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, November 19, 2015


Japanese Politeness and Nonsense Forms

Fear Not: Say No!
One of the main reasons why Japanese can't speak English is because they are too kind and polite to ask difficult or unanswerable questions of their conversation partners. It is not so much they fear grammatical mistakes (which my students keep making) but putting their partner on the spot by asking them something that their partner can not, because it is impossible, to answer. This forces them to check out the question that they are about to ask in Japanese first, and verify that it can be answered. This in turn puts them back into the reverse, Japanese mode of thought (precisely the reverse of English) slows their English production to a snail's pace, and prevents them from increasing their fluency. In order to encourage them to fire questions, from the hip, like a river of sludge, and throw themselves away as all the best martial arts encourage one to do I have also to persuade them that their partner will be just fine.

To that end, I am having success with these nonsense questions to which students are instructed to answer in the negative.

Japanese Politeness and Nonsense Forms

I introduce these exercises as being as the equivalent of practising parrying or blocking in Karate. If someone asks you a question that does not make any sense, just answer in the negative. Once students know that they can do this, and their partner can do this, and "block" senseless questions, then they feel more able to ask questions freely and fluently, senseless or not, without censoring themselves, and checking out all their English production in Japanese first.

Image: Noh Masks by Rosewoman.


Multi-Coloured Japanese Groups

Multi-Coloured Japanese Groups
Why is that Japanese groups are so varied? At the earliest level groups are made of members made of different foodstuffs, and then soon in super-sentai (power ranger) and PreCure groups contain members coded with different primary colours. In Manga there are usually groups formed of people with disparate sizes, characters, and even colours of their hair. Yowamushi Pedal, the manga about cycling, contains a red head, a blond and a guy with green hair. Slam Dunk, like most super sentai groups, chose to focus upon a red hero. Japanese boy bands are formed by their managers with members with disparate appearances and characters. There is usually an especially handsome one, a sporty member, a macho member, and a mixture of other types such as withdrawn, effete, and jokey (this characteristic may be shared by famous Western boy bands too).

And even within real Japanese social groups, there is a lot more diversity with Japanese not considering their friends more similar than their enemies, nor their enemies more alien than their friends (Heine, Foster, & Spina, 2009).

Yuki (2003) explains the cultural difference primarily using the concept of social identity (Tajfel, 1982). Western groups are formed and cohere by virtue of their effect upon the self esteem of their members. The more similar the group is, the more the members will bolster each other's ego by noting and praising this similarity, and slagging off (the psychological jargon is downwards comparison) other groups. "We Brits are rational, level headed, gentlemen. Those XYZ are temperamental, hot-headed, rogues." The enjoyment of pride as motivation for group membership and cohesion, Yuki argues, assimilates and unifies Western groups towards central group ideals. Japanese groups are not, we are told, formed for this "Good-Us Bad-Them" ego-massage-purpose so they are not so uniform.

Yuki also seems to suggest that there is a further opposite tendency to be disparate due to the way in which Japanese group members depend upon each other, in which mutual help network, group membership diversity leads to greater synergy and mutual assistance benefits.

I was convinced by Yuki's explanation. However, this year, a final year student (Egawa, 2015) has demonstrated a strong positive correlation between similarity and perceived helpableness. Whatever the economic truth of the situation, as Plato argued in his Symposium, we, or at least Japanese students, feel we can help someone who shares our goals and ambitions more than someone disparate: even our other half.

So why then are Japanese groups so diverse to the point of being multi-coloured? I suggest that it is for the same reason that Western groups are similar -- ego massage -- except as always, the difference is in the modality, and the way that modality is enhanced. If groups are, like Western egos, narrated then they are enhanced by the value and superiority of their central attributes compared to those of other groups. But if groups are something that are seen and imagined then outgroups are absent, and groups simply look better if they contain a certain amount of diversity, since diversity makes the members conspicuous, stand out, or in Japanese, "hikitatsu." Colours are nowhere more beautiful than alongside other colours, such as in a rainbow.

Heine, S. J., Foster, J.-A. B., & Spina, R. (2009). Do birds of a feather universally flock together? Cultural variation in the similarity-attraction effect. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 12(4), 247–258. Retrieved from onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-839X.2009.0128...
Tajfel, H. (1982). Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. Cambridge University Press.

Monday, November 02, 2015


What is Beauty to the Japanese

While I was engaging in narcissism, a real scholar was writing the theory that I never will: that beauty to the Japanese is quinessentially in the image, whereas Westerners need to talk about it. Yess! My lame excuse is that when I attempt to write about this topic it is like I am writing myself out. Maybe now that I am not quite invisible I will do better. I live in hope and have professor Takashina's book on order. It is a best seller already. The prime minister should read it, since he clearly does not know how beautiful Japan already is. http://flic.kr/p/AABj3t

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Said: Orientalist out of the Orient

Said: Orientalist out of the OrientThe late great scholar Edward Said, in his monementally influential work "Orientalism" (1978) argued that Westerners were always writing about the nature Orientals in order to stress Western superiority.
"the essence of Orientalism is the ineradicable distinction between Western superiority and Oriental inferiority" p 42.

He traces the myth of the Orient in Orientalism, to a male dominated sexual fecundity, but at least in a negative sense he also provides his own theory of the orient. In other words this Palestian born Scholar who worked at Cornell, was an Orientalist out of the Orient.

