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, May 29, 2015


Sazae Tames the Lion

Sazae Tames the Lion

The lion, naked, prostrate and clearly lacking a womb, is scared. Sazae can tame anything and has tamed a sealion too, left. Like most Japanese women most of the time, Sazae appears to be on stage. She alone is fully aware of an audience. The lion is, like the Western wife perhaps, aware of the audience only through Sazae. The young chap with the ball, Katsuo I presume, is as yet oblivious. The audience constrains Sazae as it empowers her. In Japan phallogocentrism is replaced by wombimagocentrism*. When the audience watches, the women are in control, as they are controlled. Give up on the "different voice" (Gilligan, 1962) and get wombimagocentric now.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice. Harvard University Press.

* I think that this can be pronounced a bit like the Wombles, wom-bi-mago-centrism.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015


Japanese and Western Expressions: The Japanese Fundamental Attribution Error, The Western Honne and Tatemae

There have been several studies on Japanese and American facial expressions. Perhaps the most famous is that of David Matsumoto (see Gudykunst & Nishida, 1994) that found that Japanese were worse at recognising the four negative 'universal' expressions (fear, anger, disgust, sadness) not because these emotional expressions are not universal, but because negative emotions are repressed in Japanese culture where there is a greater stress upon harmony. This interpretation is plausible, but I remain rather unconvinced.

In this post I concentrate, however, on self-consistency in expression of emotions, but first a recap on linguistic self-expression. Westerners, or at least North Americans are almost always positive about themselves, irrespective of social situation (Kanagawa, Cross, & Markus, 2001) and even when what they are expressing is negative. Negative traits are "spun" to be positive ones.

Further, even though Americans "spin" or "enhance" their verbal expressions so that everything is positive, Americans nonetheless believe that the words of others represent their true feelings, even when they are told that the person they are listening to is reading a text that has been given to them whereas Japanese do not (Miyamoto & Kitayama, 2002).

The tendency for Westeners to believe in the consistency of verbal expressions and true feeling or self is called "The Fundamental Attribution Bias." In Japan it is however well-known and assumed that people say one thing in social situations (tatemae) whereas they mean another (honne).

I argue that this situation is reversed, or Nacalianly transformed, in Japan when one considers Japanese facial expressions.

The first phenomenon is equivocal.

Gundykunst and Nishida found that when Japanese and Americans were shown a negative film in the supposed absence of an observer (but in fact the subjects were videoed watching the film) both Americans and Japanese showed negative emotions. However, the Japanese, but not the Americans, affected positive facial expressions when describing the movie to an experimenter. This might be construed to suggest that the Japanese are less consistent in their facial expressions, but I suggest that the Japanese would attempt to affect the same smile whether they were describing a negative film or a horrible one, irrespective of who they are talking to.

It is clear at least that the Japanese have "spun" or "enahnced" their expression to make it positive when in some sense the reality was not.

Secondly when asked to rate emotion and expression of others, Gudykunst and Nishida (1994) found that Americans rated other's emotions and facial expressions differently, whereas Japanese rated emotions and facial expressions as being the same. The Japanese appeared to believe that faces expressed only true emotions.

This result is what I would call the Japanese Fundamental Attribution Bias, and the Western version of "honne and tatemae." In respect of the latter, "The face is no index to the heart," says an English proverb, "A fair face my hide a foul heart" says an American one, and the face - being potentiallly and often "two faced" - is the sine qua non of inconsistency.

These phenomena expose the same paradox: despite the fact that both Americans and Japanese "spin" their self-expressions in a positive direction in language and facial-expressions respectively, both Americans and Japanese believe in the consistency and truth of the modality that they are spinning or enhancing, and do not believe in the veridacy of the one that they are not.

This paradox is due to the modality or theatre (Weber, 2004) that matters. Americans are chronically exposed to the ear of the 'generalised other' (Mead, 1967), whereas Japanese to the 'eye of the world' (seken). In each of these theatres each attempts to appease and express their meaning, being, their selves to a hidden, intra-psychic other.

As mentioned in a previous post, Westerners claim that they are talking to only themselves, and Japanese that they are expressing themselves only to other people, but these explanations fall apart since Americans could be verbally honest if only to themselves, and Japanese would know that that they are facially dishonest to others.

The nature of self as being for Other makes us all bullshit and yet, believe it.

The image shows my wife, son and myself from some years ago and was chosen because the Westerner, and partial Westerner, are showing less consistency in their facial expressions.

I am very stupid but disgusting and in a position to realise it. Japanese culture will teach even the most stupid and disgusting of people the truth.

Gudykunst, W. B., & Nishida, T. (1994). Bridging Japanese/North American differences (Vol. 1). Sage.
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.
Miyamoto, Y., & Kitayama, S. (2002). Cultural variation in correspondence bias: The critical role of attitude diagnosticity of socially constrained behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(5), 1239.
Weber, S. (2004). Theatricality as Medium. Fordham Univ Press. (as yet un-read, but I dig the term and I am a major fan)

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Comparative Morality and The Horrible Helper

A recent video showing the extent to which Japanese children return wallets moved me to tears.

In the USA when a child found some money (admittedly not inside a wallet) he was lauded for giving it to someone else.

Handing the money into lost property did not seem to cross anyone's mind in the USA.

Western commentators since the Edo period have marvelled at Japanese honesty with regard to personal possessions and the absence of theft. They also marvelled at the sexual mores (nakedness and the prevalence of prostitution), and speech crime (e.g. flattery, deceit, and creative accounting). That said I believe the Japanese to be the most moral nation on earth.

"The Lost Letter Technique" made famous by Milligram et. al. (1965) found that 70% of personally address letters but only 25 of Nazi/Communist party addressed "lost letters" were returned. Earlier research by Merritt and Fowler (1948: see Liggett, Blair, & Kennison, 2010) found that 85% of letters, but only 54% of letters presumed to contain money were returned.

And yes, there is comparative Lost Letter Technique research. West (2003) dropped phones and wallets containing cash in Tokyo and New York and the results were T 95% vs NY 77% for phones and T 85% vs NY30% for cash. That makes Tokyoites about three times more honest when it comes to returning wallets. Near Tokyo rates of return were obtained outside a Japanese supermarket in New York, so this is not something geographical. The Japanese are extremely honest when it comes to personal property.

In Japan stealing is almost absent, but creative accounting and linguistic obfuscation is reported to be prevalent. In the historical record numerous commentators report the low level of stealing (Bird, 1880; Cocks & Thompson, 2010; Coleridge, 1872; Golovnin, Rīkord, & Shishkov, 1824) and the strict way in which it is dealt with. At the same time, visitors have noted that linguistic misdemeanour's such as flattery, deceit, and "the squeeze" (taking a kickback of up to 100% to 200% of cost: see Bird 1880).

I claim, as always, that the amazing way in which the Japanese do not steal things but are at the same time able to "squeeze" double or triple the expenses from their employer relates to the nature of the Other (and horror) in Japanese culture.

Westerners have a horrible other that listens. This encourages us to be fairly honest, if very self-serving, in our self-narrative. Our narratives are self-enhancing but are constrained by the need for them to be palatable to another imagined human being. On the other hand, we feel no one is watching, so how we look, however, is far less fraught, ego-involved. We can get very fat, or even justify theft as redistribution of wealth (Robin Hood), since "property is [or can be argued, narrated to be] theft." We are good at promises and institutions of linguistic trust (such as insurance, and financial products) since we want to be heard to be, narrated to be, good.

The Japanese, on the other hand, have an Other (that is almost as horrifying) that looks, concealed not in the head but amongst the crowd. This encourages them to be fairly upstanding, if very self-serving, in their posture (sekentei). Their self-imaginings are self-enhancing but are constrained by the need for them to be palatable to another imagined human being. So the Japanese abhor crimes and misdemeanour's that can be seen, such as theft and physical violence. When it comes to linguistic malfeasance such as "the squeeze" or kick-back however, this can be seen as just a way of doing business involving no visual injury. The Japanese are good at creating things (monozukiri) since they want to be seen, imagined to be, good.

This modal -- language vs vision -- difference highlights one aspect of the origin of the myths of individualism and collectivism. It is not in fact the case that the Japanese are any more or less individualistic or collectivist, nor Westerners likewise. Both Japanese and Westerners care to an extent about real others and care more about their horrible intra psychic familiars, but in each case the horror of the familiar must be hidden.

