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, December 14, 2014

 

The Interdependence of the Visual Self

The Interdependence of the Visual Self

I often make out that the Japanese are just as independent as Westerners it is just that they percieve themselves from the point of view of an eye rather than an ear, a visual rather than linguistic intra-psychic Other (super-addressee, super-addressee, super-ego, impartial spectator, generalised other, cranial comforter, Eve).

Having a visual self makes possible very close-knit, "inderdepended," inter human bonds as these Japanese comics illustrate.

The above is a very Japanese two page spread from "Emblem Take 2" (Kiuchi & Watanabe, 1991, pp 22-23) where a group of three Japanese mafiosi (yakuza) reaffirm their unity, and intention to seek revenge for one of their number who has been shot. The comic is read from the top right and I first translate the words, but the very Japanese bit occurs in the frames where nothing is said.

On the top of the right page, one of the two underlings -- who both look older and tougher than their boss -- says "Though we were born seperately we can die at the same time time. That is the oath of "wine bowl" isn't it?

To which the boss replies mid left "Ha...What "Oat"? You have been watching too many Yakuza movies!"

The underlings then reply, shocked "Big brother!" (how can you be so cold, cynical?).

The remaining frames are almost silent, except for a little laughter, and the three mafiosi leave the hospital as one, in a vendetta kind of mood, we presume.

What is going on? First of all it should be explained that the plege of alliegence to the yakuza gang is performed via an oath where one accepts a bowl (sakazuki) of rice wine from the mafia boss. The recipient keeps the bowl, generally close to their heart, as well as the wine and becomes as one with the boss, the group, and at least one of the family - hence the exclamations of "big brother," by the underlings even though they are not conventionally related.

It is my view that in a sense they are married, and that the ritual of the rice bowl is the same as that shared by Japanese couples when they marry under with the two sips and a gulp rice bowl ritual (san san ku dou 三々九度), where the bride ang groom share a similar bowl of rice wine.

From having performed the ritual, the shape of the bowls, the fact that a diety drinks a reflection in the Kojiki Myth, and my uderstanding of the Japanese visio-imaginary self, I think that both the Sakazuki oath performed by yakuza, and the sansankudou oath performed by marrying couples, represent the drinking of other's reflection, in recognition of the fact that each will exist, interdependently, as seen an imagined in the mirror of each other's heart. But that is all talk.

The actual bonding takes place in the remaining frames where the yakuza look at each other, sweat, laugh, and leave together. If you live in the light then you need and have your companions since, to a large extent, without them you would not have a face.

But at the same time to an extent, the Japanese have a god, an imaginary friend (in two ways), their very own view of themselves, and to that extent their autoscopy, and our, Western, "hearing ourselves speak," facilitates an independent self of sorts. But, they way in which the self facilitates bonding and provides for an illusory independence are two sides of the same coin. The self is social. That Yahew made Eve - the original comforter - out of a piece of our chest results in our cleaving to others and institution of marriage (as illustrated in the next image).

Image page 22 and 23 of Kazumasa Kiuchi (story), Jun Watanabe (Artwork) (1991) "代紋TAKE2." ("Emblem Take 2") Koudansha. www.amazon.co.jp/%e4%bb%a3%e7%b4%8bTAKE2-5-%e3%83%a4%e3%8....


Thursday, December 11, 2014

 

Admonishing Japan Style



Japan is the empire of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are brain cells that have become quite the vogue in brain cell research in the 21st century. Mirror neurons can do various things. In the extreme they allow humans to see themselves from external perspectives. Generally speaking, according to the examples given in the book I have read, they allow people to understand other people's behaviour visually, because they create in oneself the feeling that one is doing that which one is seeing. Before mirror neurons were discovered, Lacan pointed out that children cry when other children are hurt.

Mirror neuron specialists have shown that we activate the muscles, if only slightly, of the actions that we see other's make. Further, the more we are adept and the movements we see the more this reaction is activated. Pianists jiggle their fingers when they see other pianists playing. Go to a jazz club with a musician to see. Mirror neurons allow us to identify with visual representations of bodies. Experiments demonstrate that subjects feel prosthetic limbs to be their own if they watch a prosthetic limb being poked at the same time as have a poke on their own limb. Indeed, perhaps it is only a matter of tradition or culture that we identify with our own bodily visual representation. My face may be my face by virtue of convention. It is not as if our consciousness, our being, has a face. On another planet or another culture, the faces of our family members could be just as much, or more even, "our own".

