WHAT SAKOKU IN JAPAN TAUGHT US ABOUT ISOLATION

This post is inspired by Temperance Brennan from “Bones”.

Quote: As an anthropologist, I understand the danger inherent in making your world too small. After times of national trauma, many countries become isolationist. It happened in Japan with the Sakoku policy.

 YOU ARE PROBABLY WONDERING WHAT THE HECK THIS SAKOKU POLICY IS?

Sakoku is usually translated as “closed country”.  What happened was that Japan decided that it would be in their best interest to keep the affairs of other countries at a distance. Under this policy, foreigners were barred from entering Japan and Japanese citizens were likewise kept from leaving the country.

Before the Sakoku policy was adopted, Japan was in a state of chaos because of the Onin war and the Sengoku period (you should read more about this, so damn fascinating). But because the Sakoku policy was adopted, Japan was now safe from outside threat and could easily avoid foreign intrusion as well as foreign aid to hostile the situations in the country.

 BUT FOR HOW LONG DOES ISOLATION WORK?

The Sakoku period in Japan lasted for two and a half centuries and it gave the country a favorable background that would enable them to get better economics and social prosperity. The country entered a long period of economic and social prosperity, but not surprisingly, this desirable effect went on to produce undesirable effects.

The result of being so closed off and making their world so small, was that Japan now didn’t have anyone else to learn from but themselves. The country came to a point where it was in a social stagnation. Every aspect of growth the country was achieving under the Sakoku policy and after, came to a sudden halt. At this moment, Japan realized that in order for them to keep growing, they needed to start trusting others again.

 SO WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?

Basically, the Sakoku policy taught us that it isn’t always a bad idea to close ourselves from the world, because we can all use some time to rebuild ourselves. Sometimes we take on the feelings of those arounds us because we don’t set emotional boundaries. Maybe a closed one is having a bad time and you cope with that by hiding your own happiness. Maybe you pretend to be the perfect student, wife or father to not burden those around you. Maybe you are perceived as this strong person who has their life in check, resulting in you not being able to share the difficulties and challenges you yourself are facing.

Other times the problem can be that a closed one violated your trust so the most logical thing to do is to build this wall to prevent yourself from getting hurt.

By inventing your own Sakoku Policy, you can give yourself time to close off from the world. You can give yourself time to be sad, to be happy, to not be so darn perfect all the time. You can give yourself time to learn to trust again.

But as the Sakoku policy taught us, we will sooner or later need to reengage and realize we have others around us we can trust. Because otherwise, we will never be able to move forward by making our world too small.