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.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


Visual Conscience Displayed Visually

Visual Conscience Displayed Visually
In this all too Japanese ukiyoe - picture of the floating world - admonishing "kogaeshi" (lit. "returning ones child) or the practice of infanticide, a Japanese mother is shown in the act of killing her unwanted child even as she thinks, pictorially, of her judgement by Enma, the Japanese St. Peter, at the gates of hell (rather than heaven), who will look in his book (enmachou) as St. Peter also does, and then show her deed in his mirror-come-DVD or her whole life, which St. Peter does not do.

In the DVD come mirror of her conscience the woman's face is transformed into that of an ogre.

The Japanese have a visual, rather than linguistic conscience, and their self esteem is stored and cognised largely in their self-appraisal (generalised other's/impartial spectator's/ superego's appraisal) of their own face.

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Gaze Synchrony even during Sex

Shared Gaze even during Sex
Osamu Kitayama points out that there are many Japanese woodblock prints - Ukiyoe or Pictures from the Floating World - which feature the shared gaze of children and mothers. These images of mothers and children often feature mothers drawing their child's attention to some fleeting "floating" phenomenon such as cherry blossom, bubbles, or a kite. In this pornographic image - Shunga - both parents are watching their son's paper plane as they engage in mutual masturbation.

Professor Kitayama almost but does not quite reach the conclusion that I would like him to reach that, Japanese here pictured and viewing, are always still gazing with mother because they have simulated the gaze of their mother in their minds.

北山先生は、共に見ることが日本人の成長過程や 精神構造について何かを表していると、母親たちが風船やシャボン玉などの浮いているはかない物を子供に見せながら子供と共に見ていることが浮世絵で表されていると、子供たちがオヤジ顔で、浮世絵を眺めているオヤジを表していると、共に見ることが小津の映画などの現代の芸術表現でも繰り返されているとしかし、何を表しているかについては語っていません。それは優しいです。共視論ご発表の3年ぐらい前に、北山先生に拙い逆ラカン理論を口頭で北山先生が久留米の石橋文化センターで講演会を行う直前(直後)に説明させていただきました。


しかし、日本文化について評論する森有正や、日本人についての実証的研究(Kanagawa, Cross, & Markus, 2001)では、日本人は社会から離脱している「第三者」を形成していないと思われる。


このお化けのような内面的な他者の仕組みや自己の二重性に気付いてしまうと、自己の存在を支えている偽りが見えて、自己の死を意味することですので、ほんとうに恐ろしいです。欧米のホラーでは言語的な呪文などの中から、死神やゾンビーが登場するが、日本のホラーではお化けの女性(サダコなどなど)がイメージから出て、日本人をイメージに化しています。バルタン聖人も。JU-ON(The grudge)ではKayakoが現像液の中から現れて、男を現像液に連れ込むシーンが好き。

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (V. W. McGee, Trans., C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds.) (Second Printing.). University of Texas Press.
Freud, S. (1913). Totem and taboo. (A. A. Brill, Trans.). New York: Moffat, Yard and Company. Retrieved from http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Totem_and_Taboo
Kanagawa, C., Cross, S. E., & Markus, H. R. (2001). ‘Who am I?’ The cultural psychology of the conceptual self. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(1), 90–103.
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.
Smith, A. (1812). The theory of moral sentiments. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=d-UUAAAAQAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP18&dq=%22The+Theory+of+moral+sentiments%22&ots=mjeEAFSIge&sig=LNXhHkNjKAWc2r9r_KiRDFxn_Pg
北山修. (2005). 共視論. 講談社.
森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014


Children's Picture Book about Urination

Picture Book about Urination
As previously noted (1, 2)Japan is human waste friendly. This children's picture book is not so much about potty training, as a book that takes the tittering out of tinkling.

It simply shows that Nontan, the cat pictured and all his friends, urinate, and that sometimes (as in this case) this may happen accidentally. On each of the pagers there is either a picture of one ore more characters saying "what is that tinkling sound?" or a picture of one or more characters urinating. On the final page of the book (above) the titular character is shown wetting himself. The book indulges the readers taste for toilet humour, and disippates it by being matter of fact.

In a survey of issues that were taboo between partents and children in the UK and Japan it was found that while sex and menstruation were equally taboo in both nations (contra my hypotheses), human waste was a topic of breakfast time conversation in Japan, but in the UK, "you have got to be kidding." (Peter E. Bull, and Timothy Takemoto, c2000)

Image and words copyright the author and publisher. The book may be purchased from amazon.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014


Double Basketball: The Great Leveller

Top Basket for the Win
This game is played a sports days at primary schools all over Japan. Note that there are many balls in the lower of the two baskets on the pole, but none in the basket further up the pole.