And like other Oriental orientalists Edward Said argued for a fundamental inexplicability, what Kawai had called the "empty centre" or Doi had described as a lack of independence, or Yamagishi theorises as a radical contextualism so radical that it becomes non-contextual in some contexts. Edward Said writes "not that it [orientalism] is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence—in which I do not for a moment believe."

The act of Orientalism, and by implication Westerners, have an essence: continuously narrating, and negatively judging and evaluating their outgroups in Asia, but the Orient has no such essence or essences. In the end Edward Said seems even to espouse the myth that he rejects: orientals are simply plural and corporeal, but they lack any essence, proclivities, tendencies. Asians lack self.

I am an orientalist too. I argue that the Japanese at least, and probably other East Asians, have an essence remarkably similar to Westerners. They do the same sort of evaluation, but rather than narrate, they take photos, they judge evaluate by means of, and identify with, the visual, and take and imagine pictures also of themselves. It is my belief that visual self evaluation is preferable in that it is harder overly believe positive self evaluation and harder to keep it a secrete.

The above imagine is an amalgamation of a negative version of a portrait of Edward Said by Antoun Albert and an anonymous Venetian orientalist painting, The Reception of the Ambassadors in Damascus', 1511, the Louvre both on the Wikipedia page on Edward Said's famed monograph.

Said, E. W. (1978). Orientalism. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


Ninja English Cover by Fujimura Miho

Ninja English Cover by Fujimura Miho
My style of English teaching has been influenced a lot by taking up karate practice (just the stretching and forms) at the Arinaga Dojo in Yamaguchi. The effectiveness of Arinaga Sensei's teaching is a marvel to behold. He has five-year-olds performing high rotating kicks that would knock my head off. I do not take part in the sparring.

In line with Arinaga Sensei's teaching, my students need a lot more practice in forms (kata) and they need to stretch there minds (rather than their legs) at the very start of every the lessons. "Stretching the mind" means in this case, experiencing meaninglessness since that appears to be the biggest block to speaking. Recent psychological research has shown that experiencing meaningless is as scary as thinking about ones death (Heine, Proulx, Vohs, 2006).

My students also need to think of English as a martial art, and conversation as sparring, because politeness is almost as much a barrier to effective communication. I tell them to hit their partners with a barrage of questions, like a hail of ninja throwing stars.

Artwork of ninja and other figures provided by Miho Fujimura. Thank you very much.

Heine, S. J., Proulx, T., & Vohs, K. D. (2006). The meaning maintenance model: On the coherence of social motivations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2), 88-110.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Serving Lunch Like Mummy

This excellent video, not taken by me, shows the Japanese tradition of having school students serve food to each other in classrooms. This encourages them to be cooperate and grateful for the efforts of others that which might otherwise (in school canteens for example) go largely unnoticed. It is a tradition that is carried out in pretty much every school in Japan, and a wide variety of festivals (Uni campus festivals are essentially cooking and providing food) television shows (such as Smap x Smap and many others), and Japanese shabu shabu, monja yaki, okonomi yaki, yakiniku, and other restaurants where the customers are given the "opportunity" to cook for themselves and sometimes the people they are with. The origin of this tendency lies at least partly in the fact that Japan is a matriarchy where people are much more likely to want to behave like mummy, the most powerful parent within the home, who makes everyone food. In the UK, which is far more patriarchal, food preparation is more often considered something rather naff that we often leave to immigrants, to the point where we find it difficult to say what British cuisine is.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015


Tokyo Olympic Logo Suggestion

Tokyo 2020

The above would be my entry for the Tokyo Olympic Logo competition. The last one which was withdrawn looked too Western and had no continuity with the previous Tokyo Olympic logo. As some one has said of the stadium, the Japanese should highlight their tendency to reflect and improve. It is this tendency that is expressed in the above logo, using elements from the previous Tokyo Olympics logo which was the "round sun" of the Japanese flag above the Olympic logo with the rings turned to Gold. This time the Round sun has been integrated with the other rings, to suggest the greater integration of Japan with the rest of the world, the gradient has been reversed to suggest a new dawn, and both have been superimposed with a "T" for Tokyo and the Roman numeral for 2, made to resemble the red iconic gate in the Miyajima Island bay in Hiroshima, reflected in the blue water. I have avoided adding a second horizontal lintel (bar) so as not to push the religious symbolism. I.e. the above can not be said to be Shinto mark.

The twin lintelled gate (torii) is a religious symbol but logos closely or vaguely resembling religious symbols have been used at Albertville (a Christian Cross) and the Seoul Olympics (a spiral reminiscent of the Taoist tomoe). Added to that, Shinto is an extremely inclusive religion, allowing of the enshrinement of Christian and Taoist Gods, and above all, the symbol simply represents the beauty of Japan, and the Japanese tendency to reflect and improve, rather than any religion.

Above all, I think that the Japanese should be brave and highlight their own culture rather than just a Western typeface. The above is the sombre version. A brighter version and the original idea are also uploaded. The five rings are copyright the International Olympic Committee, the use of a gradient round sun and gold rings was inspired by the previous logo of the 1964 Olympics by Yusaku Kamekura. Other than that, this is all my own work.