It is only because our familiars, our imaginary friends, are horrible that they can remain hidden and continue to be familiar. Identity is a contradiction that depends upon horror, or sin, on a split that must be felt to be, but not be cognised as being. Identity or self is impossible (nothing can see or say itself) but the dream of its possibility is maintained by desire for, and abhorrence -- and resultant obfuscation -- of the duality required.

In the Western case the necessary, horrible imaginary friend is hidden *inside* the person as an interlocutor that, as inside the person, can only therefore be denied by being claimed to be part of, and one with the self. Eve, that gross "knowing" helper we have, is hidden by virtue of being thought of as just another me (see Levinas vs Derrida and "altrui"). She disappears because, as Adam Smith says, we are just splitting ourselves into two of ourselves. If there is just me and me, then there appears to be nothing disgusting going on. Westerners think, "I think to myself."

But if on the other hand the Other is external, as is required by any visual (self) cognition, there is little way of claiming that the Other is me. Spatial dualism, or rather distance, eye and surface, as required by visual cognition, becomes apparent, and undeniable. So the Japanese claim that all they are doing is being collectivist. The Japanese horrible Other is just another person, one of many other people. The Japanese hide the horror, their familiar, their imaginary friend, in the crowd.

Individualism and collectivism are myths by which means we hide Eve/Amaterasu, a part of our souls, our "helpmeets"or "paraclete" (John's term for Jesus). 

In a similar way to paradox of Japanese morality in which Japanese will not steal your wallet even if you leave it on a table at a restaurant and walk out, but may (or did) charge a kickback doubling or tripling the price, the British will be utterly polite, honest and even humorous as they sell you narcotics and destroy your country, as we did to China for 150 years. Some estimate that the enforced import of opium into China resulted in the deaths of 100 million Chinese, but at least one British academic makes jokes about it .

Paraphrasing Isaiah, those that worship the logos have a tendency to smear over their eyes so that they cannot see, and those that worship idols have a tendency to smear over their hearts so they cannot comprehend.

Bibliography (all available online)
Bird, I. L. (1880). Unbeaten Tracks in Japan: An Account of Travels in the Interior Including Visits to the Aborigines of Yezo and the Shrines of Nikkô and Isé. J. Murray.
Cocks, R., & Thompson, E. M. (2010). Diary of Richard Cocks, Cape-Merchant in the English Factory in Japan, 1615–1622: With Correspondence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Coleridge, H. J. (1872). The life and letters of St. Francis Xavier : in two volumes. Asian Educational Services.
Golovnin, V. M., Rīkord, P. Ī., & Shishkov, A. S. (1824). Memoirs of a Captivity in Japan, During the Years 1811, 1812, and 1813: With Observations on the Country and the People. H. Colburn and Company.
Liggett, L., Blair, C., & Kennison, S. (2010). Measuring gender differences in attitudes using the lost-letter technique. Journal of Scientific Psychology, 16–24. Retrieved from http://www.psyencelab.com/images/Measuring_Gender_Differences_in_Attitudes_Using_the_Lost-Letter_Technique.pdf
Milgram, S., Mann, L., & Harter, S. (n.d.). The lost-letter technique: A tool of social research. Retrieved from http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/the_lost-letter_technique-_a_tool_of_social_research.pdf
West, M. D. (2003). Losers: recovering lost property in Japan and the United States. Law & Society Review, 37(2), 369–424. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1540-5893.3702007/full

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Self in Words and Pictures: TPT vs TST

Leuers (now Takemoto, this author) and Sonoda (1998) found that Japanese self representations using auto-photography in Twenty Photographs Test show the same sort of positivity as found American linguistic self descriptions in a Twenty Statements Test. The best thing about this specific research was that it seems to have inspired a Japanese psychotherapist, Yasuyo Mukoyama, (2010), to write a book about the use of auto-photography as new therapeutic technique -- The Auto-photographic Method -- in Japan. I highly approve. Leuers = Takémoto, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (1998, October). 心像的自己に関する比較文化的研究(1) Cross Cultural Research on the Specular Self. Oral Presentation口頭発表 presented at the The 62th Annual Convention of the Japanese Psychologiocal Association English日本心理学第64回大会, Tokyo Gakugei Daigaku. Retrieved from http://ift.tt/1BmRnQs Mukoyama, Yasuyo 向山泰代. (2010). 自叙写真法による自己認知の測定に関する研究. ナカニシヤ出版. http://flic.kr/p/sDP6X1

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Make Up Makes Japanese Feel Good

If you identify with your face as the centre of your persona (Watsuji, 2011), point at it to indicate yourself (Leuers & Sonoda, 1998), then it is not surprising that make up has a very positive effect upon how you are feeling. Moritsuchi et al. (2006) separated female subjects into two groups one of which were given a full make over
by a professional make-up artist, the other who where asked to wait. The latter group showed little change except in a decrease in liveness and increased tiredness. The former group became less stress, less depressed, less angry (less animosity), more lively, less tired, and less confused. It is not surprising that Japan women spend the most per head on cosmetics.

That this spending data has an inverse correlation with well-being says less about how happy Japanese women are, than how those that identify with their self-narrative, rather than their faces, are inclined to think positively, and prevaricate about their level of happiness.

Indeed, in the same experiment (Moritsuchi et al., 2006), the make-up condition start in a state of more negative affect, and overall (bottom graph) while those that wore make up had significantly increased psychological well-being, whereas the control group remained the same, at the same time the made up group reported themselves as less happy than the un-made up group. Bearing in mind how make-up improved their state of mind, this difference is likely to be due to the way in which focus upon improving appearance may make people less inclined to "self-enhance" -- speak bs.

Conversely, pride, or linguistic self-esteem, takes people away from the light as is suggested by the strong correlation between self-esteem (self-bs) and calorie intake and obesity.

Image from page 114-115 in (Moritsuchi et al., 2006)
Morichi, Hirose, Tanaka, and Hisayo 森地恵理子, 広瀬統, 中田悟, & 久世淳子. (2006). メイクアップの心理的効果と生体防御機能に及ぼす影響. 日本福祉大学情報社会科学論集, 9, 111–116. Retrieved from research.n-fukushi.ac.jp/ps/research/usr/db/pdfs/00074-00...
Leuers = Takémoto, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (1998, October). 心像的自己に関する比較文化的研究(1) Cross Cultural Research on the Specular Self. Oral Presentation口頭発表 presented at the The 62th Annual Convention of the Japanese Psychologiocal Association English日本心理学第64回大会, Tokyo Gakugei Daigaku. Retrieved from http://nihonbunka.com/docs/shinzoutekijiko1.doc
Watsuji, T. (2011). Mask and Persona. Japan Studies Review, 15, 147–155. Retrieved from asian.fiu.edu/projects-and-grants/japan-studies-review/jo...

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Make Up Raises the Tone of Japanese Women's Voice

Yogo et. al. (1990) found that as women's make-up improved from no make, normal make up to make up provided by a make-up artist, their confidence and satisfaction increased, and their anxiety decreased. This is very much to be expected in a visual soul-as-mirror rather than soul-as-narrative country like Japan. Better make-up and other visual self-presentation in Japan corresponds to better self reports among Westerners and is likely to result in improved confidence and effect.

At the same time however, the pitch of their voice increased. Or because a high pitched voice is an indicator of positive effect like laughter or a smile? Or conversely is this because they were aware that a high pitched voice is desired by others - as suggested by the high pitched voice in which shop assistants and telephone operators are required to speak - and their increased confidence and positive affect allowed them to use that other-wise unpalatable falsetto? Finally, since it is found that Japanese use tone of voice in contradistinction to linguistic content does their higher pitched voice represent a greater emphasis on tone and a further de-emphasising of self-narrative? In any event higher tone of voice, together with thicker make up probably represent a greater identification with female gender stereotypes, which are generally viewed more positively, rather than negatively, in Japan. The Japanese are members of womankind.

Yogo 余語真夫, 浜治世, 津田兼六, 鈴木ゆかり, & 互恵子. (1990). 女性の精神的健康に与える化粧の効用. 健康心理学研究, 3, 28-32.

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Westerners Lack Visual Self Consistency: Clothing and Location

Westerners Lack Visual Self Consistency: Clothing and Location

Kanagawa, Cross and Markus (2001) found that linguistic self expression depends upon social context for Japanese, but remained unchanging in the case of Americans who were equally self-enhancing whether they talked to groups, authority figures, peers, or described themselves to themselves on their own.

