Japanese Civilization: A Spenglerian Analysis
Good thread fren as always. You should write a book someday.
This is a wonderful thread. But I do have a few critiques. 

First, I would say you put the cart before the horse so to speak regarding the Japanese prime-symbol. Spengler is vague in his exact approach of research but it seems that he begins steeped in cultural artefacts. From there, he 'picks up' on a prime-symbol. Whereof one can discern a prime-symbol, thereof a Culture must be. Thus, Spengler would begin in art, mathematics, literature, etc. True cultural artefacts. This isn't to necessarily disagree with your take on the Japanese prime-symbol, but only to point out an issue of method. If you were to start with the 'greatest hits' of Japanese culture (literary, architectural, or otherwise) you could then go on to demonstrate the presence of a hypothesized prime-symbol in each case. You did mention an artist (Hokusai) but, ideally, you would do as Spengler does and go through many more examples and demonstrate how the prime-symbol shines through in each. For Spengler, the prime-symbol is to be found in each and every part of a Culture (same for Goethe btw). As of now, your 'hypothesis' lacks sufficient grounding (though it is perhaps wrong to discuss of hypotheses when it comes to Spengler).

Next, you ought to focus on the difference between Japanese and Chinese prime-symbols. Again, whereof a different prime-symbol exists, thereof a Culture must be. You did a good job summarizing and showing Spengler's take on the Chinese Weltanshauung (the hithering and dithering of the Dao). So props to you. Spengler does mention that the Japanese (and perhaps also the Vietnamese though I forget) are a 'moonlight' Civilization. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun and gives the illusion of the moon being luminous, Japan 'reflected the light' of Chinese Culture and Civilization. So perhaps it would be worthwhile to go through some seemingly 'Chinese' symbols in Japanese art and demonstrate how, despite the apparent 'psuedomorphosis' or influence, the true Japanese prime-symbol is still manifest and apparent.

Your bit on mapping out the morphology of Japan's history was excellent and where this thread really hit its stride. Very fun to read and I agree with your characterizations. I can voice no complaints and can only laud your efforts.

Two interesting things to consider: could we not, perhaps, do a spinoff of Spenglerian analysis by understanding Spengler's take to being limited to the "High Cultures"? (I believe he says as much in Decline of the West). This being a very specific 'species' of Civilization, it will have a certain morphology universal to the species but a prime-symbol unique to that one organism. However, if we consider it to be a different 'species', it could have a different morphology (structure of development/unfolding) and maybe the 'prime-symbol' wouldn't be quite as important. Perhaps these 'minor cultures' or 'low cultures' (I do not mean to offend the Japanese but I cannot think of a better term) have their own developmental tendencies unique to their species. Just food for thought. But this was an excellent thread by you and I hope you continue with more!

