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Complexities of Culturally Constructed Gender Roles: Masculinity and Femininity in Taiko and “Tree With Deep Roots”

So-Yi, an important female character in "Tree With Deep Roots" who challenges gender roles

So-Yi, an important female character in “Tree With Deep Roots” who challenges gender roles

The male and female characters in Taiko and “Tree With Deep Roots” challenge gender roles of modern western civilization as well as the traditional roles of men and women in Japanese and Korean cultures, demonstrating the complexity of gender as a subjective cultural construct.

Overview

Though East Asian culture typically represents patriarchal societies, gender roles are not always clear. There is a general complexity regarding gender, which is evident in both male and female characters in Eiji Yoshikawa’s Taiko as well as the television K-Drama series “Tree With Deep Roots.” In contrast with the modern Western view of masculinity, male characters in Taiko and “Tree With Deep Roots” show their power through intellect and emotion, balancing physical strength and discipline. Those who do not demonstrate a sense of self-control or understanding are seen as much less powerful figures. According to Vladimir Tikhonov, “any attempt to construct an image of unchanging, singular, traditional masculinity will likely be an exercise in essentialist overgeneralizing” (1037). The same holds true for femininity; while the typical role of East Asian women in the time period can be defined as dependent, submissive and reserved, both works feature women who challenge these roles, which further complicates East Asian philosophies regarding gender. Both male and female characters serve rather untraditional roles in the context of their genders, not only in comparison with Western culture but also within the confines of Japanese and Korean cultures, denoting the true complexity of gender as a social and cultural construct.

Masculinity in Taiko

According to Donald Levine, “the Japanese have traditionally referred to those who behave with untamed violence, not as real men, but as barbarians or wild beasts. The attitude toward a man who manifests physical strength alone is just as negative as that toward an effete courtier” (Levine 167). While gender role is a malleable concept in Eiji Yoshikawa’s Taiko, male characters still demonstrate their masculinity through physical and emotional brutality; however, the most influential male figures express an intellect defined by their ability to balance emotional vulnerability with harsh stoicism, recognizing where each is appropriate. Thus, masculinity is defined much differently than in Western culture, revealing that there is more to a man than his physical strength; power develops from intellect and the ability to show emotion.

It is clear that the world of Taiko is a culture mainly run by men, where female characters have little say in the direction their lives take. Tokichiro notes in Book Two that a woman’s “happiness depends on the man she marries” (141), explaining the power associated with masculinity. When Oichi reunites with her brother (Nobunaga), she refuses to acknowledge Nobunaga as anything “more than the enemy general who had killed her husband” (421). Oichi’s outburst of emotion for her late husband infuriates Nobunaga, causing him to display his (and his sister’s lack of) power by sending Oichi away. Nobunaga’s authoritative masculinity is evident in his ability to denounce his sister and disregard her emotions entirely. In this way, Nobunaga demonstrates an unsympathetic masculinity, acting out of passionate distaste rather than evaluating the situation with understanding or intelligence. Yoshikawa paints a vivid picture of masculinity regarding physical strength insomuch as the samurai is the archetype of masculinity, thus correlating violence with the quintessential man.

However, it is not just physical or emotional severity that make a man, nor is it mere masculinity that allows a man to successfully rule over and protect a group of people in Japanese culture. The most powerful men are those with incredible intellect, which is apparent when considering military strategists and the art of war.  Though the shogun Yoshiaki was born into power and represents masculinity as a military leader, he lacks the intellect necessary to earn respect as a male figure. When Nobunaga wants to kill Yoshiaki out of rage, it is Hideyoshi who evaluates the situation and deems it inappropriate to act on emotional disturbances, though he acknowledges and validates Nobunaga’s anger.

Portrait of Hideyoshi

Portrait of Hideyoshi

Hideyoshi demonstrates intellectual stoicism even when he makes a promise to commit seppuku if he is unable to finish building the castle wall in three days. While Nobunaga and others are worried he will not be able to finish in time, Hideyoshi knows not to waste time feeling anxious, Instead, he designs a plan to “make the laborers on the construction site work hard… using their strength to the full” in order to complete the task (157). Rather than utilizing threats or violence, Hideyoshi uses his intellect to inspire the workers. Despite his ability to drop emotion and fearlessly take on a life-or-death situation, Hideyoshi is not invulnerable to emotion; the scene in which he reads and cries over a letter from his mother is not an exceptionally masculine representation of him, because “it was the upbringing of a samurai not to let anyone see his tears” (149). However, it is noteworthy that Hideyoshi chooses this particular scene, which does not have high-stake implications, to become vulnerable. Still, he does not allow his vulnerability to negatively affect his work. Taiko presents an insightful perspective of the impact intellect and emotional control have on masculinity and power in Japanese samurai culture, which makes way for Hideyoshi’s rise to power as Taiko.

Female Characters in Taiko

 While Hideyoshi presents a nontraditional paradigm of masculinity, the female characters of Taiko further complicate the matter of gender. The first female character mentioned, Hideyoshi’s mother Onaka, presents a version of femininity very different from what is expected in that her marriage to Yaemon undergoes extenuating circumstances. Onaka serves a more important role, taking care of her two children and taking on all the household duties because her husband Yeamon, a samurai who was injured in battle, is utterly useless. This goes against the historically “reinforced notion of patriarchal authority” (Hsia and Scanzoni 311) because she has more power in the household than her crippled husband. However, she does not simply take on a purely masculine personality; “the thought of war made her shudder” (Yoshikawa 7), showing that she does not have the violent tendencies of a masculine figure. Nevertheless, Onaka “had one bright hope; to bring up Hiyoshi and make him the kind of son who would grow up quickly and be able to present her husband with at least a bit of sake every day” (Yoshikawa 7). Onaka aims to make her son’s life the best it can be; however, she complicates her motherly role when she remarries after Yaemon passes away. While her marriage to the abusive and alcoholic samurai Chikuami shows that she can endure hardship in order to provide financially for her children, an indication of strength, so too does it show that she plays the role of a submissive wife. The juxtaposition of her two roles in marriage complicates her womanhood.

A depiction of Hideyoshi with his wife.

A depiction of Hideyoshi with his wife.