The object of the competion is to get as manny balls into the two basskets as possible. At the end of the alloted time the balls are counted and the team (pictured here is one team, there was another team to the left) with the most balls in the baskets wins.

At the end of the game, the balls are counted out one by one as a representative from each team removes one ball at a time from each team's baskets. This is not the first time I have seen a competition of this type. I noticed today that the number of balls basketed by both team is always almost neck and neck. There was only a single digit difference, despite the large number of players and balls.

I think that perhaps this is the reason for playing this game: to show children that no matter how hard they try, they will only ever achieve a score almost identical to another group of children who are also trying, because people are all pretty much the same .

If that is the case then perhaps I should not make public the following strategy.

The reason why he number of balls is always neck and neck is because the balls are light, there are many people throwing at once, so it is very difficult to aim. As a result, the players -- the children especially-- only attempt to get the balls into the bottom basket. Or rather, there is just a freenzied upward shower of balls.

The allotted time is such that both teams are able to fill the bottom basket to overflowing. Since each team has baskets of the same size (in this case containing approximately 100 balls), each team achieves a score of 100 plus alpha where alpha is the very small number of balls in the top, hard to reach basket.

Hence, if a few of the adults playing for one or other team attempted to put their balls into the top basket alone, then they might win, since the bottom basket will get filled by the random shower of balls anyway. Or at least, this strategy would turn the game into one of skill, and increase the variance in the result, because people are, in their ability to aim, not all pretty much the same.

It is probably a lot more fun to just shower balls into the baskets as usual, and enjoy the close finish.

Thursday, May 01, 2014


Get Thin Japanese Style

Get Thin Japanese Style: Cut your bread in half

There is a rumour that the Japanese diet leads to longeivity. I think that this is true to an extent, but surprisingly, the Japanese these days eat bread, meat and pasta, and not all that much fish or veg. By the far the biggest difference between the Japanese and Western diet seems to me to be the quantity.

If the Japanese ate something different - rice, raw fish and green tea for instance - then we'd be able to emulate them fairly easily. Going from meat, potatoes and brown tea (standard British tea) to rice, raw fish and green tea is something that quite a lot of people might be able to manage, such as one can swap from a high carbohydrate diet to a paelo or Aktins diet, and back again without all that much hassle. And so folks scan the literature, and world cuisines in search of the diet that will make them healthy. But the truth is the largest part of the health differential is not in what you eat, but how much, and wether you eat more than you burn.

While we can swap between bread and rice, meat and fish, or protein and carbs, It is far more difficult to swap between a big diet, especially in terms of calories, and a small one.

It is almost impossible to find a fish based lunch box, or fish based meal in many Japanese universities. The lunch boxes and the meals at Japanese canteens contain deep fried pork in batter. The fact that it comes with rice as opposed to potatoes is not a big deal either.

But the size of Japanese vs western portions/helpings meals is just vastly different.

So how do the Japanese do it? How do they manage to eat smaller amounts?

My axe to grind, my theory is that the Japanese live in the visual rather than the linguistic.

If you speak to yourself all the time (as I do) and understand your world, yourself, in words, then this impacts upon both the size of the food you eat and the person that you want to be.

Concentrating first on the size of the food you eat, the Japanese are fully (if unconsciously) cognisant of the fact that *there is no absolute size information in the visual world*. If you get up close to a train set it could be a real, full-sized, bullet train. If you get up close and personal when you prune a bonsai tree then it, the visual information that it presents, could be an enourmous oak. There is no difference. A small gravel garden could be, looks the same as, a vast inland sea. A small room or tea house, with fine lattice grids could be a a large room with a larger lattice. What looks like a rock, or a mountain, in an ink drawing scroll could be a rock, or it could be a mountain. There is nothing in visually presented information - *the image* - that indicates absolute size.

So, to see your food as big, make it small. Make mini cakes, mini steaks, mini chocolate bars. And when you eat them, when you eat any and all of your food, bring it up close to your eyes. The Japanese (to the derision of the Koreans) raise their (fish/meat/egg/whatever topped) rice bowls to within centimetres of their face when they eat (the Koreans lower their face to the bowl). From either viewpoint, even a small bowl of rice topped with meat or fish, could be a bucket of the same at arms length.

