Firearms in the US and Japan

While this unembeddable video is discussing FPS games, many of the points are still valid. You can watch the video at this link.

I’ll also discuss some of the points raised and such.

Basically, the divide starts because the US and Japan have vastly different cultural views on war, firearms, and conflict.

Philosophies in Japan are based on Shinto and Buddhist tradition, which emphasizes spiritual attainment and mastery. This has been with Japan as long as they were a warrior culture, which was an extremely long time. Worthy of note, due to their high value on tradition, their overall culture of the samurai did not change until the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, at which point, Japan realized that they were extremely outclassed, and decided to modernize to be able to be on a similar level as the European nations and the US. Finally, starting in the Meiji era, the samurai began to be abolished as a military force and as a class. They were replaced by a conscripted army.

An interesting point is to examine Japanese armor from the various periods when the samurai still existed. Please note this is only for the Great Armor of the samurai, not necessarily other types of armor. The Great Armor remained essentially unchanged for centuries after it was created, mostly due to tradition. When they opened up trading with the European nations, they gained some steel armor and matchlock muskets. At this point, the traditional samurai armor began to change in construction to be resistant to the muskets that Japan owned.

The ideals of the warrior class of Japan was tied heavily with traditional Shinto and Buddhist ideals, while the ideals that shape the US come out of the enlightenment, which is why our ideals focus on personal freedom. Our nations exists because of firearms, and was founded in support of those enlightenment ideas.

In FPS games from Japan, the gun is treated as an extension of the self instead of a gun. The gun is part of the person using it, and is a ‘representation of internal force, rather than a mere firearm.’

Looking at Japanese movies shows this quite well. Look at any not very serious martial arts movie. The people who have attained the greatest spiritual training have the greatest abilities, to stupid levels. Even Japanese myths and legends bear this out, as one legend details a sword user so good, he was able to control the wind by swinging the sword.

In Japanese games, frequently, when characters are given guns, it shows that everything has gone wrong, or that survival in extreme conditions is required, such as Silent Hill. The idea that a weapon channels internal force and power instead of relying on any external force, is from Shinto and Buddhist traditions.

In the US, the idea of the gun can be said to be rooted in the fact that it is our symbol if independence. The US views the gun as a tool, to be used by someone. It gives the user power, not is a part of them. It’s why we view a gun as an object, that is inherently replaceable. US made FPS games show that as well. They give the player an ability to do something by handing them any sort of firearm, but the gun is also inherently disposable. Consider modern FPS games, like Call of Duty Modern Warfare. In it, you have a couple guns, but will eventually run out of ammunition, and will be unable to restock. Instead, you can simply pick up any gun lying around and use it instead. When it runs out and can’t be reloaded, you pick up something else. We treat it as a tool, and a tool that can be replaced with little sentiment, while Japan treats it as an intrinsic part of the person using it, such as the armor Samus uses in Metroid. The cannon is a part of the suit, and an extension of the will of the person in the suit in that example.

In the US, any specific single weapon lacks any significance on its own. Where it gains significance for us in what it allows us to do, from defending yourself from a mugger to taking down a helicopter. The other idea is that anyone can be a fighter, regardless of training or caste. In Japan, the samurai were the elite class and ruled over the people, and nobody else could be a samurai. The samurai also trained extensively, a luxury that was not afforded to the lower castes, as they simply lacked the time for that.

Even now in the US, we still use the everyman soldier as an ideal. The one man or woman who will rise up to defend any ideal they have, and all they require is a weapon and a cause. The fact that the US views firearms as tools, coupled with the idea that anyone can be a warrior helps support this idea, and extends it out to others as well. The idea that Japan didn’t invade the US in WWII because here would be ‘a gun behind every blade of grass’ is an unverifiable myth, but was seen in at least one movie. However, the basic idea of the citizen soldier is also at work over in Switzerland, where every citizen is armed, due to mandatory military service, instead of having a culture of gun ownership to the extent that the US does. However, nobody has invaded Switzerland, and I will express doubt that it is just because of their neutrality, and I highly doubt anyone will invade Switzerland. The fact that a substantial number of people in the US and Switzerland are armed at any point is a good deterrent to invasion, since you would get to content not with just an army, but with every angry person who owned a gun.

The force nobody should ever underestimate is that of someone defending their homeland. The troubles are an example of this, as one group is trying to control another group, and that group is trying to protect their homeland. Issues and violence still breaks out to this day, but is far less common than before.

Other issues arise as a perversion of the idea of individualism and liberty to be used as reasons for violence, such as using those ideals as a shield while showing a lack of any consideration for the rights of others, committing violence for the sake of violence, using the ability to commit violence as justification for said violence, using the right to bear arms as an excuse to not learn any proper safety when dealing with firearms. For the purposes of this post, I won’t go into much further detail, but such points could be easily extended into the other rights as well. Examples would be using the right of free speech to demonize people, using freedom of the press to push the ideals of the person who owns them, and so on and so forth.

Well, that was a substantial response to and expansion on a fairly short video. I think I will leave it at that. This isn’t to be an article on ‘why Japan’s gun control won’t work in the US: the US isn’t Japan, duh’ but more to be just something to point out where some of the differences lie.

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