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    Japanese ethics: Beyond good and evill
     
    [ 作者: Wargo, Robert J.J.   来自:期刊原文   已阅:3724   时间:2007-1-1   录入:douyuebo


    ·期刊原文


    Japanese ethics: Beyond good and evill

    Wargo, Robert J.J.

    Philosophy East & West

    Vol. 40 No.4  
    1990.Oct   Pp.499-509

    Copyright by University of Hawaii Press


                       JAPANESE ETHICS: BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL

    At the outset  I should  confess  to an uneasiness  over  the
    hubristic character of the title of this article, for it will
    be impossible  to cover all of Japanese  ethics in this short
    discussion, even  in the most  cursory  manner.  And yet I do
    want to indicate  that our considerations  will, it is hoped,
    shed light on some pervasive features of Japanese thinking on
    ethical matters throughout history.

    Traditionally   discussions  of  Japanese  ethics  center  on
    notions   such   as   on[a]   (personal,  often   overarching
    obligation), giri[b] (social  or status obligation), ninno[c]
    (human  feeling), gimu[d]  (legalistic  obligation), and  the
    like.  Often  Buddhist  concepts  of karma and compassion  or
    Confucian notions of propriety and righteousness will also be
    called upon to explain ethical practices  in Japan now and in
    the past. All of these, as well as a host of others including
    more   recently   investigated   concepts   such  as  amae[e]
    (dependency), are indeed important to a full understanding of
    Japanese  behavior  in many contexts, but they  do not get at
    the  heart  of the  issue  in  many  instances.  None  of the
    concepts  above,  even  in  combination,  can  give  a  clear
    explanation  for various  incidents  which have had important
    consequences   for  Japan's  international   image--the  1987
    Toshiba-COCOM  Incident, for  example.  This  is not  because
    these  concepts, and others  like  them, are inapplicable  to
    Japan, for  they  most  certainly  do explain  many  Japanese
    patterns of behavior. The difficulty with the concepts is not
    their inapplicability  to the society, but their sweep or, if
    you will, their level in the ethical  hierarchy.  For all the
    immense  influence  of  both  Confucianism  and  Buddhism  on
    Japanese culture, Japan is not fundamentally  and primarily a
    Confucian  culture  like  China  or a Buddhist  culture  like
    Thailand.  Nor is it a Western culture, despite  the profound
    impact the West has had on Japan for the past century or so.

    To deny that Japan  has been shaped  and enriched  by foreign
    ideologies and institutions  would be absurd, in the field of
    ethics as well as in nearly  every other field.  Indeed, most
    of the ethical writing of the Tokugawa[f]  period (1603-1867)
    was avowedly Confucian  in tone, as was the tone of education
    in  modern  Japan  since  the  Meiji[g]  period  (1868-1912).
    Without  an  understanding   of  the  influence  of  Buddhist
    thought,  Japanese  literature--for   example,  The  Tale  of
    ginji[h], The  Tale  of the  Heike[i], the  No[j]  drama, and
    haiku[k]--sculpture, painting, gardens, and a whole  host  of
    quintessentially  Japanese  art forms  like  the tea ceremony
    would be totally incomprehensible.

    Yet,  for   all   this,  it  strikes   me  that   the   basic
    weltanschauung  is neither  Confucian  nor Buddhist, but, for
    want of a better term, Shintoist.  This Shintoist orientation
    is like the root system of a tree that has been subjected  to
    massive pruning  and shaping  by external  forces.  It is the
    shape and interlacing  network of branches  that excite one's
    interest and admiration; but it is the roots--which store and
    send back up vital nutrients--that  underlie  the dynamism of
    growth  and  revitalize  the cultural  tree, which  otherwise
    would die from injury to its above-ground parts.

    Confucianism became the more-or-less official social ethic of
    the  Tokugawa  period, but  not  without  some  very  serious
    reservations.   For  example,  in  Japan  filial   piety  was
    superseded  by loyalty  to one's  lord, and  the  Mandate  of
    Heaven, which gave the subordinate the right to rebel against
    an unfit  ruler, was rejected, as was the meritocracy  of the
    examination  system  (at least  until  the modern  era).  The
    humanistic   character   of  Confucian  philosophy   and  the
    hierarchical character of the social order it espoused fit in
    quite well with the Japanese  view of the world and were thus
    enthusiastically  adopted.  But those features  which did not
    fit so well were soon rejected.

