Monday, April 25, 2011

Is Japan the Future? (part 4)

6. The Cuckoo That Won’t Sing.

You probably know the names of the main leaders of the last phase of the civil wars in Japan: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Eventually, it was Ieyasu who became shogun and the leader of all Japan. About how he managed to do that, there is this story which exists in the form of a "senryu", a short poem. It says that one day Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu got together and they saw a cuckoo bird that won't sing. So, Nobunaga said; "If it doesn't sing I'll kill it". But Hideyoshi said, "No; I'll convince it to sing" And Ieyasu said, "I'll wait until it sings"

I think this story is a nice illustration of how people of the Edo Period rationalized the events that led to their age. It says that the winning strategy is not violence and not even cunning. It is adaptation. The Japanese had understood that they could not force or cajole their island to behave the way they wanted - just as you can't force or cajole a cuckoo bird to sing. They had to adapt and they did. This, I think, is wisdom.
-Ugo Bardi

In fact, endless growth has been the exception, not the rule, for most of human history. This is especially true for Japan. In fact, Japan provides one of the most cited and most potent models for a sustainable society in world history. And it was not the ancient past - it was under 200 years ago!

Beginning in 1467, Japan was wracked by a series of civil wars fought amongst a collection of warlords (the daimyo) who had assumed the power vacuum left by the disintegration of the authority of the Japanese emperor. In 1603, the emperor declared one of these warlords - Togugawa Ieyasu, as Shogun, or chief warlord, and invested in him the authority to rule Japan. In 1615 the storming of the Toyotomi family stronghold at Osaka marked the final end of the civil wars and the unification of Japan under the Shogun, who ruled from his capital at Edo, in modern-day Tokyo, giving this period its name - the Edo Period (also referred to as the Tokugawa Era). The emperor remained only as a figurehead in the old capital of Kyoto. Seeing the threat posed by the colonial powers of Holland and Portugal, the shogun took the extraordinary measures to isolate Japan from foreign influence. In 1614 Ieyasu banned Christianity and expelled all missionaries, and in 1635, he went even further, enacting the policy of Sakoku, or "locked country," forbidding Japanese to leave the country, or foreigners to enter the country upon penalty of death. Japanese ships were also forbidden to leave Japan's coastal waters. During those years of isolation from 1641 to 1853, Japan had little contact with the outside world, and was forced to be entirely self-reliant. Japan was able to meet most of its needs domestically, and was self-sufficient in food, timber, and most metals. Japan was not hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world however - it still engaged in tightly controlled and limited trade with China, Korea, the Ryuku Islands (then not part of Japan), and the Netherlands, mostly confined to island enclaves offshore. Imports were largely restricted to sugar and spices, medicines, luxury wood species, Chinese silk, hides for leather (Japan had few cattle), and lead and saltpeter to make gunpowder. Even those imports declined over time as domestic silk and sugar production rose, and guns were virtually abolished.

Peace and prosperity allowed Japan's economy to flourish. During this period, Japan developed thriving cities and castle towns and increasing commoditization of agriculture and domestic trade, improved coastal shipping, wage labor, a uniform system of weights and measures, road construction, uniform currency, the end of toll and customs barriers, increasing literacy and a concomitant print culture. Agriculture became more productive due to improved flood control, marsh reclamation, and the cultivation of yams and potatoes. The isolation policy also kept Japan free from imported diseases. All of these factors caused Japan's population to double within a century after the wars' end. Edo became one of the largest cities in the entire world, with over one million people. Japan's natural resources came under increasing strain, particularly its forests, on which it depended for timber, fuel and fodder. Population increases, increased commerce and trade, a building boom, an unsuccessful invasion of Korea, and a series of urban fires (including the 1657 Meireki fire in Edo) alerted the Tokugawa to the precariousness of their timber situation. Japan was running up hard against its limits - deforestation, erosion, siltation and sedimentation, and wildfires were starting to become widespread. More land was being brought under cultivation to feed Japan's growing population, putting even more pressure on the forests on which Japan depended. Unwilling to turn to the outside world due to the Sakoku policy, Japan transformed itself into one of the most peaceful and sustainable highly-developed societies the world has ever seen. Japan made masterful use of its natural resources to meet all of it's needs, developing such practices as organic farming, advanced forestry management, commercial fishing, local economies, trading houses and brokerages, cottage industries, and a recycling culture that recycled nearly everything in beneficial ways, wasting nothing. Most remarkably, and most essentially, Japan became a country of zero population growth for over nearly two hundred years!

