日本人の老い観 : 老い文化の底流を求めて
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On Japanese Ideas of Aging : In Search of the Undercurrent of Aging Culture
We need to ask what one takes "aging" for and how one should live when one grows old, in order to consider the issues of the aged. "Aging" is a cultural phenomenon which is produced by the society. The purpose of this paper is to consider Japanese ideas of aging from such a standpoint. What did the Japanese call the elderly in times when they had not possessed their own letters yet? The best way to know it is to investigate into the ancient literatures, laying stress on "KOJIKI," "NIHONSHOKI," "MANYOSHU" and so on. The elderly in general were called "OIHITO," old men "OKINA," and old women "OMINA."
When did people begin to be called the elderly? Physical aging tends to be different from psychological aging in the contemporary society. But the former accorded with the latter in the ancient society, where physical incapacity stands for aging. On one hand there is possibility that people were regarded as the elderly in their middle twenties; on the other there is possibility that even the concept of "aging" didn't exist. The Chinese have traditionally produced culture of aging in which one takes longevity for the best. In Japan, people were regarded as the elderly when they entered upon their fortieth year. Once Kenko YOSHIDA thought that humans were worth living till forty years old. It shows the very difference between Chinese culture and Japanese culture.
"Aging" was given a double evaluation, that is to say, a negative one and a positive one. In respect of the degeneration of life, aging can be the object of misery, ugliness, hatred and so on. Aging can be also beautiful if it brings about "MONONOAWARE." Aging can become the worst if it appears with such illness as rheumatism, which Okura YAMANOUE got. Philosophically speaking, aging means the knowledge of the changes from "possibility" to "impossibility." In addition, the method for acquiring longevity was called the regimen, as Ekken KAIBARA advocated.
Now, the image of apotheosized "OKINA" originates from that of "SHINJIN." It was said that "SHINJIN" from "TOKOYO" brought the wealth and long life to people in this world. "TOKOYO" has three characteristics of "a foreign country far beyond the sea," "the real world," and "the ageless and immortal world." It stands for the longing of ancient people, which is composed of primitive desires. According to Shinobu ORIGUCHI, in the first place, there was once such an original idea peculiar to the Japanese as "TOKOYO" or "NENOKUNI," and then it developed into that of "TOKOYO" in the NARA age, getting factors of "the aged," "longevity," "eternity" etc. under the influence of "Five Principles of Yin and Yang" or "Belief in a Supernatural Being." Old people were only "OIHITO" before the development of this idea. However, old people of large experience played a given social role with the change of social production relations. After then, the image of the aged as the wise belonged to old men alone, and led to the development of "OKINA" Culture at last in the modern ages.