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peculiar societal structure where if someone decides to act outside of the pre-determined societal norms, it is very rude and those who do step outside of the boundary are looked down on. This way, Japan is able to maintain a sense of normality among its citizens and creates an atmosphere of equality without having to stick to law enforcement. The citizens and their collective peer enforcement is enough of a deterrent for any black sheep that may appear. Three separate mediums that were covered in this semester offer an amazing glimpse into this society. Dancing Girl by Mori Ogai (1890) gives the first peak into how this structure appears within the Japanese society during the Meiji restoration. Then Sheep by Oe Kenzaburo (1958) shows Japan s progression with the end of World War II during the occupation period. Finally in 1987, Hara Kazuo s The Emperor s Naked Army Marches On reveals, with a reverse twist, the neo-Japanese s reaction to someone who does not exactly follows the rules. An in-depth look into these mediums contents and the way they are written and filmed will reveal that Japan, is very much a society that loves to stick to the status quo. Dancing Girl Dancing Girl by Ogai was regarded as a great literature piece for its time due to the style of the story, Ogai started a period in Japan where the authors began to write memoir-
fictions in which they fictionalized their actual lives into stories. The story of Dancing Girl (which will here on be referred to DG) itself is a recount of Ogai s life when he was a student in Germany. The story follows a scholar who was studying in Germany and his love life with a dancing girl, more commonly known today as exotic dancer. There is no great external conflict within the story and it is very anticlimactic. However it is the subtle prodding of the supporting characters and a profusion of internal conflict within the main protagonist that makes this story one that supports the point of sticking to the status quo. In DG, when the protagonist was engaged in a relationship with the dancing girl, he was very cautious about the relationship, and made sure to not let his school mates find out, for he was afraid of disparaging remarks from them. He also did not wish to reveal his relationship to his close friend, and later his employer for he feels that his actions are not one that was acceptable at the time. And he was very right in this assumption, for after his friend found out about this relationship, and though the friend was not persistent in his prodding, no doubt looks down at the protagonists for it. Ultimately the protagonist was forced to return to Japan, and leave his love, but not before he drives her crazy with this unannounced departure. Finally Ogai ends the story with the protagonist declaring his friend rare but also curses him. for his prodding in the protagonist s affairs. Therefore it is very evident within the contents of DG that there is a very structured living standard among the Japanese men during the Meiji Era. The style which Ogai penned DG also reflects this fact in the sense that a great amount of the story focuses on the protagonist s inner struggle with himself over his relationship. The self-reflection style gives the reader a clear view of the narrator of the story and his feelings, which at the end of the story culminates in his defeat at society s pressure. This form of writing, by giving readers clear view of the
thoughts of the main character, sought to persuade the readers to have similar thoughts should they encounter similar incidents, and subsequently, follow the steps the narrator, in this case Ogai, also took. For Ogai, being a renowned author, has a certain amount of influence on his readers, and when the average Japanese realize that if even a great author such as Ogai can distance himself from his love for society, the rest should follow suit too. Sheep As Japan progressed through its empire stage and World War II after the Meiji Era, the occupation period forced the Japanese people into even more conformity, as shown in the short story Sheep by Kenzaburo. This story is a great example of conformity in the sense that the literal story elements held on to that theme. The name, the characters, and the conflicts that exists within the contents of Sheep all deals very close with the idea of conformity. Sheep opens up with a student, the protagonists, boarding a bus on his way home from an evening of cram lessons. As the story progresses, a group of occupation soldiers on the bus, who are under the influence of alcohol it seems, decided to have fun with the Japanese citizens, by making the Japanese men on the bus, the protagonists included, to strip their pants and craw on the bus floor, pretending to be sheep. This clearly shows how conformity is forced upon the Japanese people by the soldiers during the occupation period, and sheep, being one of the tamest animals on Earth, exemplifies that theme. However, the notion of sticking to the status quo does not stop at the soldier s harassment, but continues to show after they have gotten off the bus. The sheep, or those who were humiliated on the bus, were hesitant to stand up against the occupation soldiers, and others, who were not made into sheep, though they do
