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.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Abe and the Medallists

Prime minister Shinzo Abe met with the Japanese Olympic medallists and said fatuous things. This is typical of Japanese politicians. Japanese prime ministers often meet with medallists to have their photographs taken. More surprisingly, when campaigning for office Japanese politicians often say things like "thank you" "please vote for me" "I will try" as opposed to policies, a lot of the time, because the point of these speech acts its to show themselves out on the road speaking. The point of the event pictured above was the photo -- of Abe merging with palpable success personified in the four runners -- that Abe posed for, not the "begging" or "melodrama" that came from his mouth. The fatuous aspirations and requests were merely the context for the photographic main event. In Japan "context" (Hall, 1959) and focus are reversed. Image above a Google image thumbnail search devised to show mainly Abe with medallists. http://flic.kr/p/KyyrAy

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Monday, August 22, 2016


Augmented Irreality: World of Light

World of Light

Japanese children paint cars, trucks, aircraft, including UFOs that then scanned into, and bounce or fly along in, a giant musical city scape traffic jam mural, with which the children can interact. The vehicles are ticklish to the tap. The Japanese children, including my own, go wild because they too are one with the fish: images come to life. Esse est percepi. Video ergo sum.

Before going home the children can have their pictures scanned into onto 3D paper model that they can fold into toy. Their pictures become alive and dwell amongst us.

My video explanation is here

and the production company's explanation is here.

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Friday, August 19, 2016


Gold Spit?

Gold Spit?

No, the name of this Japanese bean paste confectionery does not mean "Gold Spit" but rather means "gold cross guard (of a sword)." The Japanese word for cross guard (of a sword) is rare, so the pun may be deliberate and the misunderstanding, even among its Japanese consumers common. The Japanese have a bit of an affinity for grotesque sounding foodstuffs, such as 'shichocolate' (unchoco) and the more direct 'turd gums' (unchi gum).

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Friday, August 12, 2016


Eyes or the Law

Eyes or the Law
There is quite a lot of research to show that Westerners become pro-social (nicer, more moral) when they are faced with drawings of eyes (Bateson, Nettle, & Roberts, 2006; Francey & Bergmüller, 2012; Haley & Fessler, 2005). Westerners cooperate more (Bateson, Nettle, & Roberts, 2006), pick up litter more (Francey & Bergmüller, 2012), and are more generous in "dictator games" (Haley & Fessler, 2005).

Since my shtick is that the Japanese are always watching themselves, or that in Japan the kind old sun is always watching, I had anticipated a cultural difference in the extent to which pictures of eyes would motivate the Japanese to be prosocial.

First of all I have noted that posters encouraging the Japanese to be prosocial (don't steal, litter, block the doors) often feature eyes, so that is one notch against my theory.

However, reviewing the literature on the effect of eyes on Japanese behaviour, the results are ambivalent.

Kitayama, Snibbe, Markus, & Suzuki, (2004) found that Japanese showed the mere exposure effect, enhancing the value of their own possessions, only in the presence of pictures of eyes. This is noteworthy in that the prosocial norm would be to be humble and efface ones possessions in the presence of others' gaze. I hypothesized that eyes encourage Japanese to evaluate themselves, and that since they show visual self-enhancement, the eyes encouraged them to self-enhance. In other words, the eyes in the poster were felt to be the subject's own eyes rather than the eyes of others.

More recent research (三船 & 山岸, 2015; 三船, 橋本, & 山岸, 2008) found that Japanese favoured an ingroup (a group to which they belong) rather than an outgroup when faced with a diagram of eyes. Without the eyes the Japanese subjects were, if anything, more generous to strangers. The eyes, or at least the Kabuki ones hardly seem to have increased overall average generosity and ingroup favouritism can hardly be described as prosocial. On the contrary nepotism is something that one might expect Westerners to avoid when faced with the gaze of others.

Finally a study published last year (阿部 & 藤井, 2015) attempted to use posters with eyes to encourage Japanese to park their bicycles in the right place. The research had a result but only with the first (left) of the three posters shown above. All three posters have pictures of eyes but only the first poster has a large central pair of ideograms (highlighted by me in red) saying "ILLEGAL." Could it be this rather than the eyes that encouraged those near the first poster to park their bicycles more diligently.

As I argued in respect of Ma Kellam's research (Ma-Kellams & Blascovich, 2013) which found that in a multi-ethnic group, thinking about science made subjects more moral might be due to non-WEIRD subjects being encouraged to think in a more sciencey, category or law bound, way, like the left most "ILLEGAL!" poster above.

So perhaps, mirrors and eyes are to Westerners, what science and the law are to the Japanese. And that is why, even more than posters with eyes, Japan is covered public sooths (標語, see Nakajima, 1999), telling them to buckle up, drive safely, and greet each other. These sooths probably really have an effect! They get the Japanese to appraise themselves linguistically, which is something that the Japanese do not usually do (Kim, 2002).

