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.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Sunshine Monks (Teruterubouzu) Work

Sunshine Monks (Teruterubouzu) Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Humble Hospitality Hoax

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

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

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


Activity Foods and Autonomy in the Matrivisual

Activity Foods

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

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Details for Gods

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

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


Double Handed J-Trash Can

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017


The Heart of Yamato

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

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

And the scary-cute songstress Kyari Pamyu Pamyu

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

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

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Face Processing in Japanese and Sign Language Speakers

Face Processing in Japanese and Sign Language Speakers

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I am always attempting to leap to the conclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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No Confidence in their Smile?

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

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

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Heroes: All Mouth and No Mouth At All

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

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

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

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

Grim Reaper
Green Mask

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

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

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

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

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Indentity: Asians Lower, Westerners Upper

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

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

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

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

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East Asian Children Look at Eyes to Sense Emotion

East Asian Children Look at Eyes to Sense Emotion

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

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

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

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Washida is Not his Face, Body or Clothes

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


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

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One Reason Japanese Waiters Shout

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

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

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

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

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Individualist Rucksacks

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

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

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

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

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Speaking in Pictures

Speaking in Pictures
Like the Heptapod in Arrival (2016), the Japanese speak in pictures in adverts like this, on game shows, using smilies, smiles, and large number of other signs, and to a greater extent than Westerners believe language to be external to the mind. Their language is, like their smiles, a gesture or sign to others, and even their first person pronoun is no more or less than a you for you (Mori, 1999) and is not accompanied by a giant, uncanny ear (Nietzsche, see Derrida & McDonald, 1985). That said, Sadako looks out of their eyes (Nishida, 1939; Mumon, 1228).

Derrida, J., & McDonald, C. (1985). The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation: Texts and Discussions with Jacques Derrida. New York: Schocken Books.
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.
Mumon, E. (1228). "Koan 42. The Girl Comes Out from Meditation". The Gateless Gate. Poor translation  "One wears the mask of god, one a devil's mask." should be just, "God head and Devil mask" afaik. Retrieved from
Nishida, K. (1939). 絶対矛盾的自己同 一(Absolutely Contradictory Self Identity) www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000182/files/1755.html

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Friday, October 06, 2017


Stopping Momentarily (Ittanteishi)

Stopping Momentarily (Ittanteishi)
All vehicles stop momentarily (ittanteishi 一旦停止) to check for approaching trains, before crossing railway level crossings even if the barrier is up and the lights are in their favour. This stands in contrast to the fact that even in Japan one is not required to stop ones vehicle momentarily to see if anyone is running a red light at green traffic lights.

Once a long time ago I asked a university professor why the Japanese university professor why this is the case. He suggested that it could be due to the emperor system (which was his axe to grind) such that common folk are required to pay respect to any representative of Japan (such as JR trains) since they are also therefore representatives of, or represented by, the "symbolic emperor". At the time I thought, "surely not" but upon reflection it occurs to me that this practice of paying deference to representatives of the state has a long history.

Consider the Namamugi incident of 1862 where three Britons who refused to dismount to allow the procession of the Lord of Kagoshima (then Satsuma) to pass where attacked by attendant samurai swordsmen who expected deference from commoners, even British ones. Far further back in time the Wajinden or  'Records of Wei', written by Chinese visitors to ancient Japan in the early 6 century, recorded the fact that commoners would move to the side of the road and bow at the passing of aristocracy. 1500 years later the Japanese are still paying their respect to the passing of representatives of the polity, in the form of trains at level crossings.

From a logical point of view, I can see how it could be more important to stop at level crossings rather than at traffic lights if the vehicle stopping has the power to derail the train containing large number of people, resulting in large number of causalities. This could happen in the case of trucks and large cars, but it is difficult to imagine in the case of light cars
Light Cars Stop Momentarily
and surely cyclists would be simply swatted off the rails like mosquitoes should they venture onto the tracks at an importune time.
 Even Cyclists Stop Momentarily
I can therefore think of no logical reason why cyclists should be made to stop momentarily and check for approaching trains at level crossings, but not at green traffic lights. But there is something beautiful about it, so I do it anyway.

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Friday, September 29, 2017


We Imagine Therefore We Think: The Modality of Self and Thought in Japan and America

We Imagine Therefore We Think: The Modality of Self and Thought  in Japan and America

A brilliant Korean American researcher (Kim, 2002) found that self-talk improved American visual problem solving, and that preventing meaningful self-talk (by making the subjects repeat the alphabet) screwed things up, preventing Americans from solving problems. In East Asians however, she found that self-talk prevented visual problem solving, and that reciting the alphabet did not have a deleterious effect. She concluded that Asians are not thinking in language. We agree But Kim said little about the nature of East Asian thought.

