Herald Tribune asahi
Japanese People Do Not Know Japan
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.
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