Francey, D., & Bergmüller, R. (2012). Images of Eyes Enhance Investments in a Real-Life Public Good. PLoS ONE, 7(5), e37397. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037397
Haley, K. J., & Fessler, D. M. . (2005). Nobody’s watching?: Subtle cues affect generosity in an anonymous economic game. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26(3), 245–256. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090513805000036
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. Retrieved from https://labs.psych.ucsb.edu/kim/heejung/kim_2002.pdf
Ma-Kellams, C., & Blascovich, J. (2013). Does ‘Science’ Make You Moral? The Effects of Priming Science on Moral Judgments and Behavior. PLoS ONE, 8(3), e57989. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057989
Nakajima, Y. 中島, 義道. (1999). うるさい日本の私. 新潮社.
Bateson, M., Nettle, D., & Roberts, G. (2006). Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting. Biology Letters, 2(3), 412–414. Retrieved from rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/2/3/412.short
Kitayama, S., Snibbe, A. C., Markus, H. R., & Suzuki, T. (2004). Is There Any ‘Free’ Choice? Psychological Science, 15(8), 527.
三船恒裕, & 山岸俊男. (2015). 内集団ひいきと評価不安傾向との関連. 社会心理学研究, 31(2), 128–134. doi.org/10.14966/jssp.31.2_128
三船恒裕, 橋本博文, & 山岸俊男. (2008). 内集団への利他行動に対する「目」の効果. Presented at the 日本社会心理学会第49回大会, かごしま県民交流センター.
阿部正太朗, & 藤井聡. (2015). 他者の監視を想起させる「目」の絵を用いたポスターによる放置駐輪抑制効果の検証. 都市計画論文集, 50(1), 37–45. doi.org/10.11361/journalcpij.50.37

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The Authenticopiable and the Unique

The Authenticopiable and the Unique
Many Japanese castles, such as those in Oosaka and Nagoya are, like the "foreign villages" (gaikokumura) scattered around Japan, scale models, replicas or fakes, made out of concrete, not the real ting at all, to the Western whispering mind. To the Japanese if they look the same they are the same. The Japanese are going to collect the unique words as stamps. This guide book to the 100 famouse ("named-") castles of Japan contains an "official" stamp collection book. An example of a stamp is shown in red bottom right. To us the situation is reversed: words are the same whereever they are said, but views are unique so we go to see them. How can the world be so inverted?

Each construal depends simply upon whether from out of that cave or 'crypt' of the mind (Abrahama & Torok, 2005), one is looking or listening with 'mother.' For the Japanese the collectable names are on the outside of the head. There is no Other (Lacan, Mori, 1999, p.163) to authenticate them.

Abraham, N., & Torok, M. (2005). The wolf man's magic word: A cryptonymy (Vol. 37). U of Minnesota Press.
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房. See here with quote.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016


The Evil has Landed: Atarimae, Positive Psychology and Judo Bronze Medals

The Evil has Landed: Atarimae, Positive Psychology and Judo Bronze Medals

Japanese post match interviews are to cry for. Of her bronze medal Ami Kondou said, "I guess my parents will say 'well done,' (and for that I'm grateful) but I just feel regret." The judoka pictured above said the traditional, "I feel full of gratitude to all those that made my achievement possible," while clearly feeling other emotions, such as regret, at the same time.

However, while each individual judouka's emotions seem to be similar to those in previous years, several of them are voicing statements which, coming from judoka, are new to my ears.

Specifically, several Japanese Olympic judoka have mentioned that they "should have won (gold)" (勝って当たり前). Ami Kondou said that bearing in mind the large numbers of Japanese judoka, she "should have won." Even Shouhei Oono, who did in fact win gold mentioned, this phrase four times, but as the words of others, not thoughts of his own. Perhaps that is how he managed to break the curse (see below).

"I heard it said, from those around me, that "I should win gold. (Today) I reconfirmed the fact that it is difficult achieve that which one 'should achieve'." "周りの声、金メダルを獲得して当たり前という声が聞こえていた。当たり前のことを、当たり前にやる難しさを改めて感じた。(Kyoudou)(Youtube Video in Japanese)."

Other commentators have noted that this teams inability to be pleased at receiving bronze medals, together with the high number of bronze medals suggests that the team need to be freed from some sort of curse.

I agree. I fear that one or some of the Judo team coaches have been reading "positive psychology" (or Western whispering arrogance) books, and have been persuaded that telling yourself that you "should win" / "must win" will increase confidence, for the win.

As argued by cultural psychologists such as Steven Heine (Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999), this Mohammed Ali style self-praising, ego-boost is by no means a Japanese tradition. Cultural psychologists will tell you that Japanese are instead self-critical, and by focusing on their mistakes and errors (hansei) they go on to remove and improve themselves (kaizen). Certainly there is this aspect to Japanese psychology. Rather than telling themselves that they "should win" the Japanese Judo team should have maintained the challenger spirit that helps to drive Toyotistic cycles of Japanese self-improvement.

For example, the coach of the world beating Japanese women's soccer team showed a video of the Fukushima Disaster on the eve of their final match. Nothing could have been more convincing of their own weakness: anyone can lose everything. That coach, Asako Toyokura, is a genius.

It is not all deprecation, self-sour-grapes, in the Japanese psyche. As argued on this blog, the Japanese indulge in positive visual psychology. The late great Sumo Wrestler, Chiyonofuji, who died 11 days ago RIP, said in a television interview when asked how he recovered from injury, "I imagine myself winning and that there are a lot of girls cheering in the audience." This J-narcissism, rather than the collectivist expectation of gratitude alone, drives the amazing Japanese ability to self-criticise and improve.

The drawbacks to telling oneself we should win must win are not only that it puts a spanner in the Japanese self-improvement cycle. Linguistic self-praise which seems to take place both inside the heart and head, is particularly evil. Mohammed Ali knew, and was not arrogant at home. Whispering praises to oneself linguistically, one can become completely unaware of the need for others, such as "the girls cheering in the audience." As a consequence one can believe ones self-praise completely, as some sort of objective truth, WE MUST WIN, wipe other species (Kashima & Bain, 2016), and in the extreme, wipe out other humans.

Heine, S., Lehman, D., Markus, H., & Kitayama, S. (1999). Is there a universal need for positive self-regard?. Psychological Review. Retrieved from http://humancond.org/_media/papers/heine99_universal_positive_regard.pdf
Kashima, Y & Bain, P. (2016, August, 3) "On Cultural Conceptions of Human-Nature Relationship." International Association of Cross Cultural Psychology Conference. WINC Conference Center, Nagoya, Japan.