Another female character in Taiko who displays an ambiguous femininity is Nene, Hideyoshi’s first wife. While Nene presents the portrait of a lovely, feminine woman whose father has a say in her marriage and future, she also serves an important role as Hideyoshi’s wife throughout his rise to his position as Taiko. Before they are married, Hideyoshi thinks of Nene in the context of someone who will be kind to his mother and someone who would “help [him] behind the scenes, look after [him] with devotion, and excuse [his] faults” (Yoshikawa 216). Though this is his romanticized idea of Nene as a wife, it is true that she assists him in all this when she does take on the role of his wife. “She works hard and she’s gentle” (Yoshikawa 216), proving that though she is a traditionally feminine character, she also has leadership qualities that are emblematic of masculine figures.

Masculinity in “Tree With Deep Roots”

King Sejong in "Tree With Deep Roots," showing emotion.

King Sejong in “Tree With Deep Roots,” showing emotion.

The television K-drama series “Tree With Deep Roots” further pushes the boundaries of traditional gender roles in an East Asian society; male characters follow the Korean tradition that “legitimate violence was the last resort for Confucian virtue (Tikhonov 1045). This challenges the notion that physical strength and brute force are important qualities for a masculine leader because the transition from the harsh King Taejong to the intellectual King Sejong proves to be a positive step toward a more masculine and favorable leader. King Sejong is the perfect example of a leader who maintains power via intellect and humility. His desire to give power to the common people by creating a new Korean alphabet called Hangul shows that he does not wish to simply keep all the power to himself, but would rather distribute power among the masses, proving his loyalty to his people. In the opening episodes of “Tree With Deep Roots,” Taejong tells Sejong that he should develop a way to keep power to himself, showing that he is selfish. Additionally, Taejong demonstrates the violent behaviors of a traditionally masculine figure, but exemplifies why pointless violence and brutality do not denote a strong, masculine leader.

While King Taejong views Sejong’s desire to distribute power as a weakness, Sejong’s masculinity is evident in that he does not fear sharing power; a weak king fears that power will be taken from him, while a strong king can distribute power while still remaining in control. In episode 19, King Sejong meets Jeong Gi Joon, the leader of the secret society of scholars called “Hidden Root” and discusses why he wants to give power to the people. While both men are intellectual leaders, Jeong Gi Joon shows weakness in acknowledging his fear that the common people might want to take over, challenging the notion that all intellectuals are masculine. However, the fact that the two most powerful and masculine men in the series (Sejong and Jeong Gi Joon) both owe their influence not only to the families they were born into but also to their intellectual abilities speaks to the importance of intelligence. Therefore, masculinity is not easily defined, but rather a concept constructed based on multiple societal ideals.

Jeong Gi Joon, a powerful intellect and leader of "Hidden Root"

Jeong Gi Joon, a powerful intellect and leader of “Hidden Root”

Female Characters in “Tree With Deep Roots”

 Though male figures make up the majority of characters in the television series “Tree With Deep Roots,” there are notable female characters who push the boundaries of traditional gender roles, specifically So-Yi. While So-Yi demonstrates the traditional ideals of a Japanese woman insomuch as her demeanor is quiet, demure and ladylike, she is far from conventional regarding her significance and commitment toward furthering the development of the Korean alphabet. At the end of the first episode, So-Yi blames herself for contributing to the death of Sejong’s father-in-law after reading a letter that is switched out for a letter of condemnation. Realizing her mistake in judgment, So-Yi vows to remain mute. The punishment she gives herself adheres to the traditional description of femininity in that it is nonviolent and causes her to seem submissive. However, she shows great self-control and power in her ability to stick to her word, a quality typically demonstrative of a strong male leader. According to Vladimir Tikhonov, Korean masculinity is characterized by “Confucian values of self-discipline and sacrifice” (1036); therefore, So-Yi’s sacrifice of her own voice is more of a masculine quality than it is feminine. While going mute is not the same as committing seppuku, So-Yi makes a sacrifice as a consolation for her mistake. She does this on her own account rather than as a result of being ordered to do so, showing honor and self-discipline, proving that she is not a standard symbol of femininity.

Scene from Episode 6 when King Sejong and So-Yi engage in an emotional confrontation.

Scene from Episode 6 when King Sejong and So-Yi engage in an emotional confrontation.

According to Donald Levine, “proficient calligraphy was the main” aspect of “personal culture” that contributed to the ideal male leader in East Asian culture (Levine 168), which confuses So-Yi’s gender role due to her intellectual prowess and ability to write. As a close advisor to King Sejong, So-Yi goes on to utilize her unique memory, ability to read and write, and overall incredible intelligence to carry out secretive missions and to assist King Sejong in his pursuit to create the Korean alphabet. So-Yi shows that whether male or female, loyalty goes a long way and provides power. Additionally, she exhibits emotional strength; in the middle of episode six, So-Yi writes to King Sejong that it is not his fault that her family was killed. While she remains calm in this scene, Sejong is overcome with emotion, becomes angry and cries. So-Yi demonstrates a sense of stoicism that violates the traditional reaction expected for women at the time. While So-Yi challenges gender roles as a woman in Korean society by holding a leadership position and demonstrating masculine qualities of self-control, power and stoicism, Queen Soheon, the wife of King Sejong also serves a nontraditional female role.

In the first episode of “Tree With Deep Roots,” Queen Soheon asks King Sejon to spare her father’s life, going against his own father’s corrupt orders. In doing so, she displays great courage and shows that a woman can request a favor from a man, which goes against the stereotype that women must be submissive and silent. In the second episode, the two converse about the fate of her father. While it is notable that she has influence on her husband’s actions and intentions, he poses a question: would she rather save her father or maintain her power as queen? Though not an easy decision, it is significant that she has the option of making the decision for herself at all regarding her own position as well as the life of another man. She utilizes her female qualities of loyalty toward her husband and her ability to keep calm and quiet as a means of maintaining her power. Her feminine compassion for her father drives her to behave in a more masculine way, imposing her influence on her husband to try to save lives. In doing so, she contributes to the fact that So-Yi is still alive; thus, Queen Soheon is a critical aspect of the development of the Korean alphabet insomuch as without her perseverance toward saving her father, So-Yi might not be alive to help King Sejong.

Conclusion

According to Jason Karlin, “within gendered representations, masculinity and femininity serve as signifiers of difference. Representations are inflected masculine or feminine as a way of expressing judgments related to questions of power and politics” (42). While this serves as a starting point for understanding gender in the contexts of Taiko and “Tree With Deep Roots,” it is clear that no character can completely represent all that is masculine or feminine due to the fact that each character is nuanced in their behaviors and attitude related to power as well as their manner of achieving it. Thus, gender roles are extremely complicated to define, especially when there are so many varying ideas of what the socially accepted gender roles are.

