"According to Katsushika Hokusai, there is an abyss of
cultural differences between Western souls and Eastern
crowds" (o-shoku-jin-shu", in Japanese), quotes of early
20th century painter Henri Riviere.
In 1914, author Henri Focillon published his Hokousai,
whom, he wrote, "conserves in himself some of the permanent
and profound traits of Asiatic soul, takes them up to the
highest degree of their expressive power, and makes them
communicable to the whole of humanity.
Hokusai is not only one of the greatest creators of the
living forms in history, but he belongs to the heroic
order, he is one of the artists who, being visible from all
the points of the horizon, lets us know simultaneously his
own singular genius, and the genius of his race, as well as
something of the eternal man."
One would say in a more 21st century politically correct
formula that there are myriad of diversities, concepts and
dogmatic views between a Western mind and an Eastern mind,
and as a stone remains impermeable to fresh water, the idea
of Asia “as a common heritage" never made its way to... the
Western world. Not yet.
Needles to say that the West often enters into confusion
when placed in front of “outdated Japanese principles”; and
more than once I was asked by Westerners "what are the
ideals and values of the East?" A specific continuity? An
organic thinking of the idea of Asia as a common heritage,
eternity symbolized by the Phoenix or the Dragon?
I was often tempted to answer, unconvinced : "Harmony?"
Hokusai was one of the greatest artist of Edo era, ukiyo-e
painter, printmaker of the Edo period and expert on Chinese
painting and had a great influence on the Impressionist
movement, he was maybe the greatest master in Japanese art
"A simple Japanese ukiyo-e print craftsman transfigured
into the ultimate oriental master, Inaga Shigemi of the
International Research Center for Japanese Studies said,
comparable to such giants as Michel Angelo, Rubens, and
Rembrandt, and why was he so much admired by such great
figures of modern art as Edouard Manet and Vincent Van
Because "If we study Japanese art, we see a man who is un-
doubtedly wise, philosophic, and intelligent who spends his
time doing what? In studying the distance between the
earth and the moon? No. In studying Bismarck’s politics?
No. He studies a single blade of grass ("un seul brin
d’herbe.") But this blade of grass leads him to draw every
plant, then great views of the countryside in every season,
then animals, then human figures" as Vincent Van Gogh wrote
And maybe with such new perception of nature, human
figures, countries and history is the power to be of Prime
Minister Hatoyama who will be reckoned with from now on.
Question is : Has the new Prime Minister of Japan the habit
of sketching policies from life or from the 90's and
memories of petulant old friends?
Will the new Japanese leader be able to penetrate the
policies' essential nature and the arcane of international
relations with such powerful "friend" as the United States,
the Europeans, Asia, and will every dot and every stroke of
his speeches be authentic guidelines for future redesign of
Japan diplomacy, economical role, and international
Four years after Hokusai's death, an American fleet led by
a sailor called Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay and
forced Japan to open its arms to the west...
First diplomatic test
Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, faces his first
diplomatic test on Wednesday when he meets President Barack
Obama in New York, Hatoyama will also seek attend a U.N.
climate change conference and pledge new targets for cuts
in greenhouse gas emissions and offer more environmental
help to developing nations.
The new Japanese Prime Minister is trying to show that
there are now 2 different (1 conservative and 1 liberal)
parties in Japan. Hatoyama wants to forge a more equal
partnership with Washington, revising policies on U.S.
forces based in Japan or on the wars engaged in Middle East
"That could lead to "a diplomatic mashup," according to
Brad Glosserman of Pacific Forum CSIS, a think tank based
in Hawaii. "I don't think the DPJ has thought through the
implications. It strikes me as a dangerous position. It's
one thing to expose the hypocrisy of your predecessors,
it's another to be faced with punishing dilemmas." Building
trust is Hatoyama's goal for his first meeting with Obama
but it may be hard to pull off, some analysts said. "By
supporting one another through policies, you create good
ties. If your policies are at odds, you can't form a good
relationship," said Fumiaki Kubo of Tokyo University.
Enter the realm of action
"For change to have any real meaning, it has to exit the
realm of rhetoric and enter the realm of action" Philip J.
Cunningham,Professor of media studies in Japan, writes on
Quotes : "Prime Minister Hatoyama would be wise to take
note of how US President Obama, who started out with so
much promise, and such a huge mandate for change, only to
end up tacking to the right and frittering much of his
mandate away, betraying his own reform-minded base in the
hopes of placating Wall Street, the Pentagon and America's
implacable right wing.
Mr Hatoyama and the DPJ face a comparable test, and early
indications suggest they too will compromise and bend and
revive existing patronage patterns, perhaps until the day
that they are not recognizably different from the "fat
cats" and the complacent ruling party that they have
If the DPJ, with Mr Hatoyama at the helm, and former LDP
stalwart Ozawa Ichiro navigating at his side, keep their
promise to help Japan become a more normal nation - less
dependent of the whims of US foreign policy, less beholden
to Japan's own elite with its malignant, murky roots in the
last world war, and more responsive to ordinary citizens
and taxpayers, then Japan is indeed entering a period of
change that people can believe in.
If, instead, however, the new government avoids friction by
continuing along the beaten-down path created by the LDP,
and in doing so sustains the unholy marriage between big
business and an entrenched bureaucracy and concomitantly
inflates its own military reach while hiding in the shade
of the US security umbrella, then the demise of the LDP has
been greatly exaggerated." End of quotes.
Japan relations with US, as with Europe and Asia could well
end into a "Fireworks at Kantei" or a "Bonfire on the Fuji"
if diplomatic oscillating estimations and differences
remain between Mr Hatoyama, sophisticated connoisseur of
the Japanese policies, and the world way beyond the
Internationally acclaimed Hokusai was obsessed with the
Fuji-San, what is going to be The Great Wave of Yukio
Hatoyama and how is Japan new Prime Minister going to print
out his governance on his nation, on Western and Eastern
mind as good as a simple print craftsman achieved with a
single blade of grass and a woodblock?