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.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Psychological Keynsianism Japanese Style

Psychological Keynsianism Japanese Style
Westerners have a tendency for self praise. Indeed thought, which has been shown not to be will (Libet, 2009; Nisbett and Wilson, 1977) may be a stream of self comforting, justifications (Haidt, 2001), or even a negotiation" (Rochat, 2009) or sexual self-stimulation (Derrida, 1976) that we whisper and of which we are ashamed (Quran 50:16).

Whispering in the mind is similar to Keynesian macroeconomic stimulation of the fiscal kind. Westerners tell themselves that "I can do it," "I'll will win" and motivate themselve to do just that. They feed themselves empty simbols, that otherwise have exchange value, to get a postive feedback loop going. Central banks print money, symbols that otherwise have exchange value, to get an economic positive feedback loop going. Both work in the short term but may become an addictive maelstrom of self-stimulation in the longer term.

With regard to the mental self-stimulation it has been shown that the the Japanese probably do not do it, at least nearly so much (Kim, 2002; Heine et al., 1999). Japanese sports persons refrain from self praise even when they win. This is not to say that there is not a Japanese equivalent to self-praise. The sports person picture above in the Yamaguchi Newspaper indulged in Psychological Keynsianism Japanese style. Before the final of his rock climbing event he brought forth an imagine in his mind of himself, winning the event in the spotlight in front of the massive crowd. This image helped propell him to his win, with unconstrained enthusiam (nobi nobi 伸び伸び).

One possible advantage of the Japanese style of self-stimulation is that it may not require comparison (Yuki, 2003).

Linguistic signs always exist and have meaning in distinction to other signs (De Saussure, 2011; Maruyama et al., 1993, p19). "I will win" implies someone will loose. "I am great" implies, if "great" is to have any meaning, that someone else is not great. Unless there is to be rampant inflation some nefarious technique of maintaing the myth of 'everyone is better than average' must be brought into play. This is often achieved for instance by the negative evaluation of outgroups (Said, 1979; Tajfel and Turner, 2004). British people can be all "great", because orientals are all "savages". British people could all be rich because they took wealth from the rest of the world.

The Japanese are even better than Americans at maintaining a myth that everyone is better than average (Hamamura, Heine, & Takemoto, 2007). Their technique of just imagining the beauty, however, does not necessarily require downward comparison. In the case of the sportsperson above it is true he imagined himself winning but the important thing was that he was in the spotlight. Downwards comparison was not present nor necessary. Indeed conversely it may be the case that Japanese psychological Keynsianism can feed off positivity, such that Japanese like to imagine, and photograph, themselves alongside the triumph and beauty of others. Japanese tourists, armed with selfie-sticks are masters at 'basking in reflected glory' (Cialdini et al., 1976).

Japanese economic self-stimulation has generally taken the form of public works projects to construct roads, and various "boxy" (hakomono) infrastructure. Such public works were generally funded by loans. Perhaps Japanese sports person can only pump themselves up with images of victory if they accept that there will be a payback time (perhaps at the moment of victory, when the spotlight is not all that enjoyable after all).

Recently, both on the psychological and economic front however the current prime minister of Japan is encouging the Japanese to praise themselves (Abe, 2006), and resorted to symbolic, fiscal stimulation of the Japanese economy. The Bank of Japan is printing yen and purchasing Japanese government bonds. The Prime Minister also espouses an increase in Japanese millitary strength. It seems to me that simbolic self-stimulation, without inflation, and violence go hand in hand. I think that this physical recreation of the Western mind in the global pollitical economy is the 'unveiling' that we need to avoid.

Abe, S. (2006). Utsukushii kuni e [Towards a beautiful country]. Tokyo: Bungei Shunju.
Cialdini, Robert B., et al. "Basking in reflected glory: Three (football) field studies." Journal of personality and social psychology 34.3 (1976): 366.
Derrida, J. (1976). Of grammatology, trans. G. Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.
De Saussure, F. (2011). Course in General Linguistics [1916]. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological review, 108(4), 814.
Hamamura, T., Heine, S. J., & Takemoto, T. R. (2007). Why the better-than-average effect is a worse-than-average measure of self-enhancement: An investigation of conflicting findings from studies of East Asian self-evaluations. Motivation and Emotion, 31(4), 247-259.
Heine, Steven J., Darrin R. Lehman, Hazel Rose Markus, and Shinobu Kitayama. "Is there a universal need for positive self-regard?." Psychological review 106, no. 4 (1999): 766.
Kim, H. S. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(4), 828.
Libet, B. (2009). Mind time: The temporal factor in consciousness. Harvard University Press.
Maruyama, M. et al. 丸山圭三郎, 行人柄谷, 健二立川, 秀岸田, & 芳郎竹内. (1993). 文化記号学の可能性 (増補完全). 夏目書房.
Nisbett, Richard E., and Timothy D. Wilson. "Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes." Psychological review 84.3 (1977): 231.
Rochat, P. (2009). Others in mind: Social origins of self-consciousness. Cambridge University Press.
Said, E. W. (1979). Orientalism. Vintage.
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (2004). The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior.
Yuki, M. (2003). Intergroup comparison versus intragroup relationships: A cross-cultural examination of social identity theory in North American and East Asian cultural contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 166–183. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/1519846.pdf

Image: Deliberately blurred photo of an article in the Yamaguchi Newspaper from October 2016.