 

Works Cited

Hsia, Hsiao-Chuan and John H. Scanzoni. “Rethinking the Roles of Japanese Women.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 27.2 (1996): 309-329. JSTOR. Web. 8 May 2014.

Karlin, Jason G. “The Gender of Nationalism: Competing Masculinities in Meiji Japan.” The Society for Japanese Studies 28.1 (2002): 41-77. JSTOR. Web. 8 May 2014.

Levine, Donald. “The Masculinity Ethic and the Spirit of Warriorhood in Ethiopian and Japanese Cultures.” International Journal of Ethiopian Studies 2.1/2 (2006): 161-177. JSTOR. Web. 8 May 2014.

Tikhonov, Vladimir. “Masculinizing the Nation: Gender Ideologies in Traditional Korea and in the 1890s-1900s Korean Enlightenment Discourse.” The Journal of Asian Studies 66.4 (2007): 1029-1065. JSTOR. Web. 8 May 2014.

Tree With Deep Roots. Writ. Lee Jung Myung. Dir. Jang Tao Yoo and Shin Kyung Soo. SBS, 2011. DramaFever.

Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan. New York: Kodansha USA, 2012. Print.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Tree with deep roots, hangul and korea under imperial japan

King Sejong

King Sejong is a national hero in Korea for his role in developing the hangul alphabet.

The strains put on Korea during its period as a colonial holding of Japan in the first half of the twentieth century were many, though none was so horrid as the attempt to erase the Korean language. Memories of this injustice are central to the popularity of Tree with Deep Roots.

As can be seen in Tree with Deep Roots, the struggle to create and implement an efficient and accessible alphabet for the Korean language was no small undertaking. King Sejong, who ruled the Korean peninsula in the first half of the fifteenth century, implemented the Hangul alphabet in order to elevate the status of his people and give them a viable means of expressing their culture without having to master Chinese, then the official writing form in Korea. Sejong gave Koreans an official identity, as use of the Chinese alphabet had the effect of controlling Korean affairs. In episode 15 of Tree with Deep Roots the ease of implementation of hangul is demonstrated, as even a simple farmer can master it in a matter of days or even hours. Episode 19 gives some insight into Sejong’s motivations, as he speaks about his desire to see hangul give a voice to the people and a way to participate in their governance without having to go through corruptible bureaucratic channels. When Sejong ultimately prevails over the Hidden Root secret-society seeking to prevent the rise of hangul, a Korean national identity is formed, one which the Japanese seek to rip away after absorbing Korea into their empire in 1910.

After the wars of 1894-95 and 1905, “Japanese leaders believed that her success, and her sacrifices in [these] two wars, gave her the right to control Korea,” and promptly began acting on this position (Lone 145). In 1910 this was made official, as “a treaty of annexation transferring all rights of [Korean] sovereignty to Japan’s emperor,” making the peninsula a colony ruled by Imperial Japan (Brundnoy 161). For Korea, “a small country with no armed force worth the name,” and no international support forthcoming, “the obvious course seemed to be to accept Japanese control,” (Lone 172). At first the Japanese were relatively benevolent, choosing to at least pay lip-service to equality among Koreans and Japanese (while brutally crushing signs of resistance). By 1938, now embroiled in war with China once more, Japan began its barbarity in Korea in earnest, “placing emphasis on Japanization of Koreans,” through an “attempted annihilation of Korean consciousness,” (Brudnoy 186). To destroy the identity King Sejong had created some 500 years earlier the Japanese attacked hangul itself, as “the government abolished Korean-language instruction in all primary and secondary schools… [and] the use of Japanese became mandatory there and on the streets,” with harsh penalties meted out to violators (Ibid). This attempt by the Japanese to erase the essence of what it is to be Korean during their imperial period is still a major source of tension for the two countries today, and makes Tree with Deep Roots all the more poignant for Korean audiences.

Works Cited

Brudnoy, David. “Japan’s Experiment in Korea.” Monumenta Nipponica 25.1/2 (1970): 155-195. JSTOR. Web. 18 Mar 2014.

Lone, Stewart. “The Japanese Annexation of Korea 1910: The Failure of East Asian Co-Prosperity.” Modern Asian Studies 25.1 (1991): 143-173. JSTOR. Web. 18 Mar 2014.

Tree with Deep Roots. Writ. Lee Jung Myung. Dir. Jang Tao Yoo and Shin Kyung Soo. SBS, 2011. DramaFever.

 
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Naval Ensign

Viewing Taiko and Tree with Deep Roots through the lens of Japanese Imperialism

Russo-Japanese War

Rise of an Empire: Soldiers of the Emperor and the Czar clash in a pitched battle during the Russo-Japanese War. Japanese victory in this affair launched them to a position as a great power in Asia.

Taiko author Eiji Yoshikawa uses the story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi to emphasize the strength and importance of Japanese warriors in history, hoping this narrative would unite Imperial Japan in the spirit of conquest, whereas Tree with Deep Roots depicts the Korean alphabet as its historical rallying cry.

The rapid militarization of Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a direct result of contact with western imperialism and industrialization. After first meeting Spanish and Portuguese missionaries and traders and being introduced to firearms in the sixteenth century, fears grew in Japan over the growing influence of these outsiders. Worried, “the Tokugawa family, who ruled on behalf of the Emperor,” following the events of Taiko, imposed “a policy known as kaikin or sakoku from 1635: on pain of death, no Japanese were permitted to leave the country, and foreign trade was heavily restricted with Dutch, Chinese and Korean traders permitted only on the artificial island of Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor and on outlying islands,” (Mitter 28). This reclusive Japanese state continued existence in this manner for another two centuries until being forcibly opened to the outside world by American warships in the 1850s. Japan now stood at a crossroads as its sovereignty was threatened by Western powers eager to expand their colonial holdings in the Pacific. The old ways, it seemed, could not continue if Japan was to hope to survive, and so following a “short civil was in 1868, the Tokugawa were replaced by a very different sort of aristocratic elite, who decided that the way to repel Western imperialism was to embrace wholesale modernization,” hoping that by adapting to this new world their nation could thrive (Mitter 34).

