Saving Our Own Culture

Shoichi Makita
Hishikai Middle School

"Most Japanese do not know much about their own country." When I participated in an exchange meeting with South Korean students, they said that. I agree with them. In Japan we learn about the meaning of the origin of the Star-Spangled Banner, or the design of the Union Jack in our social studies class. But we don't study the Japanese flag. Why not? I think that there are too many things that Japanese people don't know about their own country.

Once I asked one of my friends about the meaning of our national flag. "It means a pickled plum and boiled rice," he answered seriously. I also asked my parents. They only knew that the Japanese flag's name is "Hinomaru". What does Hinomaru mean? Why do we call the Japanese flag Hinomaru?

I consulted a big dictionary for the definition of Hinomaru. I found that Hinomaru means "rising sun." Since ancient times, Japanese people have worshipped and adored the sun. Once upon a time in Japan, we called the sun Konnichisama. Afterwards, it changed to Konnichiwa, a common greeting word in Japan today. Did you know that?

In recent decades, lots of English words have crept into the Japanese language and environment. Almost all clothes display English letters or phrases. The problem is the content and quality of the English printed on them. There are many clothes that I would be ashamed to wear. For example, I would never want to wear a jacket with the words "I am a king" emblazoned on the back. Today many Japanese are turning their attention towards western culture. They think that using English is best.

The Korean students' words made me realize that it is important to be knowledgeable about our own culture. And another thing: we should be intelligent about our use of English, but not abuse it, as so often happens. English is very convenient. When I want to talk to a pretty Korean girl, we can communicate using English. Maybe I can make friends with pretty girls all over the world. Therefore I think it is important to study English. On the other hand, I think it is no good just to learn a foreign language. We should be able to use it to introduce the strong points of Japan. Then we can develop a deep friendship with others.

I have a big dream. I will study more about my own culture and I'll introduce it to people from other countries using English, of course. If I study hard, I think my dream can come true!

(10th Prize in the 54th Contest, 2002)

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