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Invaded by Burgers: Kura Sushi

Kura Sushi Invaded by Burgers
Kura Sushi (or "Kula Sushi" in the US) is a chain of superb "revolving Sushi" restaurants. in addition to the sushi which revolves tantilizingly around the store, one can also order sushi to be delivered automatically to ones table via a computer and conveyor belt: a drone sushi shinkansen. At 100 yen for two pieces of sushi, and 150 yen for a bowl of soup, Kura Sushi is truly amazing value for money. The fish used in Kura Sushi tastes very fresh, perhaps due to the high turnover. Kura Sushi is very popular. The above image shows bean curd (miso) soup with shellfish (asari) and seared bonito sushi.

Map of Kura sushi branches is Japan. If you zoom into an area the Goole map should show the Kura sushi branches in that area. There are also 11 branches in the USA and four in Taiwan. The Japanese language list of Kura Sushi branches worldwide is here. The English language website of "Kula Sushi" branches in the USA is here.

It is upsetting to me, however, how Kura Sushi are attempting to foist curry burgers on their clientelle, using the face of a traditional Japanese actor (inset bottom centre, face removed). Unhealthy curry burgers probably have a higher profit margin than deliscious, fresh, healthy Kura sushi. Please repent, Kura Sushi! Kura sushi is wonderful, but burgers will maim and kill the clients.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016


Japanese Deities and Japanese Minds

Japanese Deities and Japanese

Is the mind of a robot, dog, or God something that (1) experiences pleasure and pain, and or (2) has agency in the sense of having the ability to 'think and plan'? Western respondents situated the abilities of their own other minds as shown in the image (adapted from Wegner and Gray, 2016, p7) above.

At the recent International Association of Cross Cultural Psychology conference in Nagoya, professor Yoshihisa Kashima introduced research (Kashima & Bain, 2016) using criterion for mind similar to that of Wegner and Gray (2016).

It seems to me however, that the Japanese see mind in a different way. The Japanese are famous for not planning but reacting to their environment so I think that that they would rate their own minds, according to these criterion, somewhere near the mind of the Western girl (see blue Ninja in the diagram above, added by me). Japanese deities are perhaps 'pure experience' (Nishida, 1992; see shrine gate and mirror icon added top-left by me), only acting when asked**. Japanese deities do not try to interfere, but watch over and protect the Japanese. Their protection is intentional but this intentionality is reactional, and not planned. The 'divine wind' that was felt to protect the Japanese from Mongol invasion was reciprocal to the launch of the Mongol invasion fleet. The watching and protecting (mimamoru) deities have no intrinsic intention to sink ships, but at the same time the ship sinking was quite deliberate.

Planning, future-intent, agency and analytic thought are things that occur when humans are unhappy. Humans whisper to themselves about a better future that they would like to get. The Japanese, being a happy lot, do such analytic thinking a lot less often. The Japanese use their minds, which are at one with their bodies (Yuasa & Kasulis, 1987) for other things.

In particular the Japanese minds use their "mirror neurons" to attend to the behaviour and bodies of themselves (Takemoto, 2012; Hino, 2016) and others. Japanese thinking and agency is typified by a form of visual, atemporal yet spatio-intentional visual attention and intervention, expressed by such words as "omoiyari" (do-thinking, where think, omou, takes a visual object), "kikubari," (share out spirit) "mekubari" (share out one's eyes), and "kitsukai," (use ones spirit). As a group these modes of Japanese thought might be termed 'proactive sympathy'.

Had the Japanese been asked the ability of other minds to perform proactive sympathy, animals may be ranked right up there near the Japanese. If the Japanese had any knowledge of Western minds then, alas, they might rate our ability to perform proactive sympathy somewhere near the level of the "dead woman"* (see image above). All our whispering to ourselves has made us blind.

*It is apt that the diagram above includes the mind of a "dead woman" in view of the fact that the Western mind is inhabited by a dead woman (Abraham & Torok, 2005; Derrida, 2005).

**This is not entirely true. Some Japanese deities intentions in the sense of teleological propensities. Aragami, or wild spirits, such as Susano no Mikoto, do act bringing about calamity unless they are appeased and pacified. Japanese leave rice and rice wine at their shrines. Since Yahweh is felt to be pure intent, and encourages His followers to sacrifice not rice or sake, but themselves, is He the ultimate 'wild spirit'?

Abraham, N., & Torok, M. (2005). The wolf man's magic word: A cryptonymy (Vol. 37). U of Minnesota Press.
Derrida, J. (2005). Foreward to The wolf man's magic word: A cryptonymy (Vol. 37). by Abraham, N., & Torok, M. U of Minnesota Press.
Kashima, Y & Bain, P. (2016, August, 3) "On Cultural Conceptions of Human-Nature Relationship." International Association of Cross Cultural Psychology Conference. WINC Conference Center, Nagoya, Japan.
Nishida, K., Abe, M., & Ives, C. (1992). An inquiry into the good. Yale University Press
Takemoto, T. (2002). 鏡の前の日本人. In 選書メチエ編集部, ニッポンは面白いか (講談社選書メチエ. 講談社.
Wegner, D. M., & Gray, K. (2016). The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters. Viking.
Yuasa, Yasuo, and Thomas P. Kasulis. The body: Toward an Eastern mind-body theory. Suny Press, 1987.
Hino, A. 日野晃. (2016). 新世紀身体操作論【考えるな、体にきけ! 】本来誰もに備わっている“衰えない力"の作り方! BABジャパン.