While these were reforms were carried out “in the name of the emperor,” they were in fact “nothing less than a revolution,” completely transforming the very fabric of Japanese society (Ibid). What had been a “feudal aristocratic society, largely agrarian [and] with little foreign contact,” had by 1900 become a nation with “a disciplined, conscripted army, and a constitution and parliamentary system,” and emerged as “Asia’s most heavily industrialized society, exporting goods around the world,” (Ibid). This rapid rise quickly put Japan in conflict with its neighbors, touching off the newly industrialized nation’s first war in 1894, as “Japan went to war with China, ostensibly to guarantee Korea’s independence from [China],” but with the real aim of expanding Japanese influence (Crowley 124). The affair was a stunning success for Japan, and “after routing an ill-equipped Chinese Army in only six months, Tokyo dictated stern peace conditions: [China] had to keep its hands off Korea, cede Taiwan to Japan, pay a $177 million war indemnity, and lease the Kwangtung Peninsula to Japan,” affirming Japan’s status as not only a sovereign nation, but an imperial power as well (Ibid). In 1905 war came once more, as the Japanese Navy crushed the Russian Pacific Fleet, a victory that represented “the first time that an Asian power had overcome a European one,” a fact that “drew admiration from colonized and vulnerable peoples around the world,” (Mitter 35). War and conquest were now intrinsic parts of this new Japanese Empire.

In the early twentieth century, after a series of victories over their Pacific rivals in the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, the militant imperialism that took hold of Japan in the previous century had propelled the country to a position as a global power. The rural, feudal nation where Taiko is set in the sixteenth century looked nothing like this new Japan, as its “miraculous transformation into a modern power during the reign of Emperor Meiji,” had rapidly industrialized the country after his ascension to the throne in 1867 (Chang 181). Japan was now not only a modern nation, but one boasting a formidable military with expansionist aims. By the time Eiji Yoshikawa began writing Taiko in 1937, the Korean peninsula, Taiwan, virtually all of Manchuria and several cities along the Chinese coast – including Shanghai, the financial heart of China – were under the control of Tokyo. This was also the year that the Second World War began in the Pacific, with China and Japan again going to war. Though Japan long had eyes on further conquests on the Chinese mainland, this war began after “an unplanned local conflict,” in July outside Beijing – now called the Marco Polo Bridge Incident – quickly “escalated into an all-out war between the two great nations of East Asia,” that would not end for another eight years (Mitter 5). The tenets of the samurai Bushido creed and its emphasis on the warrior spirit would prove useful for the propaganda machine of the empire.

Soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army with captured Chinese battle flags taken during the fight for Nanking

Soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army with captured Chinese battle flags taken during the fight for Nanking.

Victories came fast for the attacking Japanese, and by “October 1937 the Nationalist government of China had announced it could no longer defend the existing capital at Nanjing,” instead retreating westward to Chongqing (Mitter 1). Though the battle was won by the Japanese, the war was now clearly one of attrition, and despite their technological advantages over the Chinese, the forces of the Emperor could ill-afford such a bloodletting against their numerically superior foe. The Japanese fighting spirit, it was decided, would be the decisive factor if the war was to have a favorable outcome. In the face of the collapsing shogunate four centuries earlier, the young samurai who would become Taiko spurred on his comrades during their own time of crisis. To the Ronin assembled around him Tokichiro said “the nation is changing; a new era is dawning. We will no longer be fighting for ourselves, but rather for our children and grandchildren. You have a chance…to become real warriors following the true Way of the Samurai. Do not let this moment pass you by,” (Yoshikawa 259). To readers in late 1930s Japan the parallel to their own time would have been obvious; it was now their turn to preserve the greatness of Japan for their children and grandchildren, and to seize the moment and fight with the zeal of a Samurai.

While allied with both fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, “there was no single figure in Japan, no Duce or Fuhrer, whose personal megalomania lay at the heart of foreign policy,” and acting as a driving source toward war. What brought Imperial Japan to this cataclysmic moment was “a toxic situation where most of its politicians, military and public, had become infected by ‘war fever,’” spurned on by further victories over China in a brief war in 1931 no doubt (Mitter 84). Critical to this lust for conquest was the Japanese media, which “publicized the idea that Japan was being surrounded by hostile powers who wished to prevent its rise,” and it was of this group that Eiji was a part. Though recognized even after the war as “the master writer of historical fiction of the adventurous and moral type,” Eiji was never more popular than in the war years of the 1930s and early 1940s, as his tales of Japanese heroism excited a populace thirsting for just that (Yamagiwa 9). This writing style, focusing on “heroes [that] are strong men in times of crisis,” fit with the propaganda being pumped out by the Imperial Government that called for sacrifice from all citizens to some degree so as to better serve the emperor and the state (Ibid 13). As the Japanese Empire went to war with the world, the words of Eiji Yoshikawa’s Taiko were ringing through its ears.

While certainly an entertaining novel, it is important to remember the context in which Eiji was writing Taiko. Imperial Japan was not only a nation devoted to war, it was a nation that was ready and willing to silence all those who did not march in lock-step. As the military gained greater power, “writers previously devoted to liberal, progressive, and radical ideas were converted to orthodox thinking,” either by their publishers, the government or simply their wallets (Ibid 3). When the shooting began “in the late thirties and during World War II the few writers who still nurtured leftist ideas were completely silenced,” either by imprisonment, execution or exile to the army (Ibid). Eiji found it more prudent who contribute to the war effort, and thus great defenders of Japan like Toyotomi Hideyoshi were given top-billing in his stories about Japanese greatness. As a consequence of all this sabre rattling and the slow progress of the war in China after 1937, “Japanese politics had become increasingly dominated by the inability to end the China war,” and so the decision was made to “raise the stakes yet further,” and broaden the war (Mitter 234). A new bill calling for national mobilization was created which “gave the government ‘total war control’ over,” Japanese heavy industry, and by 1940 this full mobilization “was making itself felt in all aspects of Japanese life,” (Ibid).

