the pure art I will discuss in detail later.

All are artworks
Of course, beauty can be seen in everything around you, even in mundane items such as a coffee cup, a computer, stationery, or a poster on a wall, not just in grand nature and picturesque landscapes. Even in things as ordinary as daily-use coffee cups, we acquire and use them because we find function, charm or beauty in them. You surely have had the experience of buying some small article in spite of yourself because you were attracted by some pleasing detail of design or whatnot. This is also true in the case of artworks and antiques.
Regardless of whether we are talking of goods or services, all human creations derive from the consciousness and activities of designers or creators. The wellspring of this consciousness and activity is human energy. And for products or services to reach us, numerous other people add their energy along the way. In other words, all human creations are the materialized energy of those who create or deliver goods or engage in providing services. We recognize such energy as convenience, satisfaction, charm and beauty.

Beauty is energy
Some intellectuals in the 20th century claimed that awareness of beauty is acquired "imprinting" and we only accept that which parents, authorities or society recognize as beauty to be beauty. However, in my definition, artificial beauty is not passive awareness of beauty imprinted by others. It is an active beauty directly appealing to our feeling. It is energy that human beings feel instinctively.
As humans have formed communities or societies, beauty has been standardized, authorized, and in particular recently, deliberately manipulated and commercialized. I believe, however, that beauty is not an imprinted awareness or concept, nor is its value set by others. Our sense of beauty should not be something that merely accepts or follows a third party's value system. Beauty rather should be something felt spontaneously, based on our own senses and awareness, with a simple direct appeal. What is that "something"? It is my theory that beauty is energy having a kind of mass, an idea I will write about further in the next article.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.19

Naturally occurring beauty
In the previous three articles of this fifth series, I have been writing about my basic view toward art and works of fine art. In this article, I would like to write about naturally occurring beauty, which is the antithesis of the artificial beauty I wrote about in the previous article.
Naturally occurring beauty may be created by fire or by other natural causes such as change brought about by the passage of time. Take Japanese pottery such as Bizen-yaki and Shigaraki-yaki, for example. These potteries were originally produced for daily use without any intention of creating beauty. However, they acquired a kind of stored energy from the fire that created them and the passage of time and were appreciated as "beautiful" later. The major difference between artificial beauty, which is created by awareness, and naturally occurring beauty is that two kinds of energy - that of nature and of that of human appreciators - are essential for the latter type of beauty.

Power of Mother Nature and appreciation by human beings
In a broad sense, naturally occurring beauty ranges from, say. pebbles on a road to precious stones like diamonds. How we feel and appreciate things that are created by nature is of the essence of naturally occurring beauty. In other words, naturally occurring beauty can not be recognized as "beauty" without natural energy and human evaluators. Who is the third-party evaluator? In Japanese art, Yanagi Soetsu (1889-1961), a notable philosopher, provides a concise example. He advocated a "Mingei" (folk craft) movement in Japan in the late 1920s and 1930s, in which beauty was to be seen in everyday commodity goods, such as daily-use pottery or old agricultural instruments used for a long time.
His stance is similar to that of Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, who used commodity utensils for tea ceremonies, and whose aesthetic sense helped develop the ideas of wabi and sabi (beauty to be found in simplicity) that have strongly influenced Japanese people's sense of beauty. Gorgeous furnishings including folding screens and gold-lacquered utensils were also popular during those days. It is interesting that there were two, very different cultures that were favored during the same period.

Occurrence and evaluation
These days, some foreigners are aware of the Japanese wabi and sabi, but what we should not overlook is that the beauty of commodity utensils that Rikyu used for tea ceremonies while being an expression of natural energy was also recognized as beauty by a third party such as Rikyu, and it is because of this that they are considered beautiful. I dare say that they would have remained only commodity goods without one such as Rikyu.
It is a matter of preference, but I do not feel all tea ceremony utensils are beautiful. Most tea ceremony utensils are dark and somber, excluding some figurative creations such as lacquerware, Kyo, Iga and Oribe potteries. Regarding tea ceremony utensils, insight and a deep knowledge of masters of ceremonial tea who used such utensils is more important, and indeed the spirituality and aesthetic eye for beauty of these masters has long been held in high esteem. Therefore, the origin and history of a given utensil, in other words, who has recognized its beauty and who has owned it, is the most important thing in the tea ceremony world. Thus, the name of a particular utensil given it by a well-regarded aesthete or its owner's name as written on a wooden box used to preserve the utensil - called tomobako, - becomes essential, and this is a uniquely Japanese method to appreciate art works. I would like to explain more about tomobako in the future.

Responsibility to the future
What I would like to emphasize is that the artificial beauty I wrote about in the previous article, which is totally created by human beings, such as Japanese paintings and lacquerware, is beautiful on its own, whether you may like it or not. The value accorded to such beauty will never change as long as human beings continue to exist, just as humans recognize beautiful natural scenery as "beautiful."
Compared to the artificial beauty discussed in the previous article, in the case of naturally occurring beauty there is no intention to create such "beauty." It is not beauty until a person praises it as beautiful, including even in some abstract or avant-garde sense. If the evaluation or recognition of the evaluator himself changes, there is every possibility that the evaluation of the naturally occurring beauty itself will totally change. Currently in the world of fine art, performance art, which I feel is not firmly established as authentic art, is creating a new type of "beauty" which is gaining popularity, and many critics or museums highly praise such art. As a result such art is traded at a high price in all countries. However, you should decide with your own sensitivity just what such performance art is centered on and who acknowledges its value, with what awareness. At the same time, I feel that professional evaluators, including art dealers such as myself, should seriously think about whether the time has come for us to take responsibility to future generations for our current evaluations of such performance art.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.20

Beauty is Energy
I have written about two important categories through which we understand beauty in the first to the fourth articles in this fifth of a series of essays. The two categories are artificial beauty and naturally occurring beauty and I have explained the difference of origin of the two types of beauty. These thoughts are based on my theory that beauty is a kind of energy itself, not a mere concept.
Take Japanese maki-e lacquerware as an example. Maki-e is made of wood, Japanese lacquer, gold powder and shells. However, with only such simple materials, maki-e gives expression to a gorgeous and dazzling universe of black and gold. Simple materials are embodied into the art work of maki-e through a creator's energy. This is not limited to Japanese art, but is the same in Western painting. Why is it that oil colors on a canvas move people so much? It is because the painter's energy is physically materialized on the canvas and we feel and appreciate the energy through the painting.

Human Works and Acts of God
As I wrote in the previous article, naturally occurring beauty, which is one type of beauty, can be seen in rustic ceramics for daily use. These ceramics are not produced for beauty, but natural power such as fire and curling up of ashes in a kiln by accident creates something that human power can never create deliberately. Such energy is not only seen in ceramics but also in a scribbled line of ink or exposed natural objects. I dare say that their beauty is created by a kind of divine prank.
Of course, as commodities they will be eventually thrown away unless someone finds beauty in them. Similarly, avant-garde performance painting requires a third-party evaluation and is also naturally occurring beauty in a sense. Energy underlies both artificial beauty and naturally occurring beauty and even if something is artificially created for the purpose of beauty, it could become either a commodity or an art work depending on the amount of energy infused in it.

Energy of God
The difference of the amount of energy in artificial beauty stems from the difference of creator's skills and training for creation of beauty, and the goal of artificial beauty is also in a sense an act of God, like naturally occurring beauty. People often say maestros and artists are possessed by some supernatural power and that means they have skills and abilities to create astonishing works beyond mere human power. The works possessing such creator's energy are definitely different from other works.
That's why I have recognized beauty as energy in this fifth series regardless of whether talking about artificial beauty or naturally occurring beauty, because the difference of the two types of beauty is that the former has energy through a person and the latter has energy directly from God. Both are also under the sway of another form of energy, time, and will change with the passage of time. The moment when the God energy is the most beautiful depends on the individual work, and especially we should understand that naturally occurring beauty is a short-lived glow that soon begins to wither over time.

