Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Flying Legs Japanese Postmen
It is said that they ran the Tokyo Osaka route in 6 days or 90km a day, and in 4 and a half days when carrying especially urgent mail. That is 120Km a day.
It is also said that they ran in a special way to conserve energy but the wikipedia site says that it is not clear what this special way is though it is rumoured to be the "Nanba Running/Walking" form in which runners and walkers swing their right hand forward at the same time as their right leg, and vice versa, rather than in time with the opposite leg. There appears to be photographic proof of this theory here. And indeed the position of the postman pictured above is consistent with this theory.
There is a saying in Japanese "Satsuma's Postman," which refers to the Satsuma (current day Kumamoto prefecture) region of Japan and postmen that arrived there were proverbially at least killed, or not allowed to return to whence they came, since the region was planning a revolution (with the Choushu region, current day Yamaguchi Prefecture) and did not wish its secret preparations to become known. So a "Satsuma's Postman" means someone who does not return.
A famous Japanese courier company has a "Hikｙaku" postal service which uses its trucks combined with the Japanese postal service' post workers. The company sorts and transports, the postal workers deliver, and they claim faster times than leaving the whole delivery to the postal workers.
I wonder the reason for the pole. At times the pole seems to have served as a kind of rucksack for allowing heavy items to be carried using the muscles in the back, similar to the way in which the English migrant "Dick Wittington" is often portrayed carrying his possessions in a cloth hung from a pole over his shoulder.
This does not explain why these Japanese postmen would carry light items such as that shown in this photo in the same way. The only mention I can see of the pole on the Japanese wikipedia page is the tradition of "Town postmen" to trail a small bell from their pole" so that people would hear them coming (and presumably deposit letters with them). But this man has no bell. Could the pole also have been a letter passer, to allow letters to be received and delivered at a distance, and thus a precursor of the ubiquitous Japanese mask, to prevent the transmission of infectious disease (which was rife in Edo period Japanese cities)?
Sunday, May 05, 2013
Japanese Shame: No place to hide
This difference can be seen in the way in which Westerners express both shame and guilt as something from which one can hide, whereas Japanese hide when they are embarrassed but since Japanese shame is always private shame, they have no place to hide when they feel it.
Pictures of Westerners Feeling Embarrassment
Pictures of Westerners Hiding in Shame
Pictures of Japanese Feeling Embarrassment
Pictures of Japanese Feeling Shame on Google.Very few are hiding, but there is some self touching.
Gateball: Tougher, Timed, Team Techno-Croquet
Gateball is a variation of croquet developed in Japan. It started after WWII as a sport for young people when rubber for making balls was in short supply, but soon became the quintessential sport for old people, such that "salary men", and women, are thought to morph into gateball players upon retirement.
The major differences appear to be that gateball is played with a smaller number of hoops, only three instead of 6 or nine in croquet, to facilitate the use of a smaller playing field. The smaller field means that reaching the goal pole can be achieved too easily for that to be the final object of the game, so games are timed, with the winning team being that which scores the most points in 30 minutes. While croquet is played individually or typically in pairs, gateball is more often played in teams of up to five. Perhaps due to the limited playing area again, one can hold ones own ball fixed in position when playing the bash-your-opponent's-ball-off-the-field gateball ball equivalent of the croquet shot. This can make the gateball croquet shot or "spark," even more ruthless but it is played with typical oriental equanimity. (But, click here for a photo and demonstration, with laughter, in Japanese).
The timed nature of the game, and the Japanese love of technology, results in the use of score watches, the computers that these players are wearing on their forearms, showing the number of points achieved by each of the five balls in each of the two teams.
Gateball mallets are made of carbon fibre and aluminium or titanium.
These differences make gateball a more ruthless, high-tech, high-speed, mini-croquet played by thinner players in larger teams. Like croquet, gateball is played by men and women on an equal footing.
Loud Wordless Baseball: Heejun Kim meets the Japanese Little League
When Japanese play sports they make meaningless noises, most famously the kiai shout of karate. Various meaningless shouts and calls are used by Japanese sports persons of all types, from tennis to (in this video) little league baseball. Sports persons are taught to throw out their voice (koe wo dasu) in order that they concentrate. Why?
Heejun Kim (2005) has demonstrated that while Westerners perform marginally better at task when they are required to vocalise their thoughts, when East Asians are required to "vocalise their thoughts" they perform significantly worse because Japanese thoughts are not in language. Conversely, when Westerners are required to make meaningless vocalisations they become significantly worse at a task since it prevents their thoughts, whereas it negatively impacts upon East Asians very little.