Japan during the Edo Period exlusively used the earth's primary production, that is, all energy and organic substances were derived from sunlight directly or indirectly - mostly through photosynthesis. This meant that the Japanese had to harvest solar energy as efficiently as possible. Approximately 80 percent of daily commodities were made from the solar energy of the previous year and 95 percent was derived from solar energy received in the past three years. Almost all goods and materials for food, clothing and shelter were made from plants, with the exception of stone, metals, ceramics and other mineral-based materials. This drove farmers to orchestrate efforts to cultivate profitable plants such as tea, mulberry, sumac, paper mulberry, hemp, safflower, indigo plants, cotton, rapeseed or tobacco in addition to grains. Japanese architecture was made almost entirely of timber, along with ships, carts, bridges, etc. Firewood was used for heating baths and cooking, and industries like manufacturing salt, ceramics and tiles. Wood was burned into charcoal for the hotter fires of iron smelting. Farmers used "green fertilizer" (twigs, leaves and bark) to fertilize their fields. During this period, the Japanese learned to use wood more efficiently - charcoal was used in small portable hibachi braziers and kotatsu (fireplaces with a coverlet), designed to be more efficient than heating an entire house with open-hearth fires. Coal use increased. Lighter wood construction replaced heavy-timbered buildings. Buildings were designed and oriented to use the sun for winter heating.

Natural materials like silk (from silworms fed with mulberry leaves), cotton, and hemp were used for fabrics (silkworm husks were edible, and eaten by people and animals). Japanese clothing like the kimono was simple, warm, efficient, and made economical use of material. Japanese paper was made from tree bark. Oil for lighting was mainly from sesame seeds, cemellia, rapeseeds and cottonseeds. Wax for candles was made by squeezing resin from sumac and other tree nuts.

Rice was the staple of the Japanese diet, and rice cultivation, though labor-intensive, was 15 times more efficient than it is today. Farmers would harvest seeds from the most thriving and healthy plants to preserve species that were uniquely suited to particular local soils and climates. It has been estimated that over 1,000 varieties of rice were cultivated in this period. Variety was not confined to rice. The Owari district (the western region of Aichi Prefecture today) had a record of 143 types of barley, 65 wheats, 21 buckwheats, 161 foxtail millets, 75 barnyard millets, 21 daikons (white radishes), and 24 taros. Grain was mainly consumed directly, rather than fed to animals, which is far less efficient - 1,000 bushels of grain has five times as much food value and will support five times as many people as will the meat and milk that can be made from it. Straw, a byproduct of rice cultivation, was nearly as important as the rice itself. It was used for clothing such as hats, shoes and raincoats, as well as bags for rice, pot holders, mats, building materials, horse and cattle feed, and was mixed with manure for compost. Twenty percent of straw was used for commodities, fifty percent for fertilizer, and twenty percent for fuel and other purposes, meaning 100 percent of this agricultural waste product was utilized. Farmers would even intentionally grow varieties of rice that produced the greatest amount of straw. In this way, almost all of the nearly 10 million tons of rice and straw harvested every year returned to the soil in some way or another.

Another source of power was animal muscle, fed by the use of solar power in forests to produce fodder - brush and grass - which was fed to oxen and horses. Animals provided energy in the form of musclepower - oxcarts were commonly seen on the streets, and horses and donkeys provided transport. Animals were extensively used to power the pumps used for irrigation, along with human power - farmers would literally run on top of wheels to pump their water. F.H. King reports that "everywhere their domestic animals receive kind, thoughtful treatment." Areas of cattle grazing were limited - seafood provided much of the protein for the citizenry. Seaweed cultivation harvested needed protein from even marginal land:

The seaweed is first spread upon separate ten by twelve inch straw mats, forming a thin layer seven by eight inches. These mats are held by means of wooden skewers forced through the body of the screen, exposing the seaweed to the direct sunshine. After becoming dry the rectangles of seaweed are piled in bundles an inch thick, cut once in two, forming packages four by seven inches, which are neatly tied and thus exposed for sale as soup stock and for other purposes. To obtain this seaweed from the ocean small shrubs and the limbs of trees are set up in the bottom of shallow water. To these limbs the seaweeds become attached, grow to maturity and are then gathered by hand. By this method of culture large amounts of important food stuff are grown for the support of the people on areas otherwise wholly unproductive.