(The Rocking Horse Winner is a masterpiece with whispering, money and even a Buraq)

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Friday, October 14, 2016


The Japanese Octopus Pot Runneth Over

The Japanese Octopus Pot Runneth Over

Masao Murayama's theory of the "octopus society" (MacFarlane, 2010) claims that Japanese society is like a lot of octopus pots (image above bottom cropped from wikimedia). Octopus pots are traps for Octopi. The Octopus crawls into the trap and thinks it is safe inside a hole in the seabed but in fact it is pulled up by a string. The Japanese are trapped within their pots which represent their minds, which are also claimed to be empty, lacking a centre. MacFarlane (2010, p78) paraphrases a Japanese source as saying "Our friend seemed to be saying the he imagined that westerners feel filled at the centre with an individual soul and personality, while a single Japanese is like an empty room," and Fukuzawa similarly as claiming ": 'The millions of Japanese at that time were closed up inside millions of individual boxes. They were separated from one another by walls with little room to move around (ibid).' A similar "empty centre," theory is espoused by the late great Jungian psychologist of Japanese mythology, Hayao Kawai (河合, 1982). Kawai seems to have forgotten about the mirror which the book of Japanese mythology claims is the heart of the Japanese (The Kojiki Preface).

These octopus pot, empty centre theories are the opinions of Japanese word merchants like Fukuzawa. As previously mentioned, the Japanese tradition was not to care "a hair on their heads" about such hot air. The Japanese care about "the warehouse of their acts" (Kai)">, or as far as they are yet to be completed, their dreams (as expressed by the picture by Michio Hisauchi, showing Japanese standing in an elevator in Ishihara, 2006, p53). Empty of words they have been demonstrated to be (Kim, 2002) but in my view the Japanese heart may lack a centre (who needs one?) and is not trapped, but runneth over with images and dreams (Takemoto, 2003).

Ishihara, S. 石原壮一郎. (2006). 大人養成講座 (PB版). 東京: 扶桑社.
河合隼雄. (1982). 中空構造日本の深層. 中央公論社.
Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
MacFarlane, A. (2010). Japan Through the Looking Glass. Profile Books.
Takemoto, T. (2003). 言語の文化心理学―心の中のことばと映像(The Cultural Psychology of Language: Language and Image in the Heart). In 武本, ティモシー & 古賀,範理, あなたと私のことばと文化―共生する私たち―. 五絃舎.

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Cruel Manga on the Rise

Cruel Manga on the Rise

While the level of homicide (and youth crime) has been decreasing in Japan, it seems to me that there has been a contemporaneous increase in the number of violent Manga published.

The image above shows the number of "cruel" (残酷) manga published in each year based on a ranking of the same at jp-manga.com (link givenin bibliography). Parasyte (『寄生虫』) (1990) is the first published, tops the ranking and is reviewed below.

Before trailing off in 2015 and 2016 (possibly because the most recent manga have yet to develop a following) the numbers of cruel manga published increases to reach a peak in 2014 with such titles as "Tokyo Gu-ru:re" (東京グール:re about cannibals in Tokyo), "Girl May Kill" (ガール・メイ・キル about a cute looking assassin with a knife), Virgin Wars (乙女戦争 about 15th warrior girl in Bohemia), "Gnosis March" (グノーシス・マーチ about vampires), Magic Girl Site (魔法少女サイト about a girl that makes a pact with an evil web site), "One Hundred Years War" (百年戦争 about siblings, a brother and sister, forced to become mercenaries on opposing side of the titular war), "Funeral Procession of the Rose King" (薔薇王の葬列 about a hermaphrodite in the English Wars of the Roses), Hole Murderer (穴殺人 about someone who looks through a hole in a wall at the girl next door to find that she is a serial killer) and more, some of which are cruel in love rather than violence. The "violence" tag at the same website in a subset of the Yakuza genre rather than about violence in general. Some of the reason for the rise in the number of cruel manga in this ranking will be due to the fact that the site's viewers will be those reading manga now and thus more familiar with manga published recently.

While there are many that blame violence upon the proliferation of violent fiction in movies, animation and manga, it may conversely be the case that the proliferation of violent fiction provides a fictional outlet for violence which would otherwise manifest itself in reality.

I can't comment on how "cruel" most of these manga are since I have not read them. I can vouch for the fact that "Parasyte" (Iwaaki, 1990), The only manga in the above list that I have read, contained some pretty gruesome violence, cruelty. The violence often takes between men and women in scenes where alien parasites bite the heads off their date or spouse (as shown in the bottom row in black and white above). Alien parasite worms invade and grow to replaced the heads of their victims, who became headless bodies for a morphing, carnivorous Sphinx-head. The hero of the manga is a boy whose is invaded by an emotionless, ultra-rational parasite who only invades the boy's right hand, and acts as his assistant in dispatching the hand's head-invading brethren. The boy spends a lot of his time speaking to his hand. In the sense that he is spoken rather than seen by his paracyte, the hero is rather like a Westerner in Japan.

The violence in "Parasyte" was both graphic and particularly cruel due to the way in which the victims were often killed by a member of the opposite sex who they assumed loved them the most. The murderous opposite-sex partner (sibling, girl next door) trope seems to be continued in a more than one of the other seven manga listed.

Another review of Parasyte is here.

Iwaaki, H. (2011). Parasyte 1. New York: Kodansha Comics.
jp-manga.com (2016) Ranking of 残酷 manga, retrieved from www.jp-manga.com/list_t/%e6%ae%8b%e9%85%b7/all/default_1....