Above all the rule is *look at it,* your food, and do not think, about it in words). If your food is beautiful then it need not be big. Bigness is in the evaluating, analytical, linguistic mind. Look at your food, like it and move on.

But how do you move on? If you think of yourselve as a 'person' narrated and about the treat you "deserve" because you are "good" or need to be "happy" then the calorific sky is the limit. On the other hand, if you just *see* yourself, as you *see* your food, as something beautiful, or not, then you will want to move on.

How horrible is this visual way of living? How superficial?

What are more superficial than words? What is more social, unindividual, herdlike than language?

The "superfice" of the visual is as deep as a thousand words.

Cut your loaf in half and look it up close. Treat each half slice as a whole slice. Do no think about it, but just do it.

Finally however, I should say that there are downsides to the Japanese way of getting thin. Especialy, beware of getting lung cancer. East Asians are thin, but they smoke themselves to death because they cannot *see* the harm it is doing. Soon or already the Japanese, and other East Asians, will take photographs of the interior of their lungs and give up smoking.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014


Fortune Faeces Japanese Chocolate Treats

Fortune Faeces Japanese Chocolate Treats
These chocolate treats are called Unchoco the "un" of which is a pun on the "un" of luck or fortune and the "unch" of "unchi" or poop. The connction with turds is emphasised by the fact that the chocolate treats, in three colours, are dispensed from an orifice in the posterior of a variety of origami animals. Children are encouraged to devine their fortune based on the colour of the chocolate stool, and then eat it.
Fortune Faeces Fortune Feces
Young children the world over probably share a fascination with faeces, but in the West this fascination is repressed out of them. The relative lack of taboo on nakedness and sex, in Japan, encourages no ill feeling towards things elow the belt. Rice farming encouraged the Japanese to see faeces as a valuable source of fertilizer. Hence compartive research shows that the Japanaese are able to talk about the size and consistency with their parents. This confectionery also exemplifies, the Japanese fascination with cute things, and the small quantities in which they consume sweet things; the treats weigh only 31 grams (about one ounce) in total.

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Monday, April 07, 2014


Snow Woman Comes Out 雪女のカミングアウト

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Two Diagrams of the Structure of the Self in Freud

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

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

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

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

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

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


What am I? Western Propaganda

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

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

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

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

Japanese are humans with mirrors, for the time being.

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

Monday, February 24, 2014


Japan May Be Somewhat Autistic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, February 17, 2014


The One Ring Scam from Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (V. W. McGee, Trans., C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds.) (Second Printing.). University of Texas Press.
Brat, D. (2005). Adam Smith’s God: The End of Economics. Virginia Economic Journal, 59. Retrieved from faculty.rmc.edu/dbrat/researchpapers/2005VAEAdamSmithPape...
Derrida, J. (1978). Edmund Husserl’s origin of geometry: An introduction. U of Nebraska Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pW9PQxAOo0sC&oi=fnd&pg=PP9&dq=Origin+of+Geometry&ots=cxr_EUp0d5&sig=8cjF6mBUi60BuZEUBK_0blBL1sUFreud, S. (1913). Totem and taboo. (A. A. Brill, Trans.). New York: Moffat, Yard and Company. Retrieved from en.wikisource.org/wiki/Totem_and_Taboo
Heine, S. J., Takemoto, T., Moskalenko, S., Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(7), 879–887. Retrieved from www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/docs/2008Mirrors.pdf
Hermans, H. J. M., & Kempen, H. J. G. (1993). The Dialogical Self: Meaning as Movement. Academic Press.
Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.
Lacan, J. (2007). Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. (B. Fink, Trans.) (1st ed.). W W Norton & Co Inc.
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.
Smith, A. (1812). The theory of moral sentiments. Retrieved from books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=d-UUAAAAQAA...
Wyndham, J. (1968). Chocky.
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Kata as The Japanese Mirror Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have been doing Karate, badly.

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Monday, January 27, 2014


Japanese Chocolate Bars

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

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Friday, January 24, 2014


Logotherapy for Japanese Cancer Patients: What can tourists carry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Don't Do It: Preventing Suicide East and West

Don't do it: Preventing Suicide East and West by timtak
Self-awareness occurs in different modalities. Sometimes people engage in self-touching when feeling shy (Edelmann et al., 1989), and drink copious amounts of fluids thus becoming pneumatically aware of their digestive tract when suffering from psychosis (see: de Leon, Verghese, Tracy, Josiassen, & Simpson, 1994)*. But generally speaking, humans self-awareness takes places in two channels or modalities: through language and though vision.