Expanded fishing efforts incorporated new techniques like very large nets and deepwater fishing. Ocean currents vary around the Japanese islands, leading to a variety of local fishing techniques and specialized types of seafood. Here, too animals were utilized, such as the unique practice of "cormorant fishing" - using cormorants with brass rings around their necks to catch fish (the ring forces them to return and prevents them from swallowing the fish). Whale oil and sardine oil were used for lighting, with the remaining oil cake remaining used as nitrogen fertilizer. Use of fish meal as fertilizer decreased pressure on forests to provide green fertilizer. To help prevent overfishing, property rights on land were extended to adjacent coastal areas as well. Trade with the Ainu, a neighboring people on the northern island of Hokkaido, brought smoked salmon, dried sea cucumber, abalone, kelp, deer skins and sea otter pelts in exchange for rice, sake, tobacco and cotton (with unfortunately negative consequences for the Ainu themselves, who faced declining resources and became dependant on foreign trade).

In keeping with the ideals of self-sufficiency, the Edo Period developed an intensive recycling culture. Specialized buyers collected the drippings from wax candles, used paper fibers, used clothes, barrels, metals, and other commodities, often using children as helpers. Ash from charcoal burning was collected for fertilizer. Tinkerers repaired old metal pots and pans, and ceramics repairers glued together pottery with starch extracted from sticky rice and heated for coagulation. Probably the most extensive recycling operations were used for human waste. Rather than leaving human waste was a potential health hazard, the Japanese realized its value as fertilizer, and had an extensive collection and trade network connecting the cities and the farmers. "Night soil" was a highly prized commodity, with landlords making good money selling it, and merchants making good money trading it. It has another good side effect - The first European visitors to Edo, used to sewage-filled streets back home, were astonished at the dense and highly populated city's cleanliness.

This testifies to one of the most remarkable achievements of Asian cultures - the development of highly sophisticated farming methods which produced extremely high yields from small plots of land, and even more remarkably did it while maintaining or increasing soil fertility! These amazing methods were first chronicled in the West by a University of Wisconsin agronomy professor named F.H. King, who travelled to Asia in 1909 to study Chinese and Japanese methods of farming. He wrote about these methods in his book, Farmers of Forty Centuries, or Permanent Agriculture in China and Japan. King noted that there was no "waste" in Asian agriculture - everything was recycled back into the earth in closed-loop systems. He writes of the extensive use of "night soil" throughout Asia:

“Among the most common sights on our rides from Yokohama to Tokyo, both within the city and along the roads leading to the fields, starting early in the morning, were the loads of night soil carried on the shoulders of men and on the backs of animals, but most commonly on strong carts drawn by men, bearing six to ten tightly covered wooden containers holding forty, sixty or more pounds each... Provision is made for the removal of storm waters but when I asked my interpreter if it was not the custom of the city during the winter months to discharge its night soil into the sea, as a quicker and cheaper mode of disposal, his reply came quick and sharp, "No, that would be waste. We throw nothing away. It is worth too much money." In such public places as rail way stations provision is made for saving, not for wasting, and even along the country roads screens invite the traveler to stop, primarily for profit to the owner more than for personal convenience.”

Japanese farmers also used nitrogen-fixing plants to replenish the soil, rotating spring and summer crops:

“Just before, or immediately after the rice crop is harvested, fields are often sowed to "clover" (Astragalus sinicus) which is allowed to grow until near the next transplanting time when it is either turned under directly, or more often stacked along the canals and saturated while doing so with soft mud dipped from the bottom of the canal. After fermenting twenty or thirty days it is applied to the field. And so it is literally true that these old world farmers whom we regard as ignorant, perhaps because they do not ride sulky plows as we do, have long included legumes in their crop rotation, regarding them as indispensable… centuries of practice had taught the Far East farmers that the culture and use of these crops are essential to enduring fertility, and so in each of the three countries the growing of legumes in rotation with other crops very extensively for the express purpose of fertilizing the soil is one of their old, fixed practices.”

The Japanese practiced a highly sophisticated version of multi-cropping - rotating crops in several cycles within a year in the same field. Unique methods of rotation varied depending on location. For example, in areas where winters were mild with little rainfall farmers saturated the fields and planted rice during the summer followed by rapeseed, wheat or barley during the drier winters. In other areas with poor water resources, farmers planted crops in the order of rice, barley, pepo and soybeans in two-year rotations. This meant that the fields were only converted into rice paddies every other year. For example, King writes:

“...The farmers here practice a rotation of rice and barley covering four or five years, followed by a summer crop of melons, worth $320 per acre and some other vegetable instead of the rice on the fifth or sixth year, worth eighty yen per tan, or $160 per acre. To secure green manure for fertilizing, soy beans are planted each year in the space between the rows of barley, the barley being planted in November. One week after the barley is harvested the soy beans, which produce a yield of 160 kan per tan, or 5290 pounds per acre, are turned under and the ground fitted for rice.”