protest about the incident in the aftermath, also do not stand up against the soldiers. The lone man, who wanted to stand up against the soldiers, a teacher, received a punch from one of the sheep, and this acts as a perfect example of conformity, as it shows that the one that did not go with the flow of the society are not welcome within the rest of the group. In the ladder parts of the story, the confrontation with the police again exemplify this theme of conformity as the police themselves are hesitant to stir up trouble and ultimately the teacher decides to wage a one man war against this hate crime. Though the ending seems to be very different from the theme of sticking to the status quo that was repeated mentioned here, however, it was the style which Kenzaburo portrayed this teacher that truly reveals the author s real motive. The story takes a dark turn at the final paragraphs and the readers are given a surprise when the teacher, who was shown to be a paladin of some sorts, turns out to be the true dark one as he stalks the protagonist and threatens him by telling the whole world [his] name and [his] shame. This form of unexpected twist gives the reader an even greater sense of the author s true motive for people s emotions are the greatest when they found out that they have been betrayed; and in the final paragraphs, Kenzaburo played with the human emotion of fear, safety, and ultimately, betrayal. So to show that non-conformity is a danger to all. The Emperor s Naked Army Marches On The final literature piece, in a sense more just an art piece, in this argument, a movie, is called The Emperor s Naked Army Marches On and it is a documentary made by the director Hara Kazuo, based on the five year journey of an ex-soldier of the Second World War named
Kenzo Okuzaki as he sets on a mission to uncover the mysterious death of two of his squad mates who died after the war had ended. The director Hara followed Okuzaki for about 5 years during the making of this documentary, so to capture his encounters and confrontations with Okuzaki s former superiors. In this film, Okuzaki in his quest to uncover the truth actually acts in exact opposite of the socially accepted norms. Ever since the very beginning of the film, a sense of difference is present, as Okuzaki mentions his past transgressions during a wedding speech. The film only gets more controversial as Okuzaki meets, confronts, and beats his former superiors in order to get the truth. It should be known that during the time of filming, violence is taboo within Japan as the country was advancing itself into the modern information age. Okuzaki s acts during these confrontations drew great amount of unpleasantness among the other cast members, and the families of the actual victims, whom eventually deemed Okuzaki s actions to be too much and withdrew after they are satisfied with the answers that they have received. Besides those on the set displaying a wish for conformity, the officers that Okuzaki faced also displays a wish for normal life as one officer claims he just want to live a normal and peaceful life as Okuzaki drills him for details about the past. Though the main focus of the film is on Okuzaki, however Hara s portrayal of him on tape is the true testament of how the Japanese wish for conformity among its people. Before Hara took up this documentary, a film such as this has never been actually done before, and Hara has set a precedent, like Ogai, for controversial documentary in Japan. However, when Hara approached this film, from his editing and filming, it appears that instead of portraying Okuzaki as a pioneer, instead he was shown to be someone who has strayed from the path that was originally justified, and instead has fallen into darkness. In the film, Okuzaki was often
centered on screen when unpleasant events was happening, thus appearing to display that this act of violence is restricted to him, and himself alone. Later, when the family members of the actual victim drops out of the documentary, and Okuzaki ops for continuing the confrontations, Hara show the audience that while the rest of the people have normal sense of conformity, someone like Okuzaki is no normal case. He furthers this claim by ending the movie with the text about Okuzaki s attempted murder. In fact, Okuzaki actually invited the director Hara to film this act; however Hara opted to not go through with the invitation and instead, decided to show a less controversial text of the event. This way, Hara successfully portrays Okuzaki as someone who has strayed too far from the societal norms and must pay his price, for no crime goes unpunished. In a later interview, it was revealed that Hara did consider Okuzaki as someone who is mentally unstable, by revealing the fact that Okuzaki, on multiple times stirred up fights with the filming crew and even once attempted to destroy all of the tapes. It is clear in the interview that Hara also views Okuzaki as someone who has strayed too far from society. Conclusion Through these three are somewhat different mediums, one short story, one long story, and one film, it is clear that they all reveals that Japan is a very homogeneous society where the people are encourage to stay within the boundaries of societal norms and in other words, stick to the status quo. Failure to heed such warnings would often results in negative comments and even exile from the society by the people, and only those who are crazy would be foolish enough to act in such destructive way.