Japancasters, I’d like to introduce to you my good friend Mr. Akihito Urano. I met him over a year ago in Osaka, striking up a conversation while waiting for a friend outside a train station during rush hour. Urano-san is a well traveled former executive and polyglot who made me feel at home in Kansai. He is an expert in building International VIP groups and guiding and teaching newcomers about the hidden treasures of Japan. Please enjoy his introduction:
Hello everyone, my name is Akihito Urano. I was born in Japan on September 11th 1941, thus making me soon to be 72 years old. In my life I’ve observed many important historical events and my early life was no exception. In fact, a few months after I was born, the great Pacific War began between Japan and the allied powers. Of course, my birthday was marked by an unfortunate tragedy in 2001 as well.
The day before the World Trade Center attack coincided with my approaching 60th birthday and my mandatory retirement. I had been planning to take my wife to London in the UK to thank her for her many years of dutiful support and her contribution to me and our family. Unfortunately, those plans were nixed because of the travel warnings. Now, every birthday of mine brings memories of shared and personal loss.
These days, I have been thinking a lot about what Japan and being Japanese means. Over 2500 years ago, the first Japanese emperor (Jinmu-Tenno) is said to have assumed the throne of Japan. At about this time, various races, both native and foreign, were arriving at different areas within Japan. The mixture of blood and cultures over the centuries forged the Japan that exists today.
When I compare Japan to other nations, I observe that it has three unique characteristics:
First, it is the one country that has not had the experience of being invaded or colonized by peoples from outside its borders (except for the short occupation by the US following the Second World War).
Second, the same imperial family has ruled Japan for over 2500 years. Interestingly, during the entire time of their combined rule, the emperors have exercised little to no political power. In most periods, they have actually been symbolic sources of authority. In fact, for the most part other persons or entities have wielded the true political power, sometimes using the name of the emperor for legitimacy.
Third, religion has had hardly any influence on Japanese politics. So, therefore, almost no conflict has arisen on account of religion.
The two major religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto is Japan’s native religion which originated 2,500 years ago and Buddhism came to us from India via China in around the 6th century C.E.. Over time, both religions have mixed. It can often be observed that Shinto shrines co-exist with Buddhist temples.
Oftentimes, wedding ceremonies are conducted at Shinto shrines while funeral services are conducted at Buddhist temples.
From this point on, I’d like to introduce Japanese traditions to you while revealing the currents of daily life so that you’ll be able to understand Japan better. I want you to have a real insight into Japan.
For now, I only have two images to show you of a festival called “Mihune-matsuri”. This festival is held in Kyoto on the 19th of May (every year on the same day). [Mihune is the name of a famous local shrine / Matsuri means festival]. I hope that you find Japan to be a beautiful and peaceful country as well as a welcoming place to visit. Yokoso! (ようこそ!)