Should anyone wish that I cease and desist please be so kind as to contact me via the comments below or the mail link at nihonbunka.com. 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。

I can see now how Nietzsche was able to call his "spirit of gravity" a dwarf on his shoulders.

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Homicide in Japan

Homicide in Japan
Japanese media, and indeed media around the world, become more effective in selling their products by alarming their audience, there is a tendency to believe that things are falling apart and that for instance, there is increased violence. In Japan the level of homicide has dropped by about 70 percent in the time that I have been here. Looking at Intentional Homicide Rates, Japan is now at a level bettered only by Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Iceland. The next non small Island or City state of Austria has a muder rate almost twice that of Japan. In the UK the rate is about 3 times that of Japan and in the US thirteen times.

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Sunday, October 09, 2016


Misunderstood Japan

Misunderstood Japan
Someone asked on Quora what do foreigners misunderstand about Japan. I answered as I always do that Foreingers at least since Ruth Benedict (1946) think that Japanese shame is external, imposed on them from the outside, when in fact the Japanese live in the sight of the Sun God, Amaterasu, or Otendou-sama (Funahashi, 2008) who watches from within their hearts.

This explains why for instance, the Japanese do tidy up not only football stadia (even when their national team loses) but also tidy up in the privacy of their hotel rooms (Funahashi, 2008, p.166) and toilet cubicles which they leave as if unused, contra non-Japanese guests.

Conversely it is because Japanese care about how things look from a special perspective in their hearts, NOT from the point of view of other people, which is the reason why Japanese cities are a bristling, bubbling morass of individuality as opposed to rows of houses all looking the same.

The above images are the Google image search results, at half size, for:
I Top) British public toilet inside
2) Japan public toilet inside
3) Tokyo Street
4) London Street

お取り下げご希望でありましたら、下記のコメント欄かnihonbunka.comのメールリンクからご一筆ください。Should anyone want me to cease and desist please send me a note via the comments or to the mail link at nihonbunka.com

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Friday, October 07, 2016


Walk the Walk

Walk the Walk
Kaishu Katsu pictured above was a late Edo period Bakufu government samurai who, with the approach of the Meiji restoration revolutionary forces, successfully argued for the surrender (or "opening") of Edo castle.

When the famous contemporary intellectual Yukichi Fukuzawa (who appears on 10,000 yen notes) criticised Katsu for a lack of stoic loyalty, which Fukuzawa felt he should have held onto, even in the face of defeat, Katsu responded with the following poem.


My acts are me, are mine
Blame and praise are what other people claim
Tell them to all the world for all I care not one hair
Knowing them to be nothing to do with I
Kaishu Katsu 

He went on to lead the Japanese navy and become one of the most successful statesmen of the Meiji period.

Hiroshi Nakata's poem "the most precious thing" which appeared in his "Miracle" poem collection appears to be a homage to Katsu's earlier work.


Our thoughts are not among the things we've said aloud
But only in the things we've done.

Image from Katsu Japanese language wikipedia page.


Separate Flesh One Heart Oath

Two Bodies One Heart OathThe Shinto shrine at which my wife and I were married gave us a wedding oath in which it was written that we were to remain "different bodies, but now with one heart" (異体同心).

This presents an interesting contrast with the conception of marriage as becoming one flesh in Genesis 24.

"21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs [sides] and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man. 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

I know that there is a Nacalian transformation to be had here -- well it is obvious and overt -- but I don't know what it means to become "one flesh."

Perhaps it goes like this.

In the West God, in one of his persons, listens and for the faithful becomes a comforter (paraclete, generalised other, impartial spectator, super addressee) shared by all, whereas visual perspectives are "dialogical" in the Bakhtinian sense, always polysemous, seen from the point of view of others, so that my face is not my self (Nishida), but "a face for a face" (in Nacalian inversion of Mori's "you for you"). While visuality in the West remains polysemous and subjective in general, among married couples ones appearance may become primarily above all for the eyes of ones spouse.

In Japan however the kind old sun is watching, and presents a gaze apart that his shared by all. However language remains polysemous so that in general the Japanese first person pronoun is as Arimasa Mori says no more than a "'You' for a 'You.'" However among Japanese married couples perhaps, the Japanese linguistic superaddressee becomes ones spouse.

In each case, therefore, perhaps "our better half" takes the place of the perspective not occupied by God. I can see how that might work to make Western couples one flesh (c.f. Terrence Malik's ""We were a family... Each standing in the other's light.") but it is pretty strange to me that a Shinto Shrine might, under this interpretation, call the self-narrative the heart.

But then again, Shinto has become very wordy post-Meiji, modelling itself upon Western monotheisms and handing out oaths like this, and may even have forgotten, like Prime Minister Abe, and Seiichi Tsuruta (鷲田清一) that the Japanese heart is a mirror. In this morning's Asahi Newspaper Professor Tsuruta came back to his senses.


Farmer Poet Gives Voice to the Things that say Nothing

Farmer Poet Gives Voice to the Silent
In today's Asahi Newspaper the philosopher Seiichi Tsuruta, who is usually very "Western" in his belief that the self is essentially linguistic, returned to his senses and chose for today's "words of the moment" (ことばのおりおり") the following excerpt from the poet Hiroshi Nagata who died, at age 75, in May last year.