From existence to value
I hope readers to understand that there are two types of beauty depending on the way that works get their energy: one is works created by a person inspired by God's energy and another is works naturally created by accident, as if a prank or whim of God, and evaluated by a third party in a later age, as I have written in the previous articles in this fifth series.
Next I would like to expound my view that there are four additional kinds of beauty depending on a person's values. The four kinds of values indicated are: value as pure art, value as fine art, academic value, and value for collectors. I aspire to share my detailed views of the four kinds of values with the sixth series of articles starting in January 2009.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.21

Since starting the fifth of a series of essays last autumn, I have written about the concept of beauty, which is the basis of appreciation or collection of art, featuring two large categories depending on the origin of the beauty in each category. Starting with this article, I would like to write about four kinds of works of art or art collection in terms of their cultural significance or evaluation.
All works of art are not beautiful in a general sense. We can distinguish four kinds of beauty such as pure art, fine art, academic value, and value for collectors, in terms of the creator's intention or an individual's evaluation. Of course, there are always exceptions, and there are works of art containing not only one kind but two or more of the four types mentioned above. In general, it can be said that the more kinds of beauty a work has, the higher its monetary value becomes. However, even if a work contains more beauty value, it is not always regarded as beautiful by everyone. Based on this fact, I would first like to discuss pure art, which is originally produced for the purpose of creating something beautiful, from the viewpoint of its meaning and its evaluation as art.

Pure Art
Pure art means beauty that persons created through their effort to make other people happy or satisfied, such as Japanese paintings and Japanese lacquer ware. It also includes decorative art and craft products. Its root is in the colors and objects in nature that human beings naturally feel to be beautiful and are comfortable with. Loved by many people, pure art generally reflects the collective consciousness of an era. Artists create works, driven by their impulse to make beautiful things. Techniques, personal experiences, pursuit of beauty, ideas of the way things should be - all of these are condensed in works of pure art. Antiques that preserve such pure art also embody the desires and energy of the people who have preserved them.

Beauty wavelength
As I wrote in the previous essay, one of the themes of this fifth chapter is that beauty is energy and works of art are materialization of the energy of people who are involved in their creation, and we recognize a kind of "wavelength" emanating such works internalizing energy as beauty. Take sound as an example to explain the wavelength. Sounds that people can hear including a human voice and music are within a certain range of frequency and sounds beyond the range are called ultrasound. Beauty has a certain frequency and we recognize it as shape and color.
When experts of art like me see a line on a white paper drawn in Japanese ink, one line might merely be seen as a stain but another line may be seen as a ridgeline of a mountain. It is because the line has a certain frequency people feel beautiful, depending on the location on the paper, the stroke and thickness. What people like depends on what frequency they get in tune with, in addition to likes or dislikes of colors and shapes. As we cannot listen to an FM broadcast on an AM radio, likewise if we cannot be in tune with each frequency of beauty, we cannot find beauty in the object we behold. Therefore, whether we can recognize beauty depends on our capacity as a receiver.

Meaning of the Wavelength
All objects around us are a materialization of something in nature materialized by human energy. Your coffee cups and personal computers have the same meaning in terms of something human beings created from materials in nature. These objects are created in different shapes depending on purposes and roles. In this way, works of art have their own purposes and roles and are materialized by awareness and energy, which are different from those for commodity creation.
Pure art is created by an artist's awareness and techniques, simply aiming to make beautiful things for people, and energy incorporated into such works of art has a wavelength of beauty. It is different from the wavelength of manufactured commodities. And each work of art has its own wavelength. Fine art, the topic I would like to write about in the next essay, has a different wavelength depending on the energy embodied in the work. Making comparisons to pure art, I would like to discuss the energy and wavelength of fine art, as well as the meaning of beauty for collectors and that of academic beauty, respectively.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.22

Fine Art
Following pure art that is created by energy to make a beautiful thing as I wrote about in the previous article, I would next like to talk about fine art. In this article, I do not use the word "fine art" only to describe art aiming to create beauty. It also includes works depicting misery of wars such as the masterpiece Guernika by Pablo Picasso or works by Vincent van Gogh, which show his inner agony behind the beautifully colorful exterior.
In this way, some fine art works express the artists' emotions such as woe, grief, anger, or hatred, as well as their ideological views. Some works do not include the energy of beauty. Furthermore, fine art works reflect an evaluation of the way the artists live, the era they live in, and the thought of the era. In other words, the art is influenced by the surrounding energy, not only by the artists' energy. Unlike in the case of pure art, such energy cannot be accepted by all people without protest. Moreover, the art is also the beauty entirely created by humans and its values are changeable by a third party's evaluation, as I wrote in the third chapter of this series.

Meaning of Art
Fine art expresses the mindset and inwardness of a person, aside from pursuit of beauty or skill. In a sense, this is the kind of expression seen in a novel depicting the author's private life, and it is difficult for others to evaluate in some cases. Because feelings of agony and conflict are different individually depending on a person's background or position, it is from the beginning impossible to understand except for the individual. However, the strong energy contained in art works can often move people's feelings and are positively evaluated by those who feel empathy for such works.
Budding forth in Europe, fine art established a new concept - spiritual beauty - which afterward combined with, and found expression through, each era's thought and philosophy. However, this beauty is not a pure revelation of pre-existing human energy. It is rather a creation via a social energy which reflects the thought of the era through an artist's performance. Such works have been highly evaluated by certain experts or dealers and their value increased commercially through salons and exhibits.

The Japanese Way
After the opening of the country at the end of the 19th century, many people argued that art should emphasize spirituality and the European definition of originality should be accepted even in Japan.
Such a view downgraded Japan's traditional decorative works of art and craft works, which I believe is a complete misunderstanding. For example, such people have evaluated works by Ito Jakuchu higher than those by the traditional Kano School painters, because they think Jakuchu has more originality. However, this understanding ignores the originality and background of Oriental beauty, and also demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the Orient.
In Japan, spiritual beauty is something creators seek within themselves before they start creation, unlike in the West where it is expressed through works. In other words, it is not expressed outwardly. It is rather a result obtained through technical training everyday, looking inwardly toward their selves, and heightening their spirituality. It is an absolute beauty than does not need theory or a third party's evaluation. Consequently, there was no Japanese word meaning "art" in Japan until the beginning of the 20th century.

From Real Article to Essence
In Europe after the Industrial Revolution, due to social change and development of a money economy, works of art became more and more like financial products, while the newly rich replaced former patron classes. Apart from the original meaning and evaluation of the works, works have also come to be evaluated by monetary value, or market price. Nowadays, evaluation of most works of art, including abstract paintings, is evaluation by experts who have the same awareness and thought as the creators of the works. To be art, a work require authorities' evaluation or contract price at auctions in addition to the creators' energy. However, such evaluation may well change as time passes and evaluation of the authorities changes. The value of a work is an unstable value, in a sense.
Contemporary art, whose high contract price at auctions draws a great deal of attention, is evaluated by certain experts, and the value accorded includes the expertise of the experts. In other words, the value of art depends on who evaluated it and how much it was bid at auction. Furthermore, some types of contemporary art are "performance art" not grounded in any real techniques, and I think some of them are not worthy of the name "art." With such chaotic values today, we ought to judge works of art by our own good sense as to whether they are genuinely evaluated as art or rather evaluated as financial products, even if they are created by world prominent artists or highly praised in the world.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.23

Fine Art
I chose the topics of pure art, which is created by energy to make a beautiful thing and fine art, which is created to express human being's awareness, among various types of arts, and wrote about the difference between the two in the previous two articles of this series. There are other categories of beauty, such as academic beauty, and beauty for collectors. In this article, I would like to discuss academic beauty, which has both academic and historic value; for example, ancient earthenware, haniwa clay images, ancient documents and letters, and historical calligraphy and paintings in Japan. They present us with naturally occurring beauty as well as materials for academic research, and some of them are highly evaluated as art objects.
Beauty for collectors indicates something that is valued for its design and scarcity and maintains price and value among collectors, such as classic cars, or jukeboxes made in the 1960s, even though they are engineering products. Of course, if the item is made by hand, it will be valued higher and the price, too, will likely be higher. This type of beauty, however, is a special thing for some people who appreciate it, but not beauty that all people acknowledge.

Meaning of Art
The theme of the fifth series is "Beauty is Energy". In this perspective, a classic car embodies energy of the earth, which creates iron and other natural materials, energy of people who conceive an idea, create and design cars, using the latest technology and reflecting the times. If the beauty is that of an archaeological site, it is home to the energy of the planet that has been eroding the land for a long time, and energy of people involved in research, excavation, preservation and study, as well as energy of ancient people. Energy is a wave that has will and carries information.
A thing that embodies energy has a certain vibration frequency and a certain wavelength. Even if it is a mass-production item, it embodies energy of a lot of people through the process from design, creation, package, promotion, and distribution by sales persons and distributors. All things embody such waves of energy.

