Saturday, August 28, 2010

Michael Attends Talk by Tsunenari Tokugawa

08/26/10- The Japan Society of Northern California and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California (JCCNC)sponsored a talk by Tsunenari Tokugawa in Palo Alto, CA on Thursday, 8/26/10. It was an opportunity to hear a historical perspective of Japan from a direct descendant of the Tokugawa shogun - the eighteenth head of the main lineage of the Tokugawa family, who ruled Japan for 265 years. The author of The Edo Inheritance, Mr. Tokugawa discussed the roots of Japanese innovation and creativity tracing back to the Edo Period, before Japan was opened to the West.

Tsunenari Tokugawa was born in Tokyo in 1940. After graduating from the Faculty of Political Science at Gakushuin University in 1964, he joined the NYK Line, one of the largest shipping companies in the world.

Among the many interesting points in his talk, there were three that struck me as somewhat remarkable.
1. Because there were no wars, Japan was experiencing rapid growth during the Tokugawa period, and by the early 1800's found themselves running out of natural resources, being a relatively small island nation. That need gave birth to a full-scale environmental/recycling movement, that survives to this day.
2. Previous to the Tokugawa rule, Japan experience over a hundred years of war, with various clans vying for the position of ruling the country. The battle of Sekigahara saw the defeat/death of 100,000 soldiers, but the result was 265 years of peace. What nation, including the U.S. can boast that record?
3. Guns were introduced to Japan in the mid 1500s by the West (Dutch). The gun merchants were accompanied by Christian Priests, and as a pre-condition for buying the guns, forced the Japanese buyers to become Christians.

It was a fascinating opportunity to hear and learn history from the perspective of one whose family was so integral and influential in the evolution of this nation. The only allegory I can draw for Americans is that it was like learning history from a direct decendant of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and every American President to date.

Thank you Japan Society and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce for making this memorable event happen.

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