The 'centre of gravity' of the human psyche is malleable. At the very least it can be the hero of ones self narrative, or ones face, and very possibly the "I" or face of another. Returning to mirror neurons, and Japanese culture there is a saying in Japan that one should, or that one does, look at the behaviour of others and in so doing see oneself. or that one can see oneself by looking at the behaviour of others (人のふり見て我が身を振り返る). This is general Japanese advice.

It is also a method of admonishing others. If you see a friend or colleague doing something that you do not approve of, then you can tell that person so. Another, Japanese, method of changing someone's behaviour is to impersonate If, for example, your colleague puts his feet on a the canteen table and you do not approve, then, assuming that your colleague has mirror neurons, then all you need to do is mimic your colleague's behaviour. It works. Your colleague will suddenly become Japanese and see their own behaviour, modelled by yours, as their own. http://flic.kr/p/q6en8v

Addendum
Firstly, this "Japanese method of admonishing" is essentially the same as holding up a mirror to the offender, so that the increase in objective self awareness cause a pro-social modification of behaviour. It is probably only necessary to admonish children and foreigners like me, since most Japanese have a mirror in their heads. But this gives me an idea. If it is true that Japanese do not have a generalised linguistic other in their heads, then perhaps they can be provided with one if an interlocutor repeats their linguistic responses back to them. "So, we should hide this air bag defect".

Seconding, what is happening here? It is less that the subject is being provided with a generalised other/impartial spectator but more that the subject is simply being separated from their actions/utterances by the mimicry of another. The "generalised other" comes naturally when one is represented with ones actions and utterances in the person of someone else. In a strange sense then it is the break causes the evaluation, and if it is true that I evaluate myself linguistically and Japanese visually, then that would suggest contradictorily, that there is a break between me and my voice, and a break between the Japanese and their self-images. If my voice were just me then it would be like my breath and I would ignore it. It is because my voice is *another me* that hear, evaluate, and care about it. Presumably it is because their face is not me but "another me" that the Japanese pay attention to, evaluate, and care about it.

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Omotenashi may be Unwelcome and Unwelcoming



The Japanese are proud of their Omotenashi, "service of the heart", where the server not only provides what the customer asks for but provides what the server judges the customer needs may not be as bad as a kick in the teeth, and will often be an interesting cultural experience, but it may not be felt to be entirely welcoming, or welcome to Westerners. Westerners like to fool themselves that they are young, independent, and capable. So when people offer them help without their asking, it is like becing told that they are incabable and they find this to be stressfu than receiving help only when they ask for it (left hand two bars). More grateful, realistic East Asians on the other hand are aware that they need help, and that others will often know when to help them before they know it themselves. They also do not want to be a burned upon others so, they do not like asking for things. Hence East Asians tend to find it less stressful to be helped without having to ask for help (right hand two bars in the above graph). In other words, while East Asians may find "Omotenashi," service of the heart, welcoming, it may be unwelcome to Westerners. Image from p92 of Mojaverian, T., & Kim, H. S. (2013). Interpreting a Helping Hand Cultural Variation in the Effectiveness of Solicited and Unsolicited Social Support. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(1), 88–99. doi:10.1177/0146167212465319 http://flic.kr/p/qnvNqe

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21 Century Fumie



A station in Japan has come up with a way of preventing cyclists from parking their bicycles in the wrong places. They have affixed cute drawings by children on the ground next to the rail that people were using to lock their bicycles to. 0 timtak The Japanese feeling highly identified with the visual world and visual representations of themselves and others. While they can say "I'm stupid," and not take a hit to their self esteem, since they have not internalised a linguistic "generalised other," The Japanese really do not like looking bad, in auto photography, while playing sport, in self-representing Manga. And they do not like visually denigrating things that they like and admire, such as, famously, "stepping stones" (or fumie) used to test whether Japanese were Christians or not during the period of suppresion of Christianity. The Edo period authorities new that if they just asked the Japanese "Are you a Christian" they would prevaricate "No, I have given up on that (and will take it up again tomorrow)," "No (but I am still trying to become one)." But if they were forced to stamp on an effigy of the Holy Virgin, then if they were Christian, they would not be able to do it. A recent researcher has used this method to test Japanese self esttem by getting them to put crosses on words for self and other. Crossing out is the paper and pen version of stamping. And so back to the images above, they may prove effective in preventing cyclists from parking their bicycles next to the railings but they may also prevent passers by from standing on them, causing as much, or more, conjestion that the illegally parked bicycles that they prevent. Image from Japan Today and originally from Rocket News. Mori, K., Uchida, A., & Imada, R. (2008). A paper-format group performance test for measuring the implicit association of target concepts. Behavior research methods, 40(2), 546-555. Mori, K. (2003). The development of the FUMIE Test for measuring the implicit association of target words to negative emotions. In Proceedings of the 44th Annual Convention of the Japanese Society for Social Psychology (pp. 104–105). Retrieved from http://ift.tt/1wARiLF http://flic.kr/p/pqHbRn

