Monday, December 6, 2010

Let Me Be Your Leader

Before arriving in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan back in 1990, I had some minimal exposure to things Japanese.

I knew about bonsai trees (trees dwarfed by copper wire and pruning - or what I like to call tree bondage), sushi which I ate for the first time a couple of days before embarking on this wonderful adventure; Godzilla and Gamera monster movies - oh, and Ultraman on TV; and I had heard of a television mini-series called Shogun - here's the opening sequence: CHAMBERLAIN.

It first appeared ion television back in 1980, and I have to admit I didn't watch it. I had zero interest in Japan or things related to Richard Chamberlain... and while I still have next to no interest in Richard Chamberlain today, I did become somewhat interested in Japan back in December 1989 - the first time I had actually thought about going there on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme as an AET (Assistant English Teacher).

The first thing I learned from this television show is that the title 'Shogun' is not pronounced "show-gun". It's proper pronunciation is "sho-goon", with the 'O" sound being more clipped (shorter) than it appears in the word goon.
Here's some information on the Shogun, or as it is known in its full form: Seii Taishogun. Back in the Heian jidai (Heian era aka 平安時代, that is the last part of what is known as Japan's classical age dating 794 AD to 1185 AD), this was the title of the General who lead an army versus the Yezo people (the old name for Japan's indigionous people now known as the Ainu) who lived in the northern climes. More on the Ainu in a blog later this week.

A military government led by one Minamoto no Yorimoto in Kamakura took over the country's government from the civil leaders in Kyoto becoming the Seii Taishogun in 1192... which is when the title became used for the head of a military government.

Famous Shogun include the Ashikaga family during the Muromachi jidai (which existed approximately between 1333-1573 AD), and the 15 Tokugawa shogun who ruled during the Edo jidai (1603 - 1868 AD).

But, it was all over in 1868 with the onset of the Meiji-jidai (1868 - 1912), a time that is also known as the Meiji Restoration and is also known as the first half of the Empire of Japan. 

In 1868, the shogunate was abolished and power returned once again to the Emperor. The Emperor also moved his base of operations from Kyoto to Tokyo, once again becoming the capital. Imperial power was once again restored.

With its borders once again opened up, Japan strove to become equal--or perhaps better--than its Western counterparts, as a economical and military power. With the shogun system out, Japan tried to make it more of a non-class based society--and it did indeed succeed in that endeavour.

Anyhow... there you have it. A brief lesson on what the shogun is and... hmmm, I didn't really give you a lot of meat and potatoes there... well... at least you know how to pronounce the word shogun.

Somewhere without class (see tomorrow's blog),
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by Nazareth: ABSOLUTE POWER   

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