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.

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.

Lombardo, J. B. (2008) "Touching the Intangible: Zen and the Arts of Japan." Center For Future Consciousness. . Web. 11 Sept. 2014.
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.

*All the ancient poems about purification (harai and misogi)
**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.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Ladyboys and Japanese Horror Women Out of the Image

Ladyboys and Japanese Horror Women Out of the Image
There is an online test of whether one can tell the difference between ladies and ladyboys (i.e. between women and transvestites/transsexual men). Generally the test is difficult. Who is the ladyboy above? (The answer below.)

It seemed to me that the ladies seemed to be the object of my gaze whereas the ladies boys seemed to be staring out of the photo. This may be because the ladies are more likely to be looking at themselves in their LCD display as they take their picture, the ladies may have a greater identification with their image, or simply because I identify more with the males who thus seem to be seeing subjects, rather than seen objects.

I have talked about the way in which I think these horrific women coming out of images, may be related to the Japanese version of the "Impartial Spectator," or "Generalised Other." These imaginary friends are theorised to be essential for identification with the representation-which-is-oneself. Neither Smith nor Mead mention the gender of these intra-psychic others, but Lacan argues that the self involves the enactment of a sexual relationship with oneself.

The way in which ladyboys seem to stare out of their image, reminded me of the way in which in Japanese horror, female monsters such as Sadako, Okuyo (above), Kayako (A mirror, photographic developer, and a TV set in The Grudge 2), Oiwa (out of a lantern in Yotsuyakaidan), and various other Japanese ghosts out of scrolls come out of images and scare, kill, or make an image out of Japanese men. I think that there may be a ladyboy -- a part of them playing or being a woman -- staring out of the images of Japanese men, but generally they do not notice. The trope at the climax of Japanese expresses the realisation of the transsexualism within the self, which exists in the world of the image.

I mean in no way to suggest that there is any direct connection between ladyboys and horror but, that many men may horrified to find their inner girl, and that is partly the reason why we are able to remain blissfully unaware of her.

The correct answer to the quiz above is second from the left.

Image copyright those pictured and AsianLoveConnects

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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?"


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。


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。


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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Monday, April 07, 2014


Snow Woman Comes Out 雪女のカミングアウト

The Japanese version of "Let it Go," the theme tune of the Disney blockbuster feature length animation, Frozen, is great. The coming out of the 'Snow Queen', or Snow Woman, is also a lot more pertinent in Japan where women, rather than 'gentlemen', are meant to be the perfect, repressed, guardians of the secrets and the horror that holds Japanese society together.

In Japnaese legend, Snow Woman (Yukionnna 雪女) is the Japanese equivalent of Dracula. She, Sadako,Barutanseijin (バルタン星人), and many other Japanese monsters kill their victims by freezing them or drag them into images, mirrors, developer liquid, or reflective pools of water. I interpret this to mean that these female monsters return their victims to the world of the image, which since the Japanese have "mirror stage" selves, is all the Japanese ever were. The woman that looks from within, most prototypically Izanami and Amaterasu, must remain hidden for the Japanese to keep being how they are.

So this Disney Snow Woman singing "the cold never bothered me anyway," in Japanese, in Japan may be a bit like the equivalent of Dracula coming to terms with his need for blood, singing "bloodless virgins never bothered me anyway!"

My Japanese children were terrified. I had to take one of them (May aged nearly four) out of the cinema crying. The rest of the cinema goers, where I saw it in Japan, were enraptured with almost no one leaving the theatre until the very end of the credits.


Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Two Diagrams of the Structure of the Self in Freud

Two Diagrams of the Structure of the Self in Freud by timtak
Two Diagrams of the Structure of the Self in Freud, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

Consistent with the Western tradition in the diagram in "Das ich unt das Es" (Freud, 1923) (literally "The I and the It", or "The Ego and the Id"), shows the internalised other or as an aural manifestation: an ear of the other in the mind (picture A top, original German Bottom Left, English Bottom Right). The original German is "akustischen
Wahrnehmungen" (p22) or acoustic perception. and is sometimes translated as in the above diagram by "耳殻'(lit outer part of the ear) or "聴覚帽" acoustic cap. On the Japanese blogosphere there are people perplexed by this cranial stethoscope, ventriloquist's act, living listening device, because as Mori (1999) argues, they don't have one.