    It  is  interesting, and  quite  instructive, to  note  that,
    despite their overwhelming enthusiasm for things Chinese, the
    Japanese  were  never  really  very  taken  with Taoism, even
    though it was an integral part of the Chinese cultural weave.
    Free-form   Taoism  was  the  counterbalance   to  the  rigid
    structures  of Confucianism, the yin  to the  establishment's
    yang. One might be tempted to conclude that Taoism was simply
    too free-form  and individualistic  for the orderly Japanese,
    but that would, I think, be a mistake.  Taoism  is inherently
    no more  free-form  and individualistic  than Zen'  Buddhism.
    Indeed, some  would  argue  that  Zen is essentially  the way
    Taoism  manifested  itself in a Buddhist  context.  Certainly
    Chinese scholars who specialize  in one have a tendency to be
    very sympathetic  to the other.  In any case the similarities
    are almost overwhelming.

    This being  the case one would  expect  that Zen would  be as
    unpopular in Japan as Taoism has been.  Yet we know that this
    is not so: Zen has become  almost  synonymous  with  Japanese
    culture.  It would be impossible, even without  the excellent
    writings  of D.  T.  Suzuki, to think  of the  tea  ceremony,
    Japanese  gardens, the  martial  arts, and  a host  of  other
    cultural phenomena without reference to Zen. Even today, many
    of the economic  behemoths  that  are at the core  of Japan's
    material  success  send  their  managers  on Zen meditational
    retreats.

    Why, then, is there such a difference  in terms of acceptance
    in Japan? I suggest  that it really  comes  down  to the fact
    that  Taoism  is very  much  concerned  with  the  nature  of
    government,  whereas  Zen  is  not.   Taoism  represents   an
    alternative  to the Confucian  theory  of government, and its
    proselytizing  would have meant conflict and confrontation in
    the  area  of  governance.   Zen,  however,  concentrated  on
    individual enlightenment, and so it was not trying to play in
    the same ball park as Confucianism. There was a neat division
    of  labor,  a  compartmentalization  which  precluded  social
    unrest.  Social harmony as a value and the interpretation  of
    Taoism  as  something  to be ignored  lest  it set  in motion
    forces  which  would  be destructive  if that value  were not
    brought  into the society  from the outside, but were part of
    the framework to which external ideas and institutions had to
    adjust  if they  were  to be successfully  transplanted  into
    Japan.

    Note, too, that the forms  of Buddhism  which  took strongest
    root in Japan were the forms most congenial to the indigenous
    faith and the basic parameters  of the indigenous world view.
    Even in the early stages there was a concerted effort to make
    Buddhism  more palatable  to the Japanese by identifying  the
    various  buddhas and bodhisattvas  with Shinto[m]  kami[n] in
    what was known as Ryobu  Shinto[o].  But for all that, it was
    not until the proselytizing  efforts of the Zen and Pure Land
    sects in the thirteenth century that Buddhism really acquired
    popular  appeal.  The  rejection  of abstruse  scholasticism,
    complicated  ritual, and monastic isolation, together with an
    emphasis  on simple practice, greater  attention  to the here
    and now, an acceptance of human fallibility, and the prospect
    of universal salvation, made Buddhism more accessible  to the
    vast majority  of the people.  The vibrations  of these sects
    proved to be more in harmony with the deep-seated  rhythms of
    the land and the people than the more complicated forms which
    had become part of the life-as-art  orientation  of the court
    aristocracy  in the Nara[p] (710-794) and Heian[q] (794-1185)
    periods.

    This is not to say that Buddhism  did not greatly  affect the
    culture before the introduction of Zen. It certainly did. The
    cultural  life  of the  Heian  period, especially  among  the
    aristocrats  was heavily indebted to Buddhism, especially  in
    the  arts.  There  can  be  little  doubt  that,  as  Umehara
    Takeshi(n1)  asserts,  Buddhism  brought  about  an  ethical,
    psychological,  and  literary   deepening   of  the  Japanese
    intellectual  and cultural tradition through the introduction
    of its  systematic  philosophical  exploration  of the  human
    condition.  He is quite right, I think, when he says that the
    intricate and profound explorations of the human condition in
    The Tale of Genji cannot be understood  without reference  to
    Buddhist  thought.  But that  is not to say that  Genji  is a
    Buddhist  work.  Quite to the contrary, Motoori Norinaga's[r]
    emphasis   on  indigenous   themes,  as  well  as  indigenous
    ethico-aesthetic sentiments, is a masterful piece of literary
    and cultural  analysis.  Norinaga  may have  gone  too far in
    attempting  to  exclude  or render  irrelevant  all  Buddhist
    influence  on the work, but it would be just as dangerous  to
    forget that the network  of Buddhist  concepts  is an overlay
    that  has been  integrated  into  an indigenous  ethical  and
    aesthetic  world  view.  Even  the No dramas, for  all of the
    Buddhist  language  in them, seem to have more the quality of
    Shintoistic  exorcisms, albeit complex meditative  ones, than
    literary Buddhist sermons or morality plays.

