On the Preservation of Traditional Japanese Culture in the WestGennan Buhaku, 2005-02-07
In the first episode of the video series Kokoro: The Heart Within (1998, BWE Video, Salt Lake City, Utah), entitled “Kokoro - The Heart Within”, the narrator discusses the great concern on the part of the older generation of Japanese that the today’s young people in Japan are rapidly losing interest in practicing and preserving the cultural arts that have been a central element of Japanese life for so many centuries. Consequently, recognized masters of such traditional arts as Sado (Tea Ceremony), Ikebana (Flower Arranging), Shodo (Calligraphy) and Budo/Bujutsu (The Martial Arts) are now looking to the West to seek continuance of their art forms because the younger generations of Japanese feel that they do not have either the time or the patience and dedication required to study and master these traditions properly. Perhaps they have become victims of what I like to call the mindset of “Instant Gratisfaction”, or maybe they have just become too “Westernized”…who knows.
It is inevitable that, whenever our Dojo puts on a demonstration of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu, younger Japanese in the audience come up to us afterwards and comment that this is the first time for them to see this type of traditional culture performed. When we ask them, in return, if they themselves are seriously studying some form of Japanese traditional culture; very few of them respond in the affirmative.
Likewise, in our work with Exchange Program Students from Japan (Junior High School, High School and University levels) we frequently hear them say that, because of our long-term study of “things Japanese”, we seem to know more about Japanese history, traditions and culture than they do. For some of them, this becomes such a source of concern that they make the decision to take up one of these arts when they return to Japan.
When we decided to make the study of Japan our life’s work, we realized that this would probably happen at some point; and we always do our best to support and encourage those younger Japanese who are studying, or decide to begin the study one of their cultural art forms. The preservation of traditional Japanese culture is of the utmost importance and we will continue to do all we can to assist in this, both through the teaching of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu and through our other activities. It would be very tragic to see such essential forms of Japanese culture that have existed for centuries die out due to lack of interest.