Typically, in Western literature the former, linguistic self awareness is privileged. Mead, the father of social psychology, argues that speech necessarily demands of speakers to hear themselves from the point of view of their listeners (plural), giving rise to the 'generalized other' (Mead, 1967), 'super-addressee' (Bakhtin,1986), 'Other' (Lacan, 2007), and 'impartial spectator' (Smith, 1812). Typically Western theorists argue, by application of common sense I presume, that in order to see oneself however, one needs a mirror. Mead writes " If we exclude vocal gestures, it is only by the use of the mirror that one could reach the position where he responds to his own gestures as other people respond" (Mead, 1967, p.66).

However, the recent discovery of 'mirror neurons' (Iacoboni, 2009a, 2009b) , the concomitant neural capability of 'autoscopy' (Blanke & Metzinger, 2009; Metzinger, 2009) and our own work demonstrating that the Japanese, but not North Americans, have "mirrors in their heads," (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008) demonstrates that Mead's common sense assumptions about human inability to see themselves without a mirror is incorrect. Humans, especially if properly trained through the Japanese arts (Zeami; see Yusa, 1987; Ozawa, 2006) can activate their mirror neurons and hone their ability to learn to see themselves, just as Westerners can and do develop their debating skills and hone their ability to hear themselves from others' and then, importantly, the Other's objective point of view.

Cultures differ in the predominance of each type of self awareness. As we have seen, the Japanese have an ability and proclivity to be aware of themselves visually. This is demonstrated likewise by the tremendously positive way in which they portray themselves visually with their poses, fashion, and automatically corrected "puri-kura." That Americans are predominantly aware of themselves in the linguistic domain is, even if one does not believe theorists such as Mead (1967), Bruner, Lacan (2007), Hermans and Kempen (1993), Ricoeur (1990), Derrida(2011), McAdams, Bakhtin (1986)** to name but a few, adequately demonstrated by the way in which they have a strong and robust desire for positive linguistic self regard. All the studies showing positive self regard on the part of North Americans and and equivalent lack on the part of Japanese, for instance, are linguistic. The only studies to demonstrate a greater or equivalent positivity among Asians are visual: auto-photography (Leuers = Takémoto see Mukoyama, 2010, Ch.1), collage (Leuers = Takémoto & Sonoda, 2000), briefly presented flash cards (Yamaguchi et al., 2007), and positivity in recollection of photos.

What happens when the non-culturally preferred medium of self-awareness is promoted?

Among Westerners it has long been known that, unless they are feeling in a good mood, Mirrors tend to promote a novel mode of self-awareness making them aware of failure to meet social norms (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008; Sedikides, 1992). The negative impact of mirrors is all the more pronounced when Westerners are in a state of negative affect. It is hardly surprising therefore that, as demonstrated by recent research (Selimbegović & Chatard, 2013), mirrors increases thoughts of suicide among Westerners. And, yet, mirrors are used as a means of preventing suicide in Japan (Oshimi, 1992).

After more than two decades of economic stagnation, the level of suicide in Japan has reached historic highs. One way in which Japanese railway authorities have found effective in reducing the level of suicide by jumping in front of passing trains is to install mirrors on platforms. Mirrors are the culturally familiar mode of self-awareness in which the Japanese have learnt to self enhance. To see themselves as loved, lovable, even cute. Remembering the internalised gazes of their loved ones, the Japanese look at the mirror, see the side of themselves that they still love, don't do it and go home.

The equivalent stimulus for increasing positive self regard among Westerners has long been known - provide them with a telephone, a listening ear, and an opportunity to narrate themselves. Hearing ones self speak is enough to put your average Western, but not East Asians (Butler, Lee, & Gross, 2007, 2009; Butler, 2012), in a better, not a worse, mood.

As recent research (Selimbegović & Chatard, 2013) indicates, increase in the incidence of suicide might arise however if mirrors were situated on the Golden Gate Bridge, or I suggest, if suicidal Japanese were encouraged to narrate themselves***. This last possibility does not seem to be one which Japanese medical health professionals, even Mukoyama (2010), seem to have considered.

