J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Survive the Pandemic by Turning Japanese

Survive the Pandemic by Turning JapaneseHere are some of things that may have helped the Japanese to have suffered fewer deaths in the coronavirus pandemic so far include perhaps (I am not connected with medicine):
1. wearing face masks which have been de rigueur for those who are suffering from respiratory illnesses perhaps since the influenza pandemic of 100 years ago,
2. a greater attention to covering ones mouth when one coughs (Japanese ladies cover their mouths even when they laugh),
3. far less dancing and discos,
4. bathing in the evening when arriving home dirty rather than the next morning (having passed the evening and night dirty at home!),
6. drying oneself using single use towels rather than bath towels that may not be washed for a week,
7. high interpersonal distance,
8. boiled sweets (candy) provided at customer service locations partly to reduce customer coughing,
9. generally lots of cleaning and sweeping by everyone from school children to monks,
10. food wrapping or the lack of unwrapped food sales, polythene bagging of unwrapped foods such as fruit at the checkout,
11. non-food product wrapping so that even if the packaging has been handled purchased products are sterile when unwrapped at home,
12. changing of clothing upon returning to the home and arriving at school (school uniforms are worn only on the way there. Pupils often change to track suits in class),
13. removal of shoes indoors,
14. use of a separate pair of slippers inside toilets,
15. passing things to other people with both hands thus interpersonal maintaining distance,
15. the use of semi disposable gunte cotton gloves by service personnel such as ticket inspectors, taxi drivers and anyone doing a dirty task even at home*,
11. the Japanese housewives' love of aprons which keep their clothes clean,
12. the way that Japanese taxi drivers open taxi doors for passengers so they don't need to touch the door handle**,
13. the predominance of uniforms in any job that may involve even a little dirt such as on any sort of manufacturing industry,
14. preference for the "one room mansion" over shared houses and flats,
15. more vending machines allowing purchases without human interaction,
16. the practice of sterilizing ones mattress (futon) by hanging it out in the sun,
17. taking rubbish home rather than littering or even using (non-existent) public waste bins,
18. plastic fairings along the sides of car windows to allow windows to be open a little refreshing car interior air even when it is pouring with rain,
19. a general preference for fresh air over closed air-conditioned rooms.
20. a preference for new things rather than second hand,
21. a greater belief that "cleanliness is next to godliness" and conversely that sin is a sort of defilement,
22,regarding cleaning is a sort of spiritual practice (that at least teaches the importance of cleanliness),
23. respect paid to homes, temples, martial arts gyms and other spaces with cleaning and bowing and greetings at the entrance to such spaces, emphasising the importance of keeping them in all ways good and pure,
24. traditionally according to Shinto scripture considering (skin) disease to be one of the deadly sins,
25. the integration of hand and mouth washing (chouzu, temizu) into Shinto prayer ritual,
26. shame-culture severity towards mistakes and not things that one does intentionally (infection is generally unintentional caused by a lack of vigilance such as in failing to cover ones mouth when one coughs),
27. the traditional provision of hot hand washing wet towels (oshibori) and disposable chopsticks at restaurants (that remain open even now),
28. individual bowls and chopsticks rather than sharing a common stock of cutlery even within the home,
29. sitting next to partners and friends rather than facing them and enjoying their company side by side (e.g. using counter seats),
30 enjoying the presence of others without feeling the need to keep talking all the time,
31. swallowing ones nasal mucus rather than blowing ones nose,
32. the consumption of many healthy foods. An urban myth has it that natto (rotten soya beans) is preventative but the notion that it may help has been rejected by Japanese specialists. Something about the Japanese diet (which is higher in rice, soy, and) may help. Natto contains a serine protease (nattokinease) which may encourage the production of serine protease inhibitors (serpins) which may block infection, or do the opposite. I am not a doctor.
33. Washlet (and other brand) bidets fitted to toilets keeping coronavirus from wiping hands,
34. the avoidance of touchy feely greetings such as handshakes, hugging and kissing,
35. less petting at least in public and less sex out of courtship and procreation, and a greater use of prophylactic sheaths,
36. a greater use of the seated position by males when urinating (sometimes by order in public toilets) thus avoiding urine on the floor and seat and hand to genital contact (male genitals may act as a fomites and while it is not a Japanese tradition, I have taken to washing my hands before and after using the toilet),
37. washing ones hands inside toilet cubicles using a raised flush-cistern faucet/spigot or tiny sinks before touching the toilet door handle,
38. the provision of disposable paper toilet seat covers and or disinfectant for cleaning toilet seats in public toilets,
39. spitting is unacceptable,
40. flatulence is beyond the pale,
41. drinking green tea and various medicinal teas,
42. perhaps the practice of getting neck deep in clean hot baths (Japanese wash before soaking) almost every night,
43. the use of hot spas as a folk treatment for almost everything.

The last two would be my Japan-influenced suggestions for attempting to treat the virus even in the face of WHO "myth busting", but I am not connected with medicine in any way.

I thought that the Japanese would be especially inclined to catch the coronavirus due to their genetics but Japanese culture proved me wrong.