Grain cultivation was not the only intensive cultivation practiced by the Japanese. Highly efficient forms of horticulture were also developed. Even in dense urban areas, vegetable gardens flourished:

“How closely the ground itself may be crowded with plants is seen in Fig. 16, where a young peach orchard, whose tree tops were six feet through, planted in rows twenty-two feet apart, had also ten rows of cabbage, two rows of large windsor beans and a row of garden peas. Thirteen rows of vegetables in 22 feet, all luxuriant and strong, and note the judgment shown in placing the tallest plants, needing the most sun, in the center between the trees.

But these old people, used to crowding and to being crowded, and long ago capable of making four blades of grass grow where Nature grew but one, have also learned how to double the acreage where a crop needs more elbow than it does standing room, as seen in Fig. 17. This man's garden had an area of but 63 by 68 feet and two square rods of this was held sacred to the family grave mound, and yet his statement of yields, number of crops and prices made his earning $100 a year on less than one-tenth of an acre.

His crop of cucumbers on less than .06 of an acre would bring him $20. He had already sold $5 worth of greens and a second crop would follow the cucumbers. He had just irrigated his garden from an adjoining canal, using a foot-power pump, and stated that until it rained he would repeat the watering once per week.”

Regarding his survey of Asian farming methods, King concluded:

“Almost every foot of land is made to contribute material for food, fuel or fabric. Everything which can be made edible serves as food for man or domestic animals. Whatever cannot be eaten or worn is used for fuel. The wastes of the body, of fuel and of fabric worn beyond other use are taken back to the field; before doing so they are housed against waste from weather, compounded with intelligence and forethought and patiently labored with through one, three or even six months, to bring them into the most efficient form to serve as manure for the soil or as feed for the crop. It seems to be a golden rule with these industrial classes, or if not golden, then an inviolable one, that whenever an extra hour or day of labor can promise even a little larger return then that shall be given, and neither a rainy day nor the hottest sunshine shall be permitted to cancel the obligation or defer its execution.”

and, perhaps more importantly:

“Extensive as is the acreage of irrigated rice in China, Korea and Japan, nearly every spear is transplanted; the largest and best crop possible, rather than the least labor and trouble, as is so often the case with us, determining their methods and practices.” [emphaisis mine]

The Japanese developed not only renewable organic agriculture and intensive horticulture, but beginning in the late 1600’s also developed a highly advanced science of silvaulture, or forest plantation management, extensively detailed in Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed. Inventories were taken of the country’s tree stocks down to the level of individual trees. Forest magistrates were retained by the feudal lords to manage forests from the top down, and village headmen managed local forests as common property for all the villagers. Fallen or dead trees were harvested first, and some areas of deep forest were off limits to anyone on penalty of death to permit forest regeneration. Permits were issued specifying rights to collect wood or graze animals on government forest land as long as such activities did not interfere with timber production. Advanced treatises were written on forest management, specifying techniques for cultivating seedlings, fertilization, culling old growth, and coppicing. The government rationed the use of wood - for example the amount of wood permitted to be used to construct one's house depended on one's social status. Craftsmen were prohibited form using rare species like cypress or sugi wood for small objects like boxes and utensils. Valuable species like cedars and oaks were reserved for government use and off limits to peasants. Government inspectors posted along highways and rivers inspected wood shipments to make sure laws about logging and wood use were being followed. The government also encouraged the planting of trees to stem erosion, flooding and siltation in low-lying areas. These measures meant that Japan's forests, once in crisis, were growing again by 1800. No doubt Japan was carbon-neutral in this period. According to author and architect Azby Brown:

“But the main thing is that it worked well with the existing values of the people. They were very frugal to begin with, they had been living in these same valleys for centuries and had a very good understanding of the natural flow of how the watersheds worked and how the weather might change and what the various animal species were. So it was a wonderful way to leverage the value system of the people with this overarching goal of creating a sustainable, well-managed environment. It didn’t happen instantly — it took a couple of generations and different features developed at different paces, but eventually they did it. A big issue that we could really learn from has to do with understanding the relationship between urban areas and rural areas and understanding the flow of items and materials that need to go back and forth.”