The image above is from the Wikipedia page on Infamous Suicide Spots, showing the suicide prevention mirror on the the platform of Ogikubo Station's Central Line, and a "Crisis Councelling" telephone on Sanfransisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
Inspired in the first instance by (Selimbegović & Chatard, 2013)

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (V. W. McGee, Trans., C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds.) (Second Printing.). University of Texas Press.
Blanke, O., & Metzinger, T. (2009). Full-body illusions and minimal phenomenal selfhood. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(1), 7–13. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.10.003
Butler, E. A. (2012). Emotion Regulation in Cultural Context: Implications for Wellness and Illness. In S. Barnow & N. Balkir (Eds.), Cultural Variations in Psychopathology: From Research to Practice. Hogrefe & Huber Pub. Retrieved from www.hogrefe.com/program/media/flyingbooks/600434/files/as...
Butler, E. A., Lee, T. L., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Emotion regulation and culture: Are the social consequences of emotion suppression culture-specific? Emotion, 7(1), 30.
Butler, E. A., Lee, T. L., & Gross, J. J. (2009). Does Expressing Your Emotions Raise or Lower Your Blood Pressure?: The Answer Depends on Cultural Context. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 40(3), 510–517. doi:10.1177/0022022109332845
Derrida, J. (2011). Voice and Phenomenon: Introduction to the Problem of the Sign in Husserl’s Phenomenology. Northwestern Univ Pr.
Hermans, H. J. M., & Kempen, H. J. G. (1993). The Dialogical Self: Meaning as Movement. Academic Press.
Heine, S. J., Takemoto, T., Moskalenko, S., Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(7), 879–887. Retrieved from www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/docs/2008Mirrors.pdf
Iacoboni, M. (2009a). Imitation, Empathy, and Mirror Neurons. Annual Review of Psychology, 60(1), 653–670. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163604
Iacoboni, M. (2009b). Mirroring people: the science of empathy and how we connect with others. New York, N.Y.: Picador.
Lacan, J. (2007). Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. (B. Fink, Trans.) (1st ed.). W W Norton & Co Inc.
Leuers = Takémoto, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (2000, November). 心像的自己に関する比較文化的研究(6) -メディア(言語とイメージ)の違いと日米比較― Cross Cultural Research on the Specular Self: Differences in Media (Language and Image) and comparison between Japan and America. Oral Presentation口頭発表 presented at the The 64th Annual Convention of the Japanese Psychologiocal Association English日本心理学第64回大会, Kyoto University. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/shinzoutekijiko6.docx
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.Metzinger, T. (2009). The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self (1st ed.). Basic Books.
Mukuyama, Y. 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.
Oshimi, T. 押見輝男. (1992). 自分を見つめる自分: 自己フォーカスの社会心理学.
Ozawa, T. 小沢隆. (2006). 武道の心理学入門: 武道教育と無意識の世界. 東京: BABジャパン出版局.
Sedikides, C. (1992). Attentional effects on mood are moderated by chronic self-conception valence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18(5), 580–584. Retrieved from psp.sagepub.com/content/18/5/580.short
Ricoeur, P. (1990). Time and Narrative. (K. Blamey, Trans.) (Reprint.). Univ of Chicago Pr (T). Selimbegović, L., & Chatard, A. (2013). The mirror effect: Self-awareness alone increases suicide thought accessibility. Consciousness and cognition, 22(3), 756-764.
Smith, A. (1812). The theory of moral sentiments. Retrieved from books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=d-UUAAAAQAA...
Yamaguchi, S., Greenwald, A. G., Banaji, M. R., Murakami, F., Chen, D., Shiomura, K., … Krendl, A. (2007). Apparent universality of positive implicit self-esteem. Psychological Science, 18(6), 498.
Yusa, M. (1987). Riken no Ken. Zeami’s Theory of Acting and Theatrical Appreciation. Monumenta Nipponica, 42(3), 331–345. Retrieved from myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/yusa/docs/riken.pdf

* This is the way I (and perhaps Derrida) see self speech, as a sort of self touching, self-comforting, auto 'hostipitality.'
**I know that I am ignoring Cooley and Goffman. It seems to me that the latter, and those that base there analyses on Goffman's approach such as McVeigh (Wearing Ideology) come closest to the position that this blog espouses but, in Goffman's and McVeigh's case at least it seems to me that their dramatological, 'looking glass self" is 'presentational.' That is to say that the Goffman and McVeigh (if not the Cooley)  'looking glass self" is an image of me for you, for another specific other. And this is the nub of the matter. The Japanese too hear their self speech from the ear of otherS but they lack the "generalized" (Mead, 1967), "super" (Bakhtin, 1986) Other (Lacan, 2006) and they have, and we lack, a generalized gaze of the world.
*** Based on Western practice, the Japanese have taken to situating telephones at suicide spots. It seems possible to me that a telephone to the Japanese is a bit like a mirror to Westerners. A telephone encourages people to narrate themselves, and in Japan that, among those that have debt, interpersonal problems, encourages them to narrate themselves negatively in the absence of Eve, a generalized other, super-addressee, or ear that loves them. I know that there is some (though very little) OSA research that uses voice, but I suggest that a telephone is a Nacalianly transformed mirror.