I hope and pray that everyone worldwide stays safe. When Japanese schools reopen in April, the Japanese may face a resurgence of the coronavirus, so, I am praying for Japan too. Perhaps prayer should be added to the list of hygienic behaviours. Many Japanese people pray in the face of adversity (kamidanomi) even if they do not believe in the existence of that which they are praying to. This I think promotes awareness of the strength of ones yearning, and lack of ones power, thereby promoting a kind of humble diligence, hopefully.

The above inaccurate image was drawn freehand by me based on an accurate graph in the New York times.

*One hygiene product that I felt to be lacking Japan is the (Great British!) nail-brush. Upon reflection, however, I have come to realise that there are few nail brushes in Japan because Japanese would always wear gloves before performing a task that is so dirty as to result in dirt getting behind their nails. Oops.
**I now think back with regret at the number of times I have opened Japanese taxi doors for myself, in an expression of autonomy, as if to say I don't need you to open the door for me, and thereby putting my nasty germ ridden hands on the taxi probably forcing the taxi driver to get out and disinfect the door.

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019


Omotenashi and Weak-Mindedness

Omotenashi and Weak-Mindedness
There is a tendency for Japanese hospitality providers to provide the type and frequency of hospitality that they consider appropriate to their customers without asking their customers, or waiting to be ordered by them. Ideally Japanese hospitality providers should read the non-verbal signals of their customers and provide the services to make their customers happy prior to having to be asked (Doi, 1973).

In a typically modest and collectivism-believing fashion, Ikeda (2020, in preparation), a seminar student hypothesised that this type of hospitality is popular in Japan since the Japanese are easily lead, or weak-minded. In order to test this hypothesis we showed students a series of positive and negative pictures (Dan-Glauser & Scherer, 2011) followed by abstract symbol asking them to rate the positivity of latter, measuring the extent they were influenced by the photographs (which they were told to ignore) and asked them the extent to which they enjoyed Japanese style hospitality (omotenashi).

In line with the graduate student's hypothesis, a weak positive correlation (r=0.25) was found between our test of weak-mindedness and the preference for omotenashi as shown in the graph above.The horizontal axis shows preference for omotenashi, whereas the vertical axis shows the extent to which abstracted symbols were rated as having the same valence as the photographs which proceeded them.

[I think that this is a very negative way of seeing Japanese hospitality which is rather motivated by trust in hosts, a desire to allow others (hosts) to be individuals and to express their individualism, a lack of desire to hear themselves think or speak, a preference for and belief in the efficacy of non verbal communication, and enjoyment of and tolerance to surprise and the unusual, and a lack of a hatred of the influence of others. I may attempt to test these other hypotheses in future research.]

Dan-Glauser, E. S., & Scherer, K. R. (2011). The Geneva affective picture database (GAPED): a new 730-picture database focusing on valence and normative significance. Behavior research methods, 43(2), 468.
Doi, T. (1973). The anatomy of dependence. Tokyo: Kodansha. Goldberg,
Ikeda, Y. 池田良生.(2020)「おもてなしとマインド・コントロール」山口大学経済学部卒業論文(準備中)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Miyuki Emond's Tongue

Miyuki Emond's Tongue
It is rare to see a Japanese woman in anything but tip-top preened perfection in the (non adult) media anyway. But Ms. Miyuki Emond appears to be happy to pose with with her tongue showing, presumably about to lick milk froth on her top lip in the caffè latte advertisement poster shown above Seven Eleven's coffee vending machines.

A female Japanese university student once left my English class in tears when I asked her to poke out her tongue just a little to pronounce the sound "th" of "froth". I am now very sorry. It was too personal and imperfect a disclosure to demand of a Japanese lady. Ms. Emond is half Canadian. Japanese opinions of the poster and television commercial are divided with some Japanese even expressing displeasure regarding her mouth. This is hardly surprising in a Japanese context bearing in mind that female expressions of desire have been taboo since the beginning of the Japanese world.

In the Japanese creation myth Izanami (female) told Izanagi (male) that he was "a fine man" or words to that effect. The child born as a result of their union was boneless like a jellyfish and floated away out to sea. It was afterwards ordained that the male should invite the female and not the other way around. Japanese ladies have been saying “no,” hiding their desire, and the inside of their mouths, ever since. At least that is, until Ms. Emond showed her tongue.

If you would like this removed from the Net please leave a comment or send me an quick email to the address at the email link on my homepage: http://nihonbunka.com

Tuesday, November 06, 2018


The Beauty of Shazaikaiken

The Beauty of Shazaikaiken
Shazaikaiken are press conferences held for the purpose of making a public apology and they can look pretty strange to Westerners such as Dave Spectre (Amano, 2008) and myself in the past.

In the West, the public linguistic announcement of mistakes, fines, reparations, and counter-measures can lead to regaining trust. For example the charity evaluation organisation Give Well, announces their mistakes, reparations and measures to prevent repetition in detail at the website below.

However, Japanese shazaikaiken have an aspect visual communication or "performance" (Amano, 2008).

