Tradition and modernity are always regarded as binary oppositions. Tradition is defined as “the thing in the past” and modernity is always the contemporary.
There is no doubt that in modern cultural movements there is a measure of opposition to authority and a spirit opposition to tradition. However, these seemingly dichotomous terms simultaneously travel in space and time, for tradition is a living repetition that manages to advocate a fresh truth, and true modernity is a positive acknowledgement of one’s time.
As one of my favourite slice-of-life anime, Hanasaku Iroha illustrates how tradition and modernity aren’t exclusive of each other. Usually, if we’re thinking about “change” the notion of new and old are always considered in antonymic fashion. For instance, it’s noticeable that Okami embodies traditional aspects—old-aged, conventional Kimono, and smoke pipes. On the other hand, Setsuki signifies modernity—young woman, up-to-date clothing, and cigarettes. Indeed, we could categorize these qualities in contrasting ways, but nevertheless, these dissimilarities weren’t sufficient enough to support the notion of tradition and modernity as two opposing elements—for modernity is just the restructuring of “something in the past,” what’s old today was once new before and what’s new today will be old tomorrow.
Furthermore, modernity is a keen sense of originality of a particular culture in a specific moment of space and time. This contemporary uniqueness is only significant in its relationship to the originality of past cultures. We can visualize this ideology as Setsuki being the “new Okami,” and Ohana being the “new Setsuki.” Okami was never an ideal mother to Setsuki—she hated her—and surely had shortcomings as a parent especially in supporting her children emotionally, however it’s undeniable that she’s a good provider—considering that Kissuiso is matriarchal household. Okami-san worked as the manager of the inn and at the same time tried to push the role of being a mother.
Likewise with Setsuki, the difficulty of being an ideal parent is something that she “inherited” from her mom. If she sees Okami as a manager, then Ohana sees her more of a woman than a mother. That’s because just like Okami, work gets in the way for her to become an effective mother to her kid, plus her role as a mother is being burdened by her relationships. Sure, Ohana doesn’t see Setsuki as an employer, but the perspective that she is less of a mother, tells us that Setsuki is also an “Okami” to her daughter—though she’s a much bubbly and cool mom.
Lastly, one of the usual key differentiators of modernity to traditional is the aspect of evolution, wherein something, though not necessarily, improved from what it was. I noticed that Setsuki-Ohana mother-daughter relationship is better than Okami-Setsuki mother-daughter relationship because at least we can see that Setsuki tries to communicate with Ohana. She also saw herself to her daughter when Ohana poured out her sentiments about holding back all of her complaints. So unlike Okami, instead of honouring her job more than her daughter, Setsuki highly considered Ohana’s feelings and went to Kissuiso to grant her child’s request.
In understanding tradition and modernity, one must never see these as contradicting ideologies but rather some sort of a linkage. We may picture these two as intersecting binary components. As shown by the ladies of Shijima, tradition is inherited by modernity.