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Monday, December 16, 2013


Japanese High School Girls and the Real Visual

Japanese High School Girls and the Real Visual by timtak
Japanese High School Girls and the Real Visual, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Max Weber would have us believe that the upper echelons of society create the fads and fashions which the hoi polio blindly follow. Unless Japanese high school girls are the upper echelons of Japanese society (that remains a distinct possibility) Weber's theory, and other "trickle down theories" do not apply to Japan. It is commonly said that Japanese fads and fashions start with Japanese high school girls. This common sense is believed to the extent that research institutes regularly survey Japanese high school girls' opinions to keep their finger on the pulse of the latest Japanese booms and crazes.

Risa Risa research institute has just published a list of the top 8 most popular things among Japanese high school girls. Get your pens ready! The top eight are as follows

1 Line (Skype for Smart Phones?)
2 Funasshi- (a cuddly character representing Funahashi City)
3 Twitter
4 Pretending to be "Attack Giant" in trick photography (above bottom)
5. TwitCasting (Twitter for Android?)
6. Makankou Sappou (Hadouken-ing, or Vadering) pretending to use the power of the force to move people in group versions of fast exposure "Yowayowa Kamera" style flying photography (above top).
7. Daisy Patterned Fabric
8. "Director Wrapped" jumpers (wrapping ones sweater or jumper around ones neck, with its arms used as a scarf).

All the above are important in informing investment decisions, and new product ideas. I would like to draw attention to the inclusion of two forms of trick photography (illustrated in the above photo), that emulate scale and motion through trick photography. Why should this be popular in Japan? I think that images have always been very popular in Japan, so much so that the Japanese identify them. Westerners tend to think of the real, scientific world being a linguistic construction, or mapping one to one with language, and images as merely the cover or "wrapping." In Japan however, words are the fluff, and reality is the in the image. If it looks real, then to most intents and purposes it is. Hence the popularity of Japanese idols, foreign villages, robots, look-good-but-tasteless-cakes, sweet curry-looking-custard, smiles, characters, manga, anime and as above, trick photography. The real is visual, the visual is real in Japan.

Images copyright their respective owners from the google image search for マカンコウサッポウ and 進撃の巨人ごっこ.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Like a Snow Goggle Doguu: The Origin of Purikura Volume Eyes?

Like a Snow Goggle Doguu: The Origin of Purikura Volume Eyes? by timtak
I am very much persuaded that the wide distribution of palaeolithic "figurines" with large hips, and small feet are as Dr. Leroy McDermott (1996) argues, a portrayal of the first person view of ones own body, rather than emphasizing feminine features as is argued elsewhere. While sometimes these ancient clay figures may be of women, such as in the example shown bottom left in one of Dr. McDermott's photographs (duplicated here without permission - I will cease and desist immediately if requested) which shows an self person view of a pregnant woman, and that of a figurine if it could see itself and presumably the self-person, "autogenus" view of its sculptor. Anyone male or female looking down at the own body will see their chest, hips and shoulders enlarged relative to their hands and feet.

This characteristic, enlarged shoulders, chest and hips, and small hands and feet is shared by Japanese Snow Goggle Doguu figurines from the Joumon period. However what of their massive slit eyes? Some have suggested that they represent the snow goggles worn by Inuit (e.g. Kraus, 1953). Others that they represent the masks of visitors from outer space.

I suggest however that the large size of the eyes in these figurines is explained by the one of the commentators (Elkins, a detractor) on Dr. McDermott's paper who wrote, that if palaeolithic figurines were indeed of autogenus (first person) views then there should be examples resembling the famous first person view by Ernst Mach (1893) above bottom right, which show an enlarged eye and nose. Snow goggles do not especially enlarge the eyes but this figurines eyes are several times larger than anatomical eyes.

My wife tells me that such is the size of a typical Japanese nose it does not impinge upon the the visual field nearly as much as my or Max Ernst's Germanic nose. Likewise being less deep set, it is far more difficult for Japanese to see their eyes. However, if one happens to allow ones eyes to close a little, or even a lot, then one becomes aware of the enormous size of ones eyes that expand to be larger than the breadth of the horizon. Ones visual field, which can itself be considered a self view, may be bigger than mount Fuji if you happen to be looking in that mountain's direction.