The more famous picture B on the left is from the earlier "Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse" (Freud, 1916-17) (Introduction to Psychoanalysis) in which the internalised other is represented only as an "uber Ich" (lit "over I") commonly translated as "super ego". Uber Ich might be taken to suggest a visual metaphor, so perhaps the new representation in "The Ego and the Id" (1925) was to qualify and make sure that the reader understand, we are talking *Ear of the Other in Your Head*.

From a Nacalian perspective, the Japanese equivalent (see here) should be drawn a "visual perception" as intra-psychic other-in-the-mind.

One can feel the presence of this Japanese eye by looking at Japanese children's artworks , shown from the point of view of the eye in the sky (Masuda), and by seeing Japanese horror in which horrifying women women appear from the ceiling, from out of images that stare back, or from that window in Kyari Pamyu Pamyu's Pon Pon Pon. I also feel the eye in Japanese ESL classrooms and as a joke try and beat it out of the room, since it interferes with my lessons, with broom sticks and the like.

Freud, S. (1923). Das Ich und das Es. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag. Retrieved from archive.org/details/Freud_1923_Das_Ich_und_das_Es_k
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.


What am I? Western Propaganda

What am I? Western Propaganda by timtak
What am I? Western Propaganda, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

This picture book, ”What am I" (Brenifer, 2007) written by Western authors translated into Japanese, says that while mirrors are useful for showing you how you appear to other people, the difference between humans and animals is that they can think in words, and that they can speak. Humans are "animals with reason. reason", or the ability to speak to have a dialogue with oneself, is supposed to provide us with an internal mirror, whereas all literal mirrors are external. Japanese children are being taught this in their morality classes. My son has a textbook called "note of the heart" which he is encouraged to name. Both books encourage Japanese infants to think of themselves, as their defining "hidden" characteristic as that which is refereed to by their self narrative.

How could narrative, which takes places in that most social of media, language provide anything but a view of self from the point of view of society? The earliest proponents of the narrative self (Adam Smith) and George Mead made this perfectly plain. Ah but, even if language does provide us with a social representation of self, it is a "impartial" "generalised" self-representation. Research on human decision making shows that we have anything but a generalised impartial view of ourselves. And even if language should provide a view from no-where, from a depersonalised point of view, this is exactly what those that practice karate, noh, or any Japanese art are taught to achieve, and which we all have by virtue of our mirror neurons.

The Japanese have a long tradition of attempting to emulate Westerners, and it has been suggested that they encourage their children to have a narrative self identity for many years (象徴天皇). The trouble is that one needs the internalised other to be mirrored in society. In the West language is upheld, presented as "logic" de-temporalised, by a conspiracy of white patriarchs. Linguistic consistency is upheld in upbringing. The court of language is pervasive in movies from courtroom dramas, of course, and even to the obligatory confession of love before a crowd obligatory in Western romance films. In Japan the super-ego as ear (耳殻) there is instead, the gaze of the world, a conspiracy of mothers. Instead of the court of language, encouraging us to feel guilty, there is an ever-present gaze that encourages shame. Woody Allen may have been half Japanese in that his superego was feminine (see his 'mother as blimp' . The Japanese super-I looks on silently as portrayed to perfection by the figures outside the window in "Pon Pon Pon by Kyari Pamyu Pamyu."

Japanese are humans with mirrors, for the time being.

Brenifier, O., 西宮かおり, & 重松清. (2007). 自分って、なに? 東京: 朝日出版社.

Monday, February 24, 2014


Japan May Be Somewhat Autistic

Japan May Be Somewhat Autistic by timtak
Japan May Be Somewhat Autistic, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Autism is sometimes defined as "a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication,"(wikipedia).

As testified by Temple Grandin (2006), however, those with autism may develop a superior ability to "think in pictures". Indeed the Autism Spectrum Questionnaire (AQ) contains some items that relate directly to the mental ability to create and manipulate images. From the Nacalian perspective of this blog -- that Japanese have a self in the mirror 'stage' rather than a self as narrative -- one would predict that Japanese would be 'somewhat autistic' or share some commonalities with those that are deemed to have autism.