The central stem of the T could be a little longer

Monday, August 10, 2015


I, Eye, Love Monsters

The theme music to "Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages," also has imho something profound to say about Japanese culture! The video shows an "idol" band dressed as Pocket Monsters, singing "ai ai ai monster" beneath an enormous sun. I think that it represents the other of the Japanese self. Whereas the Western self is a self-hearing self-loving Ear (Derrida, Nietzche), the Japanese other is an "ai" (I creating), "ai" (eye: self-seeing) ai (love: self-loving) monster. It remains just monstrous enough to remain in the main out of sight and allow the Japanese to maintain their sense of self. But it is almost within view allowing some others such as Kyari Pamyu Pamyu and Fukasa to represent its structure, even more graphically in songs such as Pon Pon Pon where self-loving eyes proliferate, and Maboroshi no Inochi where the autoscopic life is affirmed since "a phantom in a dream is not a phantom at all".

Sunday, August 09, 2015


Sun and Carbon

The Sun and Carbon
I have got rather flabby again but I have been re-inspired by Yukio Mishima who, like me, would move from the world of words t to the world of the Sun. He attempted to achieve this dream by pumping weights and sword fighting, hence the steel in the title of his book: Sun and Steel. I pump my carbon bicycle, less effectively, but in the light of the sun.

Mishima felt however that he would have to die to achieve this aim, hence his ritual suicide. This belief this is perhaps not an uncommon presumption. Pure Land Buddhists for example believe that they will be born again in the pure land, of light, upon their death.

Mishima writes, in "Sun and Steel," almost in the manner of a Westerner, who yet knows his fate is to reject words and become, or return to being, Japanese.

Mishima seems to have trouble believing in reflexivity in any other media but words. This is quite normal in the Western tradition. Mead for example claimed that autoscopy is only possible through the use of a mirror. But Mishima should also have known of Zeami and the eye apart (離見の見), or that martial artists create for themselves an opponent from whose point of view autoscopy becomes possible. Mishima would not have known of mirror neurons which provide a neurological basis for this capacity, or that people are now argued to auto-spectate all the time. Was Mishima lacking a 'pocket monster', or imaginary friend from whose point of view he should be able to have seen himself? Perhaps he hankered after more individuality than is possible. Was he unaware that the self is always a "gift"?

Further, with regard to his instance that any such gaze would be unable to penetrate the skin was he unaware first of all that a simulated gaze can see through things, as demonstrated by the way in which Japanese are able to generate interior views, and the way in which they pay so much attention to have an so much pride in interiors such as of their houses, their trucks ("maddona"), their cars, and their underwear which sometimes, colourful, came in 12 or more layers. The fact that the Japanese shrine, person and presents are wrapped more than once indicates not only a visual attention to form but also the existence of the X-ray eye of the sky. The Japanese Sun can see through things! Oh, Mishima, didn't you know?

This is an antinomy he claims. An antinomy of self-deception. One may be able to believe that one can see oneself but one can not believe that one can see through ones skin to ones own heart? Then how do words achieve reflexivity, and mean in the darkness? Hadn't he seen what was in here, or read Wittgenstein, or Derrida? Wasn't he aware of the need for the Ear of the Other? If an ear can pass through the skin, in simulation, then how much more easily can the skin become transparent to a simulated gaze.

Moreover the whole notion of inside and outside seems wordy and fraught. Had Mishima not read Nietzsche? The real world is a myth from konigsberg! There is no "other side" of perception. Mishima should have read Nishida and been aware of the claim that heart can see the heart-as-the-world. Was he unaware of the circle of fire, the unity, that the Sun is the Steel, the Chrysanthemum is the Sword?

Mishima had spent too long in the dark with his steel and his words. He was unaware of the Sybil and that she alone does the talking.