These snow goggle figurines may be men. I see myself in the shape of the dogu. And while I am normally unaware of seeing my eyes, I can become aware of them, my self person view, and the visual field itself, that one sided disk that Max Ernst claimed to be the basic stuff of the world. Normally I have lost my disk (Borges, 1975), but looking through the slits of my eyes, helps me to find it.

I think it is clear that we are only dimly aware of our view of the orbits of our eyes and noses, since even in the work of artist that paint or draw first person views the humongous nose and eyes are very rarely represented as can be seen in this gallery. We in fact see our nose twice, semi transparent, pointing in towards, in my close to the centre of our visual field (as seen in this gallery). That fact that one sees two noses, one from each eye, may explain the reason why the figurine above has a cleft nose. You can see the vast orbit your eyes if you narrow your eyes like a snow goggle dougu.

Moving away from artistic representations of self, an awareness of first person views of self is promoted in meditation, most notably that of "The Headless Way," but also, traditionally in Zen. In the Pictures of the Ten Bulls, where the bull represents the experience of the true self, it is "his big nostrils [that] cannot failt to expose his presence.". The promotion of the awareness of the orbits of our eyes, and edgeless darkness surrounding our visual field, may be the reason why Zen meditation is carried out with the eyes half open (e.g. Austin, 1999), and why Zen philosopher Kitarō Nishida drew his "pure experience" (junsui taiken) as concentric circles (see Heisig, 2004, p.8) the outer most of which has no boundary.

The awareness of the large size of ones eyes from a first person perspective may also encourage Japanese women, wishing to present themselves as pure, to enhance the size of their eyes in gal make up, and purikura auto-photography. The eyes are nearly the window frames of the soul.

Austin, J. H. (1999). Zen and the brain: Toward an understanding of meditation and consciousness. The MIT Press.
Borges, J.L. JL (1975). The Book of Sand. Emecé, Buenos Aires
Kraus, B. S. (1953). An outline of Japan's prehistoric cultures. Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology, (9), 12-16.
Heisig, J. W. (2004). Nishida's medieval bent. Japanese journal of religious studies, 55-72.
Mach, E. (1897). Contributions to the Analysis of the Sensations. (C. M. Williams, Trans.). The Open court publishing company. Retrieved from www.archive.org/details/contributionsto00machgoog
McDermott, L. R. (1996). Self-representation in Upper Paleolithic female figurines. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 227–275. Retrieved from www.ucmo.edu/art/facstaff/documents/Self-Representationin...
Reprinted from CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY published by the University of Chicago Press. Used with permission.
© 1996 by Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.
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Saturday, December 07, 2013


Get a Third Person to Stare back at You

Get a Third Person to Stare back at You by timtak
Get a Third Person to Stare back at You, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
The cover of "An introduction to the Psychology of Martial Arts" by Takashi Ozawa could not have been more appropriate to support the theory espoused by this blog: that the Japanese Other observes visually rather than taking a linguistic perspective, and the creation of this other is achieved in part through practice of Japanese martial arts.

From a distance wordy, logocentric Western culture can look rule bound, "A society based upon manuals." However, even in the case of McDonalds, the genuine objective of the manual is to go beyond the manual - the manual is only a stepping stone - to "TLC" or Tender Loving Care.

Like wise, from a distance, Japanese society can appear to be "stuck in the mould," formulaic, in so far as so many Japanese praxes emphasize the learning of set forms or "kata." But the objective in so doing, is to go beyond the forms.

So, if in both cases, both Americans with their manuals and Japanese with their forms intend to go beyond them, why do they have them at all?

My answer is that the real reason behind the Western fascination with books and language, is that language provides a generalized other, the ability to take an objective third person perspective upon self.

And the real reason by the Japanese fascination with kata is, as the red "belt" of this book (written by the editor at BAB Japan, as a summary of the contents) claims, that through the practice of a martial art one obtains a third person perspective that stares back at you, a gaze apart (Riken no Ken Zeami), a Mirror in your Head (Heine et al.)

Archimedes said, "Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world." I say, give me a third person perspective, and I will create a self. It is about time I started learning Karate.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013


Be as Mount Fuji, with a Silent, Attentive, Mirror Mind

Be as Mount Fuji, with a Silent, Attentive,  Mirror Mind
This picture bears the words
"When facing up to your opponent before a fight, be attentive (lit distribute your "ki" mind/attention) with a silent mind, and be as Mount Fuji (make the shape of Mount Fuji your own form)."