I have also noted that Asians may be inclined to maintain consistency in their visual self representation such as in the case of Asians who always pose in the same way, whatever the social context.

Bull and Gibson-Robinson (1981) found that the appropriate way to express oneself visually, via ones clothes, in the UK depended upon the social situation. Smartly dressed suited persons (line A) obtained more charitable donations when they visited terrace houses (place A or B), but more informal clothes (line B) obtained higher donations when asking at high rises blocks (place C) of flats. Visual self consistency is inappropriate in the UK as verbal self-consistency is inappropriate in Japan. I predict however that in Japan one formal suited kind of attire would be appropriate in all situations and obtain the most charitable donations.

Bull, R., & Gibson-Robinson, E. (1981). The influences of eye-gaze, style of dress, and locality on the amounts of money donated to a charity. Human Relations, 34(10), 895-905.
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.

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Internal External Fashion

Internal and External Fashion
Oda, Hashimoto, Kashio and Dohi (2003) based upon the theoretical distinction of Hashimoto and Kashio (2003) found that overall Japanese (or at least Japanese mothers) dress up for internal reasons rather than to impress others.

Quoting Yamabe(1993: See Hashimoto and Kashio), Yashimoto and Kashio note that dressing up or primping (oshare) has generally been studied from the perspective of outward appearance, but is in fact also an expression of identity. Hashimoto and Kashio (2003) went on to develop an internal and external dressing up questionnaire and found that the internal aspect of dressing up for oneself is more important than the extrinsic motivation to dress up for others overall, especially in older Japanese.

This is hardly surprising given that the Japanese are especially capable of and chronically inclined to autoscopy through the use of simulated intra-psychic other. Since the Japanese dress up for themselves, for a simulated self-directed gaze rather than real gaze, they pay more attention to underwear. Real others can not see underwear, but a simulated gaze can see inside things, as the Japanese are found to be able to do.

Strangely however, attention to underwear is an item on the both the internal and external motivation to dress up questionnaire, where wearing underwear that does not affect ones outer wear correlates with intrinsically motivated primping but paying attention to the design of ones underwear correlates with extrinsically motivated primping. This implies that Japanese wear designer underwear to show to others.

I have translated Hashimoto and Kashio's (2003) questionnaire as the Intrinsics and Extrinsic Primping Questionnaire which is available for download here, or in Japanese at their links below.

橋本幸子 ・柏尾眞津子;日 本社会心理学会第
44会 大会発表論文集,(2003) Retrieved 2015/5/26 www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP1208780887.pdf
尾田貴子, 橋本幸子, 柏尾眞津子, & 土肥伊都子. (2003). おしゃれの二面性に関する研究-被服・化粧行動, 心理的健康との関連. 繊維製品消費科学会誌, 44(11), 700-709. Retrieved 2015/5/26 from www.bunken.org/jssp/conf_archive/paper_download.php?s=200...

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015



松尾芭蕉が訪れた観光地の一つで、見るものと言えば、この石です。見るものはこの石以外に何もないですが、言われはもろにあります。玉藻の前(「たまものまえ」という狐?魔女?)の命が宿って、人を死亡させることができ、能のロケ地にもなっています。 日本人は言葉・名前・言われのために移動し、観ることは名所図会・ガイドブック・「外国村」、あるいは想像力で想起できるために移動する必要はありません。言葉は外にあり、場合には遠くにあります。遠くに行って観ることは重要である場合がありますが、その重要性は内なる影像と名所の実像との間のズレの確認のためのようです。 殺生石について http://ift.tt/1He6duN http://flic.kr/p/sUTQZk

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Doctor Willis on the Arrogance of the British

Doctor Willis on the Arrogance of the British
[Ernest Mason} "Satow's friend Dr. Willis, was critical of the arrogance of his fellow countrymen towards the Japanese.

A small foreign official will abuse a Japanese officer of equal rank with our Under-Secretary of State in a manner that, if it were countryman, he would be the laws the country either have to kill him, or kill himself. We bully and beat the lower orders, and respect in no way the higher classes. A great deal of this is common to all foreigners, but we especially sow the seeds of discord and dislike. The Japanese better classes grow quite alarmed t our customs, they fear they will lose all hold on their poorer countrymen, and though some Japanese may like you individually they hate your country. To the proud Japanese it must be painful to see the air of superiority the commonest foreigner assumes in his presence, and I have great doubt whether Brown or Japanese or Robertson would not go full gallop through a procession with the Tycoon at one end ad the Mikado at the other if sad experience [Namamugi Incident] had not proved the danger of such an experiment. We may disguise it as we like, we are a set of tyrants from the moment we set foot on Eastern soil and we cannot help it, it is I fear inherent in the nature of things, the less civilized man must suffer in the ratio of his ignorance by intercourse with his more intelligent brothers. "(Cortazzi, 2013, p.61)

I am not entirely sure to whom in the last clause the good doctor refers to. I hope, and believe, he is suggesting that the British were ignorant and uncivilised compared to the Japanese and "suffered" in the sense of being tyrants, insufferable.

Cortazzi, H. (2013). Victorians in Japan: In and around the Treaty Ports. A&C Black.

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Big Ben: Japanese boasting and sex

Big Ben: Japanese boasting and sex

Linguistic self-enhancement has generally been considered to be rather disgusting in Japan, or at least something that the Japanese have avoided. In my experience, and in historical accounts of Western impressions of Japan, boastfulness is almost completely, and notably, absent.

One of the few accounts of Japanese boastfulness is that of a highly Westernised scholar of things Western (rangakusha). After several months in captivity in Japan, the Russian spy Vasiliĭ Mikhaĭlovich Golovin remarked in 1811 that the Japanese geometrician and astronomer, Mamia Rinso (Mamiya Rinzo) "manifested his pride, however, by constant boasting of the deeds he had performed, and the labours he had endured." (Golovin, 1824, p284) but further that, "I must here remark, that this was the first Japanese ventured, in our presence, to swagger and assume // importance on account of his military skill, and his vapouring made not only us but even his own countrymen sometimes laugh at him. " (Golovin, 1824, pp. 285-286). In other words, the only Japanese person to boast, in Golovin's experience, was one who had been influenced by Western culture.

I have found two other records of instances of boastfulness in Japan in the pre-twentieth century historical record and both of them relate to sex.

"One old couple, who kept one of these shops, we were on intimate terms with; that is to say, we seldom passed without a few words to them. One day, seeing the old woman by herself, we asked her wherever husband was, and were told that she supposed 'he was after the girls', after which she laughed, as if delighted at the idea of having such a gay old dog for a spouse...
The next time we visited the shop, we rallied the old fellow on being such a gay Lothario; be he did not seem as proud of the reputation as his wife was, and indignantly declared the aspersion cast on him to be totally without foundation. We were half inclined to believe him, and even now think that the old woman's statement may have only been a vainglorious boast"(Cortazzi, 2013,, p67)

Edward de Fonblanque writes, in 1860, of another rare instance Japanese boastfulness, which is also sexual.

"Nor were business wants alone consulted, for the Government had considerately provide a magnificent building, all lacquer and caving and delicate painting, in which the Tojin [Foreigner] might pass their leisure hours in the company of painted musume [literally daughter, but the meaning her is girl], dressed in gorgeous robes, and coifées in the most wonderful manner.
I visited the Gankiro, taking the precaution to go there in broad day, and for my character's sake, in good company, and was a little startled at the systematic way in which the authorities conduct this establishment. Two officers showed us over the building, and pointed out its beauties which as much pride as if they were exhibiting an ancient temple sacred to their dearest gods. This was the court-yard; that was to be a fish-pond with fountains (the building was still incomplete at this time); in this room refreshments might be procured -that was the theatre; those little nooks into which you entered by a slide panel in the wall were dormitories, encumbered with no unnecessary furniture, there, affixed to the walls, was the tariff of charges, which I leave to the imagination; and in that house, across the court, seated in rows on the verandah, were the moosmes themselves. We were invited to step over for its was only under male escort that they might enter the main building? My curiosity had, however, been sufficiently gratified and I departed, quite ready to believe in anything that might hear as to the morals of the Japanese. (Cortazzi, 2013, p274.)

The Japanese are perhaps similarly reserved towards boastfulness and sexuality. Japanese humour, unlike that of the British, rarely revolves around innuendo. But in my experience (and research on the latter), both sexuality and boastfulness do appear when the Japanese have been drinking.