Second, perhaps Spengler's characterization of Japan as a moonlight civilization was apt. Perhaps Japan has begun reflecting light from a different source (the West). I won't say 1945 was the year of transition. I believe it was much older and begins with Japanese modernization efforts with the Meiji restoration. Again, great thread!
A new impulse awakes,
I hurry forth to drink its eternal light,
Before me the day, behind me the night,
Heaven above, beneath me the waves.
I think Spengler's takes on the Orient should be taken with a grain of salt, they're not nearly as reliable as his analysis of the Occident is.
Very interesting read and though I do have a bone to pick with the Spenglerian prime symbol idea simply because of the necessary conceptual low resolution such an act of generalization entails, the detailed historical overview mirrored some of my thoughts on Japanese history.
In particular I was glad to read that someone came to a similar conclusion I did where Japan and its feudalism could be compared to Europe whereas China played the role of Rome. Though my analogy is less formulaic than Spengler I find it no mere coincidence that China plays the role of the ancient empire and regional hegemon from which Japan had to initially import its Confucian culture, legal reforms and religions such as Buddhism and Taoist Onmyodo.
However, the unique part of their relationship is that because of China's constant dynastic upheavals, it would be as if Rome never split into East and West and instead different barbarian tribes constantly replaced the Roman emperors. So unlike Europe which had a fallen Roman empire they could look back to for inspiration, Japan had to distance itself from the shambling, deconstructed and reconstructed sphere of China, which was so effective at freezing its civilisation and "cooking the barbarians". Their distance across the sea gave the Japanese this independence.
In terms of pseudomorphism, I can speak to the influence of Buddhism which I have long held is similar to Christianity in general across Asia in terms of how it managed to displace and greatly change all native religions it came into contact with. In particular, without getting too much into Buddhist metaphysics, in all the countries it went to Buddhism managed to incorporate native religions easily because the local gods were simply considered other beings who needed the Buddha's wisdom to become enlightened. In Japan this syncretising tendency took a rather unique form, though it has very clear roots in Mahayana doctrine, which was called the honji suijaku theory, wherein the local gods were seen as manifestations of Buddhist deities. Amaterasu was seen as the manifestation of Dainichi Nyorai or Mahavairocana, the Cosmic/Primordial or 'First' Buddha, which is more like a metaphysical principle rather than a theistic deity. In any case, such a theory took until the medieval period of Japanese history to develop, but is important to understand because it is a situation where a religion consciously makes room for syncretism rather than something less officially sanctioned like some cults of Christian saints.
On a sociological level, its often been remarked how despite the initial elevation of the Buddhist sangha above the traditional Indian caste system, the Buddha was not a resentful revolutionary in the sense that he wanted to abolish the caste system, and so in certain places where Buddhism has gone, it accommodates itself quite well among merchants and nobility, with less emphasis on warriors because there may have been less of a firm warrior caste or culture in Asia.
Except for Japan of course. Which is where the popular saying of 'Pure Land for the commoners, Zen for the samurai, Tendai for the nobles and Shingon for the emperor' comes from. Though the Zen and Samurai connection is often too hyped up, it is also no coincidence that such a warrior class arose along with feudalism in a pattern so similar to Europe, and for similar reasons related to landholding. This would be an example where Zen which comes from Chinese Chan, took on its distinctly Japanese character, using a distinctly Buddhist strain of meditation as single-pointed concentration towards martial purposes.
Doesn't really make sense to call Japan a "Zombie Civilization" when they won WW2 now does it?
Great analysis. The prime symbol was expressed in a sublime way.
In the Decline of the West, Spengler does mention Japan in one or two passages, but rejects the idea that Japan may be a high culture altogether, arguing instead that it was a moonlight civilization, a nation formed through a secondary state formation process that was a reflection of China first, then the West.

However, it's clear he himself changed his mind at least a bit even during the brief period of time between the publication of the Volume II of the Decline and the release of another book of his, The Hour of Decision, where he presents Japan in a much more ambivalent way and as a weight vis-a-vis the West comparable to Russia (which according to him in the Decline, was the main ''candidate'' to be the next high culture). Thus I think neospenglerian analysis is much required.

I only beg to differ on one aspect, however which I think is of extreme importance.
My ''chronological classification'' of the periods of Japan's history viewed through Spengler's lenses led me to a wholly different conclusion.

Spengler mentions that Russia's Merovingian or pre-cultural period started with Ivan the Great's expulsion of the Tatars (i.e. the defeat of the Great Horde) in 1480, which formally reestablished Russia's independence. Ivan the Great then when on to unify and expand Russia and made Moscow its centre by extending his rule over formerly rival cities, such as Novgorod and Tver, similar to how Clovis I unified the Frankish tribes in 482 for the first time. Spengler also mentions Peter the Great as being part of this Merovingian period, comparing him to contemporary Western personalities of the 7th century. In other words, while the Russian pre-cultural or Merovingian period lasted from around 1480 to c. 1900, the Western Merovingian or pre-cultural period lasted from 482 to c. 900.

So, who unified Japan for the first time, as Clovis I and Ivan III did in the Western and Russian cultures, respectively? Oda Nobunaga, along with his retainers Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu! And that was in the 1560-early 1600s period. Therefore, I think Japan's pre-cultural or Merovingian period started around the 1600s.