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Noh Kata And the Eye Apart



Writing in the 15th century Noh expert Zeami wrote that through his practice of Noh forms, such as that shown above (where a man is playing woman) the Noh practioner is able to gain an eye apart, a sight of himself from a position away from himself (riken no ken 離見の見) as if from the position of his audience. In the 21 first century Kyari Pamyu Pamyu performed a formulaic dance before spewing eyebals that encircle her in the video for Pon Pon Pon. Image: school festival and others 038 by Olivia Blackburn @ Flickr http://flic.kr/p/q5TDoD

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Noh Kata And the Eye Apart



Writing in the 15th century Noh expert Zeami wrote that through his practice of Noh forms, such as that shown above (where a man is playing woman) the Noh practioner is able to gain an eye apart, a sight of himself from a position away from himself (riken no ken 離見の見) as if from the position of his audience. In the 21 first century Kyari Pamyu Pamyu performed a formulaic dance before spewing eyebals that encircle her in the video for Pon Pon Pon. Image: school festival and others 038 by Olivia Blackburn @ Flickr http://flic.kr/p/q5TDoD

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

 

Interation in Space


Interation in Space by Timtak @ Flickr


In "Bodies that Matter" Judith Butler argues that the repeated creation of bodily forms aids in the identification with a material self since the principal, defining characteristic of signification is iterability (after Derrida, 1978): the possibility, or guarantee, of exact repetition, sameness, at a later time. In order to be or become a "body that matters", that signifies, that has meaning, bodies must also be repeatable "iterable" in time, she argues.

I believe that Japanese achieve identification with their bodies through the awareness of their bodies iterability in space. Forms (kata) are practised by rows of practitioners in emulation of an instructor, and or in front of mirrors, as is the case in Kyuudou (Japanese archery). The practioner is multiplied, iterated, and the form (kata) is felt to be authenticopied in space. The Japanese do not hear themselves in the future, but see themselves from outside. The Japanese Other is not deferred but displaced.

Butler, J. (2013). "Bodies That Matter"
Derrida, J. (1978). Writing and difference. University of Chicago Press.

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Misery Matters Less in Japan: Or its okay to say "I am sad"

Misery is Okay in Japan

Despite attempts by pharmaceuticals companies to persuade the Japanese that when they feel sad they have a "cold of the heart," and should take antidepressants, there is still less of a link between negative effect (feeling sad) and both physical and mental well-being. In Japan it is okay to feel sad, and there is even an aesthetic of enjoying sadness in the form of loneliness and the fleeting nature of things-human.

The above graph shows the relationship between those that report negative affect and those that report negative physical conditions (the first two sets of data) and positive psychological conditions. As one can see, there is less of a positive direct correlation between feeling sad and being ill, and less of a negative inverse correlation between feeling sad and having low self-esteem or psychological well being.

It should also be noted that the whole research paradigm is based upon self reports and may not have a lot of meaning in reality. That people say they are happy, or have psychological well being only proves that they say they are happy, and say that they have psychological well being. In Japan it is okay to say that one is sad, blue or upset.

Image, reproduced without permission, from p3 of Curhan, K. B., Sims, T., Markus, H. R., Kitayama, S., Karasawa, M., Kawakami, N., ... & Ryff, C. D. (2014). Just How Bad Negative Affect Is for Your Health Depends on Culture. Psychological science, 0956797614543802. http://ift.tt/1vI7zML http://flic.kr/p/q4QUZk

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May’s Pink Mirror as Goshintai



This is the god shelf (kamidana) in our beach house. I have yet to purchase a tablet bearing the name of a deity, as a Goshintai (ご神体)the an object of worship housed in a Shinto shrine which is believed to contain the spirit of a deity. Instead I am using a small round pink mirror. If you pray in words, you will come to believe that someone is always listening. If you pray to a mirror using bodily movements then you will come to believe that someone is always watching. Shinto prayer is bodily movement, two bows, two claps, one bow. It is the primal form or kata that allows Japanese to transform into beings of light in the tradition of Ultraman, Mirrorman, and generations and generations of Power Rangers and Masked Riders. http://flic.kr/p/q4CYRy

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Friday, September 26, 2014

 

Why so Little Air in Japanese University Student Bicycle Tyres?