For example when attending a party with some Japanese sports persons, I found myself invited to drink at a table of similarly inebriated Japanese. It was late in the day, we had all had a few glasses of sake. One gentleman asked mischievously "So you are English? (omitting the subject and particles) England has Big Ben doesn't it? / You have a big ben don't you?" (イギリス人ですか。*ビッグ・ベン*はありますよね?). I think my host repeat "big ben", nodding in a conspiratorial way for emphasis. This was a very rare case of innuendo and inviting the opportunity to boast, once again on a sexual topic, which from a Japanese perspective may regarded, with some disdain - but at times enjoyment - to be of similar ilk.

Is there any inherent connection between linguistic self-enhancement and sex? Or on the contrary between visual self-enhancement and the storge appreciation of cuteness? Some theoreticians of language, its origins and merits suggest that it may have something do with peacocking. Derrida argues that linguistic thought, as self addressed love letter, is like onanism. One of the characteristics of linguistic as opposed to visual self-enhancement is that it takes places inside rather than outside the head. While linguistic self love becomes silent, ashamed, and interior (see Vigotsky on self-speech and the way it becomes hidden) visual self-love always presupposes an exterior, viewer. Does the interiority of self-serving interior dialogue, knowing oneself via ones self-narrative, imply or promote a sexual "autoaffection"? I tend to think so.

I think I told my hosts that I had not seen Big Ben. Lame!

Image of Big Ben from Wikimedia
Cortazzi, H. (2013). Victorians in Japan: In and around the Treaty Ports. A&C Black.
Golovnin, V. M., Rīkord, P. Ī., & Shishkov, A. S. (1824). Memoirs of a Captivity in Japan, During the Years 1811, 1812, and 1813: With Observations on the Country and the People. H. Colburn and Company.

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Richard Cocks (1566–1624)

Much is known about the "the first English man in Japan" William Adams of Gillingham, Kent, who was to become Miura Anjin and the basis for the novel Shogun. Richard Cocks, from Staffordshire, arrived in Japan about a decade after Adams and remains in relative obscurity. Cocks stayed in Japan ten years, tried and failed to set up a traiding "factory," to rival the Dutch, and died on the way back to England in discrace, to be buried at sea, "under a discharge of ordinance." His diary of his life in Japan can be read for free online. http://flic.kr/p/tc66sd

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Summer and Winter Costume

Isabella Bird (1880) notes that the strangest thing about Japan or perhaps the strangest sight of her life (last quote) is that in summer Japanese men went around mainly in their loin-cloths (which she calls "maro") or sometimes nothing at all. "The houses are very poor, the summer costume of the men consists of the maro (fundoshi) only. "p. 245 "As far as I could see across the slush, there were wheels at work, up which copper-skinned men, naked, except for the maro or loin-cloth, were industriously climbing." p.85 "You see the father who wears nothing but a maro in the bosom of his family. " p.139 "Few of the men wore anything but the maro"p. 187 "The men may be said to wear nothing" p.150 "Do you remember a sentence in Dr. Macgregor's last sermon? "hat strange sights some of you will see!" Could there be a strange onr that a decent-looking middle aged man, lying on his chest in the verandah, raised on his elbows, and intently reading a book, clothed only in a pair of spectacles. "p.128 Bird, I. L. (1880). Unbeaten Tracks in Japan: An Account of Travels in the Interior Including Visits to the Aborigines of Yezo and the Shrines of Nikkô and Isé. J. Murray. Bird, I. L. (1880). Unbeaten Tracks in Japan: An Account of Travels in the Interior Including Visits to the Aborigines of Yezo and the Shrines of Nikkô and Isé. J. Murray. http://flic.kr/p/sfwakV

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Intimacy and Individuation

いくつかのレベルによる親密さの概念 Figure 1 大坊, 2004, p1. 我々は他者と関係を築き、環境的な相互作用を継続することによって、他者を含めた社会環境において生活することを目指している。このような社会的な関係の要件として、まず他者の存在と、その対人行動がある。この場合の他者は、その当該者の個別的な特徴を反映するだけではなく、働きかける「自己」の行動を映し出す鏡映像となるのもである。この意味するところは、他者の反応である鏡映像によって自分の行動の正当性や自分のいる社会的脈路を知ることができることになる。(大坊, 2004, p1) "We strive to lead our lives in a social environment including others through on going environmental interaction and the formation of relationships with others. The existence of others, and our behaviour toward them is a condition of this sort of social relationship. In this situation others do not only reflect the individual characteristics of the actor but also act as a mirror image of the active self. This means that we are able to know the propriety of our actions and our social contexts, via the reactions of others as mirror image of self. " (Daibou, 20014, p1, Takemoto translation) いつものように、大坊(20014,p1)日本人の自己の他者は他人と論じているが、まず、この他者が「鏡映像」という視覚的なものあることを意識しているようである。一方、大坊先生は、日本人は自分自身を見ることができる。日本人は自分を他人の立場から見ることができる(Cohen & Gunz, 2002; Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008)ということを意識していないようだ。 As always, Professor Daibou too argues that the other that reflects the Japanese self is other people. But firstly he appears to be aware that this other is visual - a mirror image. He does not seem to be aware that the Japanese can see themselves,from the view point of others(Cohen & Gunz, 2002; Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008). If this were not the case, there would be no Individual level in the top part of this graph. Perhaps like Sam Harris, the Japanese are such materialists that they are unaware that matter, and individuality, is an emergent property of dyads or that this diagram needs to be reversed and turned upside down. In the beginning there was not one. The not one dyad has two eyes and no mouth and is rather cute. Bibliography Cohen, D., & Gunz, A. (2002). As seen by the other...: perspectives on the self in the memories and emotional perceptions of Easterners and Westerners. Psychological Science, 13(1), 55–59. Retrieved from http://ift.tt/1H2i1zZ 大坊郁夫. (2004). 親密な関係を映す対人コミュニケーション. 対人社会心理学研究, 4, 1–10. Retrieved from http://ift.tt/1H2i2UA 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 http://ift.tt/1PhAd2i http://flic.kr/p/rQGopK

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Climaticity Quote

From the preface to Tetsuro Watsuji "Climaticity" (Fudo) by  自分が風土性の問題を考え始めたのは、1927年の初夏、ベルリンにおいてハイディがーの『有と時間』を読んだ時である。人の存在の構造を時間性として把握として活かされたときに、なぜ同時に空間性が同じく根源的な存在構造として、活かされて来ないのか、それが自分には問題であった。もちろんハイデッガーにおいても空間性が全然顔を出さないのではない。人の存在における具体的な空間への注意からして、ドイツ浪漫派の「行ける自然」が新しく蘇生させられるかに見えている。しかしそれは時間性の強い照明のなかでほどんど影をを失い去った。そこに自分はハイデッガーの仕組みの限界を見たのである。空間性に即せざる時間性はいまだ真に時間性ではない。ハイデッガーがそこに留ったのは彼のDaseinがあくまでも個人に過ぎなかったからである。彼は人間存在をただ人の存在として捉えた。それは人間存在の個人的・社会なる2重構造から見れば単に抽象的ななる一面に過ぎぬ。そこで人間存在がその具体的なる二重性において把握せられるとき、時間性は空間性と相即して来るのである。ハイデッガーにおいて充分具体的に現れて来ない歴史性もかくして初めてその深層を露呈する、とともに、その歴史性が風土性と相即するものであることも明らかとなるのである。 I started thinking about environmenticity/climaticity (fudo) in the early summer of 1947 when I read Heidegger's "Being and Time." It seemed problematic to me that when time was used to grasp the structure of human existence, spatiality was not used as a fundamental structure of existence as well. Of course it is not as if spatiality does not show its face at all. It seems to me that attention to "livable nature" is resurfacing in the form of German romanticism. However, under in the strong light of attention to temporality, it seems a pale attention to nature indeed. That is where I saw the limits of the Heideggerian thesis. Any temporality belonging to spatiality is not a real temporality. The reason why Heidegger stopped at this juncture is because his Dasein is no more that the individual. He perceived human existence to be the existence of the person. But that is no more than simply the symbolic half of the social personal nature of the individual. Thus when human existence is understood in its concrete duality, temporality will be seen to be equivalent to spatiality. Further, not only will the historicity that receives short shrift in Heidigger become apparent, this historicity will be comprehended to be equivalent to climaticity. Heidegger seems to have taken Descartes' "I think therefore I am" as starting point. Descartes argued that "res extensa", the spatial, this world that we see, can be doubted; it is a realm of fleeting uncertainty. But the thought, in language, that emerges from that morass of extended images exists. It is. Heidegger asked of the nature of this emergent existent and concluded afaik, the "meaning of being is time". Western, narrative entities, subsequently abstractions or fictions, are made of and in time. Watsuji argued that there is another side to humans - not only their self speech - and that rather, the time of the narrative is merely the historicity or movement of nature: everything can be subsumed to space in motion. He did not feel trapped at all. http://flic.kr/p/sndSfg

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Japanese Superstitions

Japanese Superstitions

The Japanese are often described as having little interest in religion. Be that as it may, the Japanese have a great many superstitions. Some of these superstitions originated in religious belief.

