The Makings of a Man

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The developments of social norms and expectations have long been the foundation upon which generations are built. However, the 21st century, westernized lens through which Taiko is now being analyzed renders itself flawed and vastly inadequate.

Yokishawa provides readers the unique opportunity to witness the growth and maturation of a young boy in feudal Japan. Hideyoshi, the protagonist, experiences social construct differently than others in the story, and it is his application of experiential learning that stimulates his intellect and allows him to overcome class boundaries. From the beginning of the text, masculinity is heavily emphasized as desirable if not mandatory. The psychological development of masculinity begins with the opening scene of the text in which Hideyoshi is playing with a group of other young boys when confronted with the return of Japanese soldiers. The use of his nickname, Monkey, acts as a fire which when ignited encourages Hideyoshi to achieve more and gain subsequent respect.

Hideyoshi’s relationships with both his father and his stepfather become strong catalysts in the next stage of masculine development, both in their own ways. Hideyoshi’s father, Yaemon, is a wounded soldier, which further emphasizes the association between war and masculinity. However, Hideyoshi’s stepfather, Chikuami, is more agrarian focused with an emphasis on gender roles and familial duty. Later in the text, readers are presented with further characteristics attributed to masculinity: mental stamina, a balance of physical and emotional strength, and a deeply rooted understanding of duty. It is here that readers see the most contrast with western culture as intellect becomes as valuable as physical strength. Though other areas, such as emotional openness, are familiar and comfortable for the western mind. However, the unique interlocking of intellectual capability and capacity with success as a soldier and leader is the dropping off point for most readers. The Japanese culture of the time valued intellect in tandem with physical strength, embodied within Hideyoshi as he continues to prove his maturation and gain in ranks through his understanding of emotional appropriation, intellect, and honor.

Through the text, it is important that the reader shed his or her cultural lens so as to fully appreciate the depth of characterization within the story. Though masculinity and gender roles are not unfamiliar to any culture, those that exist within this text challenge the western perspective and encourage the reader to extend beyond the preconceived notion of western masculinity. 

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