I was waiting for the lights to change at the main entrance to my university, when I noticed that almost all of the rear bicycles tyres of the students waiting at the lights were very low on air. They are in danger of having "pinch flats."

It was only the rear tyres that were almost flat. Could it be that rear tyres are out of sight and therefore out of the Japanese mind? Or is that bicycles in general -- almost always of the step through, shopper or in Japanese parlance "mama" variety -- are given short thrift in Japanese culture, and to take care of ones bike is a rather nerdy thing to do? Or was it just a coincidence, and in general Japanese students' bicycle tyres are no less inflated than those of any other nation?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

 

Dark Vegetables


These bitter gourds grew all of their own accord from the seeds that fell from the vine last year. There were only 4 edible bitter gourds but I love them, and they are less bitter when they are fresh. But at the same time, I wonder if they are "challenge food" or "dark food" (as in the sense of dark tourism) or benign masochism (Rozin, Guillot, Fincher, Rozin, & Tsukayama, 2013) that I eat less because they are delicious but because, like live fish, snakes blood, bludgeoned dogs, and very hot curry, there is an excitement in the very unpleasantness of the thing. I do not eat bludgeoned dog, but some people do, and I can only explain that behaviour in this way.

For the western visitor at least, Japan has a lot of dark, challenging foods but unable to grasp that tourism is also dark (the word for tourism in Japan suggests only light, nice activities) the Japanese insist upon serving the visitor only things that they will like. Worse still they will even attempt to serve cuisine as similar as possible to that which the visitor eats a home such as (in my case) roast beef, and fish tempura (deep fried fish in batter - all I need is the chips).

Rozin, P., Guillot, L., Fincher, K., Rozin, A., & Tsukayama, E. (2013). Glad to be sad, and other examples of benign masochism. Judgment and Decision Making, 8(4), 439–447. Retrieved from journal.sjdm.org/12/12502a/jdm12502a.html>

Friday, September 12, 2014

 

Fushino River Wasteland: Nature as abject/subject

Fushino River Wasteland
So great is the Japanese aversion towards nature, that the areas around even urban rivers are generally deserted wastelands. Despite the fact that the Japanese detest nature, all the Japanese, and most but not all (Knight, 2004) of the the books and papers about Japan (E.g. Lombardo, 2008) will tell you that the Japanese love nature. I do not tire of attempting to correct this misconception.

The Japanese love symbols taken from nature. Japanese surnames are mainly taken from nature (Tanaka middle-field, Honda original-field, Fuji wisteria, Yamamoto foot-of-the-mountain) as are their family crests, pictorial art, letter greetings, fabric designs, religious events, poetic theme, sociological theories, and, of course, arts that deal directly with nature such as bonsai, flower arrangement and garden design.

However when it comes to nature itself, that is to say tauto-pleonastically, natural nature, the muddy stuff with wasps, weeds and waste matter, the Japanese can't stand it. They'd far rather be in a shopping mall or pachinoko parlour or the comfort of their hermetically sealed homes. They hate natural nature so much they don't want to look at it, and nature being so abject and horrific to their minds, they are even utterly unaware that they abhor it, believing, to a woman, that nature is absolutely wonderful stuff.

I can see why Japanese might detest nature so much that they think that they love it. Freud calls this reaction formation. Sometimes those that appear the most chaste and demure do so to conceal their lavisciousness. Sadists may hate their cruelty so much that they present themselves as pacifists. But that external commentators should buy into this reaction formation when Japanese mountains, rivers and seas are deserted, or covered with concrete, surprises me.

Perhaps the real surprise is rather that Westerners should want to get down and dirty with nature. As Saito (Saito, 1985) and I have argued, the Japanese the Japanese interest in a "tamed" or "miniturised" nature is related to their identification with nature. They do not see any seperation between themselves and nature. They are natural. Nature is alive. They don't want to live on the edge of a muddy river estuary, much less swim in it (as I do) any more than they want to smell their own sweat. They dislike bugs as much as bodily fluids.

That Westerners, on the other hand, should enjoy swimming in murky water (as I do often), or using a machete to cut a path through a mountain forest to reach its summit (as I did with a visiting Scottish friend), relates conversely to Western alienation from nature. We think, we feel we are not natural, so we immerse ourselves in the wildest most inconvenient aspects of nature both as as a sort of "exposure extinction" behavioural therapy, to conquer nature and our antipathy towards it, and also, coversely, as a sort of aversion therapy, so that we may continue to persuade ourselves that wild, wet, and nasty nature is out there whereas we ourselves are narratives. As I swim through the murky water in Fushino River estuary, blissfully unaware that I am swimming through myself, and my own waste, I indulge in that most Western of pleasures: I listen to myself speak.

