Similarities between the cultures of 19th C Japan and 21st C Pakistan
Despite a distance of some thousand miles between the island of Japan and the strip of land better known as Pakistan, not to mention the gap of countless years in history, it is impossible not to notice the striking similarities between the two cultures - Similarities between the cultures of 19th C Japan and 21st C Pakistan introduction. 19th Century Japanese society and 21st century Pakistani society have a great deal more in common than first meets the eye. An emphasize upon complete obedience towards a feudal lord, rigid marriage restrictions based upon family name and social class, not to mention an extremely demeaning attitude towards women and their place in society.
The gap of two hundred years seems to disintegrate when we compare ancient Japanese society with modern day Pakistan, and maybe that is the greatest tragedy of the situation. Of all the social situations presented to us through the short story, “Green Willow, the debasing attitude of the peasant family towards their daughter is the most remarkable aspect of the story. “Please forgive the clumsy service of our daughter, Green Willow. She has been raised alone in these mountains and is only a poor, ignorant girl,” said her father.
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The sentence is an excellent example of not only how women were treated throughout Japanese society at the time, but how women are being treated in present day Pakistan. Green Willow is considered inferior to others around her, and the father reacts in a manner that can best be described as embarrassment. This attitude is paralleled in Pakistani society, where women are often treated as second class citizens. It is truly believed by most in society that women do not deserve the same rights as men, which is the tragedy of the situation.
An excellent example of this was a conversation between my mother and an old lady, whose daughter worked at our home. During the entire conversation everything she said regarding her daughter was degrading and demeaning, while at the same time lavishing praise upon her son. Such a situation would lead most to believe that the daughter was disrespectful or disobedient; however the only crime she had committed was to be born a girl.
Speaking of women as though they are not human and have no rights of their own seemed to be completely customary in 19th century Japanese culture, as portrayed by the short story. “.. please accept her as a gift, a humble handmaid. Deign, O Lord, to regard her henceforth as yours, and act towards her as you will,” stated her father. She is being compared to an object, or a gift, without the realization that she is as much of a human being as the two of them are.
When we view Paksitani society, it is an extremely similar view that is being mirrored. On a particular occasion, one member from the Pakistani National Assembly stated that a woman’s husband can treat her in any way he sees fit, which resembles the permission given to the Lord of Noto by Green Willow’s father. He claimed that a man is allowed to hit his wife, or even remove her from his home, if it is deemed necessary. This shows that women are completely subjugated in both societies, and have no individual rights.
However, the one small difference that we can notice is the terminology used to refer to women. Most Pakistanis feel that women are treated as objects and possessions in our society. Possessions that must be transferred from their parents home to a husband as soon as possible. Whereas the father referred to his daughter as a gift, a humble handmaid, and by saying that paid her just a slight amount of respect, which would never be the case in Pakistan.
Love or passion never played a prominent part in marriages in ancient Japan, as they do many parts of the world now. On the other hand, marriage was simply a mechanism through which the family name and honor was maintained, as well as ensuring marriages within a respectable social class For that reason, marriage into inferior classes was forbidden, hence the Lord of Noto’s realization to the possibility of his daimyo rejecting his scheme to tie the knot with Green Willow. In modern day Pakistan, the same transpires.
Despite many cultural developments since the 19th or 20th centuries, the idea of marriage below your social class is completely forbidden and generally frowned upon Men are often disowned by their families if they marry a woman below their class; however, if a woman elopes or marries without permission, she suffers the horrific fate of an “honor killing”. Families believe that marriage to a lower class would tarnish the family name, and is incomprehensible, thus their dramatic reactions in this country.
The system of feudal lords, and the relationship between the daimyo (feudal lord) and the samurai (warriors), formed the basis of 19th century Japanese society. “In the era of Bummei there lived a young samurai, Tomotada, in the service of the daimyo of Noto. ” Japanese believed that the samurai must dedicate his life to serve his daimyo in any way possible, and samurai would be sent on certain quests or missions on their behalf. In the “Green Willow” Tomotada was sent on a quest by his daimyo, and he abandoned the quest when he chose to marry Green Willow instead.
The daimyo’s control most aspects of their samurai’s lives. This resulted in a breaking of the code of honor of Japanese society, and brought a great deal of dishonor upon himself. Comparisons between the feudal system of rural Pakistan and that which was presented in the story “Green Willow” are inevitable. In Pakistan, those blessed with the lion share of land in the rural regions gain the power and authority which comes from their ability to control those who earn their livelihood on the land.
They govern these citizens in terms of how they will work, the manner with which they lead their lives, and even their marriages. In our society, a land lord may choose to marry any young woman from families who reside on his land, and these families have no choice but to consent. They are bound not by a code of honor, but instead by sheer fear and obedience. In Japan, the samurai were generally proud to serve their daimyo, and felt it was their sworn duty; conversely in Pakistan the lower classes are powerless against the wishes of their feudal lord.
Both societies may have lords ruling over certain individuals, however one system is based upon a code of honor, and the other is simply based upon greed and power. As a result, there are similarities between the two feudal systems; however a few minor differences also surface as we take a deeper look at the two situations. When all is said and done, the undeniable fact remains that there are certain parallels between the traditions of Pakistan and ancient Japan.
It may seem unusual that the same social situations that occurred in 19th century Japan are occurring in 21st century Pakistan, and most would prefer not to believe it. Yet when women are still being treated as second class citizens, both by individuals and by the law, families still look down upon marriages outside of their precious social class, and the countryside is dominated by feudal lords, we must face the harsh reality that many parts of our culture are in a stasis, and can be dated back to the 19th century and Japanese society.