From a Western perspective, perhaps, mistakes, responsibility, and apologies (and indeed human existence, and the existence of the world) are inherently rational or linguistic, and substantive so there is no point or need of airing them in front of other people. And further, while no enjoyment will be gained from seeing a row of men bow awkwardly, the act of performing a public apology press conference may impact negatively upon the ’real’ linguistic reparation amount, and counter-measure policy. Japanese shazaikaiken, public apology press conferences can appear to be saying, "look, I am apologizing in front of everyone, so cut me some slack," and to be attempting to purchase forgiveness by performing an act.

From a my would-be, slightly Japanese perspective however,

Whether in language or via press conferences, all is communication. Repeated mistakes are, hopefully, prevented by making them public. There is nothing that exists, substantially, materially independently of communication, so the superiority of language with its pretence of substance is non-existent.

On the contrary, a public announcement solely in words is like a shazaikaiken made from behind a curtain. If the apologizers are genuinely sorry then they should show their bodies, their faces and communicate publicly via all channels not just from behind their fig leaf. The shazaikaiken is therefore thought to be more effective, than any veiled linguistic press conference in a closet, at preventing recidivism: the repeat of the undesirable behaviour.

Into the light.








マッド・アマノ. (2008). マッド・アマノの「謝罪の品格」. 東京: 平凡社.

The above image, showing a shazaikaiken, is from today's (2018/11/06) Asahi Newspaper page 6

Friday, October 05, 2018


Mirror Reversal Among Caucasian Anglophones and Japanese

Mirror Reversal Among Caucasian Anglophones and Japanese

Professor Yotaro Takano is in my opinion an extremely intelligent, intuitive, independent researcher at the University of Tokyo. He has the acumen to stand up to the prevailing notion that Westerners are independent, whereas Japanese are collectivists (Takano & Osaka, 1999; Takano & Sogon, 2008; 高野, 2008), presenting compelling data to show that there is little difference in the extent to which Americans and Japanese conform with groups. I think that he goes too far, however, when he denies cultural differences entirely, as this post will argue.

His other, and more profound area of expertise is in research explaining the sense of mirror reverse perceived in respect of people and symbols as reflected in mirrors (Takano & Tanaka, 2007; 高野, 1997). Professor Takano posits a dual (or multi) explanation claiming that the reason that we see symbols reversed is different to the reason why people, especially ourselves appear reversed. In support of this assertion he has published data which shows that while almost all subjects felt symbols to be reversed, nearly half of the 102 Japanese subjects at Tokyo universities (above right) did not feel their own reflection to be reversed, contrary to the assumptions of previous research. He argues that this suggests something different is going on in our impression of mirror reversal and symbol reversal.


I hold, after scholars such as Watsuji (2011) that the Japanese are far more likely to identify with their face, and mirror image than their self-narrative, as is common among "homo-narans" (人言)in the logocentric West, since the Japanese have (simulated) a mirror in their head or mind (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008).

When looking at a mirror, therefore, it seemed likely to me that Westerners, more than Japanese, would be likely to feel their mirror image to be reversed since to a Westerner, in so far as a mirror image is a person and has a frame of reference, it is another person, whereas Japanese are more likely to feel that that images are people, and that person in the mirror is themselves.

I repeated Takano and Tanaka's experiment (2007) upon Caucasian anglophone (recruited online via Prolific) and found that the percentage of those Anglophones lacking the impression of reversal was approximately half that of Japanese, at 25%.

I also think that there may be a similar difference when subjects are asked whether their self-talk comes before or after or at the same time as their decisions. Research (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977; Libet, 1999, Soon, Brass, Heinze, & Haynes, 2008, Haidt, 2001, 2004, 2013) argues that our self-talk comes after our subconscious decision making acts. This research showing a reversal in time, I feel, comes as quite a blow to Westerners who identify with their "cogito" or self-narrative.

The reversal in time may therefore, by a Nacalian transformation (Takemoto & Brinthaupt, 2017), correspond to the aforementioned reversal in space, denied to a greater extent in the culture to the degree of identification in each modality of self representation: language and image.

Whether or not the is a similar (but reversed) difference in impressions of self-narrartive reversal, I think that it is the ability of Japanese see themselves, or have a 'mirror in their heads', that enables Japanese to be so as non-conforming as Westerners (who listen to themselves). Among Western populations, mirrors generally reduce the tendency to conform since they increase *private* not public objective self awareness (C. S. Carver, 1975; Charles S. Carver & Scheier, 2001; Davies, 1982; Goukens, Dewitte, & Warlop, 2007).