The Japanese Way
I conveniently divide beauty among four categories to explain the concept. But, I do not want to say that works of art are better than works of fine art that are only beautiful, or that items which only some collectors love are valueless, or archaeological and historic items are valueless because I am not interested in such judgments. They are only different. There is neither intrinsic superiority nor inferiority, and the different categories are neither higher nor lower.
People have found beauty in various items and collected them, be they pure art works, fine art works, collector's items or ancient relics. Feeling - and feeling in tune with - the waves of energy lodging in such items, people have been drawn by such energy in a way that transcends reason. There may be people who do not wish to possess art works or craft objects, even if they are free. But, even in such a case it does not mean that he / she does not have an ability to appreciate beauty. It simply means he / she does not "tune in" with works of art, but rather tunes in with something else.

From Real Article to Essence
Various items are distributed in the market as art works. However, even some valueless items in terms of beauty are highly praised and pass current in the market, their promoters using mass media, financial power or other methods. Even if successful bid prices at auctions are high, or if the "background" of an item seems excellent, there are not a few "art works" whose value of beauty is fabricated through varied measures. That's the reason why I have repeatedly written about the four categories of beauty in this fifth series.
I will discuss methods of fabricating values of beauty in the next article. Before that, I hope you will have understood the meaning of beauty and true value of beauty as I have written about them since last autumn. Values of beauty differ depending on creation, surrounding circumstance, demand and evaluation. Furthermore, monetary values are also changeable depending on the times. All the more reason, then, that you should understand the real meaning of something you recognize as beauty. Something people think genuine can be faked by techniques and added values. Under the current chaotic situation, a number of "genuine" items are fabricated. Henceforward, I hope you will have insight into the true nature of beauty, rather than being content just to judge something a "genuine item".

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.24

Fine Art
The time quickly goes. I have written 23 pieces of this series of columns under the general theme of "Japanese people do not know about Japan," (all of which are available on www.fuji-torii.com.) Through these articles, I have endeavored to have readers become more aware of Japanese culture and Japanese people's mentality, which have been retreating as globalization advances. This trend, however, is not limited only to Japan, and may be seen in other countries. In the fifth series, concerned mainly with the concept of "Beauty," I have been explaining how much we have been led astray by false values that are foisted upon us by various types of "Imprinting."
Several years ago, when a person who was associated with the Japanese government was buying a gift that was to be presented to a foreigner by the prime minister, he was reminded that Fuji-Torii knew personally the producers of goods that were sold at our shop. Our shop has been particular about "made in Japan" since its establishment. Most creators and artisans of our shop's products have worked for us since my father was the owner, and I know most of them as well as related persons in producing districts. It is regrettable that recently, some sources send made-in-Japan samples to other Asian countries to make copies and then have them sent back to Japan only to package and sell. According to the government official, they cannot use such goods as government's gifts because they are sometimes sold at extremely low prices in China Towns or other places overseas.

Meaning of Art
In fact, many Japanese craft works and works of art are copied in Asian countries. It is becoming difficult to find fancy goods made in Japan. Sophisticated fakes of early Imari ware or Satsumayaki pottery, which ordinary Japanese persons cannot recognize, are sometimes seen at overseas auctions. Regarding Japanese tansu (chest of drawers), which are popular among foreign people, already you can no longer find old and authentic ones on the market. Until several years ago, we saw imitations of Japanese tansu in the Japanese market that were made in Korea, using old timber for faking antique tansu. Now, most of them are made in China. If you buy such Japanese-style tansu, knowing these facts, there is no problem and it is reasonable because the price is probably lower. However, some shoddy goods warp or become misshapen due to present-day air conditioning, and in the worst case, some of them are no longer usable after just one winter.
Actually, selling such shoddy goods to foreigners has always been done. Some dealers for foreigners have been selling shoddy goods which have an easy-to-understand design or theme for foreigners, such as "Mount Fuji," "Geisha," or "Samurai Warriors," saying that foreigners cannot recognize whether they are authentic or not, anyway. The situation of souvenirs for foreign tourists is worse. Pictures or craft works whose nationality is unidentified are sold. Most yukata cotton kimono or kimono sold for tourists are made of cheap chemical fibers made in other countries, and I believe that most Japanese people would not buy such clothes even if they were asked to by somebody. It is all the more imperative that we sell authentic goods to foreigners, because they may not have much information and knowledge of Japan. As a Japanese, I am ashamed of such activities.

The Japanese Way
When we Japanese people go to Hawaii, at local shops we often buy magnets that we use to put memos on refrigerators, and on the magnets "Hawaii" is printed. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are made in U.S. We simply buy them as one of the mementos or souvenirs that we have to buy with a limited budget. In Japan, I heard recently some Japanese tour guides lead tourists to 100-yen shops. But I am leery of such a situation because I have seen a quasi-Japanese-style painting depicting a beautiful woman at some such discount shop. The woman in the picture looks like a geisha whose hair is done up elaborately with many chopsticks, but she wears Korean traditional dress as she walks with Mount Fuji in the background. Her nationality is unknown.
Guides may not have any reason to stop foreigners from buying such a picture if they like it and its price is low. However, if guides do not show any authentic Japanese craft works or works of art to foreign guests and the guests do not have opportunities to choose, it is, I believe, a form of bad manners on the part of guides. And the worse thing is that such pictures and craft works are distributed around the world as "made in Japan."

From Real Article to Essence
Non-Japanese readers might be amazed and chuckle at these situations. However, in fact, such things may be happening to you. This is because in the course of some 60 years after WWII, information about Japanese craft works and works of art has become quite dubious. Some non-Japanese customers of our shop have Japanese spouses, but even such customers are not well informed about Japanese culture and art. Even though their spouses are Japanese, and even though they have been living in Japan for a long time, if the information they get is wrong, it is meaningless.
Japanese people do not know as much about Japan as non-Japanese people think they do, and what is more, they have little or no knowledge of craft works and art works. This is due to the following reasons: history and culture of Japan have not been taught in the postwar educational curricula; traditional culture has not been passed down from generation to generation as the trend toward nuclear families has gained momentum; and many people do not have opportunities to see and appreciate authentic art works because such things have also not been taught. All this has led to Japanese people's indifference to their own country. Therefore I believe, it is impossible for foreigners to get good information about Japanese craft works and works of art from Japanese people, and in many cases, the mistaken information that a Japanese person provides as a makeshift response to foreigners' inquiries takes on a life of its own among foreigners.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.25

Fine Art
In the previous 10th chapter, I wrote that many art works and craft works are sold as made in Japan, but, in fact, they are copies of Japanese design made in other Asian countries. To be sure, even works such as these are similar to Japanese art works, as both have an "Oriental atmosphere" for Western people, and it is difficult to recognize the difference if they are copied precisely. In a broad sense, both works are in the same category of "made in Asia." However, our shop and I stick to made in Japan and made by hand.
This is because art works and craft works of each country are a product of the climate and history of the country, and have been preserved and handed down for centuries by the people of the country, and as such represent the tradition and culture of the country. In other words, art works and craft works of each country are spiritual creations of the people of the nation, formed from their own blood.

Meaning of Art
Most art works and craft works in the world have their origins in Ancient Egypt. Techniques of Ancient Egypt spread to other places in the world, fused into the local climate and materials, and changed and developed with the local tradition and culture, through natural selection. Therefore, ceramics are called "china" and lacquerware is called "japan" in English, because these industrial arts flourished in China and Japan respectively.
As I wrote in the previous article, Japan and Japanese people have the unique characteristic that they accept and adopt information and culture brought by people from the continent and refine such information and culture to a new level. It is partly because Japan is an island country located at the far easternmost limits of Eurasia. This fact has also influenced the development of art works and craft works. As seen in the treasures of Shoso-in of Todai-ji Temple in Nara Prefecture, Japanese people have developed many things imported from other countries along the lines of their unique sensibilities. With their receptive mind, Japanese people have accepted many people and goods from the continent and have adopted their culture and techniques since ancient times.