People learn words, and lose happiness.
And with the words they learn
They become sage with same amount of sadness.
Hiroshi Nagata


I often find it difficult to persuade people that I came from the country of words, to the land of light, at least partly because there are so many brilliant Japanese novelists and poets. It seems to me however that so many of the best Japanese novelists and poets, and the most famous haiku poetic style -- aims to take us with words away from them, back to the things that say nothing.

In his acceptance speech for the Mainichi Newspaper poetry prize as summarized in the article from the same newspaper above, the poet describes his art in the following way.

"Through my art, the basis of my life has become living with the seasons, seeing things, feeling them, thinking them, and this has allowed me to see my environment (風景 scenery) in a different way.

By this means I have been moved ever more profoundly by closeness or affinity expressed by the trees, flowers, birds, earth, water, sunlight, the colour of things that live the power of the seasons along side with us. I think it is through the amazing affinity and closeness of these things that say nothing that people are given life and saved.
In this way, I think that it is fair to say that being a poet is the same as being a farmer who also reads the things that give breath to the days of the seasons. From days past the poet has been the farmer of words whose profession has been harvest sensitivity eating only the mist. I am very pleased to receive this prize for my collection of poetry which contains an almanac of one person's heart. "(My emphasis, Original Precis by Kouichi Ooi, Mainichi Newspaper, 2014/1/30 posted here)


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Wednesday, October 05, 2016


Shinto Prayer and the First Person Self

Shinto Prayer and the First Person Self
Japanese people traditionally prayed at Shinto shrines without words, but by bowing deeply twice, clapping twice, and bowing once again.

The bow before a shrine, and the spirit within it, is the most formal of bows otherwise reserved only for extremely respected persons, where the torso is brought to within 90 degrees of the legs. This is not quite as radical, perhaps, as a Tibetan Buddhist and Muslim prostration in which one brings ones forehead into contact with the ground but, first of all, it encourages those at prayer to feel humility which, at least in Japan, is generally thought to be a good thing.

The clapping part of the Shinto prayer struck me as a reminder of the fact that not only can I whisper (think) and speak but I can make noises with my body, so thus draws me away towards an active awareness of the autonomy of my embodiment: look, your body, your hands too speak.

But now it occurs to me that Shinto prayer may be a way of encouraging an awareness of the first person self: the self which sees itself.

As I often point out, there are a large number of scholars that emphasise the need for an intra-psychic other in order to be aware of self. In the words of many social scientific researchers we take in the perspective of another (Haidt, 2001; Hermans & Kempen, 1993; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Mead, 1934/1967) such as when we address our thoughts to absent friends. This phraseology emphasising the interiorisation or internalisation of something sounds natural and persuasive.

Rochat (2009) however points out that the adult self, as represented by the pronoun "I" or as seen as reflected in the mirror, is a self for others: a "third-person self". The me in the mirror is not anything that I will ever see on this side of the glass, but only something that others can see. And though we use a different pronoun for "I" as opposed to "me," as Mori points out unless there is a "third person" the "I" is a "you for you," an explanation of me, for others. Though both are only representations, we get used to thinking that we are one or the other. Usually in the West we tend to identify with the hero of our self narrative as many scholars (e.g. Dennet, 1992) attest despite the fact that it is becoming plain that our self-narrative, this whispering that we listen to, is not "will" but an excuse after the event (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977).

Rochat (2009) takes a different view. He reminds us that children have a first person self prior to their third person representations of themselves. That is to say that we can hear, see, and touch ourselves, and in all cases become aware of our movements and distinguish between self originating movement - the double touch, sound variations that we have created, closed circuit videos - and other generated movement -- the single touch by another object, sounds created randomly, delayed movements on video tape. Rochat argues that our adult sense of self arises out of a "negotiation" between these two self positions. That is to say that the first person self remains, and it is from this perspective from which our third person self-representions are seen and heard.

In other words it less that we take the perspective of others into our heads as it were, or internalise, introject, internalise a mode of others in our minds, but really that we extroject a model of ourselves (as narrative and image) and forget the first person self that is watching.

How might we become aware of this first person self (assuming we want to)? I have suggested wearing spectacles, looking at ones nose, and touching ones face.

It also seems to me now that Shinto prayer encourages the worshipper to become aware of their first person self. Bowing deeply we see our own legs. Clapping we see our hands, their movement, their "double touch" as palms meet, and their self-created clapping sound. By so doing perhaps we remember just a little, the giant that we have forgotten is staring out of our eyes.

Perhaps I could use bowing and clapping as independent variables, or take up Shinto again.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Japanese and Foreign Hotel Guests

Japanese and Foreign Hotel Guests
In "The Kind Old Sun is Watching Over us" Yoshiyuki Funahashi (2008) writes

"Rethinking the Manners of the Japanese
Here I'll start by writing about how the manners of the Japanese are no so bad in comparison to those of foreigners.
I heard this from someone who works in a hotel.

There is a clear difference between Japanese and foreign guests after they have finished with a room. Japanese guests put the sheets and futon back into shape, and also clean up the wash basin. In the case of refuse (rubbish/trash) too, when there are two bins one for burnable and another for non-burnable refuse, Japanese guests tend to separate their refuse into the appropriate bin. By comparison foreign guests tend not to clean up after themselves, and leave their rooms in quite a state." (Funahashi, 2008, p166, my translation).