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Friday, July 29, 2016


The Sound Princess: Japanese Veil

Sound Princess Again: Oto Hime
The sound princes or oto-hime is a device for hiding the sound of ones excretions, which emits the sound of running water. It is made by the Japanese manufacturer Toto. Usually only available in women's toilets (hence my inability to take this photo so far) this one was in the disabled persons toilet. The sound continues, it says, for 25 seconds during which time the user would hope to finish their 'ablutions,' which, disguised by the sounds of running water emitted from this device might not have existed at all.

Since the beginning of time, according to Japanese mythology, the Japanese have endeavoured to hide the desire, sexuality, and nature of women so as to raise the feminine (or castrated feminine) to the level of 'social principle' (Kawai, 1982) or role model.

An as a result all the Japanese to a man, aspire to be a nice kind harmonious watashi a first person pronoun used by men and women, originally only indicating, the woman.

To this day the desire, sexuality, and nature of women is so taboo, so off limits, in Japan that Japanese women: read pornography only about men having sex with men; do not use tampons, use toilets hidden further than those of the gents, laugh behind their hands, wrap themselves in layers layers and of underwear, never suffer from flatulence, almost only use the back-channel in mixed-sex conversation, only moan "no," and use electronic sound-emission devices, such as that shown above to disguise and hide the terrible tinkle or splash.

And I mean terrible. When Japanese women show their true nature, they can often wither Japanese men with a glance.

The noise of the sound princess, and many of the other important meaningless noises emitted by Japanese culture (politician's crooning, sports-persons' shouts, Buddhist chants, pachinko cacophony, mid-day and evening come home Tannoy's, supermarket endless tapes, and New Year's temple bells) may have structural similarities with the Biblical fig leaf and the veil. The sound of the sound princess is a audio cover of female desire, as opposed to a visual cover of male desire.

Click here for YouTube Videos with the sound of the sound princess.

Kawai, H. 河合隼雄. (1982). 中空構造日本の深層. 中央公論社.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016


Coffee Vending Machine Food Preparatation Views

Coffee Vending Machine Food Preparation Views
Just as Japanese ramen restaurants, sushi restaurants, and in the extreme fireside grill (robatayaki) restaurants provide their clean freak, and I argue, scopophilic Japanese clientèle with the opportunity to see their food being prepared, so it is with some Japanese coffee vending machines. The coffee vending machine shown above, equipped with several internal cameras, provides purchasers with a video of their coffee being made (centre top). I should have taken a video of the inspiring internal video.

There is always the possibility that the machine is in fact making coffee using instant coffee powder, and showing everyone the same entertainment video but, even if this were not in Japan, the raw, slightly out of focus, steamy nature of the video made me trust the internal view it provided completely and the coffee taste just a little bit fresher.

Visual information augments, and even overwhelms, that obtained by the nose and the mouth. I hypothesise that even if the machine were indeed really using Nescafe and just showing a fake video, I would be fooled into thinking that the beans were ground and the coffee dripped.

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Shinkansen Bullet Train Urinals

Bullet Train Urinals
Bullet Train Urinals do not have locks. In place of locks bullet train urinals have windows which allow those outside to see if there is someone using the urinal or not. As a senior British male I find it a little uncomfortable to be seen while urinating, and still more for my being seen to be the only thing that prevents people from opening the door while I am urinating - not that anyone would barge in.

Ideally I would like to be able to emerge from a toilette (Americans are so uptight they have to call them "restrooms") secure in the knowledge that those outside in the corridor do not know what I have been doing in the toilet (washing my hands, or even "resting"). In the case of a urinal cubicle, this practically impossible, but the addition of the window and the lack of the lock makes me feel like I have just urinated en plein air. Urinating outside is something that Japanese men did not feel uncomfortable doing as recently as 20 years ago even in groups.

These days it is only young Japanese boys that urinate outside in groups. Using a Bullet Train urinal makes me feel an age younger than with which I feel comfortable. I respect Japanese men for the their lack of prudery. I note however, that Japanese women are so sensitive that not only would it be utterly unaccepted for them to be seen whilst urinating (kami forbid) but Japanese women use electronic devices (otohime) so that they can not even heard urinating. Japanese women can emerge from toilette cubicles in that ideal situation: no one can be sure of what they have been doing.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016


Magearna is Reason and Eve

Many Japanese animated movies are meditations on the problem of science and the West, and attempt to present solutions as to how the Japanese - as represented by Satoshi, the boy with an "electric rat" and a woman's voice - can save the world.

The latest movie (Pokémon the Movie XY&Z: Volcanion and the Mechanical Magearna) from the Pokémon franchise, written by Atsuhiro Tomioka the same writer as the last, replaces Hooper and mini Hooper with Volcanion and Magearna. Volcanion, like Hooper, has a hoop, and is a bit too strong for his and his surroundings' good.

the Exquisite Magearna is the first robotic Pokémon built by the those blue eyed, blonde, science fanatics -- Westerners -- that often feature in Japanese animations. Magearna has a metal body, crucifixes for pupils, and a sciency cog-bonnet. Apart from having her own shell-like monster ball, into which she retreats when she is afraid, and the ability to produce bunches of flowers from her hands that put others (other than Volcanion) into a romantic mood, she does not do much other be "ezquisite." But she has great power.

The reason for this is related to her removalable "soul heart," which seems to be the very core of science. This heart soul is also said, in the catch copy for the movie*, in contradistinction to almost all other Pokémon, to have a voice.

For my money, Magearna is the linguistic Other who whispers in the hearts of Western "men". Sometimes as listener she is called Reason, by Jefferson and Dawkins, and shown the greatest respect.

