What’s it all about?
Modern-day Japan is an intoxicating mix of the new and old: a commute on the bullet train at a steady 300 kph, and entertainment from a highly skilled geisha in a 150 year old tea-house; cutting edge technology at Tokyo’s Akihabara district, and a kimono-clad woman in Kyoto performing the centuries old tea ceremony; vending machines on most corners selling anything and everything, and exquisite artisan-made lacquer ware in an obscure upstairs workshop.
But what about nation-shaping events down the millennia, that caused today’s Japan to be the dichotomy it is?
Japan’s militarism in the first half of the 20th century, leading to its defeat and occupation, are well known. Less is known of when, after centuries of seclusion, the country was forcibly opened to the West in the 1850s by the American Commodore Perry. And going back much further, to the latter 13th century, how Mother Nature foiled not one, but two attempts by the Mongol leader Kublai Kahn to invade Japan and force it into vassaldom, as had occurred with Korea and China.
What will we cover?
For those of us interested in Japan, its history is as complex and multi-faceted as any other aspect of the country. It is totally different from the much more familiar history of Europe, but at least equally littered with incidents of extreme violence, cultural enhancement and personal achievement.
The presentation will comprise two parts:
- The failed Mongol invasion attempts, which necessitated different clans to unite (for the first time ever) against a common foe, after which they reverted to their old warring habits among themselves
- The forced opening of the country under threat of military intervention, after being almost completely closed for 260 years, following which in a very short time Japan fully modernised and became a world power.
The objective of this presentation on these two incidents of nation-shaping significance, is to open up an historical window on this unique nation to our north.
Who will be teaching?
Stephen Peterson has spent nine years of his life in Japan. While there, he got married, raised a family, set up two small businesses, made many friends, travelled around, and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Stephen has given his popular presentation ‘Japan: What You Won’t Hear From Your Travel Agent’ on numerous occasions at Laneway Learning, now he’s going to delve back into the country’s history with photos and commentary.