What does the science say? First of all one finds that, though autism is increasing worldwide especially in the West, the prevalence of autism is argued to be higher in Japan than anywhere else in the world with, 118 cases per 10,000 children (see Hughes, 2011). Secondly comparisons of scores on the above mentioned Autism Spectrum Questionnaire, which gives a score between 1 and 50, finds that average Japanese student score of 22.4* is 6 points above that of British students (16.4) and lies almost in the middle between British students, and British in the Aspergers Syndrome or High Functioning Autism group (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner, Martin, & Clubley, 2001; Kurita, Koyama, & Osada, 2005).

Some of this difference may be due to the possibility that" the Japanese translation might have changed the meaning of some items to be more agreeable for the Japanese to score 1, although the back translation was satisfactory"(Kurita, Koyama, & Osada, 2005, p495). While translation issues may be responsible for some of the difference, I suggest that an increased tendency in Japan to think in pictures rather than words is likely also to explain some of the difference.

By pointing out this data I in no way mean suggest that the Japanese are in any way "disordered", but rather, as those with autism are themselves sometimes found to claim, the ability to think in pictures as opposed to words - if that is a characteristic difference found in autism - is not a disorder, but a difference, especially perhaps in the land of anime, manga, the zaniest fashion, and making things (monodukuri), not words.

Image top: ‘Flag of Japan made into a Jigsaw’, n.d. Jigsawplanet
Image middle: (Hughes, 2011)
Image Bottom: Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner, Martin, & Clubley, (2001 p.9), with added data from Kurita, Koyama, & Osada, (2005)

*The average for Japan of 22.4 was created by averaging the Japanese male and female averages given in the text.

Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001). The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(1), 5–17.
Flag of Japan made into a Jigsaw. (n.d.). Jigsaw Planet. Retrieved 24 February 2014, from www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=07b457ea244c
Grandin, T. (2006). Thinking in pictures: and other reports from my life with autism. New York: Vintage Books.
Hughes, V. (2011, April 7). Researchers track down autism rates across the globe — SFARI.org - Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. Retrieved 24 February 2014, from sfari.org/news-and-opinion/news/2011/researchers-track-do...
Kurita, H., Koyama, T., & Osada, H. (2005). Autism-Spectrum Quotient–Japanese version and its short forms for screening normally intelligent persons with pervasive developmental disorders. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 59(4), 490–496. Retrieved from onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1440-1819.2005.0140...

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Monday, February 17, 2014


The One Ring Scam from Hell

The One Ring Scam from Hell by timtak
The One Ring Scam from Hell, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
It is Quiet in Hell (300)

Missed call scams, where criminals ring mobile phones for one ring, then cut off in the hope that the receiver will ring back and be connected to a number that costs them money, have just hit the USA in early 2014 (CNN Money, KLTV, CBNC). They had a very brief life in the UK in 2004(BBC). But as any Japanese mobile phone user (over the age of about 30) is aware, "one ring scams" (Or "wan giri" one (ring and) cut=kiri) have a far longer history. The one ring scam (wangiriワンギリ) originated in Japan at about the turn of the millennium, and were still prevalent at least in 2013 (see mobile phone au carrier's warning, in Japanese, update history).

The Japanese are generally so honest (at least according to OECD crime statistics) and cautious (e.g. with higher "uncertainty avoidance", Hofstede, 1980) than other nations. The Japanese are so bright and bushy tailed, it is strange that a scam of this type should originate in the land of the rising sun.

That these calls started in Japan is I feel because the Japanese are more susceptible. Japanese people are more likely to see that missed call and ring back. Is it because the Japanese are more polite, feeling obliged to respond to missed calls? Or is it that Westerners can rely on genuine callers leaving voice-mail, but the shy, and somewhat tongue-tied Japanese can not. These are probably both part of the motivation, but I think that something else is going on. As a Texas TV station opines.,"They [the scammers] are preying on the victim's curiosity," and the Japanese are that much more curious about missed phone calls. This is because, I believe, Japan is, collectively, missing a phone call, missing a connection.