"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion (Jefferson see Dawkins, 2008, p64)

But her first name was I think Eve, the first in a long line of Western "robotic" pocket monsters. She is robotic in so far as she is linguistic. She doesn't just bond, and sit on the shoulder of her trainers and friends but alas, whispers to them, in romantic voice of her soul heart. She is the Sibyl that Heraclitus writes of.

Her name in Japanese is a pun on "bent hole," but I am not sure if that is any way intentional

This Pokémon movie reached the conclusion that Volcanion should sacrifice himself to save her, and that she should be taken from the land of the blonde blue eyed men and returned to the wild.

I thought Jarvis, the lead scientist and baddie (who is nonetheless forgiven as Japanese baddies always are) a little similar to David Bowie.

I would like to see or write a sequel where it is found that there is a real living pockemon trapped inside Magearna, who is at last released.

*熱き魂(ソウルハート)の声が聞こえるか!? Can you hear the voice of the 'hot soul heart'!?

Why are Pokémon movies and David Bowie better at explaing reality than science? The advance of science may be moved and supported by converse with an artificial monster far more terrible than that pictured above in her imagined Pokémon GO debut.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016


The Chinese and The Japanese

The Chinese and The Japanese
Ruth Benedic's (1946) classic "Chrysanthemum and the Sword" has been popular in China (translated as 菊与刀) selling 70,000 copies in 2005 alone, since it would provide an explanation how the Japanese managed to kill so many Chinese and yet exhibit a level of remorse that the Chinese feel to be very inappropriate. Ruth Benedict's answer is that the Japanese lack a conscience, caring only what other's think about them. A great deal of Japanese believe this theory, which itself originates in a disgruntled Japanese called Robert Hashimoto (Lummis).

More contemporary Japanese detractors of Benedict's theory do not rarely argue that the Japanese do in fact have conscience, under the conventional meaning of that term, but rather that "conscience" in the sense of internal, self-directed, self-reproval simply does not exist. The main reason for this is that they are aware that they judge themselves visio-aesthetically, and this is not something that one can do from inside ones own head. The Japanese forget that the mind is not inside the head -- it is easy to do, I have -- but rather the other way around.

The Japanese are therefore in large part blissfully ignorant of the origin of their own morality, which is, the same as that of the Chinese. Both believe that in addition to the censure of other people, heaven is also judging.

In Japanese parlance the kind old sun is watching (otentou sama ga mite iru. お天道さまがみている。See e.g. Akagawa, 2015) and they'd feel her displeasure should they do anything bad.

This does not explain why the Japanese were able to kill so many Chinese, nor why they do not feel more remorse. In order to understand that one would have to read other books, mainly of a more historical nature.

I hope that the Chinese realise that in fact the Japanese do have a conscience before The Chinese and The Japanese come to blows again.

The images above left are the result of an image search for "”菊与刀” 销量" meaning "sales of 'Chrysanthemum and the Sword'" in Chinese, and the cover of a non-academic book entitled "The Kind Old Sun is Watching" (Akagawa, 2015)

Akagawa, J. 赤川浄友. (2015). お天道さまは見ている. 国書刊行会.
Benedict, R. (1946). The chrysanthemum and the sword; patterns of Japanese culture.

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"I am, Because you are"

"I am, because you are"
The sign reads "I am, because you are" or "You are, so I am," which is the philosophy of interdependence (Markus & Kitayama, 1981), or ubuntu, in a nutshell.

Note however that this Japanese interdependence is in the world of speech. The second line reads, "Lets hail each other, and thereby, together do our best." This the above is a slogan encouraging greetings such as "good morning" and "g'day" which the Japanese favour even more than Crocodile Dundee. In the world of language, the Japanese subject, their "I" is "you for you" (Mori, 1999, p.163 complete quote again below).

The interdependence of the Japanese visual self is a little more nuanced. The visual self-encourages and requires an awareness of the social nature of self, and interdependence due to the scopic necessity of focusing upon a surface. This ostensible 'externality' convinces even the Japanese that they are out and out collectivists.

But in the Japanese case, they also believe that the 'the kind old sun is always watching' (See e.g. Akagawa, 2015). Their belief gives them a good measure of independence, and Morality with a capital M. Even if 'everyone else is doing it', the Japanese avoid doing things that look bad because the kind old sun can see them, and they'd feel her displeasure should they do ugly things.

Akagawa, J. 赤川浄友. (2015). お天道さまは見ている. 国書刊行会.
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.
扨(さ)て私は、「日本人」において「経験」は複数を、更に端的に二人の人間(あるいはその関係)を定義する、と言った。それは一体何を意味しているのであろうか。二人の人間を定義するということは、我々(日本人)の経験と呼ぶものが、自分一個の経験にまで分析されていない、ということである。換言すれば、凡ての経験において、それをもつ主体がどうしても「自己」というものを定義しない、ということである。肉体的に見る限り、一人一人の人間は離れている。常識的にはそこに一人の主題、すなわち自己というものを考えようとする思惑を感ずるが、事態はそのように簡単ではない。それは我々において、「汝」との関係がどれほど深刻であるかを考えてみればある程度納得が行くであろう。もちろん「汝」ということは、日本人のみならず、凡ゆる人間にとって問題となる。要はその問題のなり方である。本質的な点だけに限っていうと、「日本人」においては、「汝」に対立するのは「我」ではないということ、対立するものもまた相手にとっての「汝」なのだ、ということである。私はけして言葉の綾をもてあそんでいるのではない。それは本質的なことなのである。「我と汝」ということが自明のことのように、ある場合には凡ての前提となる合言葉のおうに言われるが、それはこの場合当て嵌まらない。親子の場合をとってみると、親を「汝」として取ると、子が「我」であるのは自明のことのように主和得る。しかしそれはそうではない。子は自分の中に存在の根拠をもつ「我」でなく、当面「汝」である親の「汝」として自分を経験しているのである。Mori, 1999. p.163

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Monday, July 18, 2016


The Light that Watches and Protects

The Light that Watches and Protects
The Japanese represent their ancestors by floating lanterns, that watch over and protect the living. The message, "don't worry, we are getting along together really well. Please watch over and protect us forever," is written on the lantern on the right. The " please watch over us" on the young lady's lantern is prefaced by "Kind old Sun*" since the Japanese traditionally believe that ancestors merge with the Sun(goddess), who is always watching and protecting. The visual aspect of the Japanese Other, watching and protecting as it must an 'external' appearance, convinces most that the Japanese are more collectivist and conformist, but the whispering that Westerners do, though it seems solitary, is no less social. We will realise this eventually.

