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I stumbled across this video interview Kurt Andersen of Studio 360 conducted with Pico Iyer, who is always dubbed a “travel writer.” Now, Mr. Iyer is a highly educated man, and has lived in Japan for 20 years according to the interview, thus imbuing him with a distinct air of authority. All this makes it particularly shocking to hear Mr. Iyer’s musings on discovering Buddhism on the Japanese street, namely–to use his example–in McDonald’s. Now this sounds promising. I will not do it justice, but let the video speak for itself. What is particularly disturbing is that the mouth of a man of Mr. Iyer’s obvious erudition would let slip such platitudinous, pop analysis.
Are we really supposed to believe that a mother teaching her child in a quiet voice to put down a french fry is somehow informed by Buddhism because it stresses social harmony is some way? Needless to say, social harmony is–if any one thing–a rather Confucian concept to begin with, but leaving that aside, this kind of stereotype reinforcement endorsed by a supposed authority is sadly just the kind of nonsense that has dominated most popular discourse about Japan. Bring on the Brooks Brothers samurai…
But I’m ruining it. See it and judge for yourselves.
I have recently read two article pertaining the Christian experience in 16-17 c. Japan. Both are from Nanzan University’s Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 2007, 34/1. The first is Peter Nosco’s “The Experiences of Christians During the Underground Years and Thereafter” [85–97] and Tomoko Kitagawa’s “The Conversion of Hideyoshi’s Daughter Gō” [9–25]. Both of these should be accessible as PDFs in the links provided.
Read the full post for analysis.