The Japanese Way
Art works and craft works are similar to food culture, which also has deep ties with the culture and tradition of each country. Cuisine is strongly influenced by the local ingredients and climate, and, as a result, there are various types of cuisines, such as French, Chinese and Japanese. These ingredients and foods are a fusion of the natural energy of the land and local people's energy. I call this the "Energy of Food" in the same way that I used the term "Energy of Beauty," which I wrote about in previous articles of the Fifth Series. Many foods from all over the world can be eaten in Japan, especially in Tokyo.
Recently, in many big cities like New York, French, Italian, or Chinese food cooked by Japanese chefs has been available, too. However, I believe dishes cooked by Japanese chefs are Japanese cuisine cooked in French style, Italian style or Chinese style. Of course, there are many pseudo French or Chinese foods in the world that are merely superficial imitations. In contrast to these, other country's dishes cooked by Japanese chefs become different dishes from the original ones thanks to their ingredient selection and innovations, regardless of the climatic aspects and ingredients of the original food.

From Real Article to Essence
For a long time, it has been said of Japanese people that they are good at imitation, but they also have a special talent for accepting things and developing and refining them in their own way, as I wrote above. This is true in art works and craft works. Japanese people have accepted various things and techniques from overseas, adopted them into their own culture and tradition, and eventually produced improved and original things. One of the reasons for this is that Japan has not been occupied by a foreign country for as many as 2,000 years, and also was closed to the outside world for a long period during the Edo era.
Sometimes we see images in the media in which high-end European brand watches or bags imitated in Asian countries are rounded up and thrown onto a scrap heap. Even though these pirated goods are sophisticatedly imitated, imitations are only imitations and fakes are only fakes. Such imitations or fakes do not have energy of people who create and foster the brand, and also do not embody the concern and skills of creators who care about the users or owners of the product. These imitations have a mean spirit aiming only to make a profit. I have no objection to the notion of more people becoming able to purchase higher-quality products at cheaper cost. However, because imitations and cheap products spread in a disorderly way, traditional crafts and skills have been lost in many countries, and tradition, culture, pride and spirit of the nation are also disappearing. One reason I have continued writing these articles is to sound a warning about such situations.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.26

The picture accompanying this article is "Urushiori," a lacquered bookmark that I designed and produce. The purpose of creating it is to preserve Japan's unique techniques of lacquer in the face of the ebbing of Japanese traditional crafts, to enable young craft workers to have a secure life and to improve their techniques - in order to do so, they need more jobs - and to introduce the beauty of Japan to as many people as possible. Urushiori are hand-made in Japan. Craft workers coat lacquer on a 0.6 mm-thick hinoki plate by hand to make it 0.8 mm thick. Then, craft workers from various places in Japan draw patterns on the plate using lacquer, maki-e, and other traditional methods. The number of the designs is as many as 60 kinds.
This Urushiori is made of wood, lacquer, gold powder and parts of shells. This beautiful bookmark is created with only these simple materials. This beauty is the embodiment of the awareness, experience and techniques of concerned persons who first made prototypes for strength-testing and then, making cost calculations along the way, painstakingly combined the elements to create a small but beautiful product. In other words, it is a crystallization of their energy. Even if we were to use the latest computer and other technologies, I do not believe that we could make such a beautifully finished product.

Definition of Energy
I use the word energy not to indicate only physical energy such as working time or creation itself. When we act or work, results of our activities become very different depending on our awareness as we act. In daily work starting with coming to the office and dealing with important tasks of the day, whether we work routinely only "according to the manual" or whether we work with a sense of purpose, the performance of the work will differ greatly. In the latter situation, there is an energy stemming from a self-motivated sense when we work, and this energy also means a spirit to make others happy. It - the energy - can not come from forced labor or mere duty.
According to the latest physics theory, human beings' awareness has a mass. In the same way, thought and mind of each human being comprise waves, each with its own length, and waves are energy having information and awareness. This energy has a unique vibration frequency. People act in accordance with this energy and construct this world we are living in.
Proving the existence of this energy is very easy; it is understood through communication behavior. For example, in the morning, when you smile and cheerfully say "Good morning!" to your family or colleagues, they also return a smile. Depending on the energy coming from your awareness, the amount and type of energy you receive is variable.

What we cannot see
For us to see something, light is necessary. We recognize the shape and color of something in three dimensions, through how it absorbs or reflects the light. In addition, in this world, there are various rays such as ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays and cosmic rays as well as visual rays and infrared. Depending on vibration frequencies, some rays are visible and others are not. Regarding physical matter, atoms, molecules, neutrons and quarks each has their own peculiar structure and each their own vibration frequency and quanta of energy. They cannot normally be seen.
My understanding is that that awareness of human beings is also invisible but is a form of energy with an extremely high vibration frequency, which is similar to ether or energetic particles but cannot be measured by the current scientific techniques. Naturally, I believe thoughts and wishes of human beings are vibration frequencies with a certain wave length and energy. In Japan, there is a word "ishin-denshin," which means that we can understand the mind and thoughts of other people without anything being said. In a sense, it may describe the considerateness of Japanese people - that they are able to put themselves in another person's position.

Energy of Beauty
We create something by changing natural materials in the world through our awareness and techniques. To make Urushiori, craftsmen, using their experience and techniques, cut trees down, saw up and slice wood and form it into shapes, and repeatedly coat it with lacquer, which is made from the sap of urushi trees. Of course, this process includes energy in the form of physical power and time, but the finish is dependent on energy of creators because vibration frequencies that the creators have acquired through their training and study over time influences their works. This makes a picture that painters paint different from one that I paint, art works different from consumption goods, art works different from disposables, and articles for presentation different from mass-produced goods.
Works of art include all essences creators possess, such as awareness and techniques that they have honed through training and study and their life experience, and also their mindset, in the shape of waves, and each work emits its own waves. In this way, each work has a unique vibration frequency. In other words, the difference comes from creators' energy in how they have combined simple materials. When we see art works, we tend first of all to be interested in color, shape or design, but, in fact, we directly feel and appreciate the energy of beauty of the works.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.27

From my viewpoint, recent values or prices of art works and antiques,and also their supply system, are extremely abnormal. Furthermore, it seems that the economic turmoil since last year have been further confusing the situation. At some auctions including in New York, some works are sold at surprisingly high prices, and I am often asked by customers and acquaintances whether those works have values equal to the prices. It is certain that some sold prices (successful bid prices) are far beyond normal prices, but, in the first place, I want to make clear that such a question itself is a misunderstanding.
Sold prices at open auctions, where anyone can participate and those who offer the highest prices can buy, do not always reflect original prices and values of art works. If several collectors are eager to obtain some item at an auction, they compete to obtain it and as a result its sold price may be higher than its original value. The opposite case could also occur. Even though some work of art is highly praised and valuable, if no one is interested in it at an auction, it is not sold there. This does not mean, however, the work of art does not have a value.

Definition of Energy
In this way, sold prices at auctions are dependent on relative values, and some works of art are not appreciated and not even priced if no one understands their value, even though they are beautiful or precious. Conversely, some works are sold at stunningly high prices because of the creator's popularity or intention of speculation, even though they have little value as art. The momentary sold price at an auction is totally different from true evaluation of art works.
Of course, an auction's host expects bids and places the initial estimated prices in the catalog. However, such estimated prices are only expectations based on past performances, and never guarantee the value and price of goods. The responsibility of an auction host is only to manage the auction, and it is the successful bidders who are responsible for sold prices. Many people do not know this fact and this has for years been leading to confusion of values and prices of art works.

What we cannot see
The following story is my fiction: I have two friends. Mr. A is an artist of contemporary art and professor of an art collage. Mr. B is an executive of an auction house. I commissioned Mr. A to make a work for 1 million dollars. At the same time, I requested Mr. B to auction the work by A and told him that I would buy it by myself for 10 million dollars, requesting him to discount the usual 20 percent fee to 10 percent. Actually, when I win the bid at 10 million dollars, 9 million dollars will come back to me after paying 1 million dollars (10 percent fee) to the auction house. The total cost to get the work is 2 million dollars, including 1 million to Mr. B's auction house and 1 million to Mr. A.
As a result, Mr. A's work has a record that it was sold for 10 million dollars at Mr. B's auction. Moreover, while I ask other friends, Mr. C who works at a publisher and Mr. D who is a critic, to promote Mr. A's work as one which has a 10 million value, I repeat this type of auction and bidding three times. When I auction Mr. A's work for the fourth time, if other collectors or investment funds buy it for 10 million dollars in accordance with information from the media and the past bidding results, I would gain 3 million dollars, subtracting a total of 7 million dollars in costs for the four auctions. This story is a fiction but it is possible to fabricate a value in this way.