That it seems as if Tiger Woods' head is appearing from a lantern bottom right is a mere coincidence.

*The literal translation is more like "Mister/Madam Sun". The Japanese salutation "sama" is genderless. "Kind old Sun" is a term of respect and endearment for the sun, like the Japanese original, from Wilfred Owen's poem, Futility.

Central image by Azumi Fukuoka. (2016/7/16). Asahi Newspaper. p1.


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Sunday, July 17, 2016


Secretary and the Beast by Yuu Takahashi

Secretary and the Beast by Yuu Takahashi

This post is of an adult, sexual nature.

At the end of the manga, the "beast" of a company boss has very graphically represented relations every which way with his secretary (aslo) male, in the company shower rooms.

The strange thing is that this is part of a genre of comics (bishounen ai or perhasp in this case close to Yaoi) read predominantly by young Japanese girls, perhaps in their late teens. The reason for this, I believe is, that traditionally in Japan it is only female sexuality and desire which is considered taboo, so as long as their are only blokes, then, while smutty and embarassing, there is nothing really bad about it.

Each society hides the harsh reality of the sexual desire that is at its foundation.

Japanese society is based upon rearing children so wombs, whiles and reality of women's desire is hidden. Women appear only as pretty young men.

Western society is based upon horizontal adult to adult "love." (Childrearing is a bit of a "curse.") The above sort of pornography is a mirrored in that which uses lesbians to titillate Western men. In extremis, the male organ and male desire is hidden or completely absent. Men only appear as vorascious lesbians.

Each to each, the ultimate horror, is unhorrible. At the end of the day, this does not bode well for Japanese Western international relations.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Hanya as First Person Face

Hanya as First Person Face
There is apparently absolutely no connection whatsoever between the character of Hanya, a devil woman, that appears in Noh drama and Shinto mythical plays (pictured above), and the Japanese name for The Heart Sutra which distils the pith of the wisdom of Buddhism into a text of one page. In Buddhist terminology, Hannya refers to knowledge of enlightenment.

The story goes that a Buddhist priest who was adept at making Hanya masks was called "Hanya-monk" (般若坊) due to his predilection for the Heart Sutra, and in any event a purely random connection between the sutra and the mask was made. I will here argue otherwise.

The Heart Sutra (Hanya- Shin-Kyo or Hanya Heart Sutra in Japanese) proclaims that" colour is emptiness" and "emptiness is colour". I can appreciate that assertion. Nishida using the language of phenomenology, asserts the same thing: in the purity of experience, when one has bracketed off all that which can be denied, then this big orb of colour has absolutely no qualities, not even those of subject, nor object which, like our initial certainty of colour (that is "red" isn't it?) dissolve into a purity, about which one can say nothing.

At the same time, I do find it impossible to merge myself with this wall of impossible colours. Intellectually, I agree with Nishida, experientially however, something prevents my dissolution.

Nishida (1965) also claims that the self is is supported by a 'devil hidden in the depths of seeing'. What does he mean?

Going off at what might seem a tangent, Dr. Leroy McDermott (1979), a professor of psychology formerly of the University of Central Missouri, argues that the shape of paleolithic figurines, which tend to be of a plump, lozenge shape, and are found the world over, is not due to the fact that people back then were fat, nor due to some emphasis upon feminine fecundity, but due to the fact that they were of self-person body views.

The first thing that struck me about McDermott's brilliant insight is that I had not even realised that my first person view of my body is any different from the third person view such I am shown in photos or as is reflected in a mirror. It takes however, moment of self inspection to realise that, yes, my hands and feet do of course taper off to spidery extremities, and my chest shoulders and stomach are very large. Even though I am a man, my first person view of myself has full bosom.

My initial interest in Dr. McDermott's research was merely to note that his thesis largely applies to Japanese snow goggle dogu figurines from a similar palaeolithic period. I contacted him with this observation. He responded politely. I wondered whether the famous snow goggled faces of Japanese Venus figurines might also represent a first person view of someone squinting through almost shut eyes.

It was only much later that I became interested in the question as to *why* palaeolithic people made such representations. Here I must respectfully part company with the brilliant Dr. McDermott. He argues that their construction was motivated by a desire for self-representation coupled with the lack of mirrors or reflective technology. But as a McDermott-detractor mentioned to me privately, and as one of the commentators to his paper asserts, even if looking glasses were particularly dark in those days, surfaces of water did exist and, more to the point, sculptors were regularly and universally presented with images of their peers. Even the most primitive person should and would have been able to add two and two, or people and puddle, together. So, there must have been some other reason for the worldwide propensity to reproduce such, to our way of thinking, distorted body views.

