630 Zenbakia 2012-06-22 / 2012-06-29


An Endeavor to Wholly Describe the Contemporary Basque Society and Culture



Introducing my own book would normally not be my style. However, I would like to briefly introduce my latest work as recommended by Euskonews. Although it is written in Japanese, it may be of interest to anyone concerned with the Basque studies.

Since the second half of the 20th century, many Japanese have shared ambivalent images of the Basque people. On one hand, these images depicted devout Christians of good conduct as represented by St. Francis Xavier and other missionaries based in Japan. On the other hand, some images portrayed bold and violent patriots as represented by the armed actions of the Basque Homeland and Freedom (known as E.T.A.). However, since the very beginning of the 21st century–especially owing to the inauguration of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum in 1997–these darker images have been replaced by softer ones related to the Basque culture, for example, sports (football, pelota, etc.), food and drink (pinchos, txakolin, etc.), and music (trikitixa, txalaparta, etc.), which are touted as if they were Trinitarian elements.

“Contemporary Basque Society and Culture in 50 Chapters” (Gendai Basuku wo Shiru tame no 50 Shou)–a book written in Japanese to showcase this transition–was published by the Akashi Shoten Co., Ltd. in May 2012. Akashi Shoten is one of the most reputable publishing companies in Japan, specializing in the fields of social discrimination and human rights. This book was edited by Sho Hagio and Hiromi Yoshida, both of whom were introduced to the Basque studies 30 years ago when learning Euskara (Basque language) at Waseda University in Tokyo under the guidance of Professor Emeritus Suzuko Tamura, a prominent philologist in Ainu language and Euskara and an honorary member of Euskaltzaindia (Royal Academy of Basque Language).

However, since the very beginning of the 21st century–especially owing to the inauguration of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum in 1997–these darker images have been replaced by softer ones related to the Basque culture, for example, sports (football, pelota, etc.), food and drink (pinchos, txakolin, etc.), and music (trikitixa, txalaparta, etc.).

Photo: CC - Donostia - San Sebastian 2016

Today, in the epoch of globalization, it is no wonder that, via the Internet, a variety of Basque-related information is becoming available from nearly every corner of the globe. In addition, the number of Japanese people, who by staying or living in the Basque Country update the latest information on websites, is steadily increasing. However, most information is somewhat fragmented and may even be inaccurate. For example, the city of Guernica has often been depicted as a sacred place for the Basque people. However, this in fact is not true, even though Basque poet Iparraguirre glorified the “holy” oak tree of Guernica and the city of Guernica symbolizes political autonomy of the Basque people as well as being a memorial place for peace. Until today, very few Japanese quoted the name of Txillardegi, one of the founders of ETA, which mass media discusses so often. Moreover, due to the fragmented information available, most Japanese know of Txillardegi as either one of the founders or a novelist, critic and linguist. Therefore, this book attempts to wholly describe the contemporary Basque society by revealing its basic politico-historical background.

The contents of the book are listed at the end of this article. In addition to the 50 chapters, which are divided into six parts written from various angles, a few “Columns” are provided for actual specific topics. In addition, there are six “Field Notes,” which are subjective essays based on the personal experiences of six authors, including the two editors mentioned above.

Some readers may wonder whether the vicissitudes of the Basque society are significant to the Japanese people, although it is evident that Japanese interest in the Basque culture is increasing. This book attempts to answer this question by seeking to transcend the Basque context to suggest certain hints or viewpoints toward wider and more universal issues. For example, the notion of “huts” (void), key to appreciating the works of Oteiza and Chillida, will certainly remind most Japanese readers of the philosophy of Zen and/or Taoism. Similar feelings will be evoked when poet Josean Artze explains that the sound of txalaparta is “an echo of silence”. Likewise, incessant social movements for the revitalization of euskara will surely make the Japanese conscious of the value of linguistic diversity and rights, which are not always positively viewed in Japan, where the myth of “a unique homogeneous society” still prevails.

Keen readers might notice that this book describes the contemporary Basque society and culture by referring to the Basque nationalists’ discourse. Therefore, when the book refers to the Basque Country, it not only means the Basque Autonomous Community but also Navarra and Iparraldea (Basque Country in France). Furthermore, as far as the toponym and the name of persons of Basque origin are concerned, priority is given to the Basque orthography, putting together a comparison between Euskara and Spanish/French orthographies. These facts do not necessarily mean that the authors are in complete agreement with the Basque nationalists’ position. In other words, very few Japanese publications on the Basque Country have reflected upon the discourse of central governments. In view of this past tendency, this book aims to relativize the former viewpoints of many Japanese toward the Basque society and culture.

Finally, it is worthy of mention that this book suggests, for the first time in Japan, a guideline on how to transcribe Basque words into Japanese alphabetical characters (Katakana).

The evaluation of this new book will be in the hands of readers of wisdom.

“Contemporary Basque Society and Culture in 50 Chapters” (Gendai Basuku wo Shiru tame no 50 Shou).