Carver, C. S. (1975). Physical aggression as a function of objective self-awareness and attitudes toward punishment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 11(6), 510–519. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002210317590002..., Charles S., & Scheier, M. F. (2001). On the Self-Regulation of Behaviour. Cambridge University Press.Davies, M. F. (1982). Self-focused attention and belief perseverance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 18(6), 595–605. doi.org/10.1016/0022-1031(82)90075-0Goukens, C., Dewitte, S., & Warlop, L. (2007). Me, myself, and my choices: The influence of private self-awareness on preference-behavior consistency. Available at SSRN 1094748. Retrieved from papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1094748
Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108(4), 814. Retrieved from psycnet.apa.org/journals/rev/108/4/814/
Haidt, J. (2004). The Emotional Dog Gets Mistaken for a Possum. Review of General Psychology, 8(4), 283–290. Retrieved from faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/articles/haidt.2004.emotion...
Haidt, J. (2013). The Rationalist Delusion in Moral Psychology. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=kI1wQswRVaU
Libet, B. (1999). Do We Have Free Will? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(8–9), 47–57. Retrieved from www.centenary.edu/attachments/philosophy/aizawa/courses/i...
Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1977). Telling more than we can Know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 84(3), 231–259. Retrieved from www.apologeticsinthechurch.com/uploads/7/4/5/6/7456646/ni...
Soon, C. S., Brass, M., Heinze, H.-J., & Haynes, J.-D. (2008). Unconscious Determinants of Free Decisions in the Human Brain. Nature Neuroscience, 11(5), 543–545. Retrieved from projects.ecfs.org/pchurch/ATBiology/Papers2012/unconsciou...
Takano, Y., & Osaka, E. (1999). An Unsupported Common View: Comparing Japan and the Us on Individualism/Collectivism. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 2(3), 311–341.
Takano, Y., & Sogon, S. (2008). Are Japanese More Collectivistic Than Americans?: Examining Conformity in In-Groups and the Reference-Group Effect. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39(3), 237–250. doi.org/10.1177/0022022107313902
Takano, Yohtaro, & Tanaka, A. (2007). Mirror reversal: Empirical tests of competing accounts. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(11), 1555–1584. doi.org/10.1080/17470210601137102
高野陽太郎. (1997). 鏡の中のミステリー. 岩波書店.
高野陽太郎. (2008). 「集団主義」という錯覚―日本人論の思い違いとその由来. 新曜社.
Takemoto, T. R., & Brinthaupt, T. M. (2017). We Imagine Therefore We Think: The Modality of Self and Thought in Japan and America. 山口経済学雑誌 (Yamaguchi Journal of Economics, Business Administrations & Laws), 65(7・8), 1–29. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/Takemoto_Brinthaupt.pdf
Watsuji, T. (2011). Mask and Persona. Japan Studies Review, 15, 147–155. Retrieved from asian.fiu.edu/projects-and-grants/japan-studies-review/jo...

Loving a Ghost Music

Friday, September 21, 2018


Kendo and Karate Kata (Forms) as Self Seeing Robots

Kendo and Karate Kata (Forms)  as Self Seeing Robots

You practice the forms. Eventually they come naturally. Miyanaga claims that there is an intermediate or parallel ability to visualise the forms in her paper on robots.

The paper in English comments on the similarity between form mastering Japanese, and form mastering robots

Miyanaga, K. (1985). POPULARITY OF ROBOTS IN JAPAN── Tradition in Modernization──. 国際基督教大学学報. II-B, 社会科学ジャーナル, 24(1), 111-123.

However in section 4, entitled "Image and Action," of her paper in Japanese Miyanaga (1987) explains how it is an ability to generate an integrate *image* of ones behaviour, through the practice of forms, that enables Japanese humans (but perhaps* not robots) to move from doing things by rote to doing things freely and naturally.

宮永國子. (1987). 日本のロボットと土着文化 (「ロボット・人間」). 社会心理学研究, 2(2), 7-13.

This Miyanaga's assertion is at the centre of my understanding of Japanese culture and therefore the best Nihonjinron (other than my own!) that I know.

* There is work to create robots with autoscopy

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Saturday, June 16, 2018


Sunshine Monks (Teruterubouzu) Work

Sunshine Monks (Teruterubouzu) Work

Japanese children are encouraged to hang "sunshine monk" dolls from the eaves for their houses before sports events or other days that they hope will be sunny. There is a superstition that this will cause the next day to be fine. But is it just a superstition?

First of all is should be noted that the Sunshine Monk, while having a sunny name, looks like a Japanese (and American) representation of a ghost. further, since they are hung by their necks from a point outside the home the distance of which is difficult to gauge, they present to the retina a scene not dissimilar to a mass suicide, of ghostly figures. Further still since "monk" (bozu) is also the name given to the age group of boys that typically hang the dolls, they may even present a horrendous image of mass juvenile suicide.

Humans associate warmth with love and cold with fear (Bruno, Melnyk & Völckner, 2017). In a related example of Japanese magic, the Japanese tell each other ghost stories on hot summer nights in order to reduce perceived temperature. It is reasonable to suppose therefore, and not difficult to demonstrate, that the sight of Sunshine Monk, come mass juvenile suicide ghost dolls, is enough to lower perceived temperature by a few degrees.