For instance, it is thought unlucky for a woman to enter a tunnel construction site, for fear of offending the spirit of the mountain. There are other superstitious prejudices

Many Japanese carry talisman (omamori) and other good luck charms such as that pictured above.

If you select an unlucky fortune strip of paper (omikuji) at a shrine. then you should tie it to a tree at the shrine and leave it there, but if you select a lucky fortune strip then it is okay to put it in. your pocket as a sort of talisman for a while. (Or am I making. this up? No, someone did tell me this once.)

A modern one is, if a couple go on their first date to Disney land, in Tokyo presumably, then the couple will split up Similarly modern sounding is if you pierce your ear and a white thread appears from the hole, then if you pull it you will go blind.

New shoes should be worn (for the first time?) in the morning. I am not sure why but one website claims that it is to discourage people from venturing out at night.

The number 4 is unlucky since it is pronounce in the same way. as the word for death. The number nine is also similarly a homonym. for suffering. These numbers are therefore often avoided in hospital and hotel room and floor numbering systems

The number of strokes it takes to write the kanji in ones name. determines ones luck. This site in Japanese allows you to find. out if any particularly surname, given name combination is lucky. or unlucky. We consulted it when choosing the name of our son. www.naming.jp/

If you whistle at night a snake, ghost or monster will come and get you. Originates in the time when there was slavery in Japan and one would attract a trader (to whom one might sell someone) by whistling at night. Thus children were taught to avoid whistling. at night by stories of snakes and ghosts. This was the 3rd most popularly believed superstition among Japanese men and women in 2006.

There are many superstitions related to the Chinese calendar. and various regular unlucky and lucky days related to Buddhist. 'six day' interpretations of the calendar. A calendar related superstitions that seems to have been widely believed is that females born in the year of the fire horse (every sixty years, last time 1966) will turn into devils and cause suffering to their husband and children. The birth rate nominally declined by 25% in the last Fire Horse year, perhaps partly because those born early and late in those years are registered as having been born the year before or the year after.

Children who go to sleep with their shoes on will die before their parents (or at least that is what I think it means - literally, "will not be present at their parents death"). Apparently this. originates in advice for over protective parents, especially. considering that children use their feet to control their body. temperature so they are better off without nocturnal foot covering.

People who cut their nails at night will die before their parents. Perhaps this is because of the danger of cutting ones self. in the dark and getting an infection. There is also a pun. on "night nails" and "shortening ones time" both rendered Yotsume or Yodzume. This was the most popularly believed. superstition among Japanese men and women in 2006

If you eat seaweed such as wakame and konbu (typically. included in Japanese soups) then you will get more hair. I guess that his originates in the slight visual similarity between thick black Japanese hair and seaweed. I can vouch for the fact that this superstition is untrue, since. I like both wakame and konbu but my hair has fallen out

A cold will get better after you have given it to one hundred. people. Perhaps this is one reason why the Japanese are. particularly keen to wear masks when they have colds. The. mask prevents them from giving their cold to others. If they. did not wear the mask then they would not just be careless, but thought to be selfishly trying to give their cold to one hundred people so as to cure it. This superstition was particularly popular amongst men (4th most popularly) rather than amongst women (9th most popularly believed)

If you hiccup one hundred times you will die. Perhaps this was. a way of getting rid of the hiccups since it is know that concentrating on something (such as a counting task - typically counting backwards from one hundred) is likely to cure ones hiccups

If you see a hearse you should hide your thumb (your parent finger) lest your parent or a relative should die. This is surely partly due. to the pun on thumb (parent finger) and parent. This was the 2nd. most popularly believed superstition among Japanese men and women in 2006

There are many superstitions related to puns and the power of words. It is bad luck to say "go home" or "split" at a wedding lest the bride. or the couple should do just that.

If pull out white hair then you will grow more. This may be said in other countries, and may not originate in Japan

If you sneeze then it means that someone is gossiping about you. If you sneeze once then someone is praising you and if twice. then someone is speaking ill of you

If a tea stalk (a bit of tea) comes to the surface in your tea it is good luck.

Stupid people do not catch colds. This may be a way of consoling. people with colds - at least it proves you are not stupid.

Crows cawing is unlucky.

It rains when cats wash their faces.

If you dream of a snake you will get rich.

Snakes are generally. connected with money. People put snake skins in their wallets. Finding a snake skin around the house is a good thing.

People. born in the year of the snake (like myself) will not trouble for money, apparently.

You should not sleep with your pillow to the North since this is the. way that the dead are laid to rest so that their soul knows to go. in the right direction. I am not sure where (I would have thought to. the West since that is the direction of the pure land, but...)

You should not kill a spider that you see in the morning or night. I think that it may be reincarnated relative that has come to watch. over you. Perhaps

It is unlucky to eat eel and pickled plums (ume boshi). Both. eels and pickled plums are strong tasting salty foods. If one. had the sort of rich taste in food to want to eat both eel and. pickled plum in the same meal then one might have a blood. pressure problem

If you lie down straight after eating then you become (as fat as) a horse. Is this a superstition or just common sense?

Similarly common sensical is that yawns are infectious. They. really are, even among humans and pets.

Stupid people like high places. This is perhaps to encourage. humility. High places suggests the ability to look down on others, which is what stupid people like to do. Alas, I like high places. with good views.

Something that happens twice will happen a third time. A lot. like the Western superstition about bad/good things coming. in threes

If you make 1000 origami cranes (birds) then you will be cured. of disease. This superstition was made famous by the attempt. by Sadako Sasaki, an 9 year old girl at the time when, at home one mile away from ground zero, an atom bomb was dropped on. Hiroshima. At age eleven she developed leukaemia and made. 1300 cranes from medicine wrappers and scraps of paper, before her death at the age of 12. Her story became famous. with the publication in 1977 of "Sadako and the Thousand
Paper Cranes" by Eleanor Coerr

Next ones are a little bit sexual, so do not read on if you find that. sort of thing offensive The only 'superstition' mentioned in the Wikipedia article directly. related to Shinto is that preventing women from entering certain. places, particularly tunnels. The reason being that the god of the mountain, ("yama no. kami") would be annoyed to have another female entering her 'tunnel'. There are many places which women. due to their being defiled are also not allowed to enter such as. behind the sushi bar counter (the fish would rot), a Sumo wring. (the subject of some controversy), the baseball dugout and some. sacred mountains,

If gentlemen or boys urinate on worms then their penis will swell up, and probably not in a good way (judging from the kanji)

The above was based on these Japanese language pages.
Excellent large scale survey of most commonly believed superstitions. according to sex. www.fgn.jp/mpac/sample/__datas__/impacter/200607_29.html.
Wikipedia article on superstitions. ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%BF%B7%E4%BF%A1
Blog article about superstitions. www.mix-up.jp/sakana/archives/2006/02/post_168.html

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Friday, April 24, 2015


Do Foreigners make more Gestures?

Foreigners make more Gestures?

It is a common perception in Japan that non Japanese make more and more exaggerated gestures while talk to each other than Japanese. This excerpt from a comic (Oguri, 2010, p.8) on the differences between a Japanese woman and her foreign husband includes the copy "Well of course foreigners have much more exaggerated gestures, as we all know."

On the other hand, Western perception of Japanese gestures is mixed. On the one hand there is a perception that the Japanese wear for instance a "mask of inscrutability" and are covered "beneath courteous reserve" (Craigie, 2004, p. 172). In Japan "people have to suppress their true feelings practically all the time" (Rice, 2004, p144).

At the other extreme, caricatures of Japanese such as in the Directors Cut of Grand Blue where a Japanese diving coach works his diver so hard the later feints, or Isuro "Kamikazi" Tanaka played by Takaaki Ishibashi "who helps excite the team" with his frantic overwrought gestures in Major League 2. Japanese gestures can appear exaggerated to Westerners too. Part of the reason for both Japanese and Westerners thinking that the other's gestures are exagerrated is likely due to the fact that the gestures themselves are different, and phenomena to which one is not accustomed stand out.