Further it is not true to say that the Japanese avoid natural nature, but rather when they brave natural nature the Japanese are even more extreme. The Japanese practice of "misogi" involving swimming in coldest mid-winter or sitting directly under waterfalls with the water pummelling their head, and other spiritual excercises in the most extreme natural environments, are aimed at purification. What is it that they are trying to expunge? At least one of the poems (626, see below) in the 7th centry book of ten thousand leaves (Manyoushu) shows that Japanese leapt into rivers in order to purify themselves of linguistic thought, and become one with the water**, "their absolutely contradictory self" (Nishida, see Kozyra, 2013).

君により、言の繁(しげ)きを、故郷(ふるさと)の、明日香(あすか)の川に、みそぎしに行く 八代女王 626
With all those bloomin' words about you my lord, I went to purify myself in my home town's Asuka River. Yashiro no Ookimi Poem number 626

In any event, the good news is that nature loving gaijin (foreigners) can come to Japan and enjoy the unspoilt nature shunned by the Japanese, or even purchase property on the side of rivers, mountains or the sea for a song, which will probably be about nature in Japan. And I will now go and swim in that estuary, and try and try and become let my I become me (mi 身・水). won-with-the-water, wwww.

Bib
Lombardo, J. B. (2008) "Touching the Intangible: Zen and the Arts of Japan." Center For Future Consciousness. . Web. 11 Sept. 2014.
http://www.centerforfutureconsciousness.com/pdf_files/2008_Essays/Touching%20the%20Intangible-Zen%20and%20the%20Arts%20of%20Japan.pdf
Knight, C. (2004). Veneration or Destruction. Japanese Ambivalence Towards Nature, with Special Reference to Nature Conservation, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ.
Kozyra, A. (2013). The Logic of Absolutely Contradictory Self-identity and Aesthetic Values in Zen Art. Retrieved 2014/9/12 from dspace.uni.lodz.pl:8080/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11089/3415...
Saito, Y. (1985). The Japanese appreciation of nature. The British Journal of Aesthetics, 25(3), 239-251.

Notes
*All the ancient poems about purification (harai and misogi)
www2u.biglobe.ne.jp/gln/77/7718/771811.htm
**The Kokugakuin University entry on misgo explains that while it is clear that the "sogi" means steep or rinse, the "mi" of misogi has been interpretted to mean both body and water. Too right.
k-amc.kokugakuin.ac.jp/DM/detail.do?class_name=col_dsg&am...

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Monday, September 01, 2014

 

The Only Symbolic Self Assertion in Japan


The Only Symbolic Self Assertion in Japan
(Cleaning Volunteer Chart)

In general the Japanese do not tend to assert themselves linguistically, being in general very self-effacing. There is one exception to this. Japanese people, and pocket monsters, take great pride in their names, and will put their names to themselves and their positive acts. Despite being so self-effacing, when it comes to their names, they are very in your face.

For example individual names appear on houses (where Britons have only numbers), stating the name of the patriarch who provided for it, at Shinto shrines the names of companies and individuals that donate lanterns and other stonework will be carved into the same, Japanese sometimes stick labels with their names onto temples and shrines in the "senja fuda" tradition, Japanese school-rooms are often bristling with student names, they take great pride in their business cards, and in this photo, they and I write their name in a chart detailing who has cleaned what part of the changing room when. I have left only my name showing. "Take Take, Takemoto (said in the style of Pikachuu)!"

I think that the Japanese name may be the equivalent of the Western smile. In general Westerners do not assert ourselves visually, with our bodies, poses and posture. To do so would be considered vain. On the other hand we are allowed to smile. The smile -- being the shape of the mouth and source of language - the most linguistic of visual expressions, the written name is the most visual mark in language, the point of intersection between the worlds of language and vision, the tip of the brush pen.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

 

Not quite yet a Visual Turn

Not quite yet a Visual Turn

Is cultural psychology at last taking a visual turn? Yes, and at the same time, not quite. There is the 'theory of Dov Cohen' which integrated the notion of the visual other into the main "collectivist" interpretation of Japanese culture based upon, imho, a misunderstanding of the consequences of a generalised other.