Energy of Beauty
I have written in articles of the fifth chapter of this series, "Power of Beauty," that values of beauty are different from evaluations and prices in the market. This is not only limited to art works. In general, evaluations and prices of goods are decided by market principles including supply and demand. However, such values are not always equal to true values. You must judge the true values by yourself. We are living in an information society, which has been established in the decades after WWII and has imprinted various values in our minds through information. For example, we naturally remember the name of a household detergent because its TV commercial is repeatedly aired. If an item is famous, or if critics and academic experts have highly praised it, we tend to assume it is valuable. In addition, we have come to judge values and prices of goods and things only through vague standards such as majority opinion or "collective consciousness."
After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, various types of information have been disclosed, and we have begun to understand that some aspects of ideology and even religion are a kind of economic activity and that the money economy is a system to amass wealth by some limited persons or limited groups. As a result, conventional values are collapsing. Under the unprecedented chaos of the global economy, many people are starting to seek the real substance of things, instead of pseudo truths or values. Away from the system of money worship, they are pursuing an authentic way of life as human beings. I ask myself why only human beings appreciate beauty, and what is the meaning of owning art? It is high time for us to reexamine such questions, and putting aside contemporary values foisted upon us by mass media, to rediscover authentic values in the world of art.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.28

There were no words for "art" or "fine arts" in Japan until Western awareness and values were introduced after the country opened to the outside world in the middle of the 19th century. Until then, Japanese people did not have a concept of fine arts. Things now defined as works of art were furnishings or ornaments of daily life. For example, items ranging from paintings on gorgeous folding screens of lords to ukiyoe woodblock prints that commoners enjoyed looking at were not different in terms of values. The difference was only in creators and users. Formerly, people did not have any special conscious intention to create artworks.
Antique goods that we appreciate now were just utility articles diligent Japanese people made. As I wrote before, Japan had a culture to distinguish things among those for everyday use and others for special occasions. Depending on the purpose, people simply chose and used utensils or gifts whose class and quality were most fitted for that purpose. The quality was attributed to the cost, skills of creators and craft workers, and energy involved in the making.

Definition of Energy
Many ukiyoe, or woodblock prints, which were made during the Edo period are owned by many museums overseas and are highly praised. However, they were prints for commoners who could not buy precious original paintings, and even now many of them are printed repeatedly. As you may know, Japanese ukiyoe had a big impact on Western painters, including Renoir and Van Gogh, from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, with their unique composition and expression. But they were only entertainment prints for ordinary people in Japan. Monochrome prints of picture books were torn out and used for air cushioning when ceramics were shipped during the Meiji era when paper ran short. An Ukiyoe was, after all, only a cheap print and a consumable and disposable item.
Japan has produced uncountable original paintings during some 2,000 years of history. Even only during the Edo period from 1603 to 1867, painters of several schools, such as the Tosa school, Kano school and Rin school, fostered expert painters and met demand from nobles, lords and merchants who began to have economic power. Ito Jakuchu, a painter who recently has been highly re-evaluated following the Price Collection of Edo Era Paintings exhibition in Tokyo, and Shibata Zeshin whose works are now on display at Mitsui Memorial Museum, are just two of the outstanding and unique painters of those days. In Japan, however, works by these famous painters were not usually sold at commercial shops in town, unlike ukiyoe. Most of them were custom-made and were rarely displayed to the public or distributed for sale through usual channels.

What we cannot see
Many Western-style systems were introduced to Japan from the time of the Meiji era. Among them, the system that had the largest influence on Japan was European-style market economy. In this economy, the value of all things including food and labor are measured by money. Certainly, this system was rational and useful. Japanese artworks and artifacts were soon involved in this system, and antiques as well. To establish their market values and put them on the market as financial products, fair evaluation and publication of the evaluation were needed. Thus, public viewing opportunities such as exhibitions or expos, public organizations, and critic°«s evaluation came to be necessary.
In Western countries, newly wealthy capitalists who flourished after the Industry Revolution in the 18th century had already started to appreciate and put a value on artworks and artifacts - which had in former times been only furnishings and ornaments as they were in Japan - from a monetary standpoint. Salons and auctions judged values and prices of art works, and evaluation and value judgment by authorities including researchers and critics underlay such values and prices. In this way, art works and antiques have come to be treated as financial products.

Energy of Beauty
Do you know the reason why works of Van Gogh have a value of hundreds of millions of dollars? Perhaps, I believe, we think the high prices make sense because our minds are imprinted with the notion that Van Gogh°«s works are high priced. This is not only limited to Van Gogh. I often wonder who decides prices of artworks and antiques in the world, and how? Are there any standards? There are many creators in the world and most create their works seriously, except for some artists who create only for performance and for self-conceit. If creator°«s works are not praised by critics and the mass media, or if their works do not have value on the market, does it mean such works do not have any value?
The folding screen of °»Genpei gassen war°… (see the picture accompanying this article) was an interior decoration of a lord, which was painted around 1750 in the middle of the Edo period. Its price is one tenth of that of a Van Gogh work. What makes the difference of the prices? This is a problem not only for art works, so I would like to conclude by raising a question; What is our standard of judgment to decide values and prices of things, and, most fundamental of all, what is valuable for human beings? I believe that in the current chaotic times we can find hints to survive in the new era through reexamining our awareness and value systems, including a rethinking of the true meaning of art appreciation and collection.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.29

Needless to say, a thing's value is relative and depends on the knowledge and information of the person who evaluates it. It is also dependent on the background and experiences of the person. So many men, so many opinions. If you are not interested in or do not have knowledge of art works and antiques, they are little more than useless objects. Sad to say, even in the 21st century, many people in many countries lack the necessities of everyday life and cannot enjoy any art. Fortunately, I was born and grew up in Japan in this life, one of the wealthiest countries on the earth, and enjoy opportunities such as to write these articles, something I am now appreciating anew.
Nowadays major cities in the world are full of art works and antiques. However, as I wrote in previous articles (available on http://www.fuji-torii.com), the standards by which some things are defined as °»art°… and °»antique°… are problematical. Sold prices in open auctions could be a guideline. But an auction is like a popularity contest, and even though the sold price of a work is high, its value is different depending on who buys and why they buy. On the other hand, even though something is bought at a low price, it can be valuable in terms of beauty. Prices do not always reflect art work°«s values.

Definition of Energy
I was asked a question by one of my readers, who read the previous article, about values and prices of woodblock prints called "ukiyoe" produced during the Edo period (1603-1867) and those of replicas. Like many foreign people who think so, he misunderstood that only few dozens of woodblock prints were made from one original painting when it was created. In fact, printing blocks of popular design have been carved many times and a large amount of prints have been printed since the Edo period when the original was painted.
In the Meiji period (1868-1912), many Japanese woodblock prints were shipped overseas and their Japanese design and composition were highly praised, and their exoticism also contributed to their vogue. Since Renoir collected and Van Gogh imitated, ukiyoe became well known and many museums in Europe and the United States came to own large collections. Works of Utamaro and Sharaku are sometimes dealt in auctions at surprisingly high prices. However, woodblock prints were originally cheap printed works for the amusement of commoners in Japan. Certainly, some first-printed prints are special because the painter of the original painting, carving and printing artisans, and publishers got together for deciding colors or subtle adjustments.But, from the second printing, publishers freely reduce the number of printing blocks, change colors and continue printing many times.

What we cannot see
I would never deny that woodblock prints are beautiful and charming. My antique shop deals with woodblock prints that were made from the Edo to Meiji periods, as well as their current reproductions, along with hand painted folding screens and hanging scrolls. Based on the energy of the original painting, carving artisans carve many blocks for each color, and printing artisans carefully print over and over. Woodblock prints produced through such processes definitely constitute beauty in which each person°«s energy is fused. But, perhaps someone may wonder why these mass-produced prints are sold at such high prices at auctions. The reason is that works of rare creators or rare composition are priceless for collectors.
Recently offset prints and print-outs from a computer or scanned photographs have been sold as art works much as if they were hand paintings, woodblock prints or lithographs. These new types of works using new technology are sometimes sold at higher prices than those of hand paintings made in the Edo or Meiji periods, depending on the creator°«s popularity. To me this is a strange phenomenon. Of course, each person has his or her own view of values. However, energy of prints is different from that of hand paintings, and the popularity of this or that work or its creator is different from the intrinsic worth of its beauty. I believe readers who have been reading this series of articles already understand these things.

