“They are an intriguing people. From the moment they wake, they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue. I have never seen such discipline.” -The Last Samurai.
Seeing that fantastic archery demonstration the other day reminded me of an article I read about a year ago. It talked all about the samurai code, bushido, and how it has actually never died but only changed forms since the feudal era ended with the opening of Japan’s borders to the West. I briefly mentioned this in a post a couple of months ago, about the “businessman ethic” and how workers at major corporations are expected to devote themselves entirely to the betterment of the company instead of themselves. I think this may be the most obvious example of “modern-day bushido,” but after living here for over four months now, I’ve started to notice more and more ways that it continues to manifest itself throughout modern society.
For example, I’ve talked a few times about how every single rule is followed absolutely to the T, regardless of how ridiculous it sometimes seems. If a command has come from above, no exceptions will be made for any reason whatsoever. You’re one yen short at the supermarket? You’re wearing the wrong kind of pants at the gym? Too bad. Those are the rules, and it’s my job to enforce them.
This type of commitment carries through to students and their after-school activities, too. In America, when you join an after-school circle – a sports team, a band, anything – it’s often viewed as a fun little hobby that you might do every once in awhile. But in Japan, it’s no laughing matter. A friend of mine here joined a musical circle and was shocked at what a huge deal they made out of him missing a single one of the many practices they have every single week.
This may seem a bit off-topic from my usual posts, but I do have a reason for telling you all of this. I mentioned before that one of the reasons Ritsumeikan is so awesome is because there’s always so much stuff going on around campus. One of the most interesting is the Double-Dutch Jump-Roping circle, who’s been out in the quad practicing every single day since I arrived in Kyoto. Why, you ask? For Rits Fest, a huge event with all sorts of live music, choreographed dancing, and performances held sometime in November.
Think about that for a minute. The show is in November. I got here in February, before the school year had even started…and they were already practicing. Every day.
Now, before you all go off and start thinking “OK, I get it. They strive for perfection. BUT WHY JUMP-ROPING? At least pick something cool,” I’ve provided this video of just how incredible the things they can do actually are.
It’ll blow your mind.
And just think: that’s one circle.