In this paper we hypothesized that Asians do not talk to themselves but show themselves pictures or imagine. We call this a "Nacalian" (Lacan reversed) transformation and we give experimental data to support it.

Experiment 1)
We got Japanese to answer the second author's self-talk scale (Brinthaupt, Hein, & Kramer, 2009) (how much do you talk to yourself when….) and a modified version, the self-image scale (how much do you imagine things when…) and found that Japanese imagine more than they talk to themselves.

Experiment 2)
We reversed, or Nacalianly transformed, Kim's experiment (Kim, 2002), language for image, and found that imagination did not effect American subjects, neither for better, nor for worse if suppressed, but in Japanese imagining improved their ability to think up words, and repressing imagination prevented the same.

We argued that this lent evidence for our hypothesis that Japanese think by showing themselves images as oppose to talking to themselves.

We then discussed the implications for (A) the nature of thought and (B) Japanese culture.

A) Recently thought as self-speech has come under attack  (Freud, Left Brain Right brain work, Libet, Nisbett and Wilson) from evidence to show that the reasons that people give for their behaviour are generally bogus, and thoughts are generated after the decision making event. Westerners think our thoughts cause our behaviour, but they do not. "Thoughts are the product, not the process of thought". So why do we have thoughts? Recent psychologists such as Johnathan Haidt (who is brilliant) argue that thought is excuse preparation. We talk to ourselves so as to work out justifications for our actions to say to others. Thinking is for speaking they claim.

However, if Japanese are thinking in pictures, then this communicative theory of thought seems untenable, at least in the Japanese case, since pictures are difficult to convey to others. So what is thought for? We argue that Higgins (1996) notion of thought as a way of becoming emotionally involved and therefore motivated by ones actions is appropriate explanation for thought. Both talking to oneself and showing oneself pictures is a way of mirroring oneself, like standing in front of mirror, or standing on scales (c.f. “the weigh yourself diet”). If you represent yourself to yourself, you try harder.

B) The Japanese are seen as lacking in thought, self and individuality because researchers are always paying attention solely to language. But if you look at the Japanese, their houses, cities, cars, clothes, TV, behaviour, then you see that they are bristling with creative, innovative thought, and individuality.

Brinthaupt, T. M., Hein, M. B., & Kramer, T. E. (2009). The self-talk scale: Development, factor analysis, and validation. Journal of personality assessment, 91(1), 82-92.
Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.
Kim, H. S. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(4), 828.
Higgins, E. T. (1996). The" self digest": self-knowledge serving self-regulatory functions. Journal of personality and social psychology, 71(6), 1062.
Takemoto, T. R., & Brinthaupt, T. M. (2017). We Imagine Therefore We Think: The Modality of Self and Thought in Japan and America. 山口経済学雑誌 (Yamaguchi Journal of Economics, Business Administrations & Laws), 65(7・8), 1–29. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/Takemoto_Brinthaupt.pdf

Perhaps the offprints will be valuable one day! They are free now.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017


Hidden by Awe: Asian Positivity almost out of the Closet

Hidden by Awe: Asian Positivity almost out of the Closet
In recent research (Takemoto, 2017 in Japanese) I have argued that the size and positivity of self-drawings are a better measure of Japanese positive self regard that self-esteem scale scores and found that self-drawing size correlates with perceived social support in Japanese males, and that positivity of self drawing (as measure by independent evaluators) correlates with perceived social support in both Japanese male and female students, whereas self-esteem is not predictive of social support at all. In the vernacular, Japanese people who 'stand tall' with good comportment and positive, large body image are popular, but people with 'big mouths' and high self-esteem are not especially popular at all.

In a recent esteemed study (Bai et al., 2017), in the most impactful social psychological journal, a similar result was hidden in a paper on "awe". First of it reported that in an initial 7 item scale selection of self-size, where participants were asked to circle a self-drawing that was appropriate in size to themselves from large (like the above bottom left) or small (like bottom right) was found to correlate strongly with linguistic measures of, above all self-esteem (r=.64**), perceived power (r=.61), general self-efficacy (r=.5**), sociometric-status (r=.47**) and self-entitlement (r=.2**) but not with height nor weight.

The fact, however, that Asian perceived self-sizes, when measured with a self-drawing at least, were larger than those of Westerners hardly receives attention at all, hidden as it was in considerations of "awe," which Westerners are more sensitive to, in Yosemite Park for instance. May the Gods of social psychology forbid that Asians are ever found to be more positive than Westerners! The above graph shows the average number of squares covered by self drawings adapted from Table 2 (Bai, et al., 2017 p.6) where Westerners are the average of North American and European respondents.