It seems clear that making meaningless vocalisations can in fact improve performance among Japanese, such as those playing baseball in this video, since (I argue) these meaningless vocalisations clear the mind of linguistic thought and allows the players to concentrate upon their Japanese-style-thoughts, which I argue are visual.
The throwing out of the voice or destruction of the logos is a common theme in Japanese culture especially Buddhism where people chant the name of the Buddha, count breathes, or simply and directly attempt to silence the mind. I argue that the central ritual act performed at Japanese Shinto Shrines, that of "harai" literally sweeping away, or purification by waving zigzag strips of pure white paper overy people's heads, is also intended to exorcise the mind of the dreaded logos.
Kim, H. S. (2005). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Social Cognition: Key Readings, 63.http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/labs/kim/kim_2002.pdf
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Japanese and English
The Japanese lexicon is largely made up of about 2000 building blocks, each of which can be pronounced in a couple of ways. Learning these blocks presents a large problem to Japanese school children who gain the impression that Japanese is difficult. English however has little in the way of blocks. The the simplicity of the alphabet gives the impression that learning English may be an easy task when in fact, each of the words are as unique as stones in a drystone wall. And the wall goes on and on. For fluency in English one would need to know approximately 30,000 unique words. English should be dumped as an international language and Japanese should be used as the international language instead.
And that is without considering the simplicity of the pronunciation, spelling (gohti), or regularity of the verbs.
Test: Lego Wall by keempoo
Drystone wall by Haversack
Drystone Wall copyright Codrington Gardens
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The Invasion of Dialogue Vs. Heejun Kimism
It is nothing new. Japanese people who have been abroad marvel at the extent to which Europeans debate, hold dialogue about everything, with everything, even with themselves. And some of them, , such as the authors of this book (Kitagawa and Hirata, 2008) wish to re-import this love of language back to Japan. They lament (in an almost direct emulation of Nakajima) that "Japan has no Dialogue."
Heejun Kim demonstrates however, that language actually gets in the way of East Asian's thought. When encouraged to think and talk Americans perform better. When encouraged to think and talk Asians perform worse. This suggests that Asians are not thinking in language.
When encouraged to think and talk nonsense (e.g. "a, b, c, a, b, c"), and suppress linguistic thought, Japanese are not so put out. They can automatise speech, put it on the back burner. When Americans suppress linguistic thought they almost find it difficult to walk. Western thinking is in language. Japanese thinking is not. It is elsewhere.
But the Japanese, with their endless love of things foreign, attempt to get all that chin wagging brought here. When they succeed, the Japanese will be a pale imitation of the great white whisperers. You are doing it aren't you? Whispering to yourself.
Don't do it Japan! Believe Kim (2002) and repent.
Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. www.psych.ucsb.edu/labs/kim/kim_2002.pdf
Kitagawa, T & HIrata, O. 北川達夫, & 平田オリザ. (2008). ニッポンには対話がない―学びとコミュニケーションの再生. 三省堂.
Nakajima, Y. 中島, 義道. (1997). 「対話」のない社会―思いやりと優しさが圧殺するもの. PHP研究所.
The Invasion of Customized Goods Vs Masaki Yukism
Social and Cultural Psychologist Masaki Yuki, after a spell at Professor Marilynn Brewer 's (presumably Ohio State) university in the US was amazed at the extent to which Americans are proud of and merge with their groups, at least to the extent to which US university students wear university sweat shirts bearing the name of their own institution, and come the day of the university American football game, half the campus would come to the match dressed in the same, university colours, chanting the team name.
As professor Brewer argues, Americans join groups to gain a desirable social identity, as a member of a of a presumed elite with which they merge. Badges and uniforms of membership that enhance the group-individual mind meld, are thus desirable, as are negative evaluations of rival groups. "We are good and/because they are baaad."
The Japanese on the other hand are far more economic in their group membership, preferring to join groups in which they can cooperate to form a unity greater than the sum of its parts. The important thing is the network of exchange relationships between the individuals who physically enhance each other's welling through the synthesis of different skills and aptitudes. Group member uniformity is thus avoided and Japanese group members do not see other groups as rivals, paying little attention to them at all.
