Fukuzawa Yukichi in Europe

18 minutes

The wolf dividing Norway

29 minutes

The evolution of cynicism

5 minutes

Unreal city

6 minutes

Kidnapper ants

5 minutes

‘Farcical situations’ and culture clashes – when Japan met modern Europe in 1862

In 1862, the celebrated Japanese author, publisher and educator Fukuzawa Yukichi was one of 40 men who travelled as part of the first Japanese embassy to Europe, where he served as a translator. The landmark trip followed a diplomatic mission to the United States in 1860, which Yukichi also joined. These envoys took place in the wake of centuries of strict isolationism enforced by Japan’s feudal military government, the Tokugawa shogunate, between the 1630s and the 1850s, making its members some of the first Japanese people in generations to experience a culture outside of their own.

The result, according to Yukichi, who wrote about the trip in vivid detail in his Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa (1897), was a combination of ‘farcical’ cultural misunderstandings, eye-opening glimpses into the greater world, and tense moments of geopolitical diplomacy and posturing. Featuring readings from a 1934 English translation of his autobiography, this video tracks Yukichi’s experiences during stops in Paris, where he was awed by the grandeur of the Hotel du Louvre; London, where he was bewildered by the sloppiness of representative government; Amsterdam, where the nature of land ownership in Holland caused confusion; and Russia, where he translated a tense negotiation on the disputed Sakhalin Island. The excerpts make for an utterly fascinating historical document, offering a snapshot of the times in each of the countries represented, and providing a window into the mind of Yukichi, who would later become a leading voice against Japanese isolationism.

The divisive debate over hunting Norway’s endangered wolves

During the 1960s, wolves nearly vanished from Norway’s landscape due to overhunting; now, there are no more than 70 wolves left in the country. Although the wild predators – known to prey on farmers’ livestock – received protection under law in 1971, the debate between hunters and conservationists over the fate of the remaining endangered population has been heated and divisive ever since. The Wolf Dividing Norway shows how this debate culminates in December 2019, as groups on both sides of the conflict wait to hear whether the government will authorise the annual winter wolf hunt. With unprecedented access to remote communities at the heart of the debate, the Norwegian documentary filmmaker Kyrre Lien humanises the frustration coming from both sides, providing a sensitive look at one of Norway’s most polarising topics.

Director: Kyrre Lien

Cynicism was born when Diogenes rejected materialism and manners

Plato once described the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope as ‘a Socrates gone mad!’ It’s a good comparison. Like Socrates, Diogenes gave the bird to respectable society. He undermined status and manners in the 4th century BCE with his bottomless reserve of shamelessness and irreverence, opting to live on the streets like a stray dog. But, of course, there was a method to his madness. In this short video by TED-Ed, the Irish philosopher William D Desmond explains how Diogenes lived an authentic and ascetic life in accordance with nature, and how in doing so he founded the philosophy of cynicism – an iconoclastic tradition that continues to illuminate and infuriate today.

Video by TED-Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writer: William D Desmond

How an augmented reality app transformed London into an immersive art gallery

If you ever hopped on the Pokémon GO craze, you’ll have an inkling of how digital technology is increasingly capable of adding rich new slices to everyday life. The public exhibition ‘Unreal City’, which ran from 8 December 2020 to 5 January 2021 on the River Thames in London – and is, until 9 February 2021, available for at-home viewing – similarly superimposed digital layers on to reality, but with an aim to transform the city into an immersive augmented reality (AR) art gallery. An initiative from the AR app Acute Art and Dazed Media, the exhibition featured 36 digital sculptures from artists around the globe, and was arranged as a riverside walking tour at a time when indoor museums had become mostly inaccessible due to COVID-19. Featuring images of some of the sculptures and words from artists including Olafur Eliasson, Tomás Saraceno, Cao Fei and KAWS, this trailer for the ‘Unreal City’ exhibition is an exciting glimpse into the potential for AR as it continues to transform cities in strange and surprising ways.

Director: Kate Villevoye

Website: Dazed

Incredible footage captures the ants that transform other species into loyal servants

You might assume that a creature incapable of feeding itself would have a one-way ticket off the food chain and into the dustbin of extinction. But some ant species with mandibles that are ill-equipped for eating have developed a clever – if not quite mutual – means of finding sustenance and perpetuating. Known as ‘kidnapper’ or ‘slave-making’ ants, these parasitic creatures raid the nests of other ant species, capture their young and carry them to their home nest. Using scents to keep the new arrivals oblivious to the fact that they’re far from home, the kidnappers deploy their captors to tend to their young, forage for their food, and even chew and feed it to them in a process known as trophallaxis. Captured in stunning high definition by the science documentary series Deep Look, this short video tracks red kidnapper ants in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California as they raid, kidnap and brainwash the young from a nearby black ant species’ nest. You can learn more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Josh Cassidy

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

‘Farcical situations’ and culture clashes – when Japan met modern Europe in 1862

In 1862, the celebrated Japanese author, publisher and educator Fukuzawa Yukichi was one of 40 men who travelled as part of the first Japanese embassy to Europe, where he served as a translator. The landmark trip followed a diplomatic mission to the United States in 1860, which Yukichi also joined. These envoys took place in the wake of centuries of strict isolationism enforced by Japan’s feudal military government, the Tokugawa shogunate, between the 1630s and the 1850s, making its members some of the first Japanese people in generations to experience a culture outside of their own.

The result, according to Yukichi, who wrote about the trip in vivid detail in his Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa (1897), was a combination of ‘farcical’ cultural misunderstandings, eye-opening glimpses into the greater world, and tense moments of geopolitical diplomacy and posturing. Featuring readings from a 1934 English translation of his autobiography, this video tracks Yukichi’s experiences during stops in Paris, where he was awed by the grandeur of the Hotel du Louvre; London, where he was bewildered by the sloppiness of representative government; Amsterdam, where the nature of land ownership in Holland caused confusion; and Russia, where he translated a tense negotiation on the disputed Sakhalin Island. The excerpts make for an utterly fascinating historical document, offering a snapshot of the times in each of the countries represented, and providing a window into the mind of Yukichi, who would later become a leading voice against Japanese isolationism.

Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter

Samuel Beckett on the set of Film in New York during his only visit to the United States in 1964. Photo by I C Rappaport/Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
The wisdom of surrender

Samuel Beckett turned an obscure 17th-century Christian heresy into an artistic vision and an unusual personal philosophy

Andy Wimbush

Districts like the largely Latino Mission District in San Francisco have experienced the effects of gentrification with fast-rising housing costs and the eviction of longtime tenants. 9 May 2015. Photo by Preston Gannaway/New York Times

Essay/
Cities
The harms of gentrification

The exclusion of poorer people from their own neighbourhoods is not just a social problem but a philosophical one

Daniel Putnam