Zaibatsu, Zen, Zodiac
- "Money Cliques" - the hugh family-run conglomerates behind Japan's economic rise.
Although each of the companies involved may have been founded at different times, the zaibatsu really came into their own during the Meiji Restoration, when certian large companies were given special treatment to help semi-officially to secure Japan's strategic economic interests. Four of the largest were, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo and Yasuda. Other lesser zaibatsu included companies like Nissan and Fujita.
In the period leading up to World War II, the zaibatsu didn't always have a perfect relationship with the military, but did grow exceedingly wealthy from the conquest of lands in Korea and China.
After the war, the American occupiers of Japan, under Douglas McArthur, decided to break up the power of the Zaibatsu, however, this course was reversed, and the Zaibatsu still exist, although they are now known as the Keiretsu. The moral implications of this are pretty disturbing for the Koreans especially - the people who got rich from raping their country were allowed to keep their wealth after the War, for reasons of American politial expediency and Japanese entrenched business/fascist interests.
See Also: Korea, Meiji Period, World War II
- Zen is the most famous sect of Buddhism in Japan, but it is only a sect, not another religion as is sometimes thought.
In the early fifteen hundreds Zen (also called Seon, or Zon) was introduced to China, from India. Later, in the Kamakura Period monks like Eisai and Dogen brought it to Japan, where may believe it achieved it's full height.
Zen has effected almost every part of Japanese society and culture, from the Way of the Warrior, to the Tea Ceremony, to Japanese Gardens.
Zen teaches that truth goes beyond verbal expressoin and that enlihtenment can be realized only through sitting in meditation and training in calming the inner self. There are two main flavour of Zen in Japan:
Whatever the school, Zen is far more concerned with ritual, form and practice than with the esoteric scholastic studies found in other forms of Buddhism.
- The Soto School: The followers of this sect believe that enlightenment can be achieved by meditating in the lotus position (zazen), attempting to empty the mind of all worldly thoughts and desires.
- The Rinzai School: The followers of this sect believe that enlighenment can be achieved by meditating on enimatic riddles (koan). What is he sound of one hand clapping? If a man says something in a wood, and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?   etc. etc.
During it's introduction Zen's principles of austerity, strong self-discipline, a spartan life and individual responsibility and action gained it many follwers amongst the Samurai, however, during the Meiji Period, the state religion was Shinto, and Buddhism of all kinds suffered a bit of a setback. After WWII this was reversed with the reintroduction of religious freedomes, and today there are many followers of Zen active in Japan.
Besides spiritual enlightenment and the attainment of Nirvana, rumour has it that Zen is also handy in the field of Motorcycle Maintainence.
See Also: Gardens, Shinto
- The Chinese calendar, whereby it's the year of birth which determines the star-sign of the child, is traditionally used in Japan. The years and signs are as follows:
Note however that for people born in January it's a little bit more complicated, as the Chinese calendar doesn't correspond exactly with the Western one. You'll have to check the specific year, but the chances are that if you're born in Jan., then you may well belong to the "previous" year's sign.
Also, a little tip for the Gaijin who can't tell the age of Japanese people... If you feel uncomfortable asking someone their age, you can always ask them their zodiac sign casually, and then work it out from there, so long as you can guess their age to within 12 years. Not that this is a particularly clever ploy, and both people may know what is really being asked, but at least it takes the edge off of the question.
Finally, people born in the year of the Rat take heart - that animal doesn't necessarily carry a negative connotation, indeed it is honoured with being first in the Zodiac since it was the first amimal to come when the Buddha called all of the animals to him.
See Also: Calendar, Dates, Historical Periods
|Top Of Page||Glossary Index||Melmoth's Home Page|