While there is a bit of Westernisation going on at my university, and there is a mini invasion of the self-snatching, clone-ware, customised goods, Yuki's cultural psychological theory is probably my favourite (after my own) since it has something qualitative to say about the Japanese side of the cultural equation. In most of the other great cultural theories, Japan is typified by a lack or absence: lack of a internal moral standard (Benedict), lack of individuality (Hofestede), lack of illusion of individuality (Markus and Kitayama), lack of a need for positive self-regard (Heine), lack of linguistic thought (Kim), lack of focus (Masuda and Nisbett).
This post in video: the film of the burogu. Bibliography
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. lynx.let.hokudai.ac.jp/COE21/workingpaper/no04abstract.pdf
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The thing that strikes me about Kaiten pilots, and those that piloted so called "Kamikaze" (Tokkoutai 特攻隊) planes is their last letters. The philosophy expressed in these letters is that described by Markus and Kitayama (1991) as "interdependence," or as espoused by African Ubuntu philosophy such as expressed in the Zulu proverb, "Umuntu ngumuntu ngamantu" which means "I am a person through other people".
One such last letter, written by Matsuda Mitsuo, was on display in the Kaiten Museum. It reads
"To all my teachers, seniors, parents, relatives and those in my neighbourhood
Thank you all. (Lit. "Everyone, it is hard to be")
Thinking about it,
I had a fun 20 years of life
So laying to rest all your generosity
I will laugh as I launch in.
The spirit of a soldier
Young Cherry Blossom, Then thousand Cherry Blossom Trees
This young man is saying in other words that he owes his life to the generosity of those to whom he addresses the letter, a generosity which has enabled to him to be and have fun and which is so great that it will amuse him to return the favour and give that beautiful, terrible, generosity permanent leave. This gives a good example perhaps of the etymological root of the Japanese word for "thank you": "arigatou" or "(your generosity is such that) it is hard to be".
It is difficult to know the circumstances of Petty Officer Mitsuo's death. He may have been crying and scared. However, in those last moments as Matsuda Mitsuo approached an enemy ship, I like to think that he was indeed amused. Mitsuo (lit "man of light") piloted his submarine into the sea near Okinawa on the 25th of April, 1945. He was 21 years old. He was not a man, he was dynamite.
I have read a lot of the last letters of Kaiten and "Kamikaze" pilots, and though they are all very similar they never fail to bring me to tears. I tried to make a video of this one but could not read it to the end. As I become aware of the similarity of the letters and suspect that pilots were schooled in this line of thinking, it does not make it any less moving and even as I grow older, it seems to become if anything even more true. As Madge (Maddona) says, "I am because we are". Realising ones interdependence upon others can facilitate great acts of sacrifice.
There are Christian mystics such as David Harding that say that they see the light, and the interdependence of the self, how it is "open to loving", but somehow they seem to keep their selves at the same time, keep it for God, or coming home to Suffolk. It seems to me that Christian mystics never let go of logos, still see themselves from a linguistic fourth person perspective, but these young men see, in Mitsuo's cherry trees for instance, a far fiercer light, that is all consuming. I am reminded of Robert Oppenheimer words when he witnessed the first atomic bomb, or so he thought...
"I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. I suppose we all thought that in one way or another."
Markus, Hazel R., and Shinobu Kitayama. "Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation." Psychological review 98.2 (1991): 224.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Ecce homo: how to become what you are. OUP Oxford, 2007.
Tom Jones. Hit or Miss.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
British Menu Book with No Images
There is no plastic food in showcases at British restaurants. There are rarely even any images in their menus. Even if there are images, these may be just to set the atmosphere rather than be images of the food that one can purchase.
But, especially having lived so long In Japan where there are often visual aids to choosing food at restaurants, and copious photographs in all Japanese cook books, I was surprised to find that this British recipe book should have no images inside its pages at all. The only image is the one that adorns its over and it is not made clear which of the 262 recipes therein contained the image depicts. Even assuming that it is in the small print, the decision as to whether to cook and eat the any of the soups and stews described has to be based on the name, the instructions and the ingredients. This maybe testimony to the power of the British imagination but I think not. I think that rather it shows that the British, compared to the Japanese, do not really care what their food looks like so long as it tastes good and is healthy. This morning we had a yoghurt and broccoli soup which, as you can imagine, looked not unlike some bodily fluid or other, but tasted quite delicious.
I am informed that this recipe book is also quite good for those that wish to learn English.
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.