KATSUSHIKA Hokusai, born in Edo — today’s Tokyo — in 1760, created the most memorable image to have emerged from Japan’s whole long, brilliant culture.
It is The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which Hokusai created when he was in his 60s. The wave dwarfs Mt Fuji in the background.
The wall of water is sometimes represented as a tsunami, although some opinion insists it depicts an ocean wave. Will the 21st-century great wave eclipse the country’s spirit or propel it to rediscover its greatness? Japan was not in a good head space when the colossal earthquake and terrible tsunami struck.
Over the past 20 years the country has suffered the loss of self-esteem by a thousand cuts.
Its great corporations have kept the red sun flag flying by refocusing their markets, and increasingly their production as well, offshore. Toyota and Sony have become international companies, every bit as much as their US predecessors such as Ford and McDonald’s.
But at home, people have grown used to treating their bank accounts like piggy-banks, merely convenient deposits in which cash can be kept safe but earns no interest. Not comforting for a rapidly ageing population.
No national politician except Junichiro Koizumi, who was finally forced from office in 2006 without even losing an election, has contrived to paint a vision to inspire the Japanese people that theirs is a great and exciting future. Instead people’s thoughts have turned inwards.
Read the rest of the story: Spirit of the rising sun tested.