    What, then, is this basic  core upon which later philosophic,
    aesthetic, and social notions  were based? It can be no other
    than the cluster of concepts and attitudes that comprised the
    indigenous  faith  of Shinto.  It is not the codified  set of
    regulations  and dogmas propounded in the nineteenth  century
    under  the  title  of  State  Shinto, but  rather  the  basic
    attitudes  toward the world that underlay  the agriculturally
    oriented religious practices from before the introduction  of
    Buddhism and which continue  down to this day.  Seldom having
    been philosophically  analyzed, Shinto philosophic categories
    and values have not been given the attention  they deserve in
    efforts  to elucidate  the  nature  of Japanese  ethical  and
    metaphysical values.

    Part  of the  reluctance, on the  part  of both  foreign  and
    Japanese  investigators, to examine Shinto may be a result of
    the  association  of  Shinto  with  the  excesses  of  prewar
    militaristic and chauvinistic fervor. Even when divorced from
    the ideological  and political  superstructure  imposed on it
    because  of the promulgation  of State Shinto  from the Meiji
    through the early Showa[s]  periods, the animistic  faith has
    not  been  generally  looked  to for insights  into  Japanese
    society.  Because it is animistic and avowedly nonsystematic,
    Western  scholars  have  had  a tendency  to regard  it as  a
    primitive faith that has long since been superseded  by other
    more elaborate, philosophically  articulated  religions.  For
    many  Japanese  scholars,  however,  it  seems  fruitless  to
    investigate such intuitively obvious principles.

    Basically  I should  like to argue that the animistic  Shinto
    view of the world and man's  position  in it gives rise to an
    interpretation   of  the  word  "responsibility"   which   is
    radically   different   from  that  which  emerges  from  the
    Judeo-Christian tradition.

    In  the   Judeo-Christian   tradition   there   is  a  double
    bifurcation in the relationship linking God, man, and nature.
    The first  is that God is infinite  while both man and nature
    are finite.  The  second  is that  God and man are  spiritual
    beings  (since  man has a soul) and that nature, since it has
    no soul, is simply material.  This results  in three distinct
    orders  of  being: (1) infinite  and  spiritual;  (2) finite,
    combining spirit and matter; and (3) finite and material. Man
    is given dominion over nature by reason of his soul, which is
    his direct  link to God.  It is this  soul, too, which  gives
    rise to the question  of morality.  There  is no question  of
    morality  in  nature;  even  animals  operate  on essentially
    mechanistic  principles, a la  Rene  Descartes, or  at  least
    naturalistic   principles   involving  drives,  deterministic
    behavior  patterns, or whatever.  Reason  is not an aspect of
    nature.

    Reason  is, however, very important  in the case of man.  Man
    has an intellect, which allows him to know what he should and
    should  not do, at least in most cases.  He has the free will
    to choose  among a variety  of patterns  of action  which his
    intellect  has  delineated  for  him.  To make  the right  or
    correct  choice  is to choose that course of action  of which
    God would approve  (the intellect  is, of course, what allows
    one to know  what this is).  To choose  any other  is to defy
    God, that is, to sin. The point is that to commit a sin is to
    commit  an  offense  against  God;   even  murder  is  sinful
    primarily  because it is an abrogation  of God's law and only
    secondarily  because  it is an offense  against another human
    being.

    Note that to commit a sin, to be guilty, one has to know that
    what one is doing is against  the will of God (or at least to
    believe  that it is).  One who is duped into pushing a button
    which  electrocutes  an innocent  victim  cannot  legally  or
    morally be held culpable if he had no way of knowing, or even
    suspecting, that  this  action  would  have  such  a terrible
    result.  A second  requirement  for culpability  is that  the
    person could have avoided inflicting  the damage if he had so
    chosen.  Thus an engineer  of a train  that  ran over someone
    lying on the tracks would not be held culpable  if the brakes
    had failed to work through no fault of the engineer's (and if
    he was  paying  attention, going  the  proper  speed, and  so
    forth) .   Culpability,  that  is,  responsibility,  requires
    knowledge, volition, and capacity.

