Review: the Taming of the Samurai

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Taming Western Perceptions: Separating the West from the East Before the existence of airplanes, the internet and a global economy, the world was much less culturally homogenized. Nowadays, America and Japan are two nation states in what historians call The Modern Era. Both countries are hyper-industrialized and have stable constitutional governments. It is obvious that somewhere between an undefined “then” and “now” the lines between “east” and “west” have blurred significantly. Considering this, where does Japan derive its sense individuality? This is the question that Eiko Ikagami seeks to answer in her book The Taming of the Samurai. Romanticized samurai are ever-present in western conceptions of foreign Japan. Katana wielding warriors in elaborate armor have been featured endlessly in American and Japanese entertainment alike. Are the samurai, as we know them, simply a vestige of a now dead culture? Are the Japanese clinging to an outdated old mascot from their past? Ikagami doesn’t think so. The development of the samurai class is one of the most important features of Japanese History. The Samurai were not a group of ruthless warriors, as they are often portrayed; in actuality, Samurai were an elite group whose ideologies and actions have significantly influenced Japan’s political and cultural development. Eiko Ikagami’s The Taming of the Samurai dissects the history of the samurai class. The samurai, over the course of the book, prove to be key figures in the formation of modern Japan. From a western perspective, the book helps to eliminate and in some cases explain western preconceptions about Japan. Beyond that, I find that the values and ideals that Ikegami attributes to Japanese society illuminate many problems with western society and serve to elaborate on the east-west dichotomy debate. In this respect, The Taming of the Samurai defines Japanese culture just as successfully as it critiques western perceptions.

Ikegami’s primary goal in Samurai is...
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