This picture stands in the entrance hall to the gym where my son learns karate. The caption translated above, expresses the essence of Japanese martial arts and thought. First of all there is the emphasis on the importance of facing off. The fight is won and lost - or better still avoided - in this period before it commences which is typically far longer than the fight itself which it is often over in seconds. I would like to draw attention to several aspects of this pre-fight period.

The pre-fight "tachi ai" period involves both intimidation and analysis. There is no better result than the ability to stand with such bearing as to encourage your opponent to admit defeat, or loose confidence to the extent that the fight is a foregone conclusion. Further that this period of mutual analysis and intimidation involve standing facing the opponent. The significance of this will be considered below.

Mental activity within the pre-fight 'tachi-ai' period should be conducted in silence. I believe that this injunction is specifically directed towards the cessation of all self-narrative, hearing oneself speak, asking oneself questions and replying to them (自問自答), dialectical thought and all other types of linguistic thought.

The next injunction is to be attentive or literally to spread out ones "ki" (attention, mental energy, focus, consciousness) The use of ones "ki" in this way is the core of martial arts and Japanese thought. There are numerous expressions involving "ki" including to be careful (ki wo tsukeru, "attach ki"), be keen on (enter ones ki, ki ni iru), loose consciousness  (ki wo ushinau, loose ki).

I suggest that the use of ki is the direct counterpart to Western narratival-self and that it is used for similar things, specifically for helping us to gain a theory of mind, and in this particular instance, read our opponents mind. Westerners use reason to ascertain how other people are thinking. By thinking we put ideas up in the courtroom of the mind for inspection by another, Reason, a super addressee, a generalised other, and in so doing understand how others feel about our predictions.

The Japanese on the other gage how others will behave more directly, by using their ki. There have been books written about ki and I have read one one of them. Since the use of ki is clearly a non linguistic activity, the use of further words to describe it may be in vain. I and others who wish to understand the use of ki, need above all do it. But, counter productively perhaps, I would like to add one more exposition and suggest that using ones "ki" is using ones mirror neurons. Mirror neurons allow us to model seeing, ourselves, are activated when we look at a mirror, and are activated when we look at other people, telling us, by activation of the same neurological states in us as in the object of our vision, what we would be thinking and intending to do if we appeared as the person we are facing. 

Finally, there is the injunction to make of our own form the form of Mount Fuji. This echoes the advice of a Buddhist priest to a sumo wrestler, and numerous other philosophies of martial arts (such as Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five) rings which encourage the practitioner to become as some natural object, animal, element, or in this case the biggest mountain in Japan.

Going for the bulls-eye and concentrating first upon the apparent mismatch in size between our warrior and the tallest mountain in Japan, I think that this draws attention to East Asian Spiritualism in the literal sense: (唯心論) the assertion that there is only mind or spirit. Similar assertions appear in the psychologism of Ernst Mach (1902), or the immaterialism of Bishop Berkeley. At base all things can only be experienced, are only present to humans or other sentient beings, song long as they partake in that sentience, become a part of that consciousness. Thus, the apparent mismatch between the size of mount Fuji and the warrior is only apparent. When warrior realises his true nature as consciousness, then he will be aware that Mount Fuji, the largest thing that he can imagine, is only a part of himself. This realisation, and the falling away of bodily identifications that accompanies it, can give the warrior tremendous courage and strength.

Finally, but less importantly than the realisation I attempt to express in the previous paragraph, the visual identification with the mountain has the dual effect of positive self-speech. Identifications with natural phenomena allows the warrior to tap into and identify with all the meaning and affect associated with the symbol. And at the same time, through his bearing thus effected, strengthen, calmed, drawn to full height, convey the same, wordlessly to the opponent who is also using their ki, or mirror neurons, to see what is on
their opponents mind.

I can not read the artists name. It looks like  Shinya Suzuhiromatsu 鈴廣松臣也 but I am not sure, and would like to be corrected. The picture is dedicated to Hajime Matsumura the head of the Yamaguchi Kendo association and 'other comrades in arms', who are the main users of the same gym, or doujou 山口隣保館別館・和光剣心塾道場).

Mach, E. (1902) The Analysis of Sensations, "Not the things, the bodies, but colours, sounds, pressures, times (what we usually call sensations) are the true elements of the world."    p. 23, as quoted in Lenin as Philosopher: A Critical Examination of the Philosophical Basis of Leninism (1948) by Anton Pannekoek, p. 454

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