    Now sins can be forgiven (by God) if the perpetrator repents,
    that  is,  acknowledges  the  wrongfulness  of  his  act  and
    sincerely  vows not to do it again.  Normally there will also
    be some form  of punishment  or retribution  exacted  that is
    deemed commensurate  with the crime.  The difference  between
    conventional  laws such as traffic regulations  and the moral
    law is that that the latter  is based  on an absolute  set of
    values (God's eternal laws), which can be apprehended through
    reason, whereas  the former  are mere conventions  which  are
    useful for the orderly  functioning  of society and are based
    on no absolute system of values.

    Individual  conscience  is thus  the focal  point  for  moral
    decision  since it is there that the standards  lie.  To take
    responsibility  for a sin or a crime, then, is to acknowledge
    that  one  knowingly  and willingly  committed  a morally  or
    legally wrongful  act and that one therefore  deserves  to be
    punished.   Whether  or  not  one  is  religious,  the  major
    considerations   for  judging   ethical   responsibility   or
    culpability  remain  the same.  In very rough  outline, then,
    this  is the  metaphysical  and ethical  foundation  for  the
    notion  of  sin  and  responsibility  in the  Judeo-Christian
    tradition.

    Shinto  has a very different  way of viewing  things.  First,
    there  is no absolute  distinction  between  the  divine, the
    human, and the natural;  rather, they form  a continuum.  The
    term for the divine is kami, which is most often rendered  in
    English  as "god," but which  seems  to have been used in the
    sense  of 'superior', 'that which has strange  powers', 'that
    which  man  cannot  understand', 'miraculous', or  'awesome'.
    Whenever there was something which inspired a sense of awe in
    man because  of its power  or beauty, this  was said  to be a
    kami or a place where a kami resided. Anything which had this
    cosmic  charisma  was  a  kami,  whether  it  was  a  rock, a
    mountain,  a  man,  or  a  phenomenon  of  nature;  thus, for
    example, Mt. Fuji was a kami, as were many historical figures
    and the emperor.  I have no doubt that had the Japanese lived
    in North America, the giant  redwoods  of California, Niagara
    Falls, and the Grand Canyon would all have been enshrined.

    Everything  in the world had a spirit  (tamashii[t]) and even
    speech, but some places  or beings  were loci  for especially
    intense  concentrations  of this spiritual  or cosmic energy,
    and  this  was called  kami.  This  means  that  there  is an
    essential oneness about the universe; man is not above nature
    but part of it, and consequently  is able to live in friendly
    intimacy  with the gods who, too, are part of the whole.  How
    much this contributes  to the strong egalitarian  strand that
    persists alongside  the penchant for hierarchies  in Japanese
    society is not clear, but it bears some thought.

    The relationship to the kami was very much a communal, rather
    than  an  individual,  affair, since  the  local  objects  of
    worship were most likely nonpersonified powers that protected
    the village, or the forces of nature essential  to sustaining
    the agricultural  cycle.  It was only at a later  stage  that
    personalities were ascribed--and then only cursorily--or that
    humans could be regarded as kami. In fact there seems to have
    been little or no distinction between a man or object being a
    kami and a man or object being respected as a kami because of
    being possessed by a spirit or infused with a cosmic energy.

    Thus the notion  of the kami as lawgivers  who must be obeyed
    on pain of punishment did not arise. Rather both kami and men
    participated  in the natural  order of things, which was seen
    as  a  general   progression   from  chaos  to  order.   This
    progression, the order  of things, was very  much  a manifest
    phenomenon  to be discerned  directly through perception  and
    intuition, rather  than the result  of hidden workings  which
    could  only be grasped  through  the application  of tortured
    reasoning.

    Although there was a distinction between the manifest and the
    hidden, the emphasis was always on the apprehensible  and the
    immediate.  There was very little  reference  to the world of
    darkness  after  death  except  to note that it was there and
    that it was man's fate to die as part of the natural order of
    things. Umehara Takeshi(n2) argues that it was Buddhism which
    first introduced  a full-blooded  concept of hell into Japan,
    first as an element  of a complex  metaphysics  and then as a
    metaphor  for the tortured  mental  state of those humans who
    have not learned to free themselves from desire.  Shinto, for
    its       part,      never       subscribed       to      the
    "To-enter-heaven-travel-hell"     course     of    meditative
    self-reflection that seemed so much a part of Buddhism.