Mishima writes
"The subtle contradiction between self-awareness and existence began to trouble me.
I reasoned that if one wants to identify seeing and existing, the nature of the self-awareness, the nature of the self-awareness should be made as centripetal as possible. If only one can direct the eye of self-awareness so intently towards the interior and the self that self-awareness forgets the outer forms of existence, than one can "exist" as surely as the "I" in Amiel's Diary. But this existence is of an odd kind, like a transparent apple whose cores is fully visible from the outside; and the only endorsement of such existence lies in words. It is the classical type of existence experienced by the solitary, humanistic man of letters..."
But one also comes across a type of self-awareness that concerns itself exclusively with the form of things. For this type of self-awareness, the antimony between seeing and existing is decisive, since it involves the question of how the core of the apple can be seen through the ordinary, red, opaque skin, and also how the eye that looks at that gloss red apple from the outside can penetrate into the apple and itself become the core. The apple in this case, moreover, must have a perfectly ordinary existence, its colour a healthy red.
To continue the metaphor, let us picture a single, healthy apple. This apple was not called into existence by words, nor is it possible that the core should be completely visible from the outside like Amiel’s peculiar fruit. The inside of the apple is naturally quite invisible. Thus at the heart of that apple, shut up within the flesh of the fruit, the core lurks in its wan darkness, tremblingly anxious to find some way to reassure itself that it is a perfect apple. The apple certainly exists, but to the core this existence as yet seems inadequate; if words cannot endorse it, then the only way to endorse it is with the eyes. Indeed, for the core the only sure mode of existence is to exist and to see at the same time. There is only one method of solving this contradiction. It is for a knife to be plunged deep into the apple so that it is split open and
the core is exposed to the light—to the same light, that is, as the surface skin. Yet then the existence of the cut apple falls into fragments; the core of the apple sacrifices existence for the sake of seeing.
When I realized that the perfect sense of existence that disintegrated the very next moment could only be endorsed by muscle, and not by words, I was already personally enduring the fate that befell the apple. Admittedly, I could see my own muscles in the mirror. Yet seeing alone was not enough to bring me into contact with the basic roots of my sense of existence, and an immeasurable distance remained between me and the euphoric sense of pure being.Unless I rapidly closed that distance, there was little hope of bringing that sense of existence to life again. In other words, the self-awareness that I staked on muscles could not be satisfied with the darkness of the pallid flesh pressing about it as an endorsement of its existence, but, like the blind core of the apple, was driven to crave certain proof of its existence so fiercely that it was bound, sooner or later, to destroy that existence. Oh, the fierce longing simply to see, without words!
The eye of self-awareness, used as it is to keeping a watch on the invisible self in an essentially centripetal fashion and via the good offices of words, does not place sufficient trust in visible things such as muscles. Inevitably, it addresses the muscles as follows: “I admit you do not seem to be a illusion. But if so, I would like you to show how you function in order to live and move; show me your proper functions and how you fulfill your proper aims.”
Thus the muscles start working in accordance with the demands of self-awareness; but in order to make the action exist unequivocally, a hypothetical enemy outside the muscles is necessary, and for the hypothetical enemy to make certain of its existence it must deal a blow to the realm of the senses fierce enough to silence the querulous complaints of self-awareness. That, precisely, is when the knife of the foe must come cutting into the flesh of the apple—or rather, the body. Blood flows, existence is destroyed, and the shattered senses give existence as a whole its first endorsement, closing the logical gap between seeing and existing... And this is death.
In this way I learned that the momentary, happy sense of existence that I had experienced that summer sunset during my life with the army could be finally endorsed only by death.
All these things, of course, had been foreseen, and I knew too that the basic conditions for this made-to-order type of existence were none other than the “absolute” and the “tragic.” Death began from the time when I set about acquiring an existence other than that of words. For however destructive a garb they might assume, words were deeply bound up with my instinct for survival, were a part of my very life. Was it not, essentially, when I first felt the desire to live that I began for the first time to use words effectively ? It was words that would make me live on until I died a natural death; they were the slow-moving germs of a “sickness unto death.”

Mishima is a Japanese genius, god. It is not appropriate therefore, for a whitey like me to understand him. But at the same time, like many Japanese novelists, (such as Natsume Souseki) he speaks from the boundary of Japanese and Western culture. Reading the above passage it sounds as if he is approaching Japanese culture from the outside. The Japanese quintessence, at least in so far as he is a darling of 'nationalists' and "right wingers," appears to me to be trying to become Japanese.

His musings here above relate to the reflexive power of words and vision. Yeah! This is what I think about all the time. The strange thing is for me that he seems to be more Western that I am.Or rather, that he believes in the Western more than I do.

Mishima writes above

" If only one can direct the eye of self-awareness so intently towards the interior and the self that self-awareness forgets the outer forms of existence, than one can "exist" as surely as the "I" in Amiel's Diary. But this existence is of an odd kind, like a transparent apple whose cores is fully visible from the outside; and the only endorsement of such existence lies in words. It is the classical type of existence experienced by the solitary, humanistic man of letters..."

Mishima sounds like Mead, or Lacan. What is it about words that allows for reflexivity? I am not Japanese and I can not see myself. But I reject the reflexivity of the word. It less important that "one can not see oneself" but that talking requires a listener so one can not talk oneself either.

Hasn't Mishima read Nietsche or Wittgenstien? Langauge may *seem* to allow for self awareness but this is a lie. There is no private languuage. The narritival self is a dwarf dropping leads drops into the ear of the spirit of gravity.

Thank you for recommending this book.

It could be his choice of sports equipment metaphor. Steel becomes molten.Carbon burns. Or surely he knew all this. Yes, i think that Yukio Mishima knew all this.

And while I did not notice any direct assertion in "Sun and Steel" that words are Western, he does seem to be arguing that there are two types of "life," life as words and as cetripetal, autoscopic vision. As such, the "Nacalian self" of this blog (that grows up in reverse from the symbolic to the mirror stage) can be replaced by "Mishiman self," the sunny self that Mishima was aiming for. I like to think he got there.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Hoopa: The hooper that that could not loop

I thought "Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages" was a Japanese commentary on Western culture personified in "Hoopa, the hooper that could not loop" (my subtitle).

Hoopa has two forms (as do many Pokémon), and as are believed to exist in the Buddhist view of ourselves: the small (unenlightened) and large (enlightened) self. We see the giant form of Hoopa first who uses giant hoops to move (or steal) things from anywhere in the world. Hoopa's power rests in this telekinetic ability. Herein lies the first parallel with Western culture. The Japanese have a bit of a tendency, in my limited experience, to see the British and their descendants as thieves, or "vikings" as they tactfully put it, conquering the world and taking it home. The seven hoops of Hoopa (one around each of his six arms, and one around his waist) may correspond to the sense of Buddhism (although there is one too many) which include the sense of the heart. From some Japanese points of view Westerners look upon nature and the world as a source of things to take, rather than as something with which one feels in harmony, to an extent unified.