Surprising though it may seem to Japanese, research on nodding beat gestures (Maynard, 1987: see also Kita, 2009) generated during speech production, showed that Japanese approximately four times more nods, once ever 5.57 seconds whereas Americans nod only every 22.5 seconds (informal study, Maynard, 1987, p602, note 4). Both Japanese and Americans nod at the beats, and baton touch turn-taking position. But Japanese nod, not only at these times and in the back channel, but also in the middle of their own statements.

So who does make more gestures. A quick comparison of a couple of wedding speakers in Japanese in English on Youtube demonstrates the source of this difference. Americans wave their hands more and use obvious exaggerated, semi iconic facial gestures (like those caricatured above) more liberally but Japanese use a great deal of nodding and bowing to emphasise what their are saying, demonstrate sincerity and as beats. No wonder Japanese speakers get "shoulder ache" (katakori). Conclusive research on the relative importance of gesture remains to be done.

The Japanese, like Italians, also have a wide lexicon of iconic gestures that can be used in place of speech. And as always, I argue that Japan is NOT a high context culture (Hall, 1966; Honna, 1988: see Tsuda, 1992) but that visual communication is the central media and in Japan language is considered to be part of the context. This means that language will often be used to express flattery and other pleasantries (tatemae, such saying "I'll think about it") in stead of "no". Whereas the true meaning (honne) is expressed in the face, posture, pause and expression. Returning to Major League 2, for all his exaggeration, famed Japanese comedian Takaaki' Ishibashi's caricature of the Japanese is faithful. His expressions move from one form to the next like a Kabuki actor, or Kyari Pamyu Pamyu, nothing is left to chance, there is in Barthes' words "perfect domination of the codes" (1989, p.10)

The closest that a Western scholar gets to recognising that gesture and the non-verbal could be central to self and meaning in Japan is Roland Barthes' "Empire of Signs" (1983) (based in part on the observations of Maurice Pinguet).

Now it happens that in this country (Japan) the empire of signifiers is so immense, so in excess of speech, that the exchange of signs retains of a fascinating richness, mobility, and subtlety, despite the opacity of the language, sometimes even as a consequence of that opacity. The reason for this is that in Japan the body exists, acts, shows itself, give itself, without hysteria, without narcissism, but according to a pure - though subtly discontinuous - erotic project. It is not the voice (with which we identify the "rights" of the person) which communicates (communicates what? our-necessarily beautiful-soul? our sincerity? our prestige?) but the whole, body (eyes, smile, hair, gestures, clothing) which sustains with you a son of babble that the perfect domination of the codes strips of all regressive, infantile character. To make a date (by gestures, drawings on paper, proper names) may take an hour, but during that hour, fur a message which would. be abolished in an instant if it were to be spoken (simultaneously quite essential and quite insignificant), it is the other's entire body which has been known, savoured, received, and which has displayed (to no real purpose) its own narrative, its own text. (Barthes, 1983, p.10)

Barthes comes close. He can't help making a "text" of the Japanese body, the only way that he can admit it has meaning since in his hierarchy only language can truly mean (see Barthes, diagram p. 113).
The Hierarchy of the Sign

Barthes famously claims that "the centre (of Japan, the Japanese subject) is empty," and in the above passage that its communication has "no real purpose," but at the same time Japan has forced him to question the purpose of his own vocalisations. And he is wrong that the body talk is erotic. He is talking to and about himself. Japanese signs and selves are cute. The relative absence of words, and the erotic beguiled him to conclude that the centre of Japan is empty. The self and centre of Japan does not have or needs words, but is is far from empty rather visual and raging, fury Kyari Pamyu Pamyu barfing eyeballs full.

Finally, while Merbihain's 93% (Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967) has been rejected even by Mehrabian (Mehrabian, 1995: see Lapakko, 1997) it is clear that non-verbal communication is extremely important. Bearing this in mind the pressing question for me is how Hall (1976) had the gall (!) to claim that those cultures that do not see language as central to human communication are "high context" at all? That nonverbal communication is contextual assumes that language is central, privileged when in fact in Japan, it is often the reverse.

Taking one example, Hall claims that in Japan people expect more of others.

"It is very seldom in Japan that someone will correct you or explain things to you. You are supposed to know and they get quite upset when you don’t. ... People raised in high context cultures expect more of others than to the participants in low-context systems. When talking about something that they have on their minds, a high context individual will expect his interlocutor to know what is bothering him, so that he doesn't have to be specific." (Hall, 1976, p98)

Do Westerners really expect less of others?

I find that in interaction with Japanese I often expect them to have heard my words, the generalities that I have stated, and to apply them across multiple situations. I expect this of them. When I bothered about some situation where previously expressed verbal wishes and requirements are not being met, I expect others to know and get quite upset (like a arrogant fool) when they don't. Americans expect others to understand their generalities - their linguistic expressions - as Japanese expect others to look, mirror and behave appropriate to the situation. This is due to the fact that the central mode of meaning is different not because members of either culture place greater or lesser expectations upon others.

Dumping the hierarchy of the old Western text/context word/world dualism will help us to understand the Japanese and ourselves.

Barthes, R. (1972). Mythologies. (A. Lavers, Trans.). Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Barthes, R. (1983). Empire of Signs. (R. Howard, Trans.). Hill and Wang.
Craigie, R. (2004). Behind the Japanese Mask: A British Ambassador in Japan, 1937-1942. Routledge.
Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond Culture. Anchor Press.
Kita, S. (2009). Cross-cultural variation of speech-accompanying gesture: A review. Language and Cognitive Processes, 24(2), 145–167. doi.org/10.1080/01690960802586188
Knapp, M., Hall, J., & Horgan, T. (2013). Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction. Cengage Learning.
Lapakko, D. (1997). Three cheers for language: A closer examination of a widely cited study of nonverbal communication. Communication Education, 46(1), 63–67. Retrieved from www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03634529709379073
Maynard, S. K. (1987). Interactional functions of a nonverbal sign Head movement in japanese dyadic casual conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 11(5), 589–606. doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(87)90181-0
Mehrabian, A., & Ferris, S. R. (1967). Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 31(3), 248. Retrieved from psycnet.apa.org/journals/ccp/31/3/248/
Oguri, S. (2010). Dārin wa gaikokujin.
Rice, J. (2004). Behind the Japanese mask--: how to understand the Japanese culture-- and work successfully with it. Oxford: HowToBooks.

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Monday, April 20, 2015


Sorting by Words and Images

Sorting by Words and Images

Norenzayan, Smith, Kim, & Nisbett (2002) cool research on how Westerners and Asians sort shapes into groups (figure 4 of which reproduced above without permission) is described as a preference for formal or intuitive reasoning. Masuda (2010) describes it under the rubric of his and Nisbett's (2004) distinction between "analytic and holistic thought." Asians sort the left target images into the left hand groups and the right target images into the right hand groups whereas North Americans sort them in the reverse ways.

The reason for this difference is, it seems to me, that the Asians are sorting the target images according to visual similarity according to their face since the visual is felt to be important and alive.

W.I.E.R.D. (Henrich, Heine & Norenzayan, 2010) Westerners, infected as they are by the addiction to hearing themselves speak are looking for a linguistic rule to apply and find it in the 'hair' of the shapes right and the stalks of the flowers left and apply that rule. The hair and the stalks are in a sense in the background. The faces of the little men and flowers are focal and yet, Westerners are not talking to the "The Boss" (Masuda, 2010) the faces of the men and flowers, but to the "trees" (Nisbett, 2004) the minor background details. The reason for this is that Westerners believe that language is the vector of meaning and life.

To humans, life is meaning (Heine, Proulx, & Vohs, 2006) but Westerners hear meaning in words, and Japanese see meaning in faces and characters.

Image based upon figure 4 page 664 of (Norenzayan, Smith, Kim, & Nisbett, 2002)
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature, 466(7302), 29–29.
Heine, S. J., Proulx, T., & Vohs, K. D. (2006). The meaning maintenance model: On the coherence of social motivations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2), 88–110.
Masuda. 増田貴彦. (2010). ボスだけを見る欧米人 みんなの顔まで見る日本人. 講談社.
Nisbett, R. (2004). The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why. Free Press.
Norenzayan, A., Smith, E. E., Kim, B. J., & Nisbett, R. E. (2002). Cultural preferences for formal versus intuitive reasoning. Cognitive Science, 26(5), 653–684.