    Shinto  was  thus  basically  optimistic  in orientation  and
    focused on the present, concrete world of ordinary existence.
    Man, and the world also, was inherently  good.  There  was no
    Manichean conflict of equally substantive  forces of good and
    evil, for moral evil was a temporary  affliction  that was to
    be  overcome,  like  a  shadow  that  is  dissipated  by  the
    sunlight.  There were, of course, calamities  and misfortunes
    to  be avoided  if at  all  possible, which  could  be called
    evils.  Some  of  these--death,  for  example--were  in  fact
    unavoidable,  but  such  evils,  including   possession   and
    harassment   by   malevolent   spirits,   were   regared   as
    circumstances  to be contended with as part of the conditions
    of human existence.

    There were no elaborate and systematic  ethical proscriptions
    since there was no absolute good or evil. What was counted as
    good or evil depended  very  much on the specific  conditions
    obtaining  as well as on the nature of the community to which
    one belonged.  This is not to say that all moral  evaluations
    were merely conventional or totally relative, but simply that
    any  attempt  to  spell  out  the  distinctions  in a tightly
    reasoned system would fail.

    What  counted  more  than  anything  else were sincerity  and
    courtesy, which meant the eradication  of selfish  desire.  A
    man  of pure  heart  would  automatically  act  properly  and
    promote   harmony   in   the   community.   The   distinction
    between>evil, proper  and improper  action, would  be made by
    the soul  (tamashii) of man on the basis  of intuition, which
    could  be strengthened  and sharpened  with  the help  of the
    kami.  It was as if there were a harmonic  resonance  between
    the soul  of man and the higher  energy  level  of the deity,
    which would produce greater clarity of vision in the former.

    But, of course, one  could  not  simply  approach  the  kami,
    sources  of  such  immense  spiritual  power, without  taking
    proper precautions.  To avoid insulting the kami or otherwise
    causing a dissonance  between  the kami and oneself, with all
    the dire consequences  that might entail, the petitioner  had
    to purify  his mind and body  before  coming  into the sacred
    precincts.

    The importance  of the rites  of purification  (misogi[u]) in
    Shinto  cannot  be  understated.   The  core  concepts,  both
    metaphysically  and  ethically, are purity  and pollution  or
    defilement  (kegare[v]), not virtue and sin.  The emphasis is
    on brightness or purity, which is seen as a natural condition
    rather than one which is only attained  after a hard struggle
    to conquer  one's basic nature.  One is supposed  to make the
    effort  to  avoid  defilement;   should  one  fail  to  avoid
    defilement, it  is  then  necessary  to  undergo  rituals  of
    purification.  Sin or moral guilt was not a feature of Shinto
    belief,  or  at  least  not  the  outstanding   feature,  but
    defilement very definitely was.

    This centrality of the purity-pollution  pair of concepts has
    some  important  consequences  for  the  world  view  and its
    ethical  perspective,  which, I  suggest, are  relevant  even
    today.  To get some idea of what those consequences  are, one
    need  only  look  at  a  list  of  things  considered  to  be
    pollutants: disease, injury  or death, the blood from wounds,
    sexual  intercourse, menstruation, childbirth, and antisocial
    acts such as murder  and adultery.  While this is by no means
    an exhaustive  list, it should be obvious  that most of these
    would not qualify as sins or crimes anywhere except in Bishop
    Butler's Erehwon. One wants to say that often one cannot help
    contracting  a disease  or being  injured, and certainly  one
    cannot avoid dying--suicide yes, but not dying. One could, of
    course, avoid childbirth  and even sexual intercourse  (which
    would neatly solve the childbirth problem), and there are, in
    fact, certain individuals who do. But making this a universal
    practice would hardly be a prescription  for the longevity of
    the race.

