A current rage is “The Asian Challenge”: how to respond to their explosive growth, power and influence, and how to relate to Asians as individuals, families, neighbors and communities. Toyota will soon pass General Motors in size; our local supermarket sells vegetables grown, frozen and shipped from China; and over the last ten years, about a quarter of Burpee’s workforce has become comprised of immigrants from Southeast Asia. Almost all my clothes are from there. Indeed, the future of the U.S. nursery industry may very well take place in China. Certainly most of Heronswood’s rare plants were collected somewhere in Asia.Over the years, Japanese literature has given me signs and guideposts, so to speak. Vivid and original novels, such as ‘The Lake’ by Yasunari Kawabata and ‘A Dark Night’s Passing’ by Shiga Naoya; poetry such as the mountain series of Basho; and universally appealing spiritual traditions, such as Zen Buddhism, have provided me with an understanding of the inner life of the Japanese. Being the horticultural center of Asia, Japan has also functioned for me as a bridge to its less proximate or familiar neighbors. In plant breeding, they lead the world in several major classes such as broccoli, cauliflower, pansy, primula and lisianthus. Amateur flower breeding is a very popular hobby among Japanese retirees. They do it in pots on their porches. Very committed.
So, in the late 70s I came across a book about Japanese clinical psychology and became fascinated. Turns out to be one of the few published in English. ‘Anatomy of Dependence’, by Takeo Doi, remains a seminal work and platform from which to view not only the Japanese mind, but also our own. As Freud suggested, we are all more or less fully formed by age 6, give or take a year. Therefore, an analysis, or “anatomy”, of the Japanese experience of childhood is like a mirror into a sliver of their adulthood. Understanding dependence means you gain insight into their humanity and, thus, our own.
I still nibble at this brilliant book every few years, and each time find something new.