Energy of Beauty
As I wrote in the previous article, such confusion surrounding values and prices of art works and antiques stems from lack of education and information regarding beauty. In addition, I think there are fabrication and manipulation for profit behind this confusion. As I wrote in °»The Power of Beauty,°… the 13th article of this series, if you have money, you can manipulate the evaluation and price of some art works. And not only in art, such fabrication and manipulation has been done in various other fields in the 20th century as the economy expanded decade after decade.
In the fifth essay of "The Power of Beauty," I have been explaining that beauty is a kind of energy. I cast doubt on evaluation of art as mere "performance" and also on speculation-driven prices of art works. At the same time, I proposed that we try to measure every type of beauty with the same scale of energy, apart from monetary values of the 20th century. My intention is to view contemporary society through the prism of beauty and in doing so to reexamine what exactly are our standards of judgment and values regarding art and other things, what these standards are based upon, and who it is that decides these standards and values. While continuing to think about beauty, I sincerely hope to share such thoughts with you.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.30

Essence rather than the real thing
When you make judgments about various values of beauty in art, you should do so comprehensively, including in your judgment awareness of what standards people who have criticized or evaluated the art work in question have and what the sources of their awareness and values are, in addition to the art itself. This is because such criticism and evaluation have not always been pure criticism or evaluation of the art itself. Although there have always been sound criticism and opinions to counter dubious criticism and evaluation in any age, it is also a fact that sound criticism and opinions have been dismissed or marginalized by a kind of power which aims to make a monetary profit from art.
As I wrote in the articles of this fifth series, nowadays values of beauty of many art objects themselves are fabricated and art is bought and sold like financial products. Certainly, in terms of the values of capitalism, the monetary evaluation - the price - is the true reflection of the value of the work. Ambiguous things such as beauty and human mind have no value. If something does not make a profit, it will not be considered necessary.
In this way, the values and systems that deal with beauty and also the human mind as products have come to have a malign influence on society, I believe. Who made these values and systems, and for what and for whose benefit? Under a relativistic value system, we can recognize light as light because there is darkness. Now, however, I would like to rethink whether the "light" that people recognized as light is really light, and the "darkness" really darkness. I believe we should redefine our values, setting aside conventional values and stereotypes we have been imprinted with and become familiar with.

Meaning of these articles
I have written 16 articles in the fifth series entitled "Power of Beauty." In these articles, I wrote that beauty is energy itself, and sought the essence of beauty through a study of the quality and quantity of beauty. And also, in accordance with types or genres of energy which beauty includes, I categorized the various types of beauty _ beauty which has now come to be distorted by monetary values. My aim has been to show you how to properly see beauty and how to choose art works. At the same time, I hoped to help you to understand what Japanese beauty is.
Many Japanese people do not know the history or have knowledge of the art objects of their own country, due to the distorted postwar education curriculum. Even more basic than that, they have little awareness of the country they were born in, Japan. To be sure, art works and antiques have been dealt with only by experts and dilettanti. And Japanese people have rarely had occasion to talk about Japanese beauty and its essence to non-Japanese people. Besides, we antique dealers ourselves have not done that. In the steadily growing postwar economy, absorbed in selling only, many dealers did not put any particular effort into appreciating beauty or developing values of their own. It is one of the factors contributing to the current chaotic situation. Reflecting on such history, I have been writing this series of articles in this paper so as to make as many people as possible aware of the attractiveness of Japanese art objects and antiques, their values, and the meaning of owing them.

New world
Since olden times aristocrats and the wealthy have had a spirit of noblesse oblige. They also have collected art objects and antiques as an avocation or hobby, and they have often had a conscious intention to preserve the skills involved in and the culture of the art they collected. The goal of such activities was contribution to human history and culture, not monetary speculation. In my opinion, beauty is an expression of wisdom, and an understanding of beauty is proof that a person has a background of culture and knowledge.
However, with the chaos after WWII, a certain kind of power and part of the mass media have more and more come to deal with art works and antiques as financial goods. And finally they began to fabricate values of beauty, and involved art in the speculative money game. Recently, works which are valuable mainly in terms of speculation have been recognized as superior art works. And above all, what is the most serious problem is that people have become blind to the essence of beauty and the meaning of appreciating beauty, overwhelmed by monetary values.

Live as a human being
Several months after I started the fifth series, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and it precipitated the global financial crisis. In this dire situation, I believe the values of some people who sought exclusively monetary values in the steadily expanding global economy have started to collapse. We have made various distortions in society and caused psychological problems because we acknowledged only monetary values in all things with the expansion of the market economy after the war. Now many people have questions and anxiety, and are searching for new values. I believe a hint of the new values can be found in the kindness and in the traditional mindset of the Japanese people, which is not dependent on immediate interests and profit, and which also underlies the aesthetic sense and respect for creating things of Japanese people.
Around ten years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, because of various disclosures of information we began to understand that even some ideologies and religions are a kind of economic activity, and that monetary economy itself is a money collecting system for some people. At around the same time, conventional values began to collapse. Now, under the unprecedented chaotic global economy, many people have started to seek the real essence of things, not fabricated "real things." Casting aside the imprinted money-oriented values, reevaluating the standards of appreciating beauty, which is a gift only human beings can enjoy, and also rethinking the meaning of owning works of artistic beauty _ all this could provide a good opportunity for us to reexamine how to live as a human being in these chaotic times.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.31

Nature of the Japanese
From the point of view of non-Japanese people, Japanese people seem to be mysterious in many ways. For example, some persons in the office work at jobs which have nothing to do with their job performance and pay, even though they are not ordered to do so. Some persons make "over-quality" goods _ goods better than they are expected to make. Others are enthusiastic to do low-key jobs which are not originally related to them. They are not rational. They are doing something even though it takes away from their own time or when they know it is unprofitable.
Toward the end of the 19th century after Japan opened the county to the outside world, foreign people who visited Japan were surprised at the sincerity, diligence, courtesy, and kindness of the Japanese people, and highly praised Japanese people's nature as well as the beautiful land. When they left Japan, they said that they hoped this beautiful country and people would not change. Later, during the ensuing 150 years, the world has dramatically changed and Japan has also changed greatly, buffeted by the times. And Japanese people, too, can be said to consciously have desired such change. Having been taught in the postwar education system influenced by Western rationalism and individualism, more and more people have become critical of the traditional ways of thinking. I feel, however, that the traditional Japanese characteristics of sincerity and diligence have not changed and remained deeply rooted.

Theme of the sixth series
When foreign people come to Japan, they first notice and are surprised that they don't see trash on the streets and that every town is clean, and that cleanliness is not limited to airports or public facilities that employ cleaners. At Harajuku/Omotesando, where my shop is located, each shop cleans the area around the shop. In spring we sweep leaf buds, in autumn we sweep fallen leaves, and in winter we remove snow. Even in residential areas, which unlike commercial districts don't employ cleaners and workers, each resident cleans around the house and some people clean wider spaces.
As you know, some countries have laws requiring people to clean and to remove snow around their own house, but in Japan there are no such laws. Many Japanese people still think cleaning the space around them is natural. It is not something obliged by other parties or laws. It is because they feel the clean environment is comfortable for other people as well as for themselves, and think leaving uncleanness is shameful. From where does such sense of Japanese people come from? I would like to write about the Japanese people's way of thinking, the values and ethics that underlie their ideas and acts, with some attention also to religious beliefs, in this sixth series of "Japanese People Do Not Know Japan." These are mysterious from non-Japanese people's perspective, and I'll explain them as easily as possible to be understood.