None of this would have succeeded without the most remarkable feature of this period - neutral population growth, a feat rarely achieved in any culture. After an initial population increase at the start of the Edo period, Japan's population stabilized at around 30 million and remained essentially constant. Between 1721 and 1828, Japan's population grew from 26,100,00 to only 27,200,000. It is believed that this occurred due to a variety of factors - Japanese in the 18th and 19th centuries married later, nursed their babies for longer, and spaced their children apart at longer intervals. More starkly, they engaged in contraception, abortion, and even in some cases, infanticide. The birth rates in the Tokugawa period rise and fall in phase with rises and falls in the price of rice, meaning couples of this era were responding to economic concerns. After Japan was forcibly opened to trade, the new regime once again encouraged population growth. Population in 1909 when F.H. King visited Japan was around 50 million. Today it is roughly 126 million.

To facilitate internal trade, the Tokugawa introduced a uniform national currency in the form of coinage in gold, silver and bronze denominations. These denominations were fixed, but the rates actually fluxuated on the exchange market. The system was based on multiples of four with coins valued according to the Ryo - one Ryo was worth four Bu, 16 Shu, or 4,000 Mon (a cheap bronze coin). These coins replaced the imported Chinese bronze and copper coins which had been used as currency in the preceding four centuries and which were obviously limited in supply. The material for these beautiful, elegant coins came from domestic gold and silver mines from across Japan such as the Sado and the Toi gold mines. Money was issued by the government, which collected segniorage from its issue (profits accruing from the issuing of money). Because the coins were intrinsically valuable, based a trimetallic standard, inflation or deflation could occur if either the amount of coins in circulation were increased or decreased, or the amount of precious metal they contained were decreased, as happened in 1695 and 1709-1711, resulting in inflation. Paper scrip was also issued, based on the value of the coins. An export ban on monetary specie was imposed by Arai Hakuseki in 1715, and shortly thereafter the gold content of the coins was fixed, leading to 80 years of price stability. It must be noted that these currencies, unlike modern currencies, were not IOU's based on debt as are modern fiat currencies. It should also be noted that Japan maintained control over its own currency exchanges during this time, rather than having it fluxuate against a global market. For these reasons, Tokugawa currency functioned as a medium of trade and a store of value without any imperative for growth, and without the boom and bust cycle so endemic to modern market economies. While loans were certainly contracted between individual parties, the government did not have to go into debt to issue its own currency or manipulate interest rates to control the supply, as it does today. This is also key to understanding a society that does not rely on growth and inflation. This kept prices relatively stable for generations:

People in the past held no expectations of sustained, high-level economic growth. Such reference materials as charts issued by the Bakufu government after major conflagrations indicating the upper limit for Edo carpenters' wages, and wages paid to carpenters employed in the construction of Edo Castle reveal that carpenters' wages almost doubled during the 200 years between the early Edo period of the mid-1600s and late Edo period of the mid-1800s, but this rise represents annual economic growth of no more than about 0.3%, an almost insignificant increase.

Compared with this, the price of a bowl of soba (buckwheat noodles), which was set in 1668 at 16 mon, remained the same until 1865 when it finally rose to 20 mon, which suggests that the living standards of carpenters whose wages almost doubled in the same period would have risen substantially in the Edo period.

Economic growth of about 0.3% per year would be regarded as totally unacceptable in present-day Japan, but surely this makes a lot more sense than nowadays, when no one bats an eyelid at that fact that Tokyo bus fares have risen from 15 yen in the 1960s to 200 yen by 2000, a thirteen-fold increase in no more than 40 years.

As for its economy, even though the island was closed off from the outside world, Japan's varied climate and topography provided a variety of local products unique to geographic locations leading to a thriving internal trade, retaining money in the hands of local communities rather than leaving the country. Trading houses and rice brokers facilitated the transport of goods between the cities and rural areas. Japan's internal economy flourished in this period, assisted by coastal shipping, well-maintained roads, and a uniform system of weights and measures:

A product ranking list fromthe Edo Period documents a total of 132 types of local products. For instance; dried bonito from the Tosa district, cloth for traditional Japanese pants from the Mutsu district, high-class hemp cloth from the Satsuma district, painted pottery from the Owari district, indigo ball for dyeing from the Awa district, Nishijin silk fabric in the Yamashiro district, tatami rush mat from the Bingo district, traditional Japanese paper from the Mino district, thick dried kelp from the Matsumae district, Hakata kimono sash from the Chikuzen district, crinkled high quality hemp cloth from the Hokuetsu district, pottery from the Bizen district, Japanese traditional candle from the Aizu district, cloth from the Kouzuke district, cattail carpet from the Utsunomiya district, paper for calligraphy from the Iwakuni district, sweet potato from the Kawagoe district, and daikon (white radish) from the Nerima district.

