Asian philosopher, Confucius, is regarded for his perspectives on interpersonal connections. In Eiji Yoshikawa’s, Taiko, various relationships between husband and wife, father and son, and rulers and subjects are highlighted. Through Yoshikawa’s representation of relationships, readers obtain insight into what makes Asian culture so unique from that of Western civilizations.
Husband and Wife
In Book One of Taiko, the first marital relationship the audience witnesses, is that of Yaemon and Onaka—Hiyoshi’s parents. Early on, it becomes known that Yaemon had been injured during battle; due to her husband’s permanent physical impairment, Hiyoshi’s mother, Onaka, finds herself burdened with the responsibility to take care of her family. In addition, since Yaemon’s career abruptly ended, he hopes for and encourages his son to become the man he was never able to be. However, Onaka possesses a completely opposing opinion and strongly forbids Hiyoshi to follow in the path of becoming a future samurai. Since she maintains a more authoritative motherly role in place of her weak husband, Onaka actively disagrees with Yaemon in order to protect her son from a potentially dangerous career.
Eventually, Yaemon passes away, leading Onaka to remarry; however, her second marriage to an aggressive samurai, Chikuami, proves to be quite different from that of her marriage to her late husband. Whereas Yaemon was debilitated and fragile, Chikuami is extremely outspoken and hostile. Not only is he a demanding stepfather, but he is also a belligerent drunk who abuses his power. Fearful of her safety, Onaka transforms into a more submissive, cooperative wife who supports her husband’s judgements rather than contradicting them. Because of Chikuami’s intimidating nature, Onaka resumes the role of a domestic, subservient wife.
Father and Son
Early on in Taiko, the societal culture of Asian lifestyles become very apparent. Respecting one’s elders and placing expectations upon offspring are considered norms across Asian cultures. Upon being introduced to Yaemon and his physical impairment, the audience immediately learns of the high aspirations he has for Hiyoshi: “However, I’m not great. In the end, I’m just a cripple. Therefore, Hiyoshi, you must become a great man” (11). Here, it becomes quite evident that Yaemon expects a great deal from his son—he demands for Hiyoshi to succeed in life and to not settle for being anything less than great. Perhaps this fatherly goal is a reason for Hiyoshi’s fervent determination to become a powerful samurai and leader later on in the epic.
Rulers and Subjects
Initially, the audience finds young Hiyoshi possessing high dreams of eventually becoming a great samurai. However, after developing from the leadership elicited by Tenzo, Danjo, Mitsuharu, Nobunaga, and several others, Hiyoshi gradually becomes his own ruler. Though as he matures, one could question his leadership style; he begins to take on a sense of entitelement, egotistical undertones, and lack of respect for his peers—all of which could backfire on him later in his career.
Compared to Western relationships, Confucius’ Eastern values place a significant importance on the role of authority and respect. In order to obtain a stronger comprehension of the comparison between Eastern and Western societal cultures, it’s important to examine Taiko and how it exemplifies the quintessential Confucian notions of Asian philosophies.
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1992.Print.
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