The highly interesting and thorough research of Uskul and Kikutani (2014) appears to follow this Co-hen-ian ;-; trend demonstrating that taking a third person perspective on ones self is related to public self awarenes, motivating actions that are social but not those that are private.

And yet, mirrors -- the easiest way of promoting a third person perspective on self -- are found to promote private self awareness, and the tendency to reject social expectations. Mirrors provide another type of generalised other, and another type of individuality not heightened collectivism.

Who is right? This research (Uskul & Kikutani, 2014) presents hard data, demonstrating the connection between third person perspectives and motivation to conform to social expecations.

Perhaps the problem is the "person." In my opinion, the Japanese do not have a third person perspective, but see themselves from eye of their god (generalised other, super ego, Other, (m)other, superadressee, impartial spectator). The generalised, impartial, super, unconscious, de-personalised nature of the Other (verbal or visual) is the key to making a "god", and commcomitant (verbal or visual) self.

But basically I am all washed up. Kind professor Steven Heine already gave me some work. Perhaps, in the words of the late great Satoshi Kon, when I am starving I can ask for some more work, but by then they may ask "he was a Co(-author w)hen?"

Sorry.

写真お取り下げご希望でありましたら、ご連絡ください。Please contact me if you would like me to remove your photos, taken from your homepages via the comments or email link at nihonbunka.com


Uskul, A. K., & Kikutani, M. (2014). Concerns about losing face moderate the effect of visual perspective on health-related intentions and behaviors. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. works.bepress.com/ayse_uskul/31

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

 

Visual Conscience Displayed Visually

Visual Conscience Displayed Visually
In this all too Japanese ukiyoe - picture of the floating world - admonishing "kogaeshi" (lit. "returning ones child) or the practice of infanticide, a Japanese mother is shown in the act of killing her unwanted child even as she thinks, pictorially, of her judgement by Enma, the Japanese St. Peter, at the gates of hell (rather than heaven), who will look in his book (enmachou) as St. Peter also does, and then show her deed in his mirror-come-DVD or her whole life, which St. Peter does not do.


In the DVD come mirror of her conscience the woman's face is transformed into that of an ogre.


The Japanese have a visual, rather than linguistic conscience, and their self esteem is stored and cognised largely in their self-appraisal (generalised other's/impartial spectator's/ superego's appraisal) of their own face.

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Gaze Synchrony even during Sex

Shared Gaze even during Sex
Osamu Kitayama points out that there are many Japanese woodblock prints - Ukiyoe or Pictures from the Floating World - which feature the shared gaze of children and mothers. These images of mothers and children often feature mothers drawing their child's attention to some fleeting "floating" phenomenon such as cherry blossom, bubbles, or a kite. In this pornographic image - Shunga - both parents are watching their son's paper plane as they engage in mutual masturbation.

Professor Kitayama almost but does not quite reach the conclusion that I would like him to reach that, Japanese here pictured and viewing, are always still gazing with mother because they have simulated the gaze of their mother in their minds.


北山先生は、共に見ることが日本人の成長過程や 精神構造について何かを表していると、母親たちが風船やシャボン玉などの浮いているはかない物を子供に見せながら子供と共に見ていることが浮世絵で表されていると、子供たちがオヤジ顔で、浮世絵を眺めているオヤジを表していると、共に見ることが小津の映画などの現代の芸術表現でも繰り返されているとしかし、何を表しているかについては語っていません。それは優しいです。共視論ご発表の3年ぐらい前に、北山先生に拙い逆ラカン理論を口頭で北山先生が久留米の石橋文化センターで講演会を行う直前(直後)に説明させていただきました。

経済学のアダム・スミスや精神分析のフロイトや社会心理学のミードや文学評論家のバフチンなどはそろって、自己を成立させるのには内的な他者が必要であり、またその他者は言語的な理解者であると論じている。なぜならば、音声言語を発声することで自ずとその言語を他人が聞くように聞く。また、社会から離脱している「公平的な傍観者」(「観」はあくまで比ゆ)「一般的な他者」「超自我」「超宛先」が形成される。

しかし、日本文化について評論する森有正や、日本人についての実証的研究(Kanagawa, Cross, & Markus, 2001)では、日本人は社会から離脱している「第三者」を形成していないと思われる。