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Reciprocal Resurrection of Simulacra

Reciprocal Resurrection of Simulacra

This essay explores the intersection between Derrida's Post Card (1987), and Baudrillard's simulacra (1995) in Western and Japanese culture: word/idea pairs and images respectively.

Most Western philosophers are unintentionally obfuscating. They want to tell their readers that it is okay, That the way we understand the world is not a grotesque lie. A few, larger French philosophers such as Baudrillard (1995) and Derrida (1987, 1998, 2011) attempts to pull the lie apart, to expose its untruth. But, because they are polite and the lie ingrained, they is not quite persuasive enough. Obfuscators take the mickey out of their "Parisian logic" (Mulligan, 1991).

In order to see oneself it is self-evident that one has to model the perspective of an other and or mirror. However, when talking about oneself to oneself, this need for another, real or simulated, is not apparent. Many clever people (I am thinking of Steven Heine e.g. in Heine, 2003) claim that face, or image is essentially for others whereas language, (that most social of media!) and our Western narratives selves are for ourselves.

Indeed, most Westerners think, that when they think they are thinking, talking simply to themselves (and not to Mel Gibson's Satan, above right). Seeing oneself requires a spatial distance that makes the alterity of self-observer far more apparent. But speaking, hearing oneself speak, does not seem necessarily to involve anyone else, real or imagined, at all. Derrida rejects this possibility forcefully (Garver, 1973).

The truth in my humble opinion, and experience is, that as Derrida argues, speaking to oneself does require an other, simulated or real. But few people, or atheists at least, seem to realise this. How can I convince folks of the truth, that self-narrative requires an other to be meaningful?

Derrida's gambit is something on the lines of the following.

When I talk about myself I use signs, signs like "Tim" and "I". Each time I say or think a sign I may be slurred or abbreviate but for the phoneme to mean, it needs to be one of a group of other iterations of the same sign. Signs are iterative. I can say Tim TIM Tm, tem, timu, timm, with all sorts of slurings and blurrings but for "tim" to mean me it must be member of the set of signs that are iterable. It must be one of the sayings of "Tim." "Tim" as a sign is a sign by virtue of the fact that it is recognisable and distinguishable from tin (can).

Therefore, Derrida opines, since signs have this property in themselves of being repeatable and recognisable their use implies a distance or disappearance of the subject that uses them. Derrida fundamental insight is I think that this iterability implies speech is no different from writing.

Mulligan (1998) is right to point out that it is going to be difficult to convince anyone that the iterability of signs implies anything threatening about the Western self. Conversely, the fact that signs are iterable (repeatable in time) is a phenomena that obfuscating philosophers have used as evidence for the existence of "presence:" the co-temporal, co-presence of "ideas".

That signs are essentially "iterable" is a proposition that Derrida gets from Husserl who he paraphrases in the following way.

"When in fact I effectively use words, and whether or not I do it for communicative ends (let us consider signs in general, prior to this distinction), I must from the outset operate (within) a structure of repetition.... A sign is never an event, if by event we mean an irreplaceable empirical particular. A sign which would take place but “once” would not be a sign; a purely idiomatic sign would not be a sign. A signifier (in general) must be formally recognizable in spite of, and through, the diversity of empirical characteristics which may modify it. It must remain the same, and be able to be repeated as such, despite and across the deformations which the empirical event necessarily makes it undergo. A phoneme or grapheme is necessarily always to some extent different each time that it is presented in an Operation or perception. But, it can function as a sign, and in general as language only if a formal identity enables it to be issued again and to be recognized. (Derrida, 1967, p55—56; Derrida, 2001, p.42 see Mulligan, 1992, p.5.)

Derrida also states more pithily “a sign which would take place but `once’ would not be a sign”

Hansen (1993) traces this distinction too, between sign tokens or instantiations and signs, and points out Western philosophers since Plato and Aristotle have claimed that (Aristotle writes, see Hansen, 1993) "spoken sounds are symbols of affections in the soul, and written marks symbols of the spoken sounds. And just as written marks are not the same for all men, neither are spoken sounds. But what these are in the first place signs of-affections in the soul-are the same for all; and what these affections are likenesses of - actual things - are also the same."

This is basically the same argument as presented by Husserl about 2000 years earlier. Our feeling of their being identity in difference, of a unity, despite multiple instantiations, demonstrates to us that there must be existences underpinning them. Words are somehow the same every time we use them. This is not true, but we feel it strongly.

I think it is possible to be far more persuasive, and threatening, by taking a detour through Japanese culture. The use of Japanese culture as an analogy is similar to writing a book of self addressed postcards (Derrida, 1987) to illustrate the weirdness of self-addressed speech, except that the Japanese, unlike the postcard writer of Derrida's book (ibid), are not fictional, and I believe they send themselves blank postcards - images without words (Kim, 2002) in the form of selfies, purikura (Toriyama et al., 2014), souvenir photos (kinenshashin: see Davidson, 2006 p36), third person memories (Cohen, Hoshino-Browne, & Leung, 2007), and autoscopic video games (Masuda and Takemoto in preparation).

I argue that whereas Westerners hear a shared, identical unity behind multiple slightly differing sound tokens, Japanese may feel the same way about images. A copy of a shrine, horse, bonsai tree, karate form or a face, though it changes in each instantiation call to the Japanese mind a similar sense of unity as called to the mind of Westerners when they hear words.

Despite, upon consideration there being a plurality of word phenomena, each instantiation is as good as the others. No word is inferior to another, no word is a copy of another word, since they all refer to a (illusionary) underlying unity. All words are authentic because they match up to ghostly metaphysical meanings. Westerners until Dennet (1992) find it difficult to deny the existence of these idealities, because they are one of their number. Our self, existed traditionally as an idea in the mind of God, or according to Dennet, who somehow manages to obfuscate even as he reveals the truth, is an abstraction or fiction.

Similarly Japanese may be able to feel that "foreign villages" (in Japan - gaikokumura 外国村) are as good or the same as villages abroad, or that video tapes of a deceased grandfather require funeral services just as did the body (image) of their grandfather, or that a sculpture or even a picture of a horse (ema 絵馬) is as pleasing to a god as real horse, or that a mask or face can represent the underlying unity of a person (Watsuji, 2011).

Nowhere are simulacra, or authenticopies, more visible than the Japanese religion, Shinto. Shinto shrines, especially that of the sungoddess are rebuilt (senguu 遷宮) made in miniature for household shrine shelves (神棚), and replicated (e.g. the replica of Ise shrine in Yamaguchi city's main shrine) but in all cases thought to be authentic. Japanese deities are infinity divisible (bunrei 分霊) and and transportable (kanjou 勧請) to be enshrined elsewhere (bunsha 分社). Originally this would require the copying of the object felt to contain the spirit/deity (goshintai 御神体), but more often now simply by stamping the characters on a piece of wood, card or paper to form a sacred token (神符), as in the case of the sacred talisman that serve to transport the deity into household shrines (ofuda お札) and inside protective amulets (omamoriお守り). Sometimes these sacred stamped tokens (shinpu/ofuda神符/お札) were felt to fall from the sky causing great merriment, singing, dancing and tourism("("good isn't it?" or "hang loose" ええじゃないか). Just as the Lords prayer on the lips of one bishop is the same as that on the other so the stamped names of Japanese deities are the same in all their instantiations. Conversely, in Japan words without material representation are felt to be hot air, as the Jesuits lamented being required to bring presents and not express gratitude in words.

It does not matter that faces age, seals smudge, or that there are minor differences between sculpted and real horses, just as it does not matter that I might say my name, or I, with a hoarse voice (To the Japanese the voice is always horse..!). That is not to say that the Japanese are fully identified with their bodies. Traditionally the Japanese were also aware of the field of vision, that which which sees, the mirror as soul. But that space is no different from that which is seen, or rather contains the authenticopies as they are, without their need to be unified and represented by an idea.

Narcissus is a fool for mistaking his reflection for himself but there is identity, Echo, in his voice (Brenkman, 1976). Likewise Susano'o is a fool for repeating his words but there is identity, Amaterasus, in his image. Iterability in time is like copiability in space - there is a ridiculous distance. When Narcissus falls in love with his self reflected in the water we want to shout "but that isn't you!" There is an obvious plurality, a painful not-one-ness. It is as ridiculous to a Japanese person to hear someone speaking to themselves or praising themselves as it is to a Westerner watching Narcissus love his image. in each case evaluating subject can not escape from evaluated object, and the loop is felt incomplete.

