Thursday, February 16, 2006

Westerners Cannot Understand Haiku--Nihonjinron 2

(Note: This post has been self-censored.)
A student of mine was telling me about a book written by a Japanese math "scholar" in which claim was made that westerners cannot truly understand haiku. You see, we can't picture the image represented by the poems.

For example, Basho's famous poem of the frog goes something like:

An old pond.
A frog jumps in.

Westerners cannot get this. We cannot discriminate between one frog and a number of frogs:

An old pond.
Frogs jump in,

This fool posing as a scholar (note: I later learned that this was Fujiwara Masahiko) is a perfect example of the those who come up with this ninhonjinron (theory of the Japanese) garbage. And most is as idiotic as the above.

This kind of thing is wide-spread in Japan. You always hear the Japanese talking of "we Japanese" much more than one hears other nationalities talking about their own specialness, uniqueness, and implied superiority.

Usually the thinking behind it is as shallow as the ignorance of others required for someone to believe it is. Let's see, most places have ponds, most have frogs, probably most people have seen and heard a single frog jump into the pond, or could imagine it, so why couldn't foreigners understand this haiku? The real question is, what kind of mind could come up with this ? A scholar????? A borderline r--c-st?

It is something you must get used to in Japan. You generally have to ignore it because you aren't going to change many opinions. The fact that you as a foreigner don't accept or believe it, or that you can refute it, seems to reinforce the belief that the Japanese are uniquely unique among many Japanese.

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