I have used a British flag on the lower messier picture of a hotel room merely for illustrative purposes. The text groups all non-Japanese into one category of "foreigners". My guess is that there may be hotel guests from nations other than Japan, who also leave their rooms in a similarly neat and tidy way. I confess, however, it would hardly cross my mind to clean up my hotel room before departure. Part of the joy of staying in a hotel room is that I am able to leave the cleaning to someone else. Sometimes to save the cleaning staff work, I leave one of those dongles on the doorknob to tell the cleaners not to bother to clean up today. But often I make use of the service, considering it part of the luxury that I am paying for.

The kindness of the Japanese in cleaning up their hotel rooms after they leave may appear almost neurotic to British eyes. The reason for this behaviour lies in title of the book from which the above extract was taken. The Japanese live in the sight of the kind old Sun. That is to say, their ancestors and spirits, their soul, watches and protects. It is from this visual perspective that Japanese evaluate themselves so their mess can not be rationalised ("it is part of the luxury", "I am paying for it") away. To the Japanese "impurity" or mess is mess and has to be cleared up by someone. So, seeing this, and seeing it is not beautiful, Japanese guests make the situation beautiful themselves.

The above is just as the author goes on to conclude. To the Japanese author, "Dirty appearances are the sign of a dirty heart" (見た目の汚れは心の汚れの現われです. p173).

Before the notion of "morality" had been invented, when people of old went to do something that was bad, or something that they'd regret, they felt "the kind old sun is watching" and controlled themselves and censured others.
Even if others are not not watching, if only the kind old sun is in your heart, you put a break on bad behaviour, and put your foot on the accelerator when you do good things. (昔の人は、道徳という概念がない時代から、何か悪いことをしようとしたときや、後ろめたいことをするときなどは、「お天道さまがみてござる...」と自分を律したり、他人をたしなめたものです。
たとえ人が見ていなくても、お天道さまが心の中にさえいれば、悪いことをするときはブレーキがかかりますし、善いことをするときはアクセルを踏むことができます。) p181

Eat your heart out Ruth Benedict (1946/2006)!

This is just the sort of quote I was looking for because it takes place in the privacy of a hotel room. The mess, or rather its absence, will not be seen in many cases until after the guest has left and is walking down the street, never to stay at that hotel again. And yet, even in the absence of all external censure, the Japanese guest will often have cleaned up their room, whereas I will have whispered some rationalisation to myself and left my room in a state like the aftermath of a fraternity party.

Britons have aspects which are "not so bad" either. Having checked out of my room I may be slightly more inclined to leave a nice long verbal review of my hotel room, and this book, since this is the sort of evaluation that my logocentric, narrative self encourages me to do.

In both cases good and bad behaviour is not about external censure but about conscience, and the nature of the self.

Random hotel rooms in which I have stayed, flags Japanese and British and the Cover of Funahashi's book. 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。

Benedict, R. (2006). The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Original work published 1946)
舟橋淑行. (2008). お天道さまが見てござる―よみがえる日本の心. 東京: 明窓出版.

It would be good to do a quantitative survey.

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Monday, October 03, 2016


Shame and Visual Culture

Shame and Visual Culture
Rev Joshiba's essay on guilt and shame is a good summary of the various theories regarding their difference. He mentions one author, likewise a Christian, who shares a similar appraisal of Japanese culture to myself. Joshiba summarizes [28] 鈴木範久が『菊と刀と十字架と』で指摘した点はその意味でも興味深い。鈴木はそこで、日本は主として生け花・日本料理・和服・絵画など視覚型文化を発展させてきたが、恥は「見る・見られる」という視覚を前提とすると言っている(p50-51)。 In "The Chrysanthemum, the Sword and the Crucifix", Norihisa Suzuki makes an interesting point. Suzuki says that the Japanese have a developed a visual mode of culture in their flower arrangements, cuisine, clothing, and pictorial art and shame assumes a the visual sense of seeing and being seen (p50-51). Quite so. Vision is no more external than language but hearing oneself "whispering" (which is what we now know linguistic thought to be) is worse because it hides its externality more effectively, and always makes contrasts, slagging off other people, groups and things, as I am doing now.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016


Trad Healthy Japanese Food Packs

Trad Healthy Japanese Food Packs
No one has time to cook, and so many people are single. Lawson to the rescue.

I am not sure what the foods are but I know that they are very tasty and for the most part very healthy. I am not into meat myself so I would not purchase the last three in this list but the rest I would like to eat in great quantity.

Wafuu Salada Japanese style salad
NIkujaga, Japanese Beef and potato stew
Chikuzen Ni,  Stew from the Chikuzen Region
Yasai Mame,  Beans and Vegetables
Kuro Mame,  Black Beans
Hokkaidou Kintokimame,  Hokkaidou Golden Time Beans
Kinpira Gobou,  A root vegetable mix
Kiriboshi Daikon,  Cut and dried giant mellow raddish
Hijiki Ni,  Stewed (Sargassum fusiforme) seaweed
Takenoko Tosa Ni, Tosa region style stewed bamboo sprouts
Gomoku Shirae Tofu, and 5 types of vegetable
Gobou Konyaku, Root vegetable and glutenous mass!
Third Row
Hosaki Menma  Some sort of chopped bamboo sprout made spicy
Satsuma Imo Ni, Boiled Sweet Potatoes
Demigurasu Hanba-gu, Demigrasse Hamburg Steak
Chi-zu Iri Hanba-gu ,Hamburg Steak fille with Cheese
Mi-tobo-ru, Meatballs

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Saturday, September 17, 2016


Suckable Japanese Ice Cream

Japanese Suckable Ice Cream
This Kawabata Ichiba (market) (map in Doujou Monzen Arcade in Yamaguchi Ciry offers ice cream at 30 percent off the recommended retail price. Note the availability of red bean and green tea flavours both in three different varieties.