Perceptions of fine and raining weather are also influenced by psychology especially on the misty-drizzle divide. When is a day just misty, and when is it drizzling? Upon decisions such as these the perception of, and the actual existence of sport's days is controlled. It is further not-unreasonable to presume that a grey-zone in-between day be judged to raining if the weather is hot and inappropriate to precipitation, the existence of which is emphasised by the contrast with warm weather, and conversely such days are more likely to be deemed misty rather than rainy if the temperature is felt to be cold. Further If, from a Machian (1914) perspective, the world is our description and judgement of our sensations, then it is not preposterous to conclude that the hanging of sunshine monk dolls, really does bring judgements, and thus real days, of sunshine.

I think that also the fact that they are made of tissue, and under the eaves require quite a lot of rain to get wet, means that having a palpable test of wetness that remains dry again leads to judgements of fine weather. I can imagine Japanese mothers saying "Look the sunshine monk is dry, it must be fine weather," as they send their boys out into the "mist."

Image adapted from that of Novaric, CC share alike 3.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1213271

Bruno, P., Melnyk, V., & Völckner, F. (2017). Temperature and emotions: Effects of physical temperature on responses to emotional advertising. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34(1), 302-320.
Mach, E. (1914). The analysis of sensations, and the relation of the physical to the psychical. Open Court Publishing Company.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Humble Hospitality Hoax

Hospitality Humility
I love Japanese service, but it is very egalitarian or even the power relationship is at times reversed, such that the service personnel appear superior to the customers that they are serving, while maintaining the highest verbal standards of humility of course.

Once again, as one Japanese hospitality researcher commented, the attitude to deities parallels the attitude towards hosts. Japanese deities, kami are perhaps better translated as spirits, and are seen in a much more egalitarian way than the Judeo Christian God, as are the ancestors who are "worshipped" which for similar reasons is better translated, in my opinion, as "respected".

The above uses the kimono clad lady in the image below released under the same licence.
Liam being fussed over by a kimono-clad waitress - Asakusa Mugitoro by Alpha


Activity Foods and Autonomy in the Matrivisual

Activity Foods

There is a common misconception that the Japanese are sheep, lacking in autonomy, and creativity compared to Westerners. This is due to logocentricism - the tendency to over-emphasise the importance of words. Westerners are loud, autonomous, and creative with their words, whereas Japanese tend to follow Benjamin Franklin's advice to, “speak little, do much.” Nowhere perhaps is this difference more pronounced than in food preparation services where, to some extent similar to Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, Westerners like to read menus, give orders, and have others adjust their food to their liking. The Japanese on the other hand would not be so outspoken as to order others around (as they hate to be ordered around themselves) but will delight in being given the opportunity to cook, and choose how they cook, for themselves. The cultural difference is not in the degree of autonomy nor creativity, but in the modality of self-expression.

The above image uses
Buri Shabu at Gomangoku by tokyofoodcast.com @ Flickr

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Details for Gods

Detail for Gods
Japanese hospitality is famous for its attention to detail. Visiting guests are wowed by free toiletries tea and even a change of clothes in Japanese hotel rooms, the offer of free chopsticks when purchasing take-away food, the pouring of sake till it flows out of the glass, cabbies that open doors for their passengers, bags for umbrellas at the entrance to stores, and even the hooks for bags next to Japanese ATMs and toilets. Japanese hosts, it is claimed, read the minds of their guests to offer them more than they even knew that they wanted.

The kindness of Japanese hosts is wonderful when it is appreciated, but sometimes foreign guests may wish to avoid some of this attention to detail. Customers do not always want wrapping nor till-receipts. Sometimes they may feel embarrassed to put their trash into their host’s hands. Customers, who are unaccustomed to the practice, may not enjoy their host talking in a high pitched voice, nor even being offered a chair to sit down. All the same, these details are often difficult to avoid because, rather than reading their guests minds, Japanese hospitality providers are often just following a preset script. In Japan it is often said that “the customer is God”, and this is often true, but in other countries Gods are spoken to and their commandments obeyed, rather than being the recipients of ritual.


Double Handed J-Trash Can

Double Handed J-Trash Can
I am not keen on the extremely, and perhaps overly, polite and kind Japanese tendency to encourage guests to put guest rubbish (trash) into the outstretched hands of the host, especially when the item I want to throw away is something that I have had in my mouth like a lolly pop stick. I would be most grateful if Japanese service providers would instead pass me a bin (trash can) but that would for them involve the trauma of showing me the contents of their trash can / rubbish bin: or in a sense showing me their dirty laundry. Perhaps I should take my lolly pop stick home like any self respecting Japanese person.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


The Heart of Yamato

A Japanese comment on this "Group Behaviour" video claims that it is the sort of video to show people if you want them to understand the central characteristics of the Japanese in a short space of time.