With this abundance and diversity of products, it is easy to understand that a large profit must have been generated just from domestic trades. This meant that the country did not need to colonize in or invade foreign countries in order to feed the population of some 30 million.

Peasants lived in small villages where generations of people lived together and knew each other, working alongside one another and bonding through various seasonal festivals. Villages were highly collective, with strong pressures to conform and minimize conflicts with others, due to the fact that villages could be punished as a unit. Peasants rarely moved beyond their home villages, which required a permit (though young people often sought seasonal employment beyond their local village). Peasants owned the land they worked, but were taxed as a unit by the local daimyo, with taxes paid as rice. Survival of a village meant that everyone needed to work together to meet the tax burden and overcome natural disasters, leading to a high degree of cooperation. Forestry, agriculture, and fisheries were not separated into independent industries during the Edo period. This was because most fishermen in coastal villages engaged in both farming and fisheries. Each han, or fiefdom, practically had autonomous power, without interference by the central government. Some highly motivated han even embarked on small-scale manufacturing industries - cottage industries developed in western Japan, with each family of the village taking over one step of the production process. Ie trading houses in urban areas would provide rural producers with raw materials and equipment, and sell the finished product in cities, similar to the English “putting-out” system.

Edo society itself was organized by strict customs and relations designed to promote social stability. The Tokugawa shogunate intentionally created a social order called Shinokosho to stabilize the country based on the Neo-Confucian principles of mutual obligation rather than wealth. At the top of the social order, beneath the emperor, shogun, and daimyo, were the samurai (shi), who functioned as an administrative ruling class and were expected to set a high moral example through their strict honor code of Bushido. Beneath the samurai class were the peasants (no), who produced the most essential goods of all - food. Confucian philosophy had a reverence for farmers, realizing that any society could not survive without them, and that they should be correspondingly valued. Below them were the artisans (ko) who produced other non-essential goods - art, woodworking, textiles, etc. The lowest class was the merchants (sho) because they created no new value; they only traded goods made by others (the contrast between the modern American value system here could not be more striking). Some were outside this system, such as Buddhist and Shinto priests, court nobles (kuge), and various outcast classes (eta and hinin). Still, the system gave a remarkable level of stability to society, establishing a clear series of rights, duties, obligations, and responsibilities to members of society. Some peasants and merchants became wealthy during this period, but due to social conventions, they were forbidden to flaunt their wealth by, for example, building larger and more ostentatious houses than the samurai class. Merchants and artisans lived primarily in cities - Japan's population in the Edo period was ten percent urban, one of the highest levels of urbanization in the world at that time.

Although Japan was a preindustrial agrarian society, it was far from backward. Japanese culture achieved a high degree of refinement that is still admired to this day. Temple schools educated the children of peasants and samurai alike. It has been estimated that the literacy rate in Japan was 50 percent for men and 20 percent for women, low by today's standards but high for anywhere in the world at this time. A lively print culture developed - Japan's three largest cities had over 1,500 bookstores. Ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock printing, created stunning works of art that were affordable to the masses and had a profound influence on western artists like Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh. Poetry was widely practiced including the celebrated poetry of Basho and the unique haiku form of verse. The art of flower arranging and bonsai - the cultivation of miniature trees, celebrated the Japanese love of art and nature. Kabuki and Bunraku theater developed at this time, reaching a high level of refinement. Japan's architecture, with its clean geometric lines, natural materials and harmony with nature exerted a great inlfluence over Frank Lloyd Wright (who collected Japanese art). Although Japan was at peace, martial arts including jujitsu, fencing and archery were preserved and practiced as spiritual exercises to refine the body and mind.

Please read part 1 of this article

Please read part 2 of this article

Please read part 3 of this article

Continue to part 5

Edo Period (Wikipedia)
King, F. H.  Farmers of Forty Centuries or, Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Farmers of Forty Centuries, by F. H. King

Scrip of Edo period Japan (Wikipedia)

Sustainability in Japan's Edo Period--300 Years Ago! (Japan For Sustainability)

Eco Edo: A new book delves into Japan’s past for tips on how to save the planet

Diamond, Jared. Collapse, How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.

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