There are also suckable Coolish tubes of ice cream are only 130 calories for the chocolate flavour. In contrast to most Japanese foods which are enjoyed primarily with the eyes, which I prefer, one can eat a tube of Coolish ice cream without seeing the brown or white stuff at all.


I think perhaps that the prevalence of suckable foods in Japan is a return to the breast kind of thing. Japan probably has the longest period of breast feeding of any nation in the world, with some mothers breast feeding till primary school. Macfarlane argued that Japanese mothers breast for the longest in Asia (Macfarlane, 1987, see Dykes, Fiona, & Hall-Moran, 2009) and compared to British women only 28% of whom breastfeed their infants at 4 months, nearly 70% of Japanese women breast feed until the end of the 4th and 60% till into the 5th month (Dykes, Fiona, & Hall-Moran, 2009, p.62).

Japanese men especially I think consume suckable food products into adulthood. One ostensible reason for suckable food products is due to Japanese being so busy, which may be true because their is never too much to do for children so matriarchies tend to be busy. Another reason for suckable foods is due to the taboo on public food consumption, especially while standing and worse, while walking. The latter is felt to be an offence both to those required to watch you eat, and to the person who prepared the food which is not being savoured but consumed on the hoof. So in addition to being a possible breast substitute, Japanese suckable foods are also a clever way of eating quickly and surreptitiously.

Dykes, F., & Hall-Moran, V. (Eds.). (2009). Infant and young child feeding. John Wiley & Sons.

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Friday, September 16, 2016


Cleaning Products Unstolen

Cleaning Products Unstolen
In many of the toilets in my university there are cupboards about half the size of a toilet cubicle containing cleaning products and utensils and toilet paper, the latter at the very least being of value to to university students. When it comes to thievery, as note by visitors to Japan since the Edo period(Bird, 1880; Cocks & Thompson, 2010; Coleridge, 1872; Golovnin, Rīkord, & Shishkov, 1824; Golovnin & Shishkov, 1819), the Japanese are the mist scrupulous people in the world.

Percentage Wallets Returned with Money

This scrupulousness extends to lost property where research has found that Tokyoites were for instance three times more likely than New Yorkers to return wallets containing money to the police (17 of 20 wallets in Tokyo, 6 of 20 in the Big Apple, see West, 2003 and the image above based upon Table 1, p. 374). Alas Japanese scrupulousness does not necessarily extend to all things, especially on occasion to speech acts which are assessed on their imagined consequences. I wonder if there is a way of creating a phonetic version of the Milgram Lost Letter experiment(Milgram, Mann, & Harter, 1965) to test Japanese verbal integrity.

In any event the Japanese are very kind in all ways towards visitors.

Bibliography (all online)
Bird, I. L. (1880). Unbeaten Tracks in Japan: An Account of Travels in the Interior Including Visits to the Aborigines of Yezo and the Shrines of Nikkô and Isé. J. Murray.
Cocks, R., & Thompson, E. M. (2010). Diary of Richard Cocks, Cape-Merchant in the English Factory in Japan, 1615–1622: With Correspondence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Coleridge, H. J. (1872). The life and letters of St. Francis Xavier : in two volumes. Asian Educational Services.
Golovnin, V. M., Rīkord, P. Ī., & Shishkov, A. S. (1824). Memoirs of a Captivity in Japan, During the Years 1811, 1812, and 1813: With Observations on the Country and the People. H. Colburn and Company.
Golovnin, V. M., & Shishkov, A. S. (1819). Recollections of Japan: Comprising a Particular Account of the Religion : Language : Government : Laws and Manners of the People : with Observations on the Geography : Climate : Population and Productions of the Country : to which are Pre-fixed Chronological Details of the Rise : Decline : and Renewal of British Commercial Intercourse with that Country.
Milgram, S., Mann, L., & Harter, S. (1965). The Lost-Letter Technique: A Tool of Social Research. Public Opinion Quarterly, 29(3), 437,438. Retrieved from http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/the_lost-letter_technique-_a_tool_of_social_research.pdf
West, M. D. (2003). Losers: recovering lost property in Japan and the United States. Law & Society Review, 37(2), 369–424. Retrieved from bem.law.ui.ac.id/fhuiguide/uploads/materi/mark-d-west.......

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Idiotropic or Visual Up Swayed by Images of Self and Others

Idiotropic or Visual Up and SelfIdiotropic or Visual Up and People
Which of the grey partially illuminated disks looks the most convex?

Since humans tend to feel that light comes from above, then disk which is "illuminated" from direction that the subject feels to be "above" will appear to be the most convex. This will be likely to be the uppermost disk if one bases ones judgement upon all the information outside the picture, such as the pressure on your skin from your chair, and the historical/narratival information regarding where you know up to be, "idiotropically" (Oman, 2003), and the lowest disk should appear convex if one bases the decision regarding "up" on the visual information in the photograph.

