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The Sound of Waves Reflection

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In Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves the reader is immersed in a rich, traditional, spiritual form of Japanese culture. The island is not only an accurate portrayal of the traditional Japanese culture but also that of the western world which is making its way to the small Japanese island in which the books plot unfolds. Mishima manages to show the reader of the importance of keeping with tradition and the past through the older generation that lives on the island as well as the protagonist Shinji, however the other members of Shinji’s generation that have gotten a taste of the outside world have brought back their newly adopted westernized culture which in Mishima’s eyes are corrupting the Island from within. In my opinion, the importance of being able to reflect on the past is the only way to progress in the future, however not accepting the advances of the outside world merely slows or ceases the improvement of human life.

The Island in which The sound of Waves takes place is one which is firmly rotted in the common beliefs and traditions of the Japanese religion know as Shintoism. Shintoism shows great importance on being able to reflect on and praise your ancestors because their souls or Kami continue to move through the world even though the person’s physical body has passed away. Shinji, his mother, and younger brother make a journey up 200 steps to the shrine “Yashiro” this shrine is used to explain the significance that culture has towards the natives of the island on a deeper level. Once the journey to the shrine is complete Shinji and his family partakes in a traditional ceremony where they give offerings to the shrine and mourn the death of Shinji’s father that was killed in WW2. However not all that takes place on the island is so deeply rooted in tradition, the younger generation has been able to travel outside the island and have been exposed to the western world that has made its way to Japan. They bring back the things that Mishima believes are destroying the Japanese culture and way of life.

All in all the culture of the island in Mishima’s The Sound of Waves is that rooted in deep traditional culture. These beliefs ranging from the traditional beliefs of their religion, Shintoism, to the journey up the 200 steps to be able to mourn at the shrine. However the outside world is slowly changing the traditions of the island and making it something that Mishima believes is not what is best for the health of Japan. Ultimately it is up to the readers interpretation to determine what is better, either stay with tradition or move forward and increase the quality of human life.

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