Beneath the comment there are a few dissenters, and I am one of them since I think that there are also a lot of very individual Japanese such as the famed YouTube and international relations phenomenon, Pico Taro

And the scary-cute songstress Kyari Pamyu Pamyu

For my money, as I have claimed many times before, the third video hits the nail of the Japanese mind on the head, more than the group behaviour video above, or the proverb about "the nail that stands out," since the Japanese like both groups and individuals. Kyari, however, gives the game away half-way through the video when she bokes up eyeballs. Yes, the Japanese have internalised eyeballs (or a mirror) into (or as) their heart, that encourages them to above all, look really cool, or try to. Thus also, in the words of the Edo period philosopher, Norinaga Motoori, "If asked about the heart of the Yamato (Japanese), tell them to look at mountain cherry blossom tree(s)" (the original specifies neither singular nor plural), since the Japanese in all three videos, and mountain cherry blossom trees, en masse, or just one, look really cool.
Sakura Mountain RoadCherry blossoms / Sakura / 桜

Takemoto, T. R., & Brinthaupt, T. M. (2017). We Imagine Therefore We Think: The Modality of Self and Thought in Japan and America. 山口経済学雑誌 (Yamaguchi Journal of Economics, Business Administrations & Laws), 65(7・8), 1–29. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/Takemoto_Brinthaupt.pdf

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Face Processing in Japanese and Sign Language Speakers

Face Processing in Japanese and Sign Language Speakers

Roberto Caldara and associates find that when recognising faces, Westerners tend to triangulate (in a manner of speaking) analysing the face moving their gaze from eye to eye to mouth, whereas East Asians seem to process faces globally and holistically, perhaps, by focusing upon the nose (upper two images, Miellet, Vizioli, He, Zhou, & Caldara, 2013, p.6).

Bearing in mind that in Lubna Ahmed as yet unpublished research, showing that repeating numbers impedes Westeners but does not reduce the facial processing ability of Japanese, and that repeating numbers impedes analytical but does not impede global processing of Navon figures (Ahmed & W de Fockert, 2012) , conversely improving global recognition, and crossing these results  with the fact that  research repeating the alphabet is the way of preventing self-talk (Kim, 2002), I presumed that all this demonstrated that East Asian global/holistic face processing is also non-linguistic processing, or conversely that Western triangulation is linguistic processing -- looking for nameable features -- which is impeded by being made to remember and presumably repeat numbers.

Caldera also introduces research (lower four images above from Watanabe, Matsuda, Nishioka, & Namatame, 2011, p.4) that demonstrates that the deaf and women are more likely to use the Western, 'triangulating' style of facial processing, whereas non-deaf and males seem to use the global style method of focussing on the nose. Noted elsewhere the Japanese should resemble the deaf if they are really not whispering -- thinking in words. So why is it that the deaf are using the Western style of face processing?

I think that this further reversal is due to the type of information being processed. The upper image is of Westerner and East Asians recognising the identities of faces whereas the lower four images are of deaf and non deaf, males and females processing emotions.

Emotions and identities may be being processed in opposite ways. As Caldera and colleagues point out (Stoll et al., 2017) the deaf use their faces to speak, so facial expressions and perhaps also emotions of the deaf are more likely to be processed linguistically using the triangulation method. Identities on the other hand are seen as linguistic by Westerners and the non-deaf who process the identities of faces in such a way as enwordify them, where as the Japanese (and I predict the deaf) see identify in the face itself (Watsuji, 2011). In other words, if Matsuda, Nishioka, & Namatame repeated their research except asking deaf and hearing subjects to identify facial identities, I predict they would have found the opposite tendency.

Caldera has further also performed some further fascinating research (Stoll et al., 2017) that finds that both deaf and non-deaf people who use sign language process faces in a different way.


I think that this explains the meaning of Kata, the forms used in everything from Karate to tea ceremony, by which I presume Japanese learn to be Japanese  (based on hints from Masamune, Butler, 1993;  and Yamamoto, 2009). Kata forms are like sign language by means of which the Japanese learn to speak with their bodies. The Japanese speak at shrines where they clap, and in the kata of martial arts and tea ceremony training rooms, with their bodies. The Japanese have bodies that speak. For the Japanese, this allows them to realise that speaking takes place on the outside of the head, on the forehead even, and this may be how the curse, of the whispering, can be lifted.

I am always attempting to leap to the conclusion.

And, there is a problem with the above line of reasoning in that Lubna Ahmed's unpublished research which showed that repeating numbers did not impede Japanese facial recognition, was upon the recognition of emotions in faces. According to the above reasoning, it is the Japanese who should be impeded if, like the deaf, they are processing emotion in an analytical way.

However, that the differences exhibited by Westerners and East Asians are beginning to be demonstrated in differences between deaf and hearing, and people memorising digits and those who are not, suggests at least tentative support for the Nacalian turn.

Images are from upper two images, Miellet, Vizioli, He, Zhou, & Caldara, 2013, p.6 and Watanabe, Matsuda, Nishioka, & Namatame, 2011, p.4.