そこで、多くの理論者は、日本人は独立した自己がないと考えるが、古事記神話の分析をきかっけに小生が日本人にも自己があるが、その前提となる内面的な他者は、父性的で言語できでなく母性的で視覚的、アマテラスの鏡、あるいは母の目。我々欧米人は自分らの言語的思考が既に超宛先に聞こえられていると感じシミュレーションするが、日本人は自分が見ているものや思い浮かばれるものがシミュレーションされている母なるものと共に見られていると感じて、視覚的な自己形成している。日本人は今でもこの浮世をお母さんと一緒に見続けています。

このお化けのような内面的な他者の仕組みや自己の二重性に気付いてしまうと、自己の存在を支えている偽りが見えて、自己の死を意味することですので、ほんとうに恐ろしいです。欧米のホラーでは言語的な呪文などの中から、死神やゾンビーが登場するが、日本のホラーではお化けの女性(サダコなどなど)がイメージから出て、日本人をイメージに化しています。バルタン聖人も。JU-ON(The grudge)ではKayakoが現像液の中から現れて、男を現像液に連れ込むシーンが好き。

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (V. W. McGee, Trans., C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds.) (Second Printing.). University of Texas Press.
Freud, S. (1913). Totem and taboo. (A. A. Brill, Trans.). New York: Moffat, Yard and Company. Retrieved from http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Totem_and_Taboo
Kanagawa, C., Cross, S. E., & Markus, H. R. (2001). ‘Who am I?’ The cultural psychology of the conceptual self. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(1), 90–103.
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.
Smith, A. (1812). The theory of moral sentiments. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=d-UUAAAAQAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP18&dq=%22The+Theory+of+moral+sentiments%22&ots=mjeEAFSIge&sig=LNXhHkNjKAWc2r9r_KiRDFxn_Pg
北山修. (2005). 共視論. 講談社.
森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.



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Sunday, May 25, 2014

 

Children's Picture Book about Urination

Picture Book about Urination
As previously noted (1, 2)Japan is human waste friendly. This children's picture book is not so much about potty training, as a book that takes the tittering out of tinkling.

It simply shows that Nontan, the cat pictured and all his friends, urinate, and that sometimes (as in this case) this may happen accidentally. On each of the pagers there is either a picture of one ore more characters saying "what is that tinkling sound?" or a picture of one or more characters urinating. On the final page of the book (above) the titular character is shown wetting himself. The book indulges the readers taste for toilet humour, and disippates it by being matter of fact.

In a survey of issues that were taboo between partents and children in the UK and Japan it was found that while sex and menstruation were equally taboo in both nations (contra my hypotheses), human waste was a topic of breakfast time conversation in Japan, but in the UK, "you have got to be kidding." (Peter E. Bull, and Timothy Takemoto, c2000)

Image and words copyright the author and publisher. The book may be purchased from amazon.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

 

Double Basketball: The Great Leveller

Top Basket for the Win
This game is played a sports days at primary schools all over Japan. Note that there are many balls in the lower of the two baskets on the pole, but none in the basket further up the pole.

The object of the competion is to get as manny balls into the two basskets as possible. At the end of the alloted time the balls are counted and the team (pictured here is one team, there was another team to the left) with the most balls in the baskets wins.

At the end of the game, the balls are counted out one by one as a representative from each team removes one ball at a time from each team's baskets. This is not the first time I have seen a competition of this type. I noticed today that the number of balls basketed by both team is always almost neck and neck. There was only a single digit difference, despite the large number of players and balls.

I think that perhaps this is the reason for playing this game: to show children that no matter how hard they try, they will only ever achieve a score almost identical to another group of children who are also trying, because people are all pretty much the same .

If that is the case then perhaps I should not make public the following strategy.

The reason why he number of balls is always neck and neck is because the balls are light, there are many people throwing at once, so it is very difficult to aim. As a result, the players -- the children especially-- only attempt to get the balls into the bottom basket. Or rather, there is just a freenzied upward shower of balls.

The allotted time is such that both teams are able to fill the bottom basket to overflowing. Since each team has baskets of the same size (in this case containing approximately 100 balls), each team achieves a score of 100 plus alpha where alpha is the very small number of balls in the top, hard to reach basket.

Hence, if a few of the adults playing for one or other team attempted to put their balls into the top basket alone, then they might win, since the bottom basket will get filled by the random shower of balls anyway. Or at least, this strategy would turn the game into one of skill, and increase the variance in the result, because people are, in their ability to aim, not all pretty much the same.

It is probably a lot more fun to just shower balls into the baskets as usual, and enjoy the close finish.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

 

Get Thin Japanese Style

Get Thin Japanese Style: Cut your bread in half

There is a rumour that the Japanese diet leads to longeivity. I think that this is true to an extent, but surprisingly, the Japanese these days eat bread, meat and pasta, and not all that much fish or veg. By the far the biggest difference between the Japanese and Western diet seems to me to be the quantity.