    How can one be blamed for not avoiding what is impossible  to
    avoid? The answer is, of course, that one cannot. Shinto does
    not ascribe  blame to someone  who has become defiled through
    action  or contact  with a pollutant;  blame  has no point in
    these  contexts.  This  does  not  mean,  however,  that  the
    pollution  or defilement  is overlooked  because  it was  not
    deliberately acquired. When one is defiled, no matter whether
    it be through  one's  own  volition  or whether  one  was  an
    'innocent  victim', one  remains  defiled  (and  therefore  a
    social  pariah)  until  one  has  undergone   a  purification
    treatment. The logic is familiar enough to us all. If someone
    dumps  a bucket  of mud and filth  over you as you innocently
    walk  down the street, I may sympathize  with you, but I most
    assuredly  will  not invite  you to come  to my dinner  party
    without  your  cleaning  up  first.  Someone  raised  in  the
    Judeo-Christian tradition will protest that this logic may be
    appropriate  for  this  sort  of  case, but  that  it is  not
    appropriate   to  the  moral  sphere,  precisely  because  it
    precludes   blaming.   Morality,  he  will  go  on,  requires
    responsibility and the ascription of praise or blame.

    Yet that is precisely the point at issue.  Such an ascription
    of praise  or blame is only relevant  if one uses a framework
    which links questions of morality to voluntary  obedience  or
    defiance  of moral principles  of behavior, whether  divinely
    given or discoverable  through  reason.  For Shinto, however,
    the reasoning  given above is applicable  to the deepest  and
    most   significant   levels   of  human   intercourse,  since
    purity-pollution  provides the most fundamental  metaphysical
    and ethical axis.

    Rites  of  purification  thus  become  a central  concern  in
    Shinto, since  they alone  can restore  an individual  to the
    condition  of purity required to make him fit to stand in the
    presence  of the kami  and to participate  in human  society.
    This  stress  on  rites  of  purification   has  very  likely
    reinforced  the fondness  for water and bathing for which the
    Japanese are so well known. And in all likelihood it has been
    a not  inconsiderable  force  in strengthening  the  Japanese
    penchant for formalism and ritual apologies. This emphasis on
    ritual  also makes it easier  to understand  how the Japanese
    could  so  enthusiastically  adopt  a social  ethic  such  as
    Confucianism, even with its prudish overtones.

    In order to prevent the rituals from degenerating  into empty
    formalism, a great  deal  of weight  was put on sincerity  of
    intention   as  a  requirement   for  the  efficacy   of  the
    purification  ritual.  Extolling  purity  of heart  over  the
    specific content of actions continues  down to this day, even
    in  the  public  arena.  It was  purity  of heart  which  was
    supposed  to have been the chief source  of strength  for the
    members  of the Special  Attack Forces (kamikaze[w]) in World
    War II, and it makes it easier to understand  the practice of
    seppuku[x] or harakiri[y]  (ritual suicide) as a purification
    ritual that was also a test for purity of intention (at least
    for those who used it to admonish their lords).  Cynics might
    be forgiven  for concluding  that in the political  arena, at
    any rate, formalism seems to be by far the more prevalent, if
    not effective, strategy.

    The rites of purification  were not simply  a matter  for the
    individual, however.  Shinto  was  always  tied  up with  the
    traditions of the community, and the local shrine served as a
    focus for the unity of the community.  The solidarity  of the
    community  was  of prime  importance, and  the  worth  of  an
    individual was derived from the contribution  he made to that
    solidarity.  The basis for behavior, then, was not individual
    conscience, but authority  and tradition.  The community  was
    not  thought  of  as a collection  of atomistic  individuals;
    rather  it  was  the  individual  that  was  thought  of as a
    composite  of his personality, the traditions  of his family,
    and  the heritage  of the  community.  Thus  egoism  was  not
    tolerated, and one was expected to exhibit resolute  fidelity
    to the community  as well as valor in the prosecution  of the
    community's interests.

    Certain  offenses, even  if committed  by  individuals, could
    produce  enough pollutants  to defile  and bring wrath on the
    entire community. Communal purification would be necessary in
    such cases to wipe away the defilement.  As one might expect,
    this  often  meant   that  the  head  of  the  community,  as
    representative  of the whole, would have to undergo a rite of
    purification  to remove  the defilement  on the  whole.  This
    would  be sufficient  to purge the community  of the stain it
    had incurred, and the efficacy  of the ritual would in no way
    depend on whether or not the official  penitent  had actually
    been the one who generated the pollution in the first place.

