More Japanese than the Japanese

Quite often, Japanese people say I am more Japanese than they are. Obviously this depends on how you define ‘Japanese’ however.

I think this reflects two things; how modern the Japanese have become, and my romanticized view of Japan.

How modern they have become is more a comparison to times gone by. If you compare me to a Japanese person from 150 years ago, there is no competition. It’s obvious who the more Japanese person is. But if you compare me to a typical modern Japanese person, it might be true.

The typical modern Japanese person is very westernized, and their closest connection to being ‘Japanese’ would be, in terms of culture not race, something like saying ‘Itadakimasu’ before eating. Otherwise, their connection to their Japaneseness might well be lacking.

However there are a few key exceptions. Anyone who is currently practicing a Japanese art, such as Aikido, Kendo, Karate, Judo, Calligraphy, Flower arranging, tea ceremony etc. can easily be argued to be more Japanese than me.

Likewise, those who practice Japanese religion, such as Shintoism or Buddhism (which has taken on its own meaning after coming to Japan, fight me if you don’t believe me), or who have studied Japanese history or philosophy and take those learnings into their own life, those people can be called Japanese, quite easily.

I still feel I have a romanticized view of Japan. The sprawling rice fields, exquisite meals, traditional culture and history that is all around me, I enjoy.

When it comes to practicing as a Yamabushi, then yeah, I am more Japanese than the Japanese. If this is true, I think it shows that modern Japanese are forgetting what it means to be Japanese. This would mean I am more Japanese than my Japanese wife! Huh, I wonder what she has to say about that.



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