This was becoming a “holy war” for the Japanese, a sentiment that made “the possibility of backing down from Japan’s imperial ambitions…ever more remote,” especially as the war fever gained steam (Ibid). Self-sacrifice became the trademark of Japanese soldiers throughout the Pacific as the gains they made in early 1942 were gradually rolled back under the weight of the American war machine. Famous reports from American soldiers of Japanese banzai charges – a last-ditch attack made en masse by Japanese soldiers wielding swords and bayonets and always ending in the death of nearly all the attackers – can be seen plainly to have their inspiration in the pages of Taiko. For instance, Eiji takes the reader to the Battle of Takato Castle, where Nobumori, son of the famed General Shingen, is mounting a defense of his castle from the forces of Nobunaga. When defeat seems an inevitability, Nobumori thinks only of a glorious death, saying to his men “the season is giving us a beautiful day to die…so go out! Force your way through the gates…and bravely show them how the mountain cherry blossoms fall!” an order that does not fall on deaf ears (Yoshikawa 562). As Eiji further describes “the responding shouts of the fierce warriors, proclaiming that they would do exactly as he commanded, were like a whirlwind,” as the matter, for them, “was not a question of living or dying,” but rather “was a desperate rush toward death,” for that very purpose (Ibid). This act epitomizes the spirit of banzai.

Zeros in flight

A squadron of Imperial Japanese Navy fighters (known as “Zeros” to American pilots) in flight over the Pacific.

Further parallels can be drawn to the desperate final years and months of the war for the Japanese and events depicted in Taiko. At the fall of Takeda Castle to the forces of Nobunaga-Hideyoshi, a grisly scene unfolds among the remaining women in the keep. Surrounded and with no hope of victory, the women chose suicide, which Eiji describes thusly: “Katsuyori’s wife did not wait for the man’s blade, and pressed her own dagger straight into her mouth as she recited the sutra. The instant the figure of his wife fell forward, one of her attendants began to encourage those left behind,” to kill themselves as well (Yoshikawa 568). And so they did, until “crying and calling to each other, the fifty remaining women were soon scattered like flowers in a garden blown by a winter storm,” (Ibid). Such scenes are eerily reminiscent of the events that played out on the island of Okinawa in the final months of World War II. As American soldiers advanced into the towns and villages that dot the small island, the almost exclusively female populace (all fighting age males had by 1945 been drafted into military service) began committing mass suicide rather than fall into the hands of the invaders. US Marines reported seeing mothers leaping from cliffs with small children in hand, such was the value placed on honor among the Japanese. For Koreans the story of the twentieth century is much different than that of Japan, and yet no less violent.

As can be seen in Tree with Deep Roots, the struggle to create and implement an efficient and accessible alphabet for the Korean language was no small undertaking. King Sejong, who ruled the Korean peninsula in the first half of the fifteenth century, implemented the Hangul alphabet in order to elevate the status of his people and give them a viable means of expressing their culture without having to master Chinese, then the official writing form in Korea. Sejong gave Koreans an official identity, as use of the Chinese alphabet had the effect of controlling Korean affairs. In episode 15 of Tree with Deep Roots the ease of implementation of hangul is demonstrated, as even a simple farmer can master it in a matter of days or even hours. Episode 19 gives some insight into Sejong’s motivations, as he speaks about his desire to see hangul give a voice to the people and a way to participate in their governance without having to go through corruptible bureaucratic channels. When Sejong ultimately prevails over the Hidden Root secret-society seeking to prevent the rise of hangul, a Korean national identity is formed, one which the Japanese seek to rip away after absorbing Korea into their empire in 1910.

King Sejong

King Sejong remains an immensely popular figure in contemporary Korea.

After the wars of 1894-95 and 1905, “Japanese leaders believed that her success, and her sacrifices in [these] two wars, gave her the right to control Korea,” and promptly began acting on this position (Lone 145). In 1910 this was made official, as “a treaty of annexation transferring all rights of [Korean] sovereignty to Japan’s emperor,” making the peninsula a colony ruled by Imperial Japan (Brundnoy 161). For Korea, “a small country with no armed force worth the name,” and no international support forthcoming, “the obvious course seemed to be to accept Japanese control,” (Lone 172). At first the Japanese were relatively benevolent, choosing to at least pay lip-service to equality among Koreans and Japanese (while brutally crushing signs of resistance). By 1938, now embroiled in war with China once more, Japan began its barbarity in Korea in earnest, “placing emphasis on Japanization of Koreans,” through an “attempted annihilation of Korean consciousness,” (Brudnoy 186). To destroy the identity King Sejong had created some 500 years earlier the Japanese attacked hangul itself, as “the government abolished Korean-language instruction in all primary and secondary schools… [and] the use of Japanese became mandatory there and on the streets,” with harsh penalties meted out to violators (Ibid). This attempt by the Japanese to erase the essence of what it is to be Korean during their imperial period is still a major source of tension for the two countries today, and makes Tree with Deep Roots all the more poignant for Korean audiences.

While modern Japan has largely abandoned the nationalistic zeal that drove it to conquest in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the echoes of these actions have reverberated through the region into the present. Writing during what was both the apex and rapid decline of Imperial Japan, Eiji Yoshikawa used Taiko to spur on his compatriots in a time of war. Contemporary Koreans likewise draw nationalist inspiration from Tree with Deep Roots, though in a much more civil manner.

 

Works Cited

Brudnoy, David. “Japan’s Experiment in Korea.” Monumenta Nipponica 25.1/2 (1970): 155-195. JSTOR. Web. 18 Mar 2014.

Chang, Jung. Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Print.

Crowley, James B. “An Empire Won and Lost.” Wilson Quarterly (1976-) 6.1 (1982): 122-132. JSTOR. Web. 18 Mar 2014.

Lone, Stewart. “The Japanese Annexation of Korea 1910: The Failure of East Asian Co-Prosperity.” Modern Asian Studies 25.1 (1991): 143-173. JSTOR. Web. 18 Mar 2014.

Mitter, Rana. Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. Print.

Tree with Deep Roots. Writ. Lee Jung Myung. Dir. Jang Tao Yoo and Shin Kyung Soo. SBS, 2011. DramaFever.

Yamagiwa, Joseph K. “Fiction in Post-War Japan.” Far Eastern Quarterly 13.1 (1953): 3-22. JSTOR. Web. 18 Mar 2014.

Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan. Trans. William Scott Wilson. New York: Kodansha USA. Print.

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The Importance of Confucian Relationships in Taiko and Tree With Deep Roots

A painting of the great teacher Confucius.

A painting of the great teacher Confucius.

Korean culture is much more willing to fight and embrace new ideas in order to truly fulfill Confucian ideals, whilst Japanese culture is content to reinforce ideals that sometimes go against the traditional Confucian framework; therefore, Japanese culture does not embrace Confucianism in the way that Korean culture does.

