Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney. Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History

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Author: Peter Metevelis
Date: Oct. 2003
From: Asian Folklore Studies(Vol. 62, Issue 1)
Publisher: Nanzan University
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,060 words

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Chicago: The University of" Chicago Press, 2002. xvii+411 pages. Illustrations, appendix, bibliography, index. Paper US$20.00/14.00 [pounds sterling]; ISBN 0-226-62091-3. Cloth US$45.00/31.50 [pounds sterling]; ISBN 0-226-62090-5.

To learn why people must evanesce (die after living but briefly), a European might turn to the universal chronicles of the Old Testament. A premodern Japanese might turn to the universal chronicles of Japan: the Koji-ki and the Nihon Sho-ki (PHILIPPI 1969; ASTON 1956).

According to the anthropogonic myth in the Japanese chronicles, the progenitor deity Ninigi descends from heaven (ecumene of the spirit) to earth (ecumene of the flesh), mantled in a coverlet and bearing with him seed rice. The coverlet symbolizes the spirit-mantling flesh (METEVELIS 2002; 76-78, 81-82). The rice symbolizes food, in order to satisfy the first of two fundamental needs of the flesh: refection and reproduction. The second fleshly need is satisfied by matrimony.

So, unsurprisingly, upon alighting on earth the first thing Ninigi does is erect a wedding palace. Next, he spurns an ugly rock and weds a beautiful flowering tree) The type of tree goes unspecified in the chronicles, just as the type of Eve's arboreal fruit goes unmentioned in the Genesis of the Old Testament. Today Europeans often claim Eve's fruit came off the apple tree; in the same way, Shinto priests, according to hieratic tradition in recent centuries, say Ninigi's tree is the cherry.

Ostensibly Ninigi marries only the tree by mistake, for had he been good enough to marry the rock also, his offspring should, like the rock, never perish (PHILIPPI 1969, 144-145; ASTON 1956, I: 84-85; METEVELIS 2002, 21-23). By...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A110960828