"Kokka-no-Hinkaku" by Masahiko Fujiwara was a bestseller several years ago, and I introduced it in a past article. In the book, the author writes that Japanese people maintain a strong sense of diligence and morality even though they don't have solid religious beliefs like Western people, and he refers the cause of this to bushido, the spirit of samurai. Samurai warriors were not merely the ruling class or privileged class. They were determined to renounce self-interest to protect the country and the people, and to sacrifice their life at anytime. They hated doing shameful acts, and respected the family name. As they felt bound to commit seppuku ritual suicide to wipe out a disgrace, death was familiar to them. Bushido taught the normative behavior of warriors and showed them how to live and also how to die. And such bushido morality must surely have influenced people of other social classes, as well.
However, in the Edo period, the number of warriors in the total population was very small. Farmers, craft workers, and merchants were much larger in number. A foreign person who visited Japan during the Meiji period wrote that Japanese people had a moral sense and were diligent, regardless of class and degree of wealth. How did people other than warriors keep such moral sense? I believe this answer is in the Japanese traditional awareness that "O-tento-sama (the Sun) is always watching."

O-tento-sama is always watching
O-tento-sama has the meaning of the Way of Heaven, and refers the workings of the universe including the motions of celestial bodies. The Way of Heaven existed before human beings were created, and is the Truth maintaining the order of the universe. Japanese people believe such Heaven's Truth always exists. In this way, Japanese people judge whether a thing is good or bad, referring their ideas and acts to the Truth of the Universe, which more simply expressed means their conscience.
Japanese people had such ethical sense before they developed concepts of kami (gods) or Buddha, or in other words, before they consciously created religion and belief. This sense stemmed from respect for Nature, which blesses us with food and children but also causes famine and natural disaster. This ancient sense of Japanese people led to Shinto religion later.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.32

Original Shinto
Still now, many foreign people may mistakenly believe that Shinto is a cult-like dangerous religion, recalling "banzai" charges or "kamikaze" suicidal attacks by Japanese military forces during WWII. Even Japanese people who have been taught in the postwar education system may also understand Shinto in the same way and they tend to connect Shinto to the right wing. This is, however, a big mistake and a large hurdle to understanding Japan and Japanese people.
In this sixth chapter, I would like to write about the way of thinking and behavior of Japanese people, which seem mysterious to foreign people. To understand these, it is necessary to understand the relationship between Japanese people and Nature, which has been continuing since the earliest times, and also the real character of Shinto, which has its origin in the relationship between people and Nature. What I want to emphasize is that original Shinto is not a faith or religion. Unlike other religions that aim to help human beings or bring peace and security to believers, Shinto's essence is not related to interests of the nation or of any individual person. Shinto in Japan from ancient times has merely been that part of Japanese life that expresses gratitude for safe and peaceful everyday life.

Coexistence with Nature
People who came to this island, which is miraculously blessed with beautiful nature and clear water, paid respect to the gods that govern the climate and convulsions of nature, and offered thanks to the land which produced daily bread. These activities or rituals led to Shinto. In other words, Japanese people felt in awe of the absolute existence ruling the Cosmos and Nature. They felt gratitude to mountains, forests, rivers and oceans for continually producing foods, and thought every phenomenon and existence was a manifestation of the gods. In Shinto, people revered land, forests, mountains, rocks, oceans, lakes, springs, and rivers as well as the vast Cosmos itself. They thought there were multitudinous deities and spirits, some manifested as powerful forces of nature, others dwelling in humbler forms in homes or even toilets, and all to be acknowledged and respected.

Shrines and Shinto Priesthood
People of this island nation asked each deity for permission for humans to gather produce of the sea and land fully, to cut trees of forests, and to inhabit the land. They set aside a certain place and made offerings to quell the anger of deities of storms and earthquakes. Later such places became shrines and experts who communicated with deities there came to be called Shinto priests.
Thus a shrine, which is misunderstood as a narrowly religious place now, was originally a place to welcome various deities and spirits. By the same token, priests were originally shamans whose role was to consult deities and convey people's appreciation to them, and not that of political leaders or rulers. Ancient Shinto did not have personified saviors, leaders, founders, or charisma, which monotheistic and other religions usually have.

Worship of Ancestors
An additional feature of Shinto is respect for and gratitude to ancestors. We have parents and our parents also have parents, and this goes back to many ancestors. People respect and feel grateful for the life that has been handed down to them from ancient times. Japanese people think the origin of all these lives traces back to the Creator of All and they themselves are currently one small dwelling place of that creative spirit. Therefore, when they offer worship to mirrors of shrines, they also see a reflection of their own inner spirit. Moreover, they feel gratitude for the land where their ancestors have lived and their descendants will also live. This too is Shinto.
In this way, original Shinto of Japan is not a religion. It is, rather, rituals of awe and gratitude in daily life. It pre-exists humans concerns with personal interests and love of money. It is a mindset of Japanese people. Understanding what original Shinto has been since the dawn of history is necessary to understand the way of thinking and feeling of Japanese people even today. It is totally different from state-sanctioned Shinto that the Meiji government, which was established after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, developed and later politically used.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.33

Shinto and Japanese People
I wrote about traditional Shinto in the second article of this sixth chapter to help explain the awareness and way of thinking of Japanese people. In response to that, I received questions about the multitudinous Shinto deities and shrines from Japanese readers as well as non-Japanese readers. This indicates that in the current situation of Japan even Japanese people don't know much about Japan, as the title of this series of articles suggests.
Due to the limited space, I leave the explanation of the Shinto deities and shrines to experts, and in this article I will take the liberty of writing about the changing face of Shinto in the long history of Japan.

Changing Shinto
Shinto itself has been changing in the long course of history, both in terms of what it is and also of interpretations of what it is. Japanese people gained knowledge and learned technology from people of mainland China, including refugees who came to Japan when political upheavals occurred in China. At the same time, Japanese adopted Buddhism and Confucianism, which were the main religion and philosophy of the mainland people, and assimilated Buddhas and gods to Shinto. We tend to think the doctrines of a traditional religion are consistent from the beginning, but they change with changes of the times and society, or in accordance with intentions of governors or rulers in a particular time.
This is true for Shinto. In the late 19th century, a period of a big turning point of Japanese history when the regime was changed from the Tokugawa Shogunate to the new Meiji government, the Meiji government reformulated the traditional Shinto and made it the state religion to support imperial government and emperor worship. Subsequently, the government used Shinto for political purposes until the end of WWII, starting with the Sino-Japanese War (1895) and Russo-Japanese War (1905). Shinto of this era is referred to as State Shinto, and this is the Shinto that many people imagine when they hear the word "Shinto," regardless of whether that are foreigners or Japanese. What I wish to be understood clearly is that State Shinto was created by the Meiji government and is different from original Shinto.

Misunderstanding of Shinto
After the war, in Japan, people tended to feel alienated from Shinto because it played a role in promoting the war. In particular, those who were students of elementary school or junior high school in the immediate postwar years were taught that Shinto is a bellicose, rightist mode of thought. Together with the dire experiences of the war, this education led many people to negative feelings toward Shinto. Most such people, however, don't know original Shinto and confuse it with the State Shinto that was exploited in the war years.
Although original Shinto has important elements underlying Japanese history, culture and the mindset of people, a disastrous memory of the war and a fundamental misunderstanding of Shinto has thus negatively affected people's attitude toward Shinto since the end of the war. As a result, sad to say, Shinto today is merely a kind of ceremonial event such as a new year's visit to a shrine (hatsumode), a visit to a shrine when a baby is born (omiyamairi), or a festival for 3-year-old boys and girls, 5-year-old boys and 7-year-old girls (shichigosan). This situation has been preventing Japanese people who were born in the postwar era from understanding their own country's deeper historical and cultural roots.