If the Japanese ate something different - rice, raw fish and green tea for instance - then we'd be able to emulate them fairly easily. Going from meat, potatoes and brown tea (standard British tea) to rice, raw fish and green tea is something that quite a lot of people might be able to manage, such as one can swap from a high carbohydrate diet to a paelo or Aktins diet, and back again without all that much hassle. And so folks scan the literature, and world cuisines in search of the diet that will make them healthy. But the truth is the largest part of the health differential is not in what you eat, but how much, and wether you eat more than you burn.

While we can swap between bread and rice, meat and fish, or protein and carbs, It is far more difficult to swap between a big diet, especially in terms of calories, and a small one.

It is almost impossible to find a fish based lunch box, or fish based meal in many Japanese universities. The lunch boxes and the meals at Japanese canteens contain deep fried pork in batter. The fact that it comes with rice as opposed to potatoes is not a big deal either.

But the size of Japanese vs western portions/helpings meals is just vastly different.

So how do the Japanese do it? How do they manage to eat smaller amounts?

My axe to grind, my theory is that the Japanese live in the visual rather than the linguistic.

If you speak to yourself all the time (as I do) and understand your world, yourself, in words, then this impacts upon both the size of the food you eat and the person that you want to be.

Concentrating first on the size of the food you eat, the Japanese are fully (if unconsciously) cognisant of the fact that *there is no absolute size information in the visual world*. If you get up close to a train set it could be a real, full-sized, bullet train. If you get up close and personal when you prune a bonsai tree then it, the visual information that it presents, could be an enourmous oak. There is no difference. A small gravel garden could be, looks the same as, a vast inland sea. A small room or tea house, with fine lattice grids could be a a large room with a larger lattice. What looks like a rock, or a mountain, in an ink drawing scroll could be a rock, or it could be a mountain. There is nothing in visually presented information - *the image* - that indicates absolute size.

So, to see your food as big, make it small. Make mini cakes, mini steaks, mini chocolate bars. And when you eat them, when you eat any and all of your food, bring it up close to your eyes. The Japanese (to the derision of the Koreans) raise their (fish/meat/egg/whatever topped) rice bowls to within centimetres of their face when they eat (the Koreans lower their face to the bowl). From either viewpoint, even a small bowl of rice topped with meat or fish, could be a bucket of the same at arms length.

Above all the rule is *look at it,* your food, and do not think, about it in words). If your food is beautiful then it need not be big. Bigness is in the evaluating, analytical, linguistic mind. Look at your food, like it and move on.

But how do you move on? If you think of yourselve as a 'person' narrated and about the treat you "deserve" because you are "good" or need to be "happy" then the calorific sky is the limit. On the other hand, if you just *see* yourself, as you *see* your food, as something beautiful, or not, then you will want to move on.

How horrible is this visual way of living? How superficial?

What are more superficial than words? What is more social, unindividual, herdlike than language?

The "superfice" of the visual is as deep as a thousand words.

Cut your loaf in half and look it up close. Treat each half slice as a whole slice. Do no think about it, but just do it.

Finally however, I should say that there are downsides to the Japanese way of getting thin. Especialy, beware of getting lung cancer. East Asians are thin, but they smoke themselves to death because they cannot *see* the harm it is doing. Soon or already the Japanese, and other East Asians, will take photographs of the interior of their lungs and give up smoking.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

 

Fortune Faeces Japanese Chocolate Treats

Fortune Faeces Japanese Chocolate Treats
These chocolate treats are called Unchoco the "un" of which is a pun on the "un" of luck or fortune and the "unch" of "unchi" or poop. The connction with turds is emphasised by the fact that the chocolate treats, in three colours, are dispensed from an orifice in the posterior of a variety of origami animals. Children are encouraged to devine their fortune based on the colour of the chocolate stool, and then eat it.
Fortune Faeces Fortune Feces
Young children the world over probably share a fascination with faeces, but in the West this fascination is repressed out of them. The relative lack of taboo on nakedness and sex, in Japan, encourages no ill feeling towards things elow the belt. Rice farming encouraged the Japanese to see faeces as a valuable source of fertilizer. Hence compartive research shows that the Japanaese are able to talk about the size and consistency with their parents. This confectionery also exemplifies, the Japanese fascination with cute things, and the small quantities in which they consume sweet things; the treats weigh only 31 grams (about one ounce) in total.

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