The Distinctive Characteristics of Pre-Modern Japan Hero
Every country had own historical heroes or mythology. Even though many heroes had different name, characters, and the reasons why the hero appeared, all heroes showed similarities. They all had uncommon power compared to other ordinary people. One would not say that the person was hero because of extraordinary power. It was important how to using the strong abilities. Heroes always worked for the good of the others in most stories. If the person who had extraordinary abilities worked for own happiness or own right and interests, he or she could not be hold in high esteem from others.
In addition, most heroes must show the wise act characteristics. Hero or heroine did not make any problems in their society or group. Therefore, common hero means that person sacrificially used their uniquely strong power and always showed acting wisely. Even though pre-modern Japanese heroes also similar characteristics with other common hero, they gave distinctive meaning of the hero or heroine compared to common heroes. First of all, Japanese heroes did not emphasize the act of herolike characteristics. For example, the typical hero such as Super man or Wonder Woman always showed act of herolike.
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The act of herolike means that they never killing ordinary people. In addition, they did not avoid against any injustice moment because it means that those behavior represented the work of own rights and interests. However, there were no strict herolike behaviors in premodern Japanese heroes or heroin. When Susanowo used violence to his sister who was Amaterasu, Amaterasu felt fear and she eventually avoid that moments. “With that, Amaterasu was terrified; she opened the door of the heavenly rock cave, went in, and locked the door light. (Course Packet 38). As common hero or heroine never avoid that violent moment, hiding in rack cave was different point compared to common heroes. In other words, the act of Amaterasu did not work for the good of the others in that situation. Susanowo also showed distinctive characteristics compared to other common hero-act in this story. “Susanowo broke down the divisions of the rice fields, filled up the irrigation ditched, and as though that were not enough, strewed excrement in the sacred hall” (Course Packet 38).
Susanowo only used his uniquely strong power for his own interests in this story. Even though Susanowo eventually used his ability for good of the others in later chapter, premodern Japanese hero or heroine did not always act like typical hero characteristics. Unlike typical heroes’ characteristics, Japanese hero or heroine had distinctive feature of young noble in exile motif. This was an ideal hero or heroine in premodern Japanese characteristics of hero. Almost known typical heroes, such as Super man, became heroes, when they rescued ordinary people against enemies.
Often they were already heroes in their stories. On the other hand, there were some young noble in exile motif in Japanese literature. “Susanowo acquires the power and respect necessary to become a true hero after he defeated eight-tailed serpent in the land of Izumo. ” (PPT lecture, slide 24, Sep. 26, 2011). In addition, this motif also appeared in the tale of Genji. After Korean physiognomist predicted Genji’s future that there were severe distress if Genji become an emperor, his father demoted his status because his father would not like to happen. Confirmed in this opinion by a wise astrologer with whom he took counsel, the emperor decided to name him a member of the Genji clan. ” (McCullough 36). Like those two examples, Japanese ideal heroes had a certain clue that how they became a true hero. It emphasized why they were a true hero in this point. On the other hand, common hero stories in other countries tended to more focus on how the heroes defeated enemies. Young noble in exile motif showed that their distinctive characteristics of overcome adversity.
Another distinctive characteristic of hero or heroine in premodern Japanese literature was the emphasizing of the wisdom of hero or heroine. All common heroes were had their uniquely superhuman strength such as flying ability. When Yamato-takeru slayed the Izumo hero, he could easily killed the Izumo hero by his wisdom. “He secretly made a false sword out of yew wood and girded it on. ” (Course Packet 43). Then he suggested exchange sword to the Izumo hero. There was also example of Susanowo story of killing eight-tailed serpent.
Susanowo made besottingly eight-tailed serpent and killed it. Even if Japanese ideal heroes were not strong enough to defeat enemies, they overcame an ordeal wisely. There were three distinctive ideal heroes in Japanese literature. Even though they were true hero, they often showed unwise act. They also made a clue why they became a true hero by young noble in exile motif. Lastly, it was important to emphasize their wisdom rather than superhuman strength. Those three characteristics were not shown in common type of hero stories.
Like those results absolutely relate with their religion or society. When they made a story of Susanowo and Yamato-takeru, they would like to show the relationship of their clan with the heroes. They also emphasized how their land was created and why their religion was appeared. When they made a character as young noble in exile and wisdom, it was reflection of their thought at that time. They explained how people live well in society through the characteristics of heroes.
Fukumori, Naomi, ed, Japanese 251, Course packet, Columbus, OH, Zip Publishing, 2011 McCullough, Helen, trans. Genji and Heike: The Tale of Genji and The Tale of the Heike. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994. Fukumori, Naomi. PowerPoint Lecture. September 26, 2011.