お取り下げご希望の場合は下記のコメント欄か、http://nihonbunka.comで掲示されるメールアドレスにご一筆ください。 Should anyone want me to cease and desist, please leave a comment or contact me from the email link at nihonbunka.com

Ahmed, L., & W de Fockert, J. (2012). Working Memory Load Can Both Improve and Impair Selective Attention: Evidence from the Navon Paradigm. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 74, 1397–405. doi.org/10.3758/s13414-012-0357-1
Butler, J. (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex. Routledge.
Miellet, S., Vizioli, L., He, L., Zhou, X., & Caldara, R. (2013). Mapping Face Recognition Information Use across Cultures. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 34. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00034
Stoll, C., Palluel-Germain, R., Caldara, R., Lao, J., Dye, M. W. G., Aptel, F., & Pascalis, O. (2017). Face Recognition is Shaped by the Use of Sign Language. The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 1–9. doi.org/10.1093/deafed/enx034
Watanabe, K., Matsuda, T., Nishioka, T., & Namatame, M. (2011). Eye Gaze during Observation of Static Faces in Deaf People. PLOS ONE, 6(2), e16919. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0016919
Watsuji, T. (2011). Mask and Persona. Japan Studies Review, 15, 147–155.
Yamamoto, I., 山本一輝. (2009). メンタルトレーニング~弓道を通じた自己イメージのあり方~(Mental Training: The way of self imaging achieved through Japanese Archery) (未発表卒論). 山口大学経済学部観光政策学科.

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No Confidence in their Smile?

No Confidence in their Smile?
The Japanese are about one third as likely to say that they are confident in their smile (Funaki, 2006, p.29), because I believe and as Hamaguchi, Takemoto and Tobimatsu (in preparation) demonstrates, the Japanese express their confidence with their smile not about it.

Takemoto, Hamaguchi, & Tobimatsu .(in preparation). The Japanese smile as a symbol of positive self-regard. 
舩木純三. (2006). クリニカル 笑顔の効用とスマイルトレーニングの必要性. 日本歯科医師会雑誌, 59(7), 631-639.

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Heroes: All Mouth and No Mouth At All

Heroes: All Mouth and No Mouth At All
Western superheroes sometimes show their faces, like Superman and sometimes have a full faced mask like Iron man but when they wear a partial mask it always shows their mouth. They appear to be all mouth. On the other hand, Japanese super heroes often have no mouth at all. The mouth and the spoken word is not very important, or even avoided, in Japan but Westerners and their heroes are their pronouns, names and self-narratives. With heroes this different there may be reason to be concerned.

Derrida believes that the war to end all wars will be waged in the name of the name.

"But as it is in the name of something whose name, in this logic of total destruction, can no longer be borne, transmitted, inherited by anything living, that name in the name of which war would take place would be the name of nothing, it would be pure name, the "naked name." That war would be the first and the last war in the name of the name, with only the non-name of "name." It would be a war without a name, a nameless war, for it would no longer share even the name of war with other events of the same type, of the same family. Beyond all genealogy, a nameless war in the name of the name. That would be the End and the Revelation of the name itself, the Apocalypse of the Name. "(Derrida,  1984, p.30-31)

Western Heroes
Citizen V
Phantom of the Fair
American Crusader
Keen Detective
Fighting Yank

Grim Reaper
Green Mask

The Black Terror
Cat Man
Black Owl
Blue Beetle
New Invaders
Blue Diamond
Captain America

Father Time
Green Hornet
Blonde Platinum
Golden Girl
Captain Courageous
Crimson Avenger

Japanese Heroes
Masked Riders
Ultramen (mouths suggested, but unmoving and non functional. They express the identity of the ultraman but do not speak.)
Super Sentai
Hell0 Kitty

Derrida, J. (1984). No Apocalypse, Not Now (full speed ahead, seven missiles, seven missives). Translated by C. Porter, & P. Lewis,  diacritics, 14(2), 20-31. www.uni-giessen.de/faculties/gcsc/media/workshop-feminism...

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Indentity: Asians Lower, Westerners Upper

Indentity: Asians Lower, Westerners Upper
When learning identity, Asians look at the nose and the lower part of the face (above left) whereas Westerners look at the eyes and mouth, triangulating, comparatively focussing more on the upper part of the face (above right).

This is the opposite as I would have predicted bearing in mind that Japanese thieves (dorobo) traditionally used a wrapping cloth to cover the upper part of their face (other than their eyes), whereas Western outlaws traditionally covered the lower part of their face with their scarf.

It is also the opposite of the part of the face that East Asian and Western children use to recognise emotions. I argue that the way in which emotion and identity are perceived may be swapped East to West.

Miellet, S., Vizioli, L., He, L., Zhou, X., & Caldara, R. (2013). Mapping Face Recognition Information Use across Cultures. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 34. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00034

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East Asian Children Look at Eyes to Sense Emotion

East Asian Children Look at Eyes to Sense Emotion

Since Yuki, Maddux and Masuda (2007) we know that Westerners and Asians look at different parts of the face when discriminating and processing emotions. We now know that even in seven month old children, East Asian children fixate on the eyes even or especially when looking at happy faces, whereas Western children look at mouths as illustrated in the image above (Geangu, et al., 2016, p. R663).