There are yet more signs pointing towards this, as almost all the great cultural creations that we think of when we imagine Japan took shape after this period. The peak of Haiku and Matsuo Bashō? He was born in 1644 and died in 1694. Kabuki theater? Emerged in its earliest stages during 1603-1629 influenced by Izumo-no-Kuni. Miyamoto Musashi, the most famous swordsman? Wrote the Book of the Five Rings in 1645. The first female geisha appeared only in 1751. Ukiyo-e started to emerge only during the Edo period, specifically around the 1670s and reaching its peak around 1760-1850. Hokusai himself brought to life the Great Wave off Kanagawa in 1831. Even maneki neko figures were first produced only around the 1800s, and really become popular only after the Meiji Revolution. Takoyaki was first cooked in 1935. Japan's most important and meaningful events took place also only after this period, including the failed invasion of Korea in 1592, the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-1895, the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905, Japan's victorious participation in WWI and the Racial Equality Proposal (1919), the invasion of Manchuria (1931), the second Sino-Japanese War (1937) and Japan's extremely important participation in WWII of course. At this point, in my opinion, Japan was engulfed by the western, specifically American pseudomorphosis, which had up to this point been only an ever more suffocating source of motion and inspiration –gazed at with a mix of anxiety, admiration and hatred, just as the Russians look at everything Western – but now threatened to destroy its own forms wholly. Even then, as we know, the first bullet train (1964) Shinkansen, the first android (1972) by Waseda University were also considerable post-war achievements. Post-war Japan of course wasn't uneventful either, with Mishima's ritual suicide and Yasunari Kawabata becoming the first Japanese Nobel Prize of Literature Laureate. Osamu Tezuka, the father of manga also lived through this period and during the final years of the Shōwa era and the early years of the Heisei era, most of the icons of Japanese pop culture were born, including Hello Kitty (1974), Dragon Ball (1986), One Piece (1997), Naruto (1999), etc. Whether Japan will be completely replaced by the West or whether it will outlive it is another topic. But to my, however, Japanese history has barely started. Its distance with Russia seems to be of, roughly, one century.
Adding to my previous entry ---

Think of Japan now as Judea during roman occupation, and of a figure like Mishima as a John the Baptist type of prophet, and things start to make much more sense. Of course, the fact that both ended up being beheaded is just a rather amusing detail, as it is Mishima's obsession with John the Baptist and other judeochristian rebellious saints martyred by the Roman Empire (whose own resemblance to the United States has also been noted before).

And, just to clarify, it goes without saying that some other japanese traditions emerged during previous eras (albeit only very faintedly and in a much more unaware way) since rarely do these simply appear overnight. But the beginning and core of Japan's cultural expressions and most intense historical events to this day is so ridiculously heaped on (and around) this single time period (1600s-2000s) that it is difficult to argue otherwise. Japan's wartime feats seem to be more fitting of a pristine Springtime culture that seeks to expand its borders out of a natural feeling of an awakening soul, and destroy the previous civilizational hegemon (as the Achaemenid Persian Empire vis-a-vis Babylon, or the germanic peoples vis-a-vis Rome) than a rigid, materialist, rationalist imperialism. This was the whole purpose of the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and the barbarian-like japanese invasion, which while welcomed by some and fought by others, inevitably led to the collapse of Western colonialism in Asia. The devotion of its fearless soldiers, who give everything for the sake of their families, nation, future, Emperor, is more similar to Spengler's comments on Russia's youth ''Unlike us, such a people does not count the victims who die for an idea, for it is a young, vigorous, and fertile people'' than anything else. The role of religion (State Shinto, as well as Nichiren Buddhism and other japanese new religions) was similar to the role of Russia's Orthodox Church now in supporting the war in Ukraine. And you will note I mention Russia regularly when talking about Japan, as I believe that we can modesly deduce what would Japan be like today if it wasn't occupied based off Russia's own experience. Because, after all, neither secularization, nor materialism or demilitarization were conscious or even voluntary choices of the japanese people, the culmination of an autonomous, century-long intellectual strife, as it was in the case of Western culture/civilization. Rather, all these things were imposed by America, e.g. the Shinto Directive (1945) dictated and enforced by the Occupation authorities (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto_Directive), the controversial Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, and even the very Japanese Constitution. 

Other things such as the spiritual inclinations, superstitious nature, naivete and overall penchant for the supernatural and paranormal are also well-known and found among most japanese, although I guess these become more evident when one spends a long time in Japan, even if they also find their way through media in some way or another. Apocalypticism reigned in Japan from the 90's, during the start of the first 'Lost Decade' just as it did in Russia after the fatal years that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90's. Shoko Asahara and Evangelion were expressions of this feeling of gloom and insecurity about Japan's future, which still exists to this day. Most people feel despair about the future, and this is growing, not diminishing. Tetsuya Yamagami was also one of the last signs of this despair, and I expect this trend to grow stronger too. As a japanese citizen, when I look into the coming decades of the 21st Century, the future of Japan becomes ever more turbulent.
On Godzilla, and his reverse heel-turn into becoming a beloved national hero, and what it means in relation to Japan and White America's influence on it's technology and culture:
Part 1 (out of 72)

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