These facts are very clearly demonstrated in the K-Drama Tree With Deep Roots and the Japanese war novel Taiko. These first threads of dissent in Korean culture can be justified in the ways that Japanese culture goes against three of the primary Confucian relationships, ruler to ruled, father to son, friend to friend, husband to wife, and older brother to younger brother. These relationshiops are complex and important with the framework of Confucianism.

First of all, within the context of Taiko many of the rulers do not take particularly great care of their subjects, and routinely allow them to die whenever their needs are not being served. A particularly cruel example of this occurs when Nobunaga comes home to his people and gives them food and riches, but states that this can never happen again because “It would be a fault for a man who runs the government to let the poor get used to charity (Yoshikawa 548). Demonstrating that he is not willing to allow his people to die, but he is not willing to take any pains to make their lives extremely great besides keeping them from dying. However, later on in the novel, Hideyoshi who had shown a very large amount of concern for the rights of the common folk in the beginning of the novel allows one of his underlings to kill men who are refusing to work efficiently on the walls necessary for their battle strategy because they have not been paid yet (Yoshikawa 560). This scene demonstrates the cold natured attitude rulers maintain in Japanese culture, and the disregard the rulers have for the ruled.

Furthermore, historically Hideyoshi’s own adopted daughter Go was the first member of his family to become a Christian, however, this conversion did not come without a fight, in which he banned Christianity in an attempt to stop the infiltration of this culture (Kitagawa 17). This instance demonstrates that even when a ruler’s family member has a very particular and debatably harmless desire the ruler in Japanese culture can ignore and forbid the ruled’s happiness. Furthermore, this was not a purely altruistic denial of westernization in Japan at the time because Nobunaga and Hideyoshi were both willing to embrace the luxuries and weaponry of the west. According to a study by Delmer Brown “The effective of the new weapon deeply impressed local military barons” (Brown 238). And this historical thread can be seen once again in Taiko, “there were two things that [Nobunaga’s] digestion absolutely rejected: Christinatiy and Christian education. But if these two thins had not been allowed to the missionaries they would not have come with their weapons, medicines, and other wonders” (Yoshikawa 551). Therefore, Hideyoshi is willing to embrace outside influences that protect his rule, western firepower, but unwilling to allow his subjects the same hypocritical decision.

A photograph of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

A photograph of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Second, Taiko demonstrates the complete lack of respect fathers have in their relationships with their sons through the multiple father son relationships in the novel. The first instance of father and son interaction of a negative nature happens within the first book. In this opening scene Hideyoshi’s father gives him the advice that shapes his life. He informs his son that women are afraid of swords, which explains why his mother doesn’t want him to be involved in Samurai culture, and then gives his son a sword (Yoshikawa 10). This scene plants the seeds that will lead Hideyoshi down a road that will end with him becoming a very powerful Samurai, but also a man with many mistresses, as opposed to the socially acceptable concubines of the time period, and who never visits his family and wife. Therefore, this father’s bad advice at a young age demonstrates a disconnect between Confucian relationships and the behavior of men within this culture. Furthermore, once Hieyoshi’s father dies and his mother remarries, his stepfather, Chikuami, constantly abuses him and tells him that he will never amount to anything. His stepfather was so vindictive that whenever his mother would attempt to shield him “Chikuami’s rough hands and voice lashed out with severity” (Yoshikawa 21). This is once again another example of the complete lack of respect Japanese fathers have for their sons, and the negative impact they can have on their decisions and in this instance their psychological well being.

Third, the Confucian relationship between friends is never very respected within the context of the novel as allegiances and alliances are constantly disrespected and relationships are bonded by drinking. This lack of respect is very directly referenced in this novel when Hideyoshi’s friend from the past says:

Surely you must remember, Lord Katsui, those days of eating, drinking and singing until dawn. Friends will put their arms around each other’s shoulders, revealing things they wouldn’t even talk to their own brothers about. At the time, you think that person is the best friend you ever had, but later you both get involved in the real world and you have a lord or a wife and children. When you both look back at the feelings you had when you were living together in the barracks, you find that they’ve changed quiet a bit” (Yoshikawa 762).

This passage emphasizes the fact that friendship is not revered within Japanese culture as Confucianism states, while also emphasizing the inability of many people with this culture to successfully fulfill all of the Confucian relationships. Furthermore, a more action oriented example of this disrespect in friendship, once again involving Hideyoshi, can be seen in Hideyoshi’s appropriation of his battle strategist, Hanbei, and friend’s sister as his mistress, Oyu, when they are both very clearly uncomfortable with the situation. However, once Hanbei dies and asks for his sister’s freedom from Hideyoshi, she is granted her freedom  (Yoshikawa 535). Even though in this instance, Hideyoshi does fulfill his friends wishes, it is still fairly disrespectful that he waited until his friend was dead to release his sister from a situation that they were both farily uncomfortable with, demonstrating once again the lack of thought put into these Confucian bonds in Japanese culture.

In contrast to Japanese culture, which refuses to embrace the traditional Confucian relationships, Korean culture as evidence by the K-drama Tree With Deep Roots very clearly embraces these relationships in the many positive portrayals depicted.

One of the most positive moments occurs in the second episode of this show when King Sejong resolves to save his people by deciding to save the young boy Ddol Bok who has sworn to kill him (Episode 2). In contrast to Taiko in which many of the rulers are very willing to make any human sacrifice necessary to further their cause King Sejong demonstrates a strong resolve to protect every person in his Kingdom because he realizes that ultimately he holds that responsibility, and how can he expect the same from his people if he doesn’t better their lives first. King Sejong determines later on in the series that one of the best ways he can better the lives of his people is by giving them an alphabet that they can learn very easily, and that allows them to truly interact with him or any other ruler in the future. He also refuses to believe the alphabet is finished until he receives approval for Ddol Bok, the young boy he vowed to protect earlier in the series (Episode 16). Once again, King Sejong puts aside the time he put into the alphabet and personal desires in order to make sure that it truly serves the rights of his people, which he fights for.