Title: Gendai Basuku wo Shiru tame no 50 Shou (Contemporary Basque Society and Culture in 50 Chapters) Editors: Sho HAGIO1 and Hiromi YOSHIDA2

Publisher: Akashi Shoten Co., Ltd., Tokyo, 2012 Pages: 376 ISBN: 978-4-7503-3594-0


Foreword: Process of Accepting the Notion of “Basque” in Japan Map of the Basque Country (Euskal Herria) Guideline on how to transcribe Basque words into Japanese alphabetical characters (Katakana)

I. Land, People, and Language: Introduction to the Basque World

1. What is the Basque Country? Problem of Territoriality

2. Who are the Basque People? Origin and Self-Definition

3. What is the Basque Language? Isolated Language

4. Basque “Etxea”: House Name, Family Name, and Given Name

5. Mountainous Area: Microcosmos around the Baserri

6. Coastal Area: Gateway to the Different Outside World

7. Non-Basque-like Area: Southern Part of the Watershed and Enclaves/Exclaves

(Column) Beret

[Field Note 1] Where and How I Can Learn Basque Language

II. Those Which Fade Away and Those Which Remain: History

8. Appearing on the Arena of History: Romanization and Christianization

9. Foral Regime: Basque Country under the Ancien Régime

10. Approach of Modernization: Economic Development and Social Antagonism

11. Nation, Class, and State: Ethno-nationalism, Socialism, and State-nationalism

12. Suppression/Accomplice and Patience/Resistance: Basque Country under the Franco Regime

13. Human Mobility on Global Scale: Overseas Basque Collectivities and Immigrants into the Basque Country

14. Japan-Basque Relationship: Catholic and Jiu-jitsu at the Initial Phase

(Columns) Cave Painting/Dolmen and Menhir/Way of St. James/Guernica/“Basques” in the World History

[Field Note 2] Visiting Basque Government in Exile in Paris

III. Construction and Reconstruction of the “Basque Country”: Territoriality, Nationality and Historicity

15. Construction of the “Basque Country”: From “Irurac Bat” to “Zortziak Bat”

16. Basque Autonomous Community: Territory, Range of Autonomy, and Function of the Provinces

17. Whereabouts of the Basque Nationalism: Diversity and Peace Negotiations

18. Chartered Community of Navarra: Privileged Regime Restituted by an Exceptional Legal Process

19. Navarrism: Origin of Catholic Spain or Roots of the Basques?

20. Derechos Histdricos: Historical Laws or Historical Rights?

21. Autonomy in Financial System: Conciertos Econdmicos and Convenios Económicos

22. Basque Country in France: Symptom of Change?

23. Basque Diaspora: Management of Distance in Time and Space

(Column) Jaialdia (International Basque Cultural Festival)

[Field Note 3] Basque Center in Bordeaux

IV. Making of “We” Consciousness: Identity and Representation

24. Commemoration: Aberri Eguna and Euskadi Eguna

25. Ikurrina: Basque National Flag or Flag of the Basque Autonomous Community?

26. Basque National Hymns: Politicality of Songs

27. “Normalization” of Euskara: Language Policy and Linguistic Rights

28. Present Situation of Education in Euskara: From Maintenance to Overseas Spread

29. Catholic Church: Mental Support of the Basques

30. Embodiment and the Basque Identity: Art of Basque Traditional Sports

31. Reconstruction of Basque Identity: Transmission of “Memory” and the “Place” of Reproduction

32. Basque Identity in Transformation: Basque Borderland and Global City

(Columns) Korrika/ Basque Etxepare Institute/Arantzazu

[Field Note 4] Challenge to be a Professional Football Player in the Basque Country

V. Between Solidarity and Restriction: Traditional Culture

33. Legend and Oral Tradition: Daytime, Nighttime, Mother Earth and the Spirit

34. Traditional Annual Calendar: Daily Life through the Four Seasons

35. Traditional Manners and Customs: Old Values

36. Proverbs and Maxima: Old Expressions of Wisdom

37. Oral Literature: From Generation to Generation

38. Bertsolaritza: Art of Sing an Improvisational Verse

39. Strength Competition, Skill Competition: From Labor to Sports

40. Culture of Cooking: Basque Everyday Table

41. Basque Woman: Overcoming the Myth of Traditional Society

(Colums) Lauburu/Olentzero/Txoko (Soziedade)/Basque liquors

[Field Note 5] Comparison between the Basque and Japanese Traditional Sports

VI. Old but New: Basque Society in the Globalization

42. “Guggenheim Effect”: Speculative Ventures in the Name of Regional Revival by Inviting a Museum

43. Modernization of Euskara: Old and New Languages

44. New Horizon of the Literature in Euskara: From Oral Literature to Written Litterature

45. Literacy and Media: Exchange of Information in Euskara

46. “Basque Music” Today: After Ez Dok Amairu

47. Contemporary Basque Art: Oteiza and Chillida

48. Basque Football: History and Present Status

49. Spirit of Mutual Help: The Mondragon Corporation

50. Innovation: Toward a Knowledge-based Society

(Columns) Museums in the Basque Country/Basque Cinema/Txalaparta/Fagor

[Field Note 6] Learning from Mondragon

Conclusion References Glossary (Abbreviation, Name of Person, and Toponym)

1Sociologist, Professor at the Nagoya Institute of Technology

2Philologist, Lecturer at the Waseda University