Point of interest: Welcome to Shizuoka! Part 2

Welcome to Shizuoka! Part 2  Isolationism Under the Shogunate
477 words
This article is part of a series about locations in your Mastery Map, a visual representation of your Japanese Mastery Level.
The Treaty of Kanagawa (known in Japanese as
, Japan-America friendship treaty) marked the beginnings of modern Japan in several ways. The initial change was the premise of the treaty - providing safe harbor for US whaling ships, and opening the country up to Western trading and culture. Secondary (but possibly more important) changes saw the weakening of the Shogunate and the eventual restoration of the Emperor. Students of the Japanese language and
(kanji), and Japanese history, often wonder why such a cosmopolitan nation, at the crossroads (so to speak) of Asia and the Pacific, managed to thrive under such militaristic and isolationist policies for so long.

The Shogunate

The Shogunate ruled Japan in the name of the Emperor for close to three hundred years. You could make a comparison to the constitutional monarchy in Great Britain, where the royal family are hereditary figureheads and the real power of the government lies in Parliament. The difference is that in Japan, the Shogunate held the country under military rather than constitutional rule.
Japan during the Middle Ages and up to the American Civil War suffered civil wars, and invasions. Given that history, starting when the Mongol Kublai Khan tried to conquer Japan on his march to rule all of Asia, it's no wonder that the ruling Shogunates had a vested interest in maintaining their identity. At this point, the cultural hallmarks of Japanese society - painting, woodblock prints, and the tea ceremony - were already flourishing. Once the Shogunate had established peace and stability for the nation, they made the conscious decision to close their doors to the outside world in order to preserve not only their government, but their distinctive and refined culture.

Samurai and Warrior Culture

The mighty Samurai, or Bushi (
), although known as 'warriors', led the arts appreciation movement that began in the 16th century. They were the Asian counterpart of the Renaissance man. Miyamoto Musashi was the ultimate example of the warrior/poet: he wrote the Book of Five Rings, that argues the point that a true warrior masters many art forms besides the art of conflict - including tea drinking, painting, and the like.

The End of an Era

By the early 1700s Japanese society was flourishing - the isolationist policies of the Shogunate had created a hierarchy that maintained the standards of the 1500s. A growing merchant class, although the lowest on the social scale, built cities and commerce and were patrons of the Kabuki and Bunraku theater. By the time the Black Ships steamed into Edo Harbor, urban kids had access to education, and book publishing was on the rise.
After centuries of going it alone, Japanese society was ready to open its doors to the West, although at the time they were reluctant hosts. Time would tell whether the incoming barbarians would be good guests.

Kanji used in this point of interest

ニチ   ジツ   sun; day   ひ    -か    
ベイ   マイ   こめ rice   
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ワ   オ    peace, harmony   なご to be calmed down   なごやか calm, gentle   やわらぐ to be softened   やわらげる to soften; to alleviate   
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シン   おや parent   したしい close, intimate   したしむ to befriend, grow close to   
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ジョウ    twig   
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ヤク    promise; approximate   
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カン    Chinese   
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ジ   character   あざ village section   
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ブ   ム    military   
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シ   samurai
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