お取り下げご希望の場合は下記のコメント欄か、http://nihonbunka.comで掲示されるメールアドレスにご一筆ください。 Should you wish that I cease and desist, please leave a comment here, at flickr, or send me an email to the link on my homepage http://nihonbunka.com

Geangu, E., Ichikawa, H., Lao, J., Kanazawa, S., Yamaguchi, M. K., Caldara, R., & Turati, C. (2016). Culture shapes 7-month-olds’ perceptual strategies in discriminating facial expressions of emotion. Current Biology, 26(14), R663-R664. 下記URL2017/10/28参照 www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982216306054
Yuki, M., Maddux, W. W., & Masuda, T. (2007). Are the windows to the soul the same in the East and West? Cultural differences in using the eyes and mouth as cues to recognize emotions in Japan and the United States. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43(2), 303-311.

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Washida is Not his Face, Body or Clothes

Washida is Not his Face
Professor Seichi Washida (2017) often rails against the centrality of face in Japanese perceptions of self (Watsuji. 2011). In this short piece on the front page of the Asahi Newspaper, Washida quotes Ichikawa Hiroshi, who in fact argues the unity of mind and body (Ichikawa, 1975) as saying that this face is that which is farthest from himself. I think perhaps Ichikawa draws a destinction between face, which can not be seen, and the body that can and the place in which it is perceived. Despite this fact, Washida does not distinguish between the body and face, and asks "is the body the first image clothes I wear perhaps?" This metaphor relating the body with clothing can be use to theorize superheroes who are light (Ultraman) or their clothes (Sentai/Power Rangers, Kamen/ Masked riders, Gundam, Eva, and  Iron Man). Japanese people, as they become Japanese, grow into their clothes. Professor Washida remains unconvinced.


Washida, S. 鷲田清一.(2017/10/27).折々のことば915.朝日新聞朝刊.
市川浩. (1975). 精神としての身体. 勁草書房.
Watsuji, T. (2011). Mask and Persona. Japan Studies Review, 15, 147–155.

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One Reason Japanese Waiters Shout

JOne Reason Japanese Waiters Shout
apanese waiters, and Karate practioners, shout as they go about their business. They shout "Welcome" to the customers, and sometimes even shout out the customers orders such as "An extra helping of Ramen!" in voice loud enough for the clientee and staff in the whole restaurant to hear. There are a number of reasons why they are doing this, including the fact that such shouting is approved of by the majority of Japanese customers. Additionally it may the the case that shouting makes them better at their job.

Lubna Ahmed and a colleague (Ahmed & W de Fockert, 2012) gave subjects one of two low difficulty and high difficulty memory tasks, before asking them to respond with either the small or large letter represented by a Navon figure. In the low load condition, the numbers that the subjects remembered where consecutive ascending, whereas in the high load condition the numbers were random. I suggest that the random, but not consecutive number condition, the subjects usually resorted to the typical phone-number memory method of repeating the digits. Under t his condition they became faster at recognising the large letter represented by a Navon figure: "S" in the case of the figure above right. This is because repeating the digits loaded and turned off the linguistic analytical mind, leaving them to react naturally and more quickly to the globally presented "S." Waiter's likewise, whose job it is to attend to the needs of a restaurant full of customers, and Karate practitioners who need to react with speed to movements of an opponent, can benefit from loading their linguistic brain, allowing to respond rapidly, naturally and in a Western sense mindlessly.

The above image is adapted from (Ahmed & W de Fockert, 2012, Fig. 1 and Fig. 2. on p. 1399 and p. 1400 respectively)

Ahmed, L., & W de Fockert, J. (2012). Working memory load can both improve and impair selective attention: Evidence from the Navon paradigm. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 74, 1397–405. doi.org/10.3758/s13414-012-0357-1

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Individualist Rucksacks

Traditionally these lightweight, stiff rucksacks for primary school children called randoseru, from the Dutch word ransel, came in only two colours: black for boys and red for girls. The colour coding of boys and girls rucksacks continued for more than 100 years since their introduction in 1885 (Penttinen, 2011). Due to the uniformity of their colour and design the use of randoseru has been described as part of the process of "inculcating group values"(Samovar, Porter, & McDaniel, 2011, pp. 402).

Each weekday morning small groups of elementary school students assemble near their homes and set out for their school house in classic military platoon formation... They also carry the ubiquitous backpack (randoseru), identifiable throughout Japan in shape and size and differing significantly in only the color —predominately red and black, but occasionally another color. The back packs mark the wearers as elementary students and the hats denote the school attended.
(Ibid, pp. 402-403)

In the 1990s, however, with the advent of feminism and increasing individualism there was pressure on schools and randoseru makers to provide rucksacks in other colours. It is only in the past decade that non-black non-red randoseru have become popular. A Google image search for images of randoseru stipulating before 2010 shows rucksacks in predominantly the two traditional colours. Primary school children now commonly wear rucksacks in all the colours shown here. 

Penttinen, L. (2011) A Research Upon School Uniforms and Personal Style. epublications.uef.fi/pub/urn_nbn_fi_uef-20110453/urn_nbn_...
Samovar, L. A., Porter, R. E., & McDaniel, E. R. (2011). Intercultural Communication: A Reader. Cengage Learning.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.