The Japanese are often described as being context dependent, this being due to their "groupist/conformist" tendency to pay attention to others around them (Nisbett & Masuda, 2007). While I accept that there is some truth in this, and that certainly a philosophy of "harmony" is very prevalent in Japan, and that of individualism equally in the West, I argue that in fact the Japanese have a strong visual sense of self and attend to themselves and others visually, largely because their self love and self-division (Smith, 1770/2002, pp.101,102) is in the visio-spatial, rather than in the linguistic domain. Whereas Westerners whisper to themselves in order to evaluate themselves (Bakhtin, 1986; Mead, 1967; Vygotsky, 1986), Japanese imagine themselves using the mirror in their head (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008).

The philosophies of independence and collectivism are I believe secondary to the differences in mode of self-cognition being due to the way in which members of each culture can obfuscate the self-division. Westerners think that they think because they are talking to themselves, as true individualists might, when in fact they are talking to a horrific intra-psychic "ear of the other" (Derrida & McDonald, 1985). Japanese think that they are concerned with the gaze of real external others as conformists are, when in fact they are watching themselves from a horrific intra-psychic "seeing of detached perception" ("離見の見", Yusa, 1987, p.331). The horror and purported social philosophy (individualism or collectivism) function to keep the self-love hidden, and the self intact.

If Japanese contextualism were driven by a groupist tendency to conform then pictures of people should encourage them to reorientate the direction of up towards the direction of the picture more than those of photos which do not contain people but do contain "intrinsically polarised" objects (Howard, 1982). If Japanese visio-contextuality is motivated as I suggest, by autoscopic self-love, then pictures of other people would be little more likely to influence decisions regarding orientation more than pictures of people-less cityscapes, whereas pictures of themselves would be the most likely to interfere with their visual self-identification and swing the direction of "up" the most.

However, the "Honi Phenomenon" (Dion & Dion, 1976) found that there was less context induced optical illusion in an Ames Room when viewing a loved spouse rather than a stranger, at least in women. This is presumably because people are more likely cut significant, loved others out of the total context, in a way parallel to the "cocktail party effect" (Pollack & Pickett, 1957) wherein, out of a buzz of conversation, one can pick out utterances of ones own name.

The strength of sway of the perceived direction of "up" may therefore be inversely proportional to the significance of the “intrinsically polarized” (Howard, 1982) objects in the visual background.

Image adapted from figure 2 in (Jenkin, Dyde, Zacher, & Jekin et al., 2005)

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds., V. W. McGee, Trans.) (Second Printing). University of Texas Press. Retrieved from pubpages.unh.edu/~jds/BAKHTINSG.htm
Dion, K. L., & Dion, K. K. (1976). The Honi phenomenon revisited: Factors underlying the resistance to perceptual distortion of one’s partner. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33(2), 170. Retrieved from psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/33/2/170/
Heine, S. J., Takemoto, T., Moskalenko, S., Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(7), 879–887. Retrieved from www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/docs/2008Mirrors.pdf
Howard, I. P. (1982). Human visual orientation. John Wiley & Sons.
Jenkin, H. L., Dyde, R. T., Zacher, J. E., Zikovitz, D. C., Jenkin, M. R., Allison, R. S., … Harris, L. R. (2005). The relative role of visual and non-visual cues in determining the perceived direction of ‘up’: experiments in parabolic flight. Acta Astronautica, 56(9), 1025–1032. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094576505000445
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.
Nisbett, R. E., & Masuda, T. (2007). Culture and point of view. Intellectica, (46–47), 153–172.
Oman, C. M. (2003). Human visual orientation in weightlessness. In Levels of perception (pp. 375–398). Springer. Retrieved from link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/0-387-22673-7_19
Pollack, I., & Pickett, J. M. (1957). Cocktail party effect. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 29(11), 1262–1262. Retrieved from scitation.aip.org/content/asa/journal/jasa/29/11/10.1121/...
Smith, A. (2002). Adam Smith: The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from www.ibiblio.org/ml/libri/s/SmithA_MoralSentiments_p.pdf# (Original work published 1770)
101 When I endeavour to examine my own conduct, when I endeavour to pass sentence upon it, and either to approve or condemn it, it is evident that, in all such cases, I divide myself, as it were, into two persons; and that I, the examiner and judge, represent a different character from that other I, the person whose conduct is examined into and judged of. The first is the spectator, whose sentiments with regard to my own conduct I endeavour to enter into, by placing myself in his situation, and by considering how it would appear to me, when seen from that particular point of view. The second is the agent, the person whom I properly call myself, and of whose conduct, under the character of a spectator, I was endeavouring to form some opinion. The first is the judge; the second the person judged of. But that the judge should, in every respect, be the same with the person judged of, is as impossible, as that the cause should, in every respect, be the same with the effect. pp.101,102
Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and Language. (A. Kozulin, Trans.). Cambride, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

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Idiotropic and Visual Judgements of Up

Idiotropic and Visual Judgements of Up

First enlarge the image so that it fills up most of your screen, and then answer the question, which of the four partially illuminated grey disks appears to be the most convex?

Humans tend to feel that light comes from above: the "up" direction as it does in daylight. The direction of illumination is one of the many ways in which humans orientate the up and down in their world. One of the reasons why people may have the illusion that passenger aeroplanes are flying upside down at night, when the ceiling lights are off, is because the only light comes from emergency lights in the floor.

