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.
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.
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.
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.