Hoopa finds himself internally conflicted and unable to evolve into his large self who remains trapped in a bottle by a religious organisation that bears more than a passing resemblance to Judeo-Christianity. From a Japanese perspective Western culture separates God and humankind whereas in Japan, the enlightened, a supreme martial artist for instance, becomes one with God or the Buddha - which tend to be seen as the same things.

This inability to evolve into his large self, and being in conflict with it, parallels Hoopa's inability to pass through his own hoop. As we have seen Hoopa has six hoops (plus one around his body) that he uses to move or plunder the cosmos. He seems partially able to pass through one of his hoops (the one around his middle) but unable to pass through any of his others.

This inability to pass through his own hoops is due to Hoopa's lack of gratitude. Through his experience of growing up once again as small Hooper, however, Hoopa learns to love and feel gratitude and finally, when he does this he is able to pass through one of his own hoops. In this sequence, before the triumphant auto-looping-hooping the hoop, and overcoming self-conflict, Hoopa imagines himself growing up and all the love he has received. This introspection - literally seeing himself - works on a lot of levels as the defining characteristic of Japanese culture. The Japanese believe their heart to be a mirror, are found to literally have a mirror in their heart, they are (through the practice of Noh and Karate forms) able to see themselves from a perspective outside, and use this ability to see themselves from the points of view of others. Autoscopy is also especially noticeable in the last letters of suicide pilots and the Japanese version of psychoanalysis: Naikan therapy.

This self-seeing, or self perception may be what the whole "Pocket Monster" mythology is about as represented by the Pikachu Satoshi Diad. There is a monster within us, sitting on our shoulder, who sees us, but at some level, or in some way, Satoshi and Pikachu are one. Perhaps in a final Pokémon movie this fact will be revealed. Or perhaps it already has. I have only seen two Pokémon movies.

Reading perhaps far too much into the iconography, it seems proper that Hoopa should be appear from out of one of his hoops (little Hoopa), have hoops on his ears (little Hoopa) or have one of his hoops as a hole at his centre (Big Hoopa) since Westerners do feel able to perceive themselves, linguistically. Only being able to perceive ourselves through this especially dark mirror, we are able to wreck destruction on an unparalleled scale, believing that anything that can be linguistically justified is acceptable. Hence a Briton feels able in saying that the British enforced importation of narcotics into China, for more than a hundred years, was acceptable because "the Chinese chose to smoke (opium). Or, in my experience, Americans (and others from the allied nations) generally continue to approve of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as just since 'the Japanese started it.' It is only when one starts to see oneself, hear the crying children, smell the stench of results of what one does, it is only when one passes through other hoops, that such justifications become untenable. We need to learn other forms of insight fast.

Hoopa learns gratitude, becomes able to perceive himself, is no longer conflicted, walks in the light, or becomes Japanese, in harmony with, not apart from the world. In the last part of the movie giant Hoopa spends his time rebuilding that which he has destroyed, only plundering the occasional doughnut.

I was moved by the compassion with which Hoopa the destroyer was viewed. Even though he destroyed the humans that fed him, Hoopa was not punished with death, but merely part of him kept in a bottle, since after all, as grandfather says, Hoopa is one of the family.

(I have a Japanese family, and lack gratitude, so this notion moves me to tears.)

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Japanese Repression of Proactive interference

Japanese Release from Proactive Interference
There were only 10 subjects and I did not manage to explain the test too well so three subject did *worse* in the first trial but there was successive proactive inhibition as the subjects were given memory tests on sets of three modes of transport as icons, and a release from proactive inhibition on the forth trial when that fourth trial used words as opposed to icons as used on the previous three trials.

That Westerners gain a release from proactive inhibition when they are shown a fourth trial with pictures, but not a fourth trial with words, following pictures, (Hopkins, et al. 1973) is due to the fact I believe that Westerners will chant (Vygoski) the words for the pictures that they are shown so showing pictures uses up their short term memory for words. Japanese however, as demonstrated by Kim (2002) do not speak to themselves when they are shown visual problems, so when the fourth trial is words (as above) then their short term memory for words is not proactively inhibited.

I also predict the reverse reversal, wherein Japanese will not experience a release from proactive interference when they are presented with a sequence of words to remember followed by pictures because when presented with words they will supply the pictures, "chanting" or rather imagining, or flashing them to their internal-external other.

The Japanese Other is internal-external. It is inside the Japanese psyche but outside the Japanese head since it can see their face, and yet has X-ray eyes because it can see their imaginings, underwear, truck "madonna" and car interiors.

I wrote all the following before then deleted it by mistake. What follows (who cares!) is a rehash.

There are phenomenological or (proto?) physical limits to self deception. The important point is deception.

But there are ways that one can deceive oneself that seem (to me now) to be governed by almost Kantian "proto-physical" or "phenomenological" imperatives due to the difference between eyes and ears: eyes can be seen but ears can not normally be heard because they do not make sounds.

There are therefore proto-physical, or phenomenological facts that limits the extent, and ways in which one can deceive oneself.

I can not deceive myself into thinking that I am seen from any other than an external (e.g. on my shoulder, Pika!) view point. On the other hand, I can deceive myself into thinking that I am heard from an internal ear-point. I can believe that the ear of the other is inside my head.

Ears are more passive than gazes since eyes participate in the world of sight, whereas ears are not heard.

