Kata – Part 3 – Harmony

Dec 23, 2020Blog, Culture, Language Study

Kata – Part 3 – Harmony

The core principal of Japan’s kata cultural from the earliest times has been the promotion and maintenance of harmony. 

Personal behaviour, as well as all relationships, both private and public, was based upon strictly controlled harmony in the proper inferior-superior context of Japanese society, which continues up until this day.

Welcome to our tate shakai or “vertical society”.

Does one know the Japanese actually already had their own original constitution?

Japanese Constitution

This original constitution is the one the Japanese still function under today, spiritual speaking of course. This constitution is ingrained into the Japanese as they move through the form, order and process of daily Japanese life, regardless of one’s rung on the labyrinth ladder of the Japanese society.

Once upon a time there was a wise prince; Prince Shotoku was the regent to Empress Suiko in the 7th century, and it was he who codified the idealized virtues of the Japanese in what can considered to be Japan’s first constitution.

The first article of the original Japanese constitution made harmony the foundation for all of the other following articles.

和

Furthermore, the 17 articles of this constitution provided the framework for all subsequent development of Japanese culture thereafter.

In case one is yet unaware, the original name of Japan was Yamato, which translates to Great Harmony. 

So it figures, and is so very profound, that harmony would be embodied as the founding principal into the original constitution of Japan, think one not?

Interestingly enough, the 17th and final commandment of this original constitution was: “You must never decide great matters on your own. You must always discuss them with all kinds of people”. 

Now one can see where this society’s roots of consensus thinking comes from.

Indeed the mentality of maintaining harmony was not only mandated in the constitution, but developed from the historic personal relationship the Japanese have with the land as wet rice farmers.  

The cooperation necessary to maintain the complex irrigation systems demanded not only a spirit of cooperation, but also harmony.  

Furthermore, any threat to the harmony of the group is always viewed as a life and death situation, and the group does whatever is necessary to protect and maintain the group harmony. 

Life roles in Japan prescribed strict guidelines as to relationships between parents and children, younger and older siblings, workers and their superiors, samurai warriors and their lords, and ultimately between the nation as a whole and our beloved emperor, Naruhito.

All of these relationship were stylized by kata, and were deemed to be functioning properly when each person knew ones own place and keeping it according to the prescribed form and order. 

On top of these rigorous and strict protocols was the mandate to display honesty, integrity, goodwill, trust, confidence and selflessness. 

義理人情

There are specific obligations each person owes to the others. Relationships are to be maintained using the principles of giri and this is embodied into kata. 

One has explored giri in detail in a podcast entitled “Ongaishi: Covering With Obligation”.

Shame still plays a very important component in how the Japanese are molded into one’s society built upon kata, and one should always be aware of the shame factor in Japanese society.

kimono japanese laughing

Needless to say, avoiding bringing shame to one’s own family, and creating shame upon others is to be shunned at all cost. 

Fundamentally, most Japanese are unable to feel comfortable in anything but it clearly define socially ranked relationship. 

One submits, it is these harmonious relationships based upon wa and kata, which enabled the Japanese to rise from the ashes of the second world war, with a single minded determination to rebuild Japan and the dignity of the Japanese people.

Come again next week for part 4 of kata as one continues to explores katification of the Japanese and our society

World Harmony

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