In the above diagram the four partially "illuminated" grey disks will appear to be convex if their shading is felt to correspond to the natural downward direction of illumination. People who judge "up" "idiotropically" (Oman, 2003) based upon what they know to be up from the gravitational sensors in their ears and pressure on the skin, and narratival memory of which way was up before they started looking at the picture, will feel the uppermost disk to be most convex, whereas those that base their judgement of "up" upon the surrounding visual information (the park scene in the background) will feel that the lowest disk is the more convex, with analogue variation between the two.

Both decisions are equally context dependent -- holistic or contextual. Choosing the bottom disk is more visual context dependent whereas choosing the top disk it anything utilises more context information (as detailed in the previous paragraph). I predict that Japanese will be more likely to feel that the bottom disk is convex basing their "up" direction upon visual information, whereas Westerners will be more likely to feel that the top disk is more convex, making an idiotropic context dependent decision.

Image adapted from figure 2 in (Jenkin, Dyde, Zacher, & Jekin et al., 2005)

Jenkin, H. L., Dyde, R. T., Zacher, J. E., Zikovitz, D. C., Jenkin, M. R., Allison, R. S., ... & Harris, L. R. (2005). The relative role of visual and non-visual cues in determining the perceived direction of “up”: experiments in parabolic flight. Acta astronautica, 56(9), 1025-1032.
Oman, C. M. (2003). Human visual orientation in weightlessness. In Levels of perception (pp. 375-398). Springer New York.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Contextualism in Time and Space

Contextualism in Time and Space
Possibly the most interesting utterance for me at the recent IACCP conference in Nagoya was that by Yoshi Kashiima in his role as discussant on the presentations by Hazel Markus and Shinobu Kitayama. Professor Kashima expressed interest in the fact that while the Japanese self is contextual (felt to change and changes according to the geo-socio context) it is also time invariant. Wow. A penny dropped. 

The Japanese members of the society, or at least those that live in Japan, are incredibly time invariant. The majority of these esteemed researchers appear to be and behave as if in a 'motionless present' (Geertz, ): they have not changed a bit. Consider Professors Shinobu KItayama, Minoru Karasawa, Masaki Yuki, Susumu Yamaguchi. Their appearance especially, and to a large extent their pluck (gennkisa) and even research interest is time invariant. Most seem even to have grown younger.

Western, or Western domiciled esteemed researchers, have on the other either changed in appearance or changed their research interest considerably. Professor Steven Heine is well kept, but does not dye his distinguished hair and has moved from self-enhancement, through the essence of culture, the WEIRDness of Westerners, to sleep. Professor Hazel Markus has moved from theoretical research on the independent self (possible selves), through the famed distinction, choice and now to the application of her student's theory.

The Japanese self is "imaginary" (Naclan, Takemoto), or "lococentric"  (Lebra 2005) and as image is bound to its background (Masuda) so changes according to geo-social context. I knew this much before hearing Yoshi Kashima's comment.

But, thanks to Yoshi Kashima I now realise that, it is also true that the Western self as narrative is also contextual. It unfolds in time (Derrida, Heidegger, Bruner) and Westerners have great narratival plans for their lives (Sonoda), whereas Japanese hardly make future plans at all. Westerners are contextual in time!

It is not that Asians are more contextual, it is simply that the dimension in which the self unfolds is different. Japanese are contextual according to the spaces in which they appear, and invariant in the temporal media which is invisible, Westerners are contextual according to the time in their self narrative that they are enacting, but invariant in the un-narrated, and ignored (Masuda) background to their narrative.

These modal difference result in other qualitative differences of course. Japanese can, to a larger extent choose the context in which they exist. Westerners devise their plot-line, but march to the beat of time. 

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Thursday, August 25, 2016


Abe and the Medallists

Prime minister Shinzo Abe met with the Japanese Olympic medallists and said fatuous things. This is typical of Japanese politicians. Japanese prime ministers often meet with medallists to have their photographs taken. More surprisingly, when campaigning for office Japanese politicians often say things like "thank you" "please vote for me" "I will try" as opposed to policies, a lot of the time, because the point of these speech acts its to show themselves out on the road speaking. The point of the event pictured above was the photo -- of Abe merging with palpable success personified in the four runners -- that Abe posed for, not the "begging" or "melodrama" that came from his mouth. The fatuous aspirations and requests were merely the context for the photographic main event. In Japan "context" (Hall, 1959) and focus are reversed. Image above a Google image thumbnail search devised to show mainly Abe with medallists. http://flic.kr/p/KyyrAy

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Monday, August 22, 2016


Augmented Irreality: World of Light

World of Light

Japanese children paint cars, trucks, aircraft, including UFOs that then scanned into, and bounce or fly along in, a giant musical city scape traffic jam mural, with which the children can interact. The vehicles are ticklish to the tap. The Japanese children, including my own, go wild because they too are one with the fish: images come to life. Esse est percepi. Video ergo sum.

Before going home the children can have their pictures scanned into onto 3D paper model that they can fold into toy. Their pictures become alive and dwell amongst us.

My video explanation is here

and the production company's explanation is here.

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Friday, August 19, 2016


Gold Spit?

Gold Spit?

No, the name of this Japanese bean paste confectionery does not mean "Gold Spit" but rather means "gold cross guard (of a sword)." The Japanese word for cross guard (of a sword) is rare, so the pun may be deliberate and the misunderstanding, even among its Japanese consumers common. The Japanese have a bit of an affinity for grotesque sounding foodstuffs, such as 'shichocolate' (unchoco) and the more direct 'turd gums' (unchi gum).

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