This detraction, while tempting, misses a step. It succeeds for me in disconfirming Dr. McDermott's 'lack of mirror technology thesis'. Even palaeolithic sculptors, if motivated solely by the desire to self-represent, would also have been able to extrapolate from puddles and peers. But at the same time, bearing in mind the strong resemblance between palaeolithic figurines and the first person form, as clearly demonstrated by Dr. McDermott's papers, to reject this resemblance as original/causal -- replacing it with some supposed universal woman-shape-worshipping fertility rite -- would be to chuck the baby out with the bath water. The supposed lack of mirrors is bath water, in one way or another. The humongous baby is the amazing and persuasive realisation that the universality of the shape of palaeolithic Venus figurines is due to the fact that they really do represent first person body views. This is the insight that brings science and sensibility to that which was previously considered to be some sort of misguided, magical hocus-pocus.

We are still left with the question as to why did so many peoples all over the globe at a similar stage of human development, find themselves so interested in the form of the first person body view, that they should create sculptures representing first-person-body views over and over again, almost to the exclusion of all other sculptural self-representations? Why were they so obsessed?

I can suggest two reasons from developmental psychology, both of which seem to be overlooked.

The first is that developmental psychologists, from, for example, observation of infants playing the mobiles that are typically left to hang above cribs, reach the conclusion that the first, most primitive, initial, and original recognition and representation of self, occurring many months before we narrate or recognise ourselves in mirrors, is the first person view of self.

Lewis and Brooks-Gunn (1979) for example argue, persuasively to my ears, in the following way.

"Gregory is also about 3 months old. Lately he has begun to coo loudly during those moments between waking and calling his mother by crying. One morning, Gregory's mother walks quietly into his bedroom and finds him awake, on his back, with his right hand extended above him and to the right; his head is turned towards his hand and he is watching his fingers move with considerable interest.

The proprioceptive feedback from the two events and actions (looking and moving one's hands and fingers) are both located in the same nervous system. This example differs markedly from the first since the child can operate on both events, rather than just one event, being external to the organism. The infant, having control of both actions can turn to look at the object or have the object move into the field of vision. This duality of subject and object must represent the beginning of the self as distinct from other." (Lewis & Brooks-Gunn, 1979, p.3.)

Despite the persuasiveness of such developmental psychological theories of the self as originating in self-views, 'this great leap for mankind' is all but ignored in non-developmental psychological theories of the self, such as those of Smith, Mead, Freud, Bakhtin, Vygotsky and the numerous 'narrative self' psychologists. Where did the first person view self disappear to?

And this brings me to my second and more important reason why palaeolithic people the world over may have been interested in representing their first person view of self, which is because she was then, and is now, still here. That deserves capitalisation, and then some. SHE IS STILL HERE!

My sudden use of the feminine pronoun "she" to refer to "the first person view self," runs ahead of its explanation.

In the same aforementioned, fairly mainstream scholarship of the self -- Smith, Mead, Freud, Bakhtin, Vygotsky and others -- there is also mention of the need for an intra-psychic other: some one else in our mind (!). This very peculiar "other" is argued to be essential, but at the same time it is given short shrift. Very little explanation is given of what, where, and how, this most proximal of others might be.

Re-enter the first person self-view, which is closer than the veins in our neck.

Upon inspection of the features of my my own face from my first person view point, it seems to me that it has considerable similarity with the features of the classic, devil woman Hanya mask of Japanese dramatic art.

Note first that Hanya does not look anything like real Japanese ladies, who tend to have small noses, flat cheekbones, and small round chins.

My first person view of my face, and the first person view that Japanese ladies and men have of their faces, however has quite a lot in common the features represented by the Hanya mask. While, unlike Dr. McDermott, I find myself unable to take a first person perspective photo of my face from my the perspective of my own eyes, I hope readers will be persuaded that (numbers correspond to those on the insert bottom left)
1) The nose in both is extremely large at least for a Japanese woman (the Western version of Hanya would be even more grotesque)
2) Our brow impinges upon our view such as is suggested by Hanya's overhung brow
3) The cheeks in my first person view and Hanya's face, protrude absurdly
4) Nothing is visible of my lower face except, with effort my lower lip which may explain the protrusion of Hanya's chin. In other words, my first person face view is all squeezed up around my eyes, with a glimpse of bottom lip like this representation.
5) Unless I or any woman, were to have a long fringe ony that would be visible. My forehead, upper head and hair (if I had any) is invisible. The small forehead of the hanya mask is more appropriate than the my mock-up in the insert.
6) Our mouths are invisible. I am not sure why they are large. The related Shinja ("true snake") mask is portrayed with a tongue which I can see if I stick it out.
7) Our eyes about which our first-person view of our face form but glimpse of a frame, contain the whole world of "colour" or light. As such they may be said to be "metallic" like the tain of mirror, or as in the case of the larger mask, on fire.

This hypothesis does not explain the fangs or horns but if my first person view is really the place where the "demon" (Nishida) is lurking, then their addition may help to that Hanya's countenance is so terrible, that I am generally unable to become aware of her.

And by this means, it is with Hanya's help, I think, that I believe that I am my third person self-representations, and that my representations of others, these little people that walk across my visual field are not empty, but real. I propose therefore that when one sees the truth of the Heart Sutra, one meets Hanya, and vice versa.

The naming of the Heart Sutra is initially quite fortuitous, but turns out to be, in retrospect, no coincidence. That monk knew what he was going on about.

Hanya and my heart are two sides of the same emptiness. Or rather, at the edge of that emptiness, Hanya stands guard.

In other cultural contexts Hanya may be referred to as "the whore." I prefer Hanya since it implies respect.

The main image top centre is a picture of an excellent handcrafted Hanya Craft Mask available for purchase from The Japan Store.