As often argued on this blog the main difference between the psychology of Japanese and Westerners is in the medium of their "generalised other." Western psychologists argue that humans, or at least all Westerners, have or have simulated an imaginary friend (Wyndham, 1968) in their head. If you are Christian you believe that you have a friend in Jesus, and a psychic hot-line to God. If you are a Western psychologist then you theorise this entity in secular terms as a "super ego" (Freud, 1913) Other (Lacan, 1967 [2007]), alter ego (Derrida, 1978) "generalised other" (Mead, 1967), "impartial spectator" (Smith, 1812; see also Brat, 2005) "super addressee" (Bakhtin, 1986. p126).

Taking the last example, Bakhtin was a Russian literary critic who dabbled in psychology (and inspired a branch of psychology: Hermans and Kempen, 1993), He argues that language is always understood in dialogue. Even when we are on our own we imagine how our statements would be understood by those to whom we will address them. Bakhtin goes on to say, since the self is also understood via self-speech, if we were incapable of understanding who we ourselves are without real others, we would be in hell. We would be continually dependent upon the understanding of whomever we are talking, or plan to talk, to. If we are not understood then we would not understand ourselves. Our meaning, our thoughts, and desires, would be lost in a fog of confusion. Fortunately, Bakhtin says (along with all the other Western commentators) even when we are talking to someone present, and more so when we are on our own, we are always also 'talking off' to a super-addressee. Taking the metaphor of email, Bakhtin argues we are always also sending a "BCC" - by mistake or on purpose - to one of our parents, or God.

As argued by Mori Arimasa (1999) , and myself, in Japan there is no such generalised ear of the Other. Japanese people just talk to other people. They send just email to other people. They do not absent mindedly BCC. Their words are for, and only for, the person that they are sent to. Japan is therefore a Western hell, since the Japanese are not wired up to the ear in the sky. Yahew-san's phone is off the hook. There is nothing but 'Silence,' (Or perhaps white noise. c.f. the phone call that Sanada Hrioyuki's role receives before he he is visited by the Other from the image - Sadako!).

Lacking a psychic hot-line, the Japanese are I argue, that much more curious about missed calls. "One day someone is going to phone", they think. One day they will be connected. And this is why the one ring scam works that much better on Japanese and is (or was, even the Japanese tire of it) that much more prevalent. It is probably also linked to Japanese susceptibility to that other form of Japanese scam "Its me, its me" (ore ore) phone calls. The Japanese are, in the solitude of their silence, always hoping that someone who loves them and needs them, will ring them up.

Fortunately, the Japanese are not in Japanese hell at all because they have another type of more maternal, impartial spectator or super-addressee: Mirrors in their Heads (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008).

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.
Brat, D. (2005). Adam Smith’s God: The End of Economics. Virginia Economic Journal, 59. Retrieved from faculty.rmc.edu/dbrat/researchpapers/2005VAEAdamSmithPape...
Derrida, J. (1978). Edmund Husserl’s origin of geometry: An introduction. U of Nebraska Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pW9PQxAOo0sC&oi=fnd&pg=PP9&dq=Origin+of+Geometry&ots=cxr_EUp0d5&sig=8cjF6mBUi60BuZEUBK_0blBL1sUFreud, S. (1913). Totem and taboo. (A. A. Brill, Trans.). New York: Moffat, Yard and Company. Retrieved from en.wikisource.org/wiki/Totem_and_Taboo
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
Hermans, H. J. M., & Kempen, H. J. G. (1993). The Dialogical Self: Meaning as Movement. Academic Press.
Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.
Lacan, J. (2007). Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. (B. Fink, Trans.) (1st ed.). W W Norton & Co Inc.
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 books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=d-UUAAAAQAA...
Wyndham, J. (1968). Chocky.
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Kata as The Japanese Mirror Stage

Keep Trying Guys by timtak
Keep Trying Guys, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Lacan's theory of "Mirror Stage" is famous despite having been at least partially refuted by at least two experimental psychologists whose papers I have read.

No, infants do not first become aware of themselves via mirrors, their mirror self-awareness is concomitant with their linguistic self awareness. Lacan himself prevaricated and or re(?) described the "stage" as a logical stage, not necessarily prior but necessarily implicated in the formation of a narrative self.

Lacan's theory of the mirror stage is useful at least as a metaphor to explain how the narrative self is also an other.