Second, Ddol Bok protects his father vehemently, demonstrating a deep respect for this relationship as well as the Confucian relationship between father and son. For example, King Sejong and his father encounter multiple times in their lives where they challenge each other to kill the other one. In one such instance, King Sejong’s father Taejong attempts to kill the young boy Ddol Bok, but Sejong pulls out his own sword stating that his father will have to kill him and his father backs down (Episode 2). This scene  shows a large amount of respect, which was not seen within the father son relationships, demonstrated in Taiko, in the way Sejong and Taejong disagree, but never raise a hand to each other. In addition, later on in the narrative Sejong mentions that he is “his father’s son” (Episode 10) demonstrating that in a way he did respect his father even though they had very different styles and opinions. In addition, Ddol Bok and his father have a very close relationship in which they take care of each other. In one scene, Ddol Bok even teaches his father how to how to snarl and stand up for himself because his father is constantly getting pushed around in their small village (Episode 1). And then his father returns the favor by running across the countryside to send a message that will save their community (Episode 2). This protection and respect demonstrates Korean culture’s respect for the father to son Confucian relationship.

So Yi and Ddol Bok having a scenic discussion.

So Yi and Ddol Bok having a scenic discussion.

Third, a respect for the Confucian relationship of friend to friend is very clearly demonstrated in the relationship between So Yi and Ddol Bok. The seeds of this friendship can be seen in the very first episode of Tree With Deep Roots when So Yi stands up for Ddol Bok to her father (Episode 1). This situation demonstrates the lengths that So Yi was willing to go to in order to stand up for a friend of hers who needed her help. In addition, later on in the series when Ddol Bok is about to learn how to read the Korean alphabet she has so much faith in him and his abilities to say that he can learn the letters in less than a day (Episode 16). Once again, showing her support of him in the face of a high pressure and very difficult moment. Finally, when So Yi is captured he saves her from her possible death (Episode 12). Demonstrating that they have a strong reciprocal relationship in which they will always protect and support each other.

Therefore, Korean culture is much more authentic in it’s relationship to Confucianism in the sense that their culture truly does seek to hold up these ideals, whilst Japanese culture is more concerned with the embrace of whatever ideals line up with their more selfish desires. For example, even when Korean culture does embrace outside ideals, like Christianity, it is because that religion is being emphasized in its relationship to the Confucian relationships and Confucian ideals through “the centrality of ethics and family values” (Kim 119). In contrast, Japanese culture has a much stronger connection to their own nation than they have to the ideals of Confucius, which comes out in pieces of literature and film, which demonstrate a strong nationalistic thread. However, Taiko was published during the 1930’s when an outbreak of war occurred with China. “Japanese literature in the 1930s experienced the darkest moment in its recent history. Political oppression of left-wing political cultural movements, which began as early as 1910, came to bear down with enormous pressure” (Shimazu 102)” which could explain why Taiko is fairly critical of the lack of a true respect for Confucian relationships, whilst demonstrating strong nationalistic threads in order to avoid persecution. Overall, however Taiko perpetuates a Japanese culture, which does not embrace Confucian ideals, whilst Tree With Deep Roots presents a Korean culture that takes care to embrace Confucian ideals in their relationships and throughout their society.

Works Cited

Brown, Deimer M. “The Impact of Firearms on Japanese Warfare, 1543-98.” The Far Eastern Quarterly 7.3 (1948): 236-53. JSTOR. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

“Episode 1.” Tree With Deep Roots. Writ. Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon. Dir. Jang Tae-yoo. Seoul Broadcasting System, 2011. Web.

“Episode 2.” Tree With Deep Roots. Writ. Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon. Dir. Jang Tae-yoo. Seoul Broadcasting System, 2011. Web.

“Episode 10.” Tree With Deep Roots. Writ. Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon. Dir. Jang Tae-yoo. Seoul Broadcasting System, 2011. Web.

“Episode 12.” Tree With Deep Roots. Writ. Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon. Dir. Jang Tae-yoo. Seoul Broadcasting System, 2011. Web.

“Episode 16.” Tree With Deep Roots. Writ. Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon. Dir. Jang Tae-yoo. Seoul Broadcasting System, 2011. Web.

Kim, Andrew E. “Korean Religious Culture and Its Affinity to Christianity: The Rise of Protestant Christianity in South Korea.” Sociology of Religion 61.2 (2000): 117-33. JSTOR. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Kitagawa, Tomoko. “The Conversion of Hideyoshi’s Daughter Gō.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 34.1 (2007): 9-25. JSTOR. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.

Shimazu, N. “Popular Representations of the Past: The Case of Postwar Japan.” Journal of Contemporary History 38.1 (2003): 101-16. JSTOR. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudel Japan. Trans. William Scott Wilson. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1992. Print.
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Childhood Influences on Hideyoshi and Ddol Bok

Mother with children

Mother with children

In most western cultures today, a child’s only job is to play and learn about the world around him. However, this is not the case in the epic novel, Taiko, by Eiji Yoshikawa, and in a number of episodes of the Korean television drama, Tree with Deep Roots. In both of these mediums, one can identify the need for discipline and respect within the family or community.

Hideyoshi, the main character in the novel, and Ddol Bok, an important character in the Korean television series, both grow up to be respectable soldiers. And yet, due to their impulsivity as children, it is a surprise to everyone when they succeed as adults. Their success later in life is a direct result of the influence their parents have had on them.

Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa

Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa

 

The epic novel, Taiko, by Eiji Yoshikawa, explicitly shows how a young Hideyoshi who, while living in Japan during the feudal era, is thought to be an ungrateful and troublesome child. Because, in Japanese culture, it is the duty of the sons to continue the family lineage in a proper way, the young Hideyoshi worries his parents (Kumagai 138). Those who know him call him “monkey,” an animal often thought to be of a mischievous nature, consistently see him as that: a child up to no good (Yoshikawa 2). And, at first, he lives up to his name. In the beginning of the novel, Hideyoshi is constantly getting in trouble whether it be for fighting with his sister or getting fired from a job. However, a change slowly comes over Hideyoshi, and it is because of the parental figures in his life that he is able to change.

One man who is very important to Hideyoshi is his father, Yaemon; and therefore it is no surprise that he is part of the reason for Hideyoshi’s success as an adult. Yaemon is described as a man who was once a low-ranking samurai, or a “foot soldier.” Though he was not a samurai, or a high-ranking one for long, due to an injury that left him crippled. Hideyoshi looked up to his father immensely. Despite his discourteous actions toward his mother and sister, he always respects his father, addressing him as “sir” (Yoshikawa 9). As a young six-year-old boy, he wants to grow up to be a samurai like his father. Hideyoshi dreams of becoming a samurai when he grows up and his father shares this dream: “Hiyoshi was his only son, and Yaemon rested impossible hopes in him” (Yoshikawa 10). It is this influence from his father that helps Hideyoshi to grow up to be the respected samurai he was. However, while his father encourages him, allowing him to play with a sword, Hideyoshi’s fervor worries his mother.