We Are Also a Part of God
The original Shinto is a loose system of rituals and ceremonial etiquette of those who came to and settled in this island country intended to promote awe or show respect for Nature, including the Cosmos. It is not a "religion" or set of beliefs. Japanese people in ancient times thought that a kami or "god" inhabited every living thing and that all phenomena were manifestations of kami. Therefore, there are multitudinous deities in Japan. Activities to express their gratitude to these kami for peaceful daily life and a bumper harvest comprised Shinto - "the way of the kami - and were part of the lives of Japanese people. However, reasons why so many people misunderstand Shinto may stem from existence of so many "gods" and an incorrect understanding of the word "god" itself.
Originally, the kami or "gods" of Shinto are the fundamental energy that created the universe, and all activities of the Cosmos and Nature are fundamental energy of the cosmos, or the expressions of kami. A number of the kami portrayed in Japanese myths are clearly a manifestation of fundamental energy of the cosmos. We, as descendants of the kami, also embody such fundamental energy of the Cosmos. This underlies the original respect toward ancestors of the Japanese and is the fundamental basis of Shinto. In some sense, I feel this way of thinking is similar to the latest theories of quantum mechanics.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.34

The Emperor
Various peoples who moved to this island nation are the origin of Japanese people. They gave thanks to Nature for the land because the land was blessed with relatively warm weather, abundant water, and foods from mountains and the ocean. This animistic impulse gave rise to shamans who in many places performed rituals to calm extraordinary natural phenomena, such as earthquakes and heavy weather. As time passed, one family line of shamans led to the later Imperial Family, as many other shaman families were integrated or eliminated by natural selection.
This means that the Imperial Family was originally a shaman family whose role was to conduct rituals that prayed to the gods for peace of the country and people Ź™Ľ not that of a ruler or a policy maker. Shinto was a set of rituals performed by the Emperor and was never a religion or a faith. The Imperial Family conducted rituals and is the only family that continues from before recorded history down to the present day among family lines in Japan, leaving aside the question of its actual lineage.

Head of Rituals
There have been a variety of rituals in every place in Japan since ancient times, and local people or blood-related groups people have built shrines and conducted rituals. The Imperial Family is the head of all such people who conduct rituals in each place, and has the role of conducting rituals and ceremonies for the entire nation. Although, of course, some emperors participated in the national government in the long history of Japan, basically rituals and politics were separated from ancient times. The Emperor originally had appointive power for officer ranks. But the real national government was in the hands of elite aristocrats or warriors.
In this way, the Imperial Family is the family line that has continued to pray for the prosperity and peace of the country, and has been a model of rituals and conduct of life for Japanese people since even before the nation state was formed in these islands. It is also the foundation of the spiritual life of the Japanese people. The Emperor was never a ruler or a policy maker for most Japanese people until the Edo period. And beyond that, the Emperor was never considered to be a Living God.

Personal God
One of major reasons that now not only foreign people but also many modern Japanese people misunderstand the meaning of Shinto and Emperor is the existence of a personal God or gods. Emperors, aristocrats and warriors who achieved great deeds and made large contributions to the nation are enshrined as a "god" after their death, and are worshipped as personal gods. There are many shrines enshrining such figures. Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo, is a representative example of the modern era. Some people are enshrined for the opposite reason. For example, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine enshrines Sugawara no Michizane, who bore a grudge against the Imperial Family, so as to calm his anger and quell his grudge and thus forestall future calamities.
Some versions of Shinto were influenced by the thought of Buddhism that people will be reborn in the next life or can gain benefits in this world from their belief, and turned into a faith-type religion in the long history on Shinto. In the new faith, they worshiped a personal God who enabled their wishes and dreams. Then, before they knew it, Japanese people began to not revere traditional Shinto kami and even irreverently to toss coins to the new God, as if for hire. Moreover, people forgot that kami were not originally involved in the human world, and also that not all kami were sublime in existence, as many old sayings indicate.

Emperor and State Shinto
For a long time, the imperial institution has been the spiritual foundation of the Japanese people, through the Emperor's conducting of rituals and appointing rulers of the national government when the regime changed. And because of their appointive power, Emperors were politically used in various ways by the powers-that-be of each era.
From the late Edo period to early Meiji period, one such power, which later became the Meiji Government, turned to European constitutional monarchy for its base of legitimacy, politically used the Emperor, and transformed the original Shinto that had continued from ancient times to State Shinto. Greatly aided by this change, the modernization of Japan surely progressed rapidly. However, the fact that some political and military figures used the authority of the Emperor and State Shinto to rule the country and prosecute wars against other countries from the Meiji period until defeat in the Pacific War is a major reason that many foreign people as well as contemporary Japanese misunderstand Shinto and aspects of Japan's history even today.

Japanese People do not know Japan vol.35

The Emperor
Many foreign people and Japanese people confuse original Shinto and State Shinto. The origin of State Shinto dates back to 1853, during the late Edo period, when four modern steam ships of the U.S. Navy came to Uraga port and demanded that the Japanese feudal government open ports for logistics and start trade. The Tokugawa Shogunate had information through a letter from the King of the Netherlands that some Asian countries and South and Central American countries had been colonized by Western powers. The Shogunate, taking into account the world situation from a broad perspective, signed the Amity and Commerce treaties on its own authority, and thus effectively opened the country to the outside world.
Some warriors who opposed this decision carried out terrorist attacks and assassinations, which led to turbulence between those who agreed with the opening of the country and those who opposed the opening and the accepting of foreigners in Japan. This anti-opening movement was partly caused by the ideology of "Revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians." It was based on the Mito school that flourished in the Mito domain, whose family lords were distantly related to the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Moreover, Emperor Komei and court nobles in Kyoto objected to the opening of the country, which was another major factor. Opposition to the opening of the country became a catalyst combining strong lords and court nobles, both of whom were dissatisfied with the regime itself, and finally the Tokugawa Shogun retuned political power to the emperor.

Head of Rituals
Britain colonized Asian countries along maritime coastlines one after another, as if replacing the U.S. which temporally had to halt its advance into Asia due to its Civil War. Britain was ceded Hong Kong by the Qing dynasty of China after victory in the Opium War, then headed to Japan and joined the struggle for supremacy to colonize Japan under the pretext of trade. However, the British judged that ruling Japan by force was a challenging task, because there was a bushi warrior class in Japan and providing war logistics to the island country would be difficult. Accordingly, Britain changed its strategy to "divide and rule."
The Satsuma clan, one of the clans that had a longstanding grudge against the Tokugawa Shogunate, opposed the establishment of diplomatic relations with foreign countries and acceptance of foreigners at first when the U.S. ships came, and created an incident by slaying British nationals at Namamugi in Yokohama, Kanagawa Pref., because the British had obstructed a daimyo procession. In retaliation, Britain dispatched a fleet and attacked the Satsuma clan in southern Kyushu. Defeated thoroughly and recognizing the overwhelming nature of Britain's naval power, the Satsuma clan completely reversed their opposition to opening of the country, and secretly started trading with Britain, while paying compensation to it. Eventually, the clan began to scheme to overthrow the regime, collaborating with other pro-country-opening clans and also involving court nobles who were dissatisfied with the regime.

Personal God
There is a flip side to everything; anything can be considered to be good or also bad, depending on which side is focused on and which perspective it is seen from. At the end of the 19th century, Western countries thought they could make enormous profit in South America and Asian countries, which they regarded as lagging in modernization, by producing in them various products for export, including spices and silk and also by introducing their own country's civilization and financial system. To the extent that the advanced countries placed great weight on national profit, colonizing the undeveloped countries by force and financial domination was natural from the perspective of international society of that time.
The colonization in that era was usually carried out according to the following process. First, the Western countries started by establishing a relationship with the royal family or government as they called at port for water and food for ships, started trade, and stationed of consuls and missionaries.
Then, they took the talented local youth to their own country for study and other purposes, financially supported. They show these youth the modern civilization of their country and talk about the importance of modernization, and teach legal, political, monetary, and financial systems. Such youth who had witnessed first-hand the modernized countries would then work hard for their own country's modernization even at the risk of their life after they returned to the home country. And, the Western countries would back them up with the intention of installing a puppet regime. This is a national strategy to collapse a country from within when it is difficult to overwhelm it by force, and it is, in some ways, a common foreign policy practice even today.

Emperor and State Shinto
Japan was considered to be an undeveloped country from the perspective of the Western countries, so they naturally employed this diplomatic strategy. Lower-class worriers of Satsuma clan went to the Britain without the Shogunate's permission when ordinary people were banned from going overseas. The young warriors felt overwhelmed by the modernized Western countries and started working hard for Japan's modernization later when they returned to the country. Certainly, aspirations of these people, who went abroad at much risk, studied hard, and made every effort for modernization, are worthy of admiration, and Japan's modernization was achieved much earlier than other Asian countries thanks to them.
As a merchant, however, I try to understand history with shrewd eyes that notice who makes bundles behind the scenes, based on historical facts that are undeniable, not the history written by "winners." In that sense, we should know there were some powers that clandestinely provided weapons and funds, and in the process obtained rights and concessions, when Japan went through a bitter civil war in the 19th century, established the Meiji Government and modernized the country.

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