Lewis, M., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1979). Social Cognition and the Acquisition of Self. Boston, MA: Springer US. Retrieved from link.springer.com/10.1007/978-1-4684-3566-5
McDermott, L. R. (1996). Self-representation in Upper Paleolithic female figurines. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 227–275. websites.rcc.edu/herrera/files/2011/04/PREHISTORIC-Self-R...

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Monday, June 27, 2016


Sooth Pilgrimage

If the comforter watches but does not listen, then there us no objective "third person perspective" (Mori) so language is contextual, situated, out there, and one must travel to where language was uttered to understand it. The farmer who returned from Tokyo to his home town in Hokkaido, upon whom the famous Japanese television series, "From the North Country," (北の国から)is based, said "Receive from nature. Be humble". Japanese tourists, or sooth pilgrims, travel to where sooths were uttered, there receiving it, for that is where the sooth is. The Japanese world is not "inside out", as I have claimed, but has rather no inside nor out. The world is the sensations (Mach). The self is the world and the world is self (Nishida). http://flic.kr/p/JrF7Dt

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Monday, June 20, 2016


Asian Holisim is Happier: And how happy are you?

Asian Holisim is Happier: And how happy are you?
In each of 1a, 1b, 1c and 1d in the above image, which of the two (left or right) figures resembles most the figure above them? This is a test of happiness!

Fredrickson & Branigan(2005)had subjects watch videos of penguins, nature, abstract sticks, a climbers fall, and bullying to promote: pleasure, contentment, the absence of emotion, fear and anger respectively.

Subjects were then shown the four diagrams 1a, 1b, 1c and 1d above which show a single figure above two others and asked which of the two, left or right most resembles the one above. The right hand figure is made up of the same fundamental building block ■ or ▲, whereas the left hand figure is made of the opposite building block but is arranged holistically in the same way as the figure above.

It was found that the more positive emotions resulted in more holistic (left hand) resemblances as per the graph below (with the emotions in the same order as given above). This suggests that those that see the world holistically are happier and those that see it parts, may be in a more negative affective state.

Due to the higher suicide rate in Japan, and naff surveys purporting to guage the well-being of a nation based on one culturally laden question, one is often led to believe that the Japanese are bunch of unhappy people. I think this is very misleading. The higher suicide rate in Japan is due in large part to less negative appraisals of choosing the time and place of ones own death. It is further noted that East Asians in particular and Japanese in general tend to see the world in a more holistic way (Masuda & Nisbett, 2001; McKone et al., 2010). I think that this may be in part because the Japanese are in fact happier.

Fredrickson & Branigan(2005)は、ペンギン・自然・抽象的な模様・登山家の事故とイジメのビデオを使って、喜び・満足・無感情・恐怖と怒りの感情を被験者に持たせ、どれだけ全体的⇔局所的な注意を行っているかを調べた。下記のそれぞれの1a, 1b, 1c, 1dにおいて、上にある形状は下の右か左のどちらに似ているかという質問に対して
1 a左右
1 b左右
1 c左右
1 d左右



Fredrickson, B. L., & Branigan, C. (2005). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought‐action repertoires. Cognition and Emotion, 19(3), 313–332. http://doi.org/10.1080/02699930441000238
Masuda, T., & Nisbett, R. E. (2001). Attending holistically versus analytically: comparing the context sensitivity of Japanese and Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(5), 922. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/81/5/922/
McKone, E., Aimola Davies, A., Fernando, D., Aalders, R., Leung, H., Wickramariyaratne, T., & Platow, M. J. (2010). Asia has the global advantage: Race and visual attention. Vision Research, 50(16), 1540–1549. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2010.05.010

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Does the Ladder of Life Exist?

The United Nations publishes a world happiness report based upon data from a Gallup survey, ranking countries according to their level of happiness. The Danes game out top. The Japanese were 53rd, one third of the way down the 150 or so countries, which is irregular bearing in mind their high GDP per capital with which "happiness" is shown to correlate.

It transpires however that the Gallup survey does not measure anything I recognise as happiness at all. The actual, and single, question that determines national happiness is as follows.

“Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?” (From the statistical appendix of the report)

(In my Japanese 「0」という一番下の段から、「10」という一番上の段のある梯子を想像してください。一番上の段は、あなたにとって自分の一番よい人生で、一番下の段は自分の一番悪い人生を表しています。今現在、梯子の何番目の段に立っていると感じるといえるでしょうか?)

While the notion of a variety of lives, and the possibility of my being able to live any other life but the one I am living is a little fraught, it is at least imaginable. I might never have left the UK. I might have married someone else, etc.

As the famous song by Chiyoko Shimakura goes, people lead and we all could have lead a variety of lives. Life is varied. And by implication in the song, while life has its ups and downs, it is all good.

The notion on the contrary that these lives could be ranked and arranged in a vertical hierarchy with the "best life" at the top and "the worst life" at the bottom is far more difficult to grasp. It seems to me that certain negatives accompany positives (such as the envy of others with success), and positives with negatives (such as emotion, and humility with suffering).

That this imaginary vertical ranking of lives transpires to correlate - in most instances - with wealth may be because it is in fact encouraging respondents to economically appraise their own lives, ranking it in quantitative terms -- "I've done okay" "I've done well" -- in none other than in dollars and yen. In any event the suggestion that this one question plumbs the depths of national well-being or that it should be used to guide political policy seems to be to be quite absurd, especially in view of the way in which Westerners answer such questions in so unrealistically positive ways. But alas, this and similar measures are being used to inform political policy and the need for public spending. We are not high enough on the ladder. So, do we need to spend more?

The ladder of life does not exist so we should give up trying to climb it.

The above image contains a detail from a still from Chiyoko Shimakura's video for "Jinsei Iroiro" (Lit "Life Variety" or "Life has its Ups and Downs").

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