The majority of Western theories of self, at least those trending currently (Dennet), and probably since Plato, certainly in Mead, and probably in Adam Smith, see the self as a product of self narrative. These same, seemingly down-to earth, non-Lacanian, non-French, almost common sense and widely applied theories introduce otherness, the "impartial spectator" or the "generalised other" and have even the most staid economists and psychologists persuaded that our selves, are like others even to ourselves.

Here, Lacan's theory of "the mirror stage" is useful to explain, at least as a metaphor, how our narrative self is also an other. How could it be that the self is an other? Isn't this a grammatical error, a contradiction? Lacan's theorey provides a metaphorical solution. The self as narrative is routed in the self as mirror image, and as a replacement for the mirror image, a self representation. The self as narrative is a replacement for the self as mirror image, but while replacing the mirror image it remains at a distance, a wordy version of oneself in a mirror.

That said, according to Lacan (and implicitly in Mead and others) the self as narrative is superior to the self as image, in that it can be achieved, held, recognised, without the cooperation of real people or real reflecting surfaces outside oneself.

To use an analogy from chemistry, the "mirror stage", for the Western self, is a sort of catalyst. The need for a catalyst demonstrates a hurdle, a gap, but catalytic action does not occur prior, but concomitantly, it gets the ball rolling, but even as it gets the ball rolling it is accompanied by the reaction that it is there to ignite.

Recent work in neuro psychology (mirror neurons) and the philosophy of self (ego tunnel) has shown however that the common sense assumption that you need a mirror (or other people's faces, a reaction, an audience) to see yourself
is just not true. Humans can see themselves from the point of view of others just as clearly as they can hear themselves from the point of view of others.

As an aside, the surprising lesson from this recent mirror neuron related research for me, is not so much that "Wow, we have found that humans have the ability to see ourselves from the point of view of an other!" but rather, "Oh, come to think of it, hearing ourselves, our self-narration, from the point of view of an other is pretty darn amazing. How did we come to be able to do this?" Lacan's answer "Because, we saw ourselves in mirrors" goes only part of the way towards an answer.

Now to the point of this post which is merely a modification of a previous one using the same image, above, Judith Butler argues in "Bodies that Matter," that iterable (repeatable) movements allow for bodily, self representation. Taken on face value, this seems to imply that the (Japanese, I assert) self is a sort of sign language. I groaned inwardly as I contemplated Butler, and wondered if the Japanese are narrating themselves using bodily movements.

The point of this post is to suggest that no, that Japanese autoscopy, the Japanese imaginary, mirror self is not a self represented by Kata, of symbols that are moved rather than spoken. Rather, the Japanese iterable movements, their Kata, are equivalent to the mirror image, catalyst of the narrative self.

In other words, Kata to the Japanese, and mirror images to the Westerner, are a catalyst that kick-starts a fluid, independent (as it gets), self cognition.

Westerners see the mirror image and learn to narrate it, the Japanese say, or sign, their Kata and learn to see them. Or, rather, the mirror image, self as image, is catalyst for the narrative self, the Kata self as signs, a catalyst for the mirror self.

In Sumo, Judo, Karate, there are names for all the moves. But people who have learnt the kata, and know the moves, go beyond them. The kata are a stepping stone, a stage, a catalyst, like the Lacanian "imago" in the mirror.

I have been doing Karate, badly.

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Monday, January 27, 2014


Japanese Chocolate Bars

Japanese Chocolate Bars by timtak
Japanese Chocolate Bars, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Is not for nothing that the Japanese have a low incidence of obesity. A typical British chocolate bar has as many calories as the average Japanese meal, after which if feeling a chocolate craving a Japanese may indulge in a postage stamp sized chocolate bar. And these above are the decadent new double sized ones (20yen). Until recently there were only the 10 yen chocolates that are half the size of those above.

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Friday, January 24, 2014


Logotherapy for Japanese Cancer Patients: What can tourists carry?