The same pattern was found for the size of "signature" (me, 我, 私)but since this will depend upon the script only in-country correlations would be meaningful, and provides an interesting connection between Asian self-esteem and calligraphy.

For how much longer will Asian visual positivity remain hidden? It will not be long now. The problem then arises, if the self is both linguistically and visually represented, who is it represented to?

The bottom half of the above image is reproduced without permission from Bai et al., 2007, figure 3, page 10. Should you wish for me to cease and desist please leave a comment or drop me an email to the email link at nihonbunka.com

Bai, Y., Maruskin, L. A., Chen, S., Gordon, A. M., Stellar, J. E., McNeil, G. D., … Keltner, D. (2017). Awe, the Diminished Self, and Collective Engagement: Universals and Cultural Variations in the Small Self. Retrieved from psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2017-20208-001/
Takemoto, T. 武本, Timothy. (2017). ジマンガ:日本人の心像的自尊心を測る試み(Auto-Manga as Prideful-Pictures: An Attempt to Measure Japanese Mental Image Self-Esteem). 山口経済学雑誌= Yamaguchi Journal of Economics, Business Administrations & Laws, 65(6), 107–138. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/Jimanga.pdf

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Invisibility Cloak Illusion Hypothesis

Invisibility Cloak Illusion Hypothesis
Recent research (Boothby, Clark, & Bargh, 2017) has found that Americans believe that everyone looks at objects about equally but that they observe others more than others do, and about twice as much as others observe themselves, even though this is not the case.

The authors termed this bias the "invisibility cloak illusion" since the data implies that we feel ourselves to be invisible, or indeed that we are invisible to ourselves as hinted at by some researchers (Smith, 1827; Rochat, 2009). This result is unlikely to be universal. Research by myself and colleagues (Heine, et al., 2008) has shown that Japanese are chronically visible to themselves at least in terms of simulated mirror images.

In other research we (Takemoto, & Imamura, 2001) have shown that schizophrenics are better at judging the size of their extremities than those without schizophrenia, judging hand sizes almost exactly at a typical 30cm viewing distance, and at 2 metres, whereas non schizophrenics judge hands to be 10-15% smaller than they are. This suggests that the bodies of schizophrenics at least are not invisible to themselves as also suggested by some schizophrenics (Pans Disease, 2017).

The misjudgement of hand sizes, but not bank notes, was found among Japanese participants who judged their hands to be up to about 15% smaller than in reality, possibly due to the fact that they identify with their mirror images, which they often do not see as being left-right reversed (Takano & Tanaka, 2007).

I predict that the invisibility cloak illusion (Boothby, Clark, & Bargh, 2017) will be absent among Japanese. Indeed the Japanese may feel that they are observed by others more than they observe others themselves. Further I feel that the researchers would profitably have asked two more types of question, "how often do you/others (simulate) observing yourself/themselves?" which would show a greater cultural difference being the lowest type of observation in the West, but perhaps having the highest reported/estimated incidence in Japan.

Image reproduced without permission from Boothby, Clark, and Bargh (2017, p. 9). Should you wish that I cease an desist please drop me a note in the comments or by mail to the email link at nihonbunka.com.

Boothby, E. J., Clark, M. S., & Bargh, J. A. (2017). The invisibility cloak illusion: People (incorrectly) believe they observe others more than others observe them. Journal of personality and social psychology, 112(4), 589.
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.
Rochat, P. (2009). Others in mind: Social origins of self-consciousness. Cambridge University Press.
Takano, Y., & Tanaka, A. (2007). Mirror reversal: Empirical tests of competing accounts. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(11), 1555-1584.
Takemoto, T., Imamura, G. 武本Timothy and 今村義臣(2001)"分裂病患者の身体像:身体の末梢部位と物体の 大きさの恒常性" 九州社会心理学会, 佐賀大学

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017


Japanese and Western Art

Japanese and Western Art
When Western pictorial art arrived in Japan in the late Edo period the Japanese were amazed at how photographic it was. One of the first famous Western-Style Japanese artists, Shiba Koukan, wrote

"What is remarkable is that it (Western Art) enables one to see clearly something that is actually not there. If a painting does not truly portray a thing it is devoid of the wonderful power of art. Fuji-san is a mountain unique in the world, and foreigners who wish to look at it can do so only in pictures. However, if one follows only the orthodox Chinese methods of painting, one’s picture will not resemble Fuji, and there will be node of the magical quality in it that painting possesses. The way to depict Fuji accurately is by means of Dutch painting." (Shiba Koukan see Keene, 1952 p.67)

The traditional Japanese painting, following its Chinese model, attempted to "delineate the spirit" (Keene, 1952, p.66) of the subject resulting in idealised or mangarized representations of "beautiful women" (bijinga) for instance. The women in Japanese biinga (above left) are as uniform as those in Anime, and the mountains in Japanese and Chinese art, sharing essence of beauty or mountain.