    I would submit that the actions  of the Japanese  in handling
    the Toshiba/ COCOM case constituted a rite of purification in
    the sense  just  described.  Toshipa  Machine  Tool  had been
    suspected of selling to the Russians advanced machining tools
    which had been prohibited  for export to the communist  bloc.
    Toshiba  and  the  Japanese  government  stoutly  denied  the
    charges  until a material  witness  surfaced  whose testimony
    clinched  the case.  For a long time the Japanese  government
    and the company temporized, as if by not formally recognizing
    that anything  had happened  they could  avoid the issue long
    enough  for it to blow over.  A stain  does not exist  if one
    does not notice that it is there, does it? Stonewalling  is a
    standard practice in the public sphere in Japan--witness  the
    responses  of the politicians  to charges  of bribery  in the
    Recruit  scandal, which  occupied  so  much  of the  Japanese
    public's attention recently.

    Once it was perceived  that the angry reaction  in the United
    States was more virulent and long-lasting  than anything they
    had anticipated and that they would not be able to ignore the
    issue, the Japanese  decided some dramatic  action would have
    to be taken. Naturally MITI could not in any way allow itself
    to be involved  lest  it defile  the  government  as a whole.
    Instead it was decided to have the chief officers  of Toshiba
    Machine  Tool and the parent company, Toshiba Electric, atone
    for   the  offense.   In  resigning   they   were   accepting
    responsibility   for  the  stain   on  the  honor   of  their
    organizations, but  they  steadfastly  refused  to  admit  to
    having had anything  to do with the illicit  transactions  or
    even having any knowledge of them.  For the Japanese this was
    a  dramatic, perhaps  even  ultimate, act  of  atonement  and
    purification.  The heads of both the company involved and its
    parent firm had sacrificed  themselves  for the good of their
    organization.

    Naturally  the Americans  did not quite  see it that way.  To
    many of them, the resignation of the top brass was proof that
    the plot to betray the United States had been directed by, or
    at least known to, the top echelon  of the Toshiba group.  If
    they  were  not involved, why did they  resign--so  went  the
    reasoning.  By  the  same  token, if  they  really  were  not
    involved, then  their  resignations  were  meaningless, since
    from the American  point  of view only when those who planned
    and perpetrated  the crime  were punished  would  justice  be
    done.  Moreover,  the  U.S.  insisted  on  reimbursement  for
    damages  and legal restraints  to ensure  that this would not
    happen  again.  Many  Japanese  were  flabbergasted  by these
    demands, for as far as they  were concerned, everything  that
    needed to be done to restore honor had been done.  They would
    naturally erect institutional  safeguards to ensure that this
    could not happen  again.  The motive  would, however, be more
    practical  than moral: they simply  do not want  to be put in
    such  a position  again.  They  want  to avoid  occasions  of
    possible defilement. All perfectly right and proper in Shinto
    terms.

    It seems to me that the basic Shinto conceptual framework has
    not been destroyed. Quite to the contrary, it is a strong and
    vibrant  force  even today.  Of course  the Shinto  framework
    cannot be used to explain  all, or perhaps  even most, of the
    phenomena that constitute  modern Japan, but I believe it can
    be an extremely  useful and even indispensable  tool in one's
    analytic  toolbox.  Think,  for  example,  of  the  steadfast
    refusal  of the  Japanese  government  to allow  any official
    apology for Japan's actions abroad in the 1930s and 1940s, or
    even to discuss the matter. Should such an admission be made,
    it would mean that a tremendous, perhaps  indelible, stain on
    the honor  of the whole  nation  would  have been recognized.
    This  woud  demand  a commensurate  rite of purification, and
    that thought alone is enough to make many Japanese break into
    a cold  sweat.  The  logic  would  seem  to demand  that  the
    emperor, who is the source  of national  unity, be the one to
    undergo  the  rite.  But  it is one thing  to lose  a company
    president   or  chairman--such   men  are,  after  all,  only
    transient, elected  functionaries.  It  is quite  another  to
    contemplate  the loss of one whose family has ruled Japan for
    so long  that  he has become  the symbol  of the soul  of the
    nation.

    The question  that remains is whether the passing away of the
    Showa Emperor has opened the door to a solution of this moral
    dilemma or whether it has ensured that no solution  will ever
    be found.

                            NOTES

    (n1.) Takeshi  Umehara,  Jigoku  no  shiso  (Tokyo: Shueisha,
    1981), p. 39 passim.

    (n2.) Ibid., pp. 73ff.

    [a-y] * (This character cannot be converted in ASCII text)


     

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