Logotherapy for Japanese Cancer Patients: What can tourists carry? by timtak
Logotherapy for Japanese Cancer Patients: What can tourists carry?, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Today's Asahi Newspaper ran an article, by Ms. Riko Kawahara, introducing Dr. Keisuke Yamada who runs a cancer philosophy outpatients clinic for terminally ill Japanese. His advice is based upon that of Austrian Psychotherapist, Victor Frankl, the founder of "Logotherapy". In the above article Dr. Yamada is quoted as saying "in that time set aside for holding a dialogue on life and death It is as frightening as walking into the darkness together. But an ordinary humans words can become a light. I try to encourage them to be able to *narrate their lives*, to be able to see the light. "

First of all I worry about the effectiveness of teaching self narrative in this situation for the reasons mentioned in a previous post. A Zen priest, a more traditional helping hand in the face of death, would be more inclined to encourage us not to narrate anything at all.

Secondly this highlights a problem I having with my understanding of the Western and Japanese self and tourism. Yes, narration is extremely important in the West -- *we* really are homonarrans 人言 -- but so also equally important is "the light". Western pilgrims and tourists tour to gaze (Urry, 2002) and name (Culler, 1988) the image (Turner and Turner, 1995; Boorstin, 1992) even though they believe that the image is a qualia (Jackson, 1986), in the mind. Why should anyone need to go anywhere to get something which they believe to be in their mind?

One way of answering this question may be to focus on what people believe themselves to "carry" (Frankl, 1962, p. pp. 56–57. quoted below). The standard Western (excepting Ernst Mach) understanding of images is as "qualia:" things in the mind. Western philosophers would have it that the "brave overhanging canopy" is something that we can, if not fold up, carry around. If we do "carry" it, then it stands to reason that Mary (Jackson, 1986) and Western tourists should have to travel to get images, and carry them back.

Likewise, that the Japanese can and do travel to places with names, named-places (名所), where there is often absolutely nothing to see (Hiraizumi, ganryuujima, kokufunoato) and other "ruins of identity." (Hudson, 1999; Plutschow, 1981)

Japanese name-places provide names, they are fountains of names. The Japanese tourists provide the images, of themselves (the ubiquitous Japanese tourist selfie or kinen shashin 記念写真) and through their imagination, and often quite physically carry, yes, carry the names back home, in the form of sacred tags (お札) stamps, from the ”stamp rally,” pilgrimage, such as to Shikoku's temples or Ise shrine, often for other people (代理参り).

Since Westerners tend to believe in a "super-addressee" (Bakhtin, 1986) I think that we believe also that words, names, or at least what they refer to -- meanings, ideas -- are somehow omnipresent. Words are transmitted, by morse code or telephone but what they mean somehow manages to get there, be recreated in the mind of the recipient, faster than the speed of light, because it is as if all the meaning is already in the recipients head already. To someone who believes in the super-addressee it is impossible to carry a word, in its full sense, anywhere.

To explain the difference between Western and Japanese tourism I may need to focus less on the question, "What am I?" to "What can I carry?" What can we carry? Names? Images?

When we die, is it true as the saying goes, "You can't take it with you"? When we die, can we only carry what we are? I have noted that "people of the book" live on as words because they are in the book, and that Japanese believe that the dead become balls of light.

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
Boorstin, D. J., & Will, G. F. (1992). The image: A guide to pseudo-events in America. Vintage Books New York.
Culler, J. D. (1988). The Semiotics of Tourism. In Framing the sign. Univ. of Oklahoma Pr.
Frankl, V. E., & Lasch, I. (1962). Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotheraphy. A Newly Rev. and Enl. Ed. of From Death-camp to Existentialism. Beacon Press.
Hudson, M. (1999). Ruins of identity: ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands. University of Hawaii Press.
Jackson, F. (1986). What Mary didn’t know. The Journal of Philosophy, 83(5), 291–295. Retrieved from www.philosophicalturn.net/intro/Consciousness/Jackson_Mar...
Plutschow, H. (1981). Four Japanese Travel Diaries of the Middle Ages. Cornell Univ East Asia Program.
Turner, V., & Turner, E. (1995). Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture (0 ed.). Columbia University Press.
Urry, J. (2002). The Tourist Gaze. SAGE.

An expert from Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning: An introduction to Logotherapy" which is quoted on Frankl's wikipedia page:

"We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."

Photograph and Text copyright R. Kawahara, and Asahi Newspaper and image rights belong to Dr. K. Yamada.

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