To Westerners however, the image is usually seen as superficial, "mere image," (Aristotle, see Brenkman, 1976) a fact which facilitates the pictorial representation of people "warts and all" such as in the famous picture of Oliver Cromwell, above right.

This is the reverse of the situation in verbal, linguistic representations of people wherein Westerners are generally very idealised (braggart) and uniform, whereas Japanese say it how it is (Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999; T. R. S. Leuers = Takemoto & Sonoda, 1999; T. Leuers = Takemoto & Sonoda, 1999; T. Takemoto & Iwaizono, 2016; T. R. Takemoto & Brinthaupt, 2017; see also Takemoto, T. 武本, Timothy, 2017).

More notes
From Jay 1993, p13
Monotheistic religions, beginning with Judaism, have been deeply wary of pagan idolatry. The fictional character of artificial images, which can only be false simulators of the "truth," has occasioned distrust among more puritanical critics of representation. St. Pauls celebrate warning against the speculum obscurum, the glass (or mirror) through which we only see but darkly, vividly express this caution about terrestrial sign. Religious distrust was also aroused by teh capacity of vision to inspire what Augustine condemned as conupiscentia ocularum, ocular desire, which diverts our minds from more spiritual concerns. These and like suspicious have at times come to dominate religious movements and dictate long-standing religious taboos. Mose's strugge with Aaron over the Golden Calk, the Islamic rejection of figural representation, the iconoclastic controversy of the ieghth-centruy Byzantine church, the Cistercian monasticism of St. Bernard, the English Lollards, and finale the Protestant Reformation all express the antiocular sub-current of [Western] religious thought. In fact this hostility remains alive today. in the worl of such theologians as Jaqcues Ellul, whos Humiliation of the Word, written in I981, reads like a summa of every imaginable religious complaint against the domination of sight.

Late 17th century Left Beauties by Utamaro Kitagawa
Oilver Cromwell, "Warts and All" by Sir Peter Lely

Brenkman, J. (1976). Narcissus in the Text. Georgia Review, 30(2), 293–327. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/41399656
Heine, S., Lehman, D., Markus, H., & Kitayama, S. (1999). Is There a Universal Need for Positive Self-Regard? Psychological Review, 106(4), 766–794. Retrieved from humancond.org/_media/papers/heine99_universal_positive_re...
Jay, M. (1993). Downcast eyes: The denigration of vision in twentieth-century French thought. Univ of California Press. dq=Downcast+Eyes:+The+Denigration+of+Vision+in+Twentieth-Century+French+Thought&ots=SFqXjWmi3P&sig=HgLHWdIcJGXKiAVAmqMCyioZJD0
Keene, D. (1952). The Japanese Discovery of Europe: Honda Toshiaki and Other Discoverers, 1720-1798. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Leuers = Takemoto, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (1999). Independent self bias. Progress in Asian Social Psychology, 3, 87–104. Retrieved from www.nihonbunka.com/docs/independent_self.rtf
Leuers = Takemoto, T., & Sonoda, N. (1999). The eye of the other and the independent self of the Japanese. In Symposium presentation at the 3rd Conference of the Asian Association of Social Psychology, Taipei, Taiwan. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/aasp99.htm
Takemoto, T., & Iwaizono, M. (2016). Autoscopic Individualism: A Comparison of American and Japanese Women’s Fashion Magazines. 山口経済学雑誌= Yamaguchi Journal of Economics, Business Administrations & Laws, 65(3), 173–205. Retrieved from ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/40021076383/
Takemoto, T. R., & Brinthaupt, T. M. (2017). We Imagine Therefore We Think: The Modality of Self and Thought in Japan and America. 山口経済学雑誌 (Yamaguchi Journal of Economics, Business Administrations & Laws), 65(7・8), 1–29. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/Takemoto_Brinthaupt.pdf
Takemoto, T. 武本, Timothy. (2017). ジマンガ:日本人の心像的自尊心を測る試み(Auto-Manga as Prideful-Pictures: An Attempt to Measure Japanese Mental Image Self-Esteem). 山口経済学雑誌= Yamaguchi Journal of Economics, Business Administrations & Laws, 65(6), 107–138. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/Jimanga.pdf

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