These differences in perception depend upon culture not some inherent superiority of one or other media. Writing is no more a record of speech than speech refers to writing.

This is due to the nature of the Other being simulated in the mind. There never was a layer of ideas, or metaphysical realm, just a partner in the heart. Westerners from Plato to Baudrillard (1995) tell us that is God that In the West we feel (and or do not feel) as if a super-addressee is always listening and Japanese feel (and or do not feel) as if someone is always watching.

By "and or do not feel" I mean that the Other is both felt and hidden. That on the one hand I "feel" someone is listening make this preposterous self-speech that I do, even in my head, meaningful, pleasurable but on the other if the door were to open and I were to see what I am speaking to, I would recoil in horror. So in that sense I do not feel the presence of the other. I will come back to this.

I think that the two forms of ridiculous distance should start to erase each other in those that experience them. The way in which Post Cards and images destabilise the structure of the word/idea complex is also discussed by Baudrillard (1995).

Baudrillard writes "[Iconoclasts] predicted this omnipotence of simulacra, the faculty simulacra have of effacing God from the conscience of man, and the destructive, annihilating truth that they allow to appear—that deep down God never existed, that only the simulacrum ever existed, even that God himself was never anything but his own simulacrum—from this came their urge to destroy the images.rage to destroy images." (1995, p4)

Baudrillard's term "simulacra" seems too broad, being used to mean words, images, simulated subject positions and even perhaps the imminent universe. Nevertheless he has a point. It seems to me that the two types of simulacra that I differentiate (Western words, and Japanese images or "authenticopies") should have a tendency to draw attention to the limitations of each, and not so much erase but resurrect (!) or make people aware of God, in one person or another, as intra-psychic other.

By consideration of Edo period artwork and research on Japanese artistic representation (Masuda, Wang, Ito, & Senzaki, 2012) third person memories (Cohen, Hoshino-Browne, & Leung, 2007) the Other of the Japanese is not "in the head" but outside of it, a spatial distance but still in their psyche, that is to say a simulated, undead viewpoint. Japanese ancestors look down and protect. Though simulated, I don't think they could ever be as dead as words and images since it is a simulated subject position, but in the title I am using "simulacra" to be simulated subject positions, a viewer, or hearer. It is really these that have ensured the meaning of Western Words and Japanese images.

Theists experience these subject positions as their Gods: ancestors or Amaterasu, and Jesus. Atheists may experience them as the monsters shown above Sadako of "Ringu", (Nakata, 1998) and Satan of "The Passion of the Christ" (Gibson, 2004).

When Baudrillard further writes "If they [iconoclasts] could have believed that these images only obfuscated or masked the Platonic Idea of God, there would have been no reason to destroy them. One can live with the idea of distorted truth. But their metaphysical despair came from the idea that the image didn't conceal anything at all, and that these images were in essence not images, such as an original model would have made them, but perfect simulacra, forever radiant with their own fascination. Thus this death of the divine referential must be exorcised at all costs." (1995, p4) he is correct to say that images do not require a second term, a "divine referential:" ideas. However, both word/ideas and images do require a third term a simulated hearer/view point. Images exist in the mind of their god unmediated.

Returning to the way in which the Other is and is not here.

Husserl is adamant that no one is listening to thought, and it is precisely this fact, coupled with the fact that he can yet understand himself, that convinces him that something other than what happens when we speak to others must be going on. "He believes that he finds pure expression [of another layer of ideal things] in interior monologue because, in interior monologue, my thoughts seem to be present to me at the very instant that I say them." (VP, p. xxv). This argument convinces cleverer people than me, such as Mulligan.

When a Japanese person is looking at a mirror (which she may not need), or imagining herself, she may feel that that the person in the mirror or the image in her mind is herself. Looking at a Japanese person looking at a mirror I may want to to say "no, that is not you! Look you are on this side of the mirror not that thing over there!" But the Japanese lady is cleverer than me. She "knows", like Husserl "knows", there is no one else in her head, so there is no way someone can watch from the wings to claim "You are not the person reflected in the mirror."

To me sight is always seen by someone (an eye) just as to the Japanese (Mori, 1999) language is always heard by someone (an ear). Language in Japan is always contextual. Sight in the West is always contextual. Conversely, the "third person perspective" (Mori, ibid) exists in language in the West, and in those birds eye views that the Japanese see, feel and represent.

The experience of hearing oneself speak proves to Husserl that speech can be heard and understood without another listener (other than the one speaking) because he feels he is absolutely alone. Specifically Husserl can understand the word "I" to refer to himself.

The experience of seeing oneself imagined proves to Japanese that images can be seen and understood without another viewer (other than the one seen) because she feels she is absolutely alone facing the mirror. Specifically she can understand the image to be herself.

Addressing Husserl, Derrida says that consciousness is temporised, and that the other needed and simulated to understand the interior I is deferred in time. "You don't realise that you are writing letters to yourself in the future/ reading letters from yourself in the past." You are not alone at the level of simulacra.

Addressing the Japanese person I want to say that consciousness is spatialised, and that the other needed and simulated to understand the interior self image is distanced. "You don't realise that you are signing to yourself at a distance/ seeing yourself from a distance." You are not alone at the level of simulacra.

It is so obvious to me, a Westerner, that one can see imagine oneself from the outside. That is obvious to the Japanese too. But if the Japanese have an extra viewpoint that is horrifying, then erasing that viewpoint, and yet at the same time viewing themselves from it, they can misunderstand themselves as that which is seen, forgetting that they are not turning to meet the gaze of a monster, distanced, in the image.

It is obvious to a Japanese person that I can defer understanding, when I practice justifying myself for instance (Haidt, 2001). That is obvious to me too. But I if I have an extra ear-point, a super-addressee that is horrifying, then erasing that ear-point, and at the same time hearing myself from it, I can misunderstand myself as that I am that which is said, forgetting that all I am doing is deferring speaking to a monster deferred. Who am I going to meet?

All is needed for self is an other in mind which is too horrible to be fully aware of. That one is aware of but can not admit of, nor gaze at. Someone you know is there behind a door. Someone that will open a door one day, when Japanese people go somewhere.

That there are two ways of doing this auto-affection (which are interlinked) may at the boundary between the two make obfuscation apparent.

Am I oversimplifying? Regarding Derrida, his translator writes "In other words, if we think of interior monologue, we see that difference between hearing and speaking is necessary, we see that dialogue comes first. But through dialogue (the iteration or the back and forth) of the same, a self is produced. And yet, the process of dialogue, differentiation-repetition, never completes itself in identity; the movement continues to go beyond to infinity; the movement continues to go beyond to infinity so that identity is always deferred. always a step beyond." That sounds very complicated.

But if self-speech is just practice speech (Haidt, 2001) that we do all the time before meeting people to whom we explain ourselves to, then self speech is surprisingly mundane. Self speech might be compared to a love-song to a lover that we'll never meet, or a series of amorous post cards to yourself in the future (Derrida, 1987), or those letters that remain unopened in a Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

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Cohen, D., Hoshino-Browne, E., & Leung, A. K. (2007). Culture and the structure of personal experience: Insider and outsider phenomenologies of the self and social world. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 1–67.
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Dennett, D. C. (1992). The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity. Self and Consciousness: Multiple Perspectives. Retrieved from ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/selfctr.htm
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Saturday, April 18, 2015


Symmetry on Mars

It is often argued that there is something pleasing to the eye about symmetry and Western pottery, textiles, gardens and architecture has a tendency to be symmetrical. Japanese art in the same classes however tends to shun symmetry and aim for assymetry and the "surnatural." Part of the reason for this may be that Japan is a matriachy and it is males that prefer symmetry. In a study of Western males and females, shown above, it was found that males prefered symmetrical designs both in the real world and the abstract, whereas Western women (presumably influenced by males) show little to no preference for the symmetrical. I hypothesise that the the assymentrical looks natural, individual, non-artificial and more attractive, at least to those who prefer those characteristics. Facial symmetry is prefered to varying degree by both sexes, but I believe that women exhibit it more. I think that this because both sexes are bisexual, haunted by simulations and projections of their opposite sex parents, males more so than females. Freud had a very lopsided face. http://flic.kr/p/rU3Fzq

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