Perhaps the grammatological requirement that there be a subject if there is an object is of the same order as the above phenomenological limits to deception.

Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Hopkins, R. H., Edwards, R. E., Tamayo, F. M. V., Holman, M. A., & Cook, C. L. (1973). Presentation modality and proactive interference in short-term retention using a mixed-morality distractor task. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 439–442.
Wickens, D. D. (1973). Some characteristics of word encoding. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 485–490. Retrieved from link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03208913

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Western Release from proactive interference

Audio to Visual not Visual to Audio
"Proactive interference" (Wickens, 1973) is jargon for the way in which it gets more and more difficult to remember sets of the same type of stimuli, since previously remembered sets interfere or confuse.

"Release from proactive interference" (Wickens, 1973) describes the way in which after a series of similar memory tests one is given a novel set of items to remember, then ones short term memory returns almost to fresh, first test or second test levels, since the novel stimuli are not confused or "interfered with" by the previous tests sets.

"Release from proactive interference" between visual and audio modalities, mentioned previously, is only found, in Western subjects, when moving from audio to visual stimuli and not when moving from visual to audio stimuli (Hopkins, Edwards, Tamayo, Holman, & Cook, 1973).

In other words, if Western subjects are given three memory tests with three pictures of fruit followed by a memory test using fruit words, their performance does not return to previous levels.

But if Western subjects are given three tests using fruit words, and an a fourth with pictures of fruit their performance does improve to previous levels.

The reason for this asymmetry may be due to the fact that, even when shown pictures of fruit, Western subjects are likely to think, or hear themselves speak (Derrida), the words for the fruit, so that their short term memory of fruit words is being depleted ('proactively interfered' with) even in the visual pre-test condition.

In the case where Western subjects are first given fruit word memory tests however, the Western subjects may not generally imagine the fruit corresponding to the fruit words, so if on the fourth trial they are shown fruit images, these images are felt to be novel stimuli, that are not "proactively interfered" with by the previous verbal trials.

I predict that Japanese may show the reverse pattern in that moving from audio fruit words to visual fruit pictures may not result in a "release from proactive interference" since in the audio condition Japanese may imagine the fruit that is presented in words.

However in the visual pretest condition, the Japanese may not bother to say the words for the fruit to themselves (see Kim, 2002 for evidence), so if the fourth trial is of fruit words, then they may show a release from proactive interference -- an improvement in recall -- since the fruit words will be felt to be novel stimuli.

This would be easier to test than self-related stimuli.

The test response method (getting subjects to say or draw the fruit) and distractor task between trials (getting subjects to add visually and verbal presented digits) may also confound results.

Interestingly a mixed audio and visual filler task (adding visually presented digits) produced the same results as an audio tasks adding orally presented digits. Again, I think that this is because Western subjects would be likely to self-speak the images of digits, so images are always mixed mode for Westerners. Following the reasoning in Kim (2002) the same may not be the case in Japan. According to a Nacalian transformation, a mixed filler task would be equivalent to a visual filler task since Japanese will provide the visuals when presented with oral stimuli. Oral stimuli are likely to be always mixed mode for Japanese.

I wonder if there is pre-existing Japanese research on this paradigm, and whether a reversal has already been found. Or whether the same tendency was found. No this paper (Hopkins, Edwards, Tamayo, Holman, & Cook, 1973) seems to be cited only three times, and only by researchers in the West. Searching for the authors surnames and Japanese keywords likewise yields no hits.

There is some Japanese research by Tadashi Fujita (Fujita, 1995; 藤田正, 1985, 1988) and the results are not good from the point of view of my hypotheses.

In the main the research I have found is not testing audio visual modality shifts and repression of proactive inhibition but in the one article which did investigate modality (Fujita, 1995), to a degree, by looking at the way in which kanji characters interfere with each other, it was found that similar kanji pronunciations do result in proactive interference (suggesting that Japanese do not process kanji by image alone, as is well known) whereas different pronunciations result in a release from proactive inhibition. And even worse for my hypothesis, changing the radical of kanji did not however result in a release from proactive interference, whereas semantic differences between tests did. This suggests, contra my hypotheses, that Japanese are thinking in phonemes and semantics (meaning) more than purely in kanji morphology. In a more recent paper (Fujita, 2007) it was found that Japanese (kun) reading of the kanji has more effect than the Chinese (on) reading.

I would be more interested to know what happens when Japanese remember non linguistic images or icons, other than kanji. Fujita's research used a different methodology, with successive tests being in the same or different groupings rather than three tests in the same followed by one in a different group.

Fujita, T., & others. (1995). Buildup of proactive interference in Japanese Kanji learning. Retrieved from near.nara-edu.ac.jp/handle/10105/703
藤田正. (1985). 順向抑制の形成に及ぼすリスト類似性の効果. Retrieved from libneardspace.nara-edu.ac.jp/handle/10105/2221
Fujita, T. 藤田正. (1988). 順向抑制の形成に及ぼす隣接試行の類似性の効果. Retrieved from dspace.nara-edu.ac.jp/handle/10105/2042
藤田正. (2007). 訓主漢字と音主漢字の記憶における分散効果. Retrieved from dspace.nara-edu.ac.jp/handle/10105/637
Hopkins, R. H., Edwards, R. E., Tamayo, F. M. V., Holman, M. A., & Cook, C. L. (1973). Presentation modality and proactive interference in short-term retention using a mixed-morality distractor task. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 439–442.
Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Wickens, D. D. (1973). Some characteristics of word encoding. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 485–490. Retrieved from link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03208913

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Thursday, July 02, 2015


A You for You and An Eye for an Eye

A You for You and An Eye for an Eye

One of the simplest Nacalian transformations that I have yet to fully expand upon, is that of Mori Arimasa's theory of the Japanese first person pronoun. I have said most of this before, but I have not yet expressed the the rather bemused way in which Japanese view Western faces, or how we should conceptualise our faces in a Japanese frame of mind.