Hideyoshi’s mother, Onaka, has helped Hideyoshi to recognize the importance of family later in his life. While she believes her son can help to restore the family name, does not wish for Hideyoshi to follow in the footsteps of his father: “No matter what my husband says, Hiyoshi is not going to become a samurai, she resolved” (Yoshikawa 7). But because her authority in the house decreases not only as Hideyoshi grows older but also when she remarries, he does not honor her wishes. As a child, Hideyoshi received numerous beatings from his stepfather. One time, “Hiyoshi’s mother tried to stop him,” but Hideyoshi’s stepfather, Chikuami, simply yelled at her and she began to cry (Yoshikawa 13). Because Hideyoshi’s mother was unable to protect him as a child, he feels the need to protect her when he grows up, asking his wife to take of Onaka and insisting that Onaka move to live closer to him.

The last parental figure that influences Hideyoshi when he grows up is his stepfather, and the way he does so is in direct relation to Hideyoshi’s strong work ethic. Even though, Hideyoshi’s mother remarries after his father dies, in Japanese culture that does not mean the two have a new family (Isono 39). Hideyoshi’s dislike for his stepfather is clear, and, in the text, it is frequently mentioned that Chikuami drinks a lot, “Chikuami had grown tired of trying to wipe out their poverty. He sat around drinking sake,” (Yoshikawa 20). His stepfather’s drinking has so much of a influence on Hideyoshi that when he becomes an adult and begins drinking sake himself, he is constantly wary of how much he drinks for fear of turning into his stepfather. Chikuami, however, also helps to teach Hideyoshi to work hard, “Chikuami drove Hiyoshi hard. But after being sent home from the temple, he worked hard, as if he had come back a different person” (Yoshikawa 21). This work ethic can later be seen in Hideyoshi when he rises through the ranks under Nobunaga and eventually takes control himself.

Ddol Bok, a character in the television series, Tree with Deep Roots, can be described as an impulsive and undisciplined child, similarly to a young Hideyoshi. In terms of family in Korea, sons have been thought to bring good fortune (Chin 54). However, Ddol Bok’s impulsivity as seen through his interactions with the adults and other children in his life, lead many in his life to believe otherwise. Despite a lack of belief in Ddol Bok, when we meet the grown up Ddol Bok, who now goes by Chae-Yoon, we see that he has since learned to control those impulses and think rationally. Like Hideyoshi, this change is a result of parental influence.

Ddol Bok interrogating another child

Ddol Bok interrogating another child

Ddol Bok’s preference for impulsivity is apparent the first time we meet him. In episode one, he is beating a child much bigger than himself (Yoo 1). Immediately, as viewers, we wonder what happened to spur this attack. While we do not receive the answer to our question, we are able to assume that despite Ddol Bok’s size, the other children are afraid of him mostly due to their unwillingness to intervene and the larger boy’s inability to fight back. We then find out that the reason Ddol Bok is attacking the larger boy is to learn who made fun of his father (Yoo 1). While we are thrown into the middle of the scene rather than starting as the beginning, based on Ddol Bok’s aggressiveness, we can assume that he did not ask the other kids respectfully first and instead immediately resorted to aggressive means, showing his impulsivity. Ddol Bok’s “act first, think later” attitude can even been seen in his interactions with the adults in his life.

Ddol Bok is fiercely protective of his family, as seen in his reaction to hearing someone made fun of his father. Despite his inability to control himself, his protectiveness can be tied to his success as a soldier later in life. In a scene in episode one, we meet Ddol Bok’s father who is being picked on by the other slaves. Ddol Bok rushes in and immediately begins beating the man who was putting makeup on his father, tackling him to the ground and punching him repeatedly, even though the man is clearly many years Ddol Bok’s senior (Yoo 1). Though the man was wrong to make fun of Ddol Bok’s father, Ddol Bok shows his impulsivity by storming into the scene and attacking the man without asking any questions. When the fight is broken up by a master, who demands an explanation, Ddol Bok shows restraint for the first time and is able to properly explain why he was beating the other man (Yoo 1). However, that restraint does not last, for one wrong comment from the man who put makeup on his father and Ddol Bok is once again attacking him, showing his impulsivity. Despite Ddol Bok’s lack of restraint as a child, as viewers, we witness an clear change in him as an adult due to his father’s influence.

In the first episode of the television series,we see Ddol Bok’s change from impulsive child to calculating adult. We quickly learn that Ddol Bok, or Chae-Yoon, has a desire to kill the king and is attempting to find the best way to do so (Yoo 1). In one scene, we witness Chae-Yoon come across the king in what appears to be a stroke of luck. Based on what we know of the young Ddol Bok, it would not have been surprising to see Chae-Yoon attack the king and strike him down. However, Chae-Yoon stops and thinks about the probability of his success, commenting how he’d have an 80 percent chance of success, or 70, and so on, ultimately concluding that he would be unable to kill the king in that instant due to the arrival of his guard (Yoo 1). This moment of reflection contrasts what we have seen of Ddol Bok as a child. The reason for this moment of reflection is not only because he knows he will only get one chance to get revenge for his father, but also because he sought a master to teach him how to fight. Chae-Yoon deeply respects this master and desires to use his teachings properly; in other words he does not wish to mess up when he kills the king.  The clip below shows how Chae-Yoon does not act on impulse, but rather takes time to think about his actions.

Both Hideyoshi and Ddol Bok could be described as impulsive and troublesome children. However, they grow up to be successful. The reason for their success is because of the adults in their lives, such as Yaemon, Onaka, Chikuami, Ddol Bok’s father, and Ddol Bok’s master. Whether these adults served as an example of who the children wanted to become or of who they didn’t want to become, or even a reminder of their goals in life, each of them greatly influenced the young Hideyoshi and Chae-Yoon.

 

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Bibliography

Chin, Meejung, et al. “Family Policy in South Korea: Development, Current Status, and Challenges.” Journal of Child and Family Studies (2012): 53-64.
Isono, Fujiko. “The Family and Women in Japan.” The Sociological Review (2011): 39-54.
Kumagai, Fumie. “Families in Japan: Beliefs and Realities.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 12.1 (1995): 135-163.
“Episode 1.” Tree with Deep Roots. Dir. Jang Tae Yoo. 2011.
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko. New York: Kodansha, 2012.