By Robert L. Cutts
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And so Japan grows, from the start, as a deeply dependent society on the most basic level. "If we look closely at the [social] developmental cycle," writes one sociologist who has studied Japanese children and schools at length, "we find at every stage from nursery school to early employment the same basic routines reiterated and the same social lessons repeated again and again. "18And that is what the Japanese mean by harmony: You've got to go along to get along. Patterns in acculturation are not really the point here, though.
But Japan's modern social system grew from the older class structure imposed by the shoguns, which kept everyone rigidly in place. One was born a samurai, or a farmer, and seldom was permitted to change that station. In an agrarian society where land was scarce, prosperity depended on cooperation. Efforts such as artificial irrigation, bringing water from a single distant stream to Page 15 spread among hundreds of acres of rice paddy, meant sharing work and sharing fruits: Bluntly, people living in villages either were "harmonious" or faced starvation.
Japan's modern-era government was founded in 1868, as the age of shogun and samurai was swept away with a broad and brutal stroke of the broom of history. Young Turks from the warrior caste in western Japan gained control of the country, and in a truly phenomenal epic of historythe Meiji Restorationturned it almost full-circle from its deadening focus on the past toward a modern future. These men grasped from the start that importing Western learning and technology quickly would be Japan's only salvation from the rapacious West itself.
An Empire of Schools: Japan's Universities and the Molding of a National Power Elite by Robert L. Cutts