Mori argued that the Japanese first person pronoun is expressed in a variety of forms, in a variety of forms of language that always binds it into binary relationships with its interlocutor you, such that, expressed in a French frame of mind, the meaning of "I" in Japanese is merely "a you for a you" (汝の汝).

One half of Nacalian transformation of Mori's theory has, and had, already been argued by Lacan. Lacan argued that infants identify first with mirror images and as they mature, with their the first person of their self narrative. This progression is inevitable and desirable, Lacan claims, since in the "mirror stage" humans are locked into binary relationships with mirrors and others since the face is only face for another face, or rather in the same way that the Japanese I is (according to Mori, who was surely influenced by Lacan) another interlocutor for its interlocutor, the Western face is locked into a relationship with its 'visual interlocutor' or spectator. The Western face is in other words, just an eye for an eye. Just as the Japanese only hear their first person pronoun through the ears of the second person that they are addressing, Westerners can only see our eyes via mirrors or through the eyes of another. Lacan and Mori (and Bakhtin, Mead, Freud etc) further argue that, in France at least, language provides a third person perspective enabling Francophones to have an I which is objective.

The missing part of this "Nacalian" (Lacan backwards) transformation is my assertion that in Japan, the face is not merely a visual interlocutor for another interlocutor but felt to be observed by a third person generalised other (Senken no Me, Otentousama) that frees the Japanese face, and persona or self, from dependence upon binary relationships.

In each case the achievement of these freedom comes at a price. First of all, we are no longer our true selves. And futher, Derrida and I (!) argue that this extra other, in the West "The Ear of the Other," is uncanny (unheimlich): something once familiar that is now horrific and repressed (Derrida, 1985, p33), repressed and horrific.

Bearing in mind that Western faces are like eyes for eyes, it should appear to the Japanese that our faces are dependent upon the binary relationship in which we find ourselves. Indeed this is the case that Japanese perceive Westerners as always making rather grotesque (oogesa na) "faces" (and gestures) whereas their own facial expressions incline towards remaining objective, and 'composed'.

Bearing in mind that the objective and subjective is reversed - that is to say that the power relationship between the visual and the linguistic is reversed - leads to world views turned inside out, with completely different notions of time, space, travel, tourism and morality.

I prefer the Japanese method of self-reflection since I believe that that vision is somewhat less prone to "spin" or the self-enhancement that Westerners are so good at, and because matriarchy is more natural and effective than patriarchy. Indeed, patriarchy seems to me to be a sort of deviant version of matriarchy, where men somehow worked out how to use some of the natural control methods of matriarchs.

Image: kajap.hypotheses.org/450

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Monday, June 29, 2015


Complete Absence of Graffiti in Japan

Complete Absence of Graffiti in Japan

The Ruth Benedictine notion, supported by almost every other scholar of Japan culture, that Japanese moral behaviour is a form of image maintenance geared towards protecting and maintaining their good image in the eyes of others is given lie by the complete almost absence of graffiti in Japan. British and American university toilets are scattered with generally lewd and or offensive, and sometimes amusing, graffiti. But even though the Japanese are at least as good at pictorial art and as witty, and at least as begrudging of their teachers such as me, there is a complete absence of graffiti in all the cubicles in Yamaguchi University, including the one nearest my research room. If this were a British university there would be a giant bald head with a slit down the middle.


The Japanese think they are just being Collectivist

The Japanese think they are just being Collectivist

The Japanese think that they are being collectivist but there is one simulated autoscopic gaze whose x-ray eyes they can cannot meet. We think that we are only speaking to ourselves and our absent friends but there is one ear that we ignore. Paraphrasing Archimedes, "Give me a place to stand on, and I will make the Earth." Hide just one subject position, that is all it takes to create a self and a world.

Kayako Saeki always looks like she is trying to get out of the image, because she is.

Image of Kayako Saeki copyright Aiko Horiuchi and Ghost House Pictures / Vertigo Entertainment.

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The X-Ray Eye in the Sky

The X-Ray Eye in the Sky
Ball and Torrance (1978: see Kim, 2002) demonstrated that the Japanese can visualise inside things. Since as demonstrated by our research they have a sort of mirror in their heart (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008) their internal visualisation ability applies to their underwear, car interiors and hearts. This self directed eye is not something that the Japanese are fully aware of, but is rather the eye of the Other of the Japanese self, their super-ego which also prevents them from writing graffiti in toilet stall, or robbing people even in the dark. The eye in the Japanese sky sees inside things, and in infra-red too, but perhaps not quite so well. Tthe Japanese do tend to get a little more boisterous at night, and there is a division of what one is and is not allowed to do before and after sundown - specifically drink alcohol.

Image bottom left from Vip Style Magazine (July, 2015) p. 131
Image bottom right copyright 株式会社雅

Ball, O. E., & Torrance, E. P. (1978). Culture and Tendencies to Draw Objects in Internal Visual Perspective. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47(3f), 1071–1075. doi.org/10.2466/pms.1978.47.3f.1071
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
Ball, O. E., & Torrance, E. P. (1978). Culture and Tendencies to Draw Objects in Internal Visual Perspective. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47(3f), 1071–1075. doi.org/10.2466/pms.1978.47.3f.1071

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

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Outside Black Interior Pink

Outside Black Interior Pink

If you tried to have a conversation with this lady you might mistakenly think that she is alll and humble lacking in individuality. She has dressed up her car interior in vivid pink, leaving the outside black with only a hint of weird. The Japanese have an X-ray eye that can see even into their hearts. No Japanese can meet its gaze and live.

Vip Style Magazine (July, 2015) p. 131


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Thursday, June 25, 2015


Shame and the Male Gaze

Shame and the Male Gaze

The image on the left is from a book recommending Nudism to Westerners, in an attempt to "grow up without Shame". The genitals blurred to conform with current Japanese law. The image on the right is from Nakao (2010) "Since when did the Japanese find being naked embarrassing" and is one of the sketches by Heine in Admiral Perry's impressions of Japan at the end of the Edo period. Accordign to Nakano (2012) and for that matter Isabella Bird, the Japanese did not have anything against the display of genitals until shocked Westerners arrived.

The Japanese did have words about the separation of the sexes however. It was said that Japanese males and females should only "share seats" (sit together) up to the age of 7 (Nakano, 2010, p. 18 「男女7歳にして席を同じうせず」) and that among samurai talking (yes!) to the opposite sex was avoided with males and females being kept strictly apart in the Edo period. (武士では男女が言葉すら交わすことも憚れた時代、男女の別厳しく問われた時代ではなかったか。」ibid).

I wonder if the Western nudists achieve their aim. I went to a boarding school and managed to cease from being ashamed of my body, especially when as a late developer I had no pubic hair and a small penis compared to my peers. My shame was so great that I think that in order to beat it I had I no longer identified with it at all. I can remember that the greatest time that I felt shame was when a house master, a father figure of sorts came into the boys showers when I and some of my peers were there.

I guess that if they were in gaze of a mother then they would not feel ashamed, and it is only because the gaze felt is somewhat sexualised, that one might feel ashamed at all. Since Westerners feel shame towards their nudity and guilt about their moral behaviour, and Japanese felt no shame about their moral behaviour but no shame or guilt about their nudity.

Does this suggest that a reversal therefore of the parent that looks and listens. As a boy I used to imagine that my father was watching, and cheering, me when I ran.


West it is felt that there is a
Motherly ear listening (according to Freud and Derrida at least)
Fatherly/Male gaze watching (makes sense, if nudity is so shameful)

Japan it is felt that there is a
Motherly gaze watching (hence the absence of shame towards nudity)
Fatherly/Male ear listening (hence the strictness with regard to talking to the opposite sex).

In my lectures I make Japanese men and women, who do not otherwise sit together, sit and talk to each other. What a Westernising devil. Perhaps I should cease and desist.

If anyone wishes I cease and desist with regard to the image on the left please leave a comment below or email me via nihonbunka.com.

Nakano, A. 中野明. (2010). 裸はいつから恥ずかしくなったか―日本人の羞恥心. Tōkyō: 新潮社.
Bird, I. L. (1880). Unbeaten Tracks in Japan: An Account of Travels in the Interior Including Visits to the Aborigines of Yezo and the Shrines of Nikkô and Isé. J. Murray.
Smith, D. C., & Sparks, W. (1986). Growing Up Without Shame. Elysium Growth Press, book.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Barutan Sadako Kayako Returning Japanese to the Image

Barutan Sadako Kayako Enimaging to Death

When the centre of gravity of your self (Dennet) is your face (Watsuji) then the discovery of the visually spectating other in your psyche, hidden in the eyes of others, or the eyes of the world (seken) returns one to a dead image. In Japan the dead are images but the Japanese, like Westerners, are not aware that they are, as images and voices respectively, we are already dead. Barutan Seijin (the alien from Barutan Star has a ray that freezes people. Sadako turns her victim silent and negative with her gaze. Kayako drags people into mirrors or into photo developer. In all cases the victim is dragged back into the image.

Visual spectators are more active than linguistic ones and can kill just with a stare. They also tend to silence their victims rather than turn them into a scream. The the scream of frozen team member (taiin) in Ultraman (as well as Ultraman himself), and that of Sadako's victim are silent, whereas Kayako's victims do not bother to scream. They know where they are going.

Being of the "imaginaire" (Lacan) Japanese monsters do not speak but make noise like this.

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James Wan Dead Silence: Crossover Horror

Dead Silence is about a female ventriloquist that was turned into a ventriloquists puppet when she died. She, as the puppet, rips out the tongues of anyone who screams in her presence. It was directed by James Wan, a Malaysian Chinese in the USA. The death by screaming meme is common to Western horror - were I believe that we realise we are already a dead voice, and already dead voice. This is exemplified most forcefully in The Blair Witch Project where the brash narrative of American films students, are reduced to childish whimpering. Then finally, after they see the writing on the wall, and the filming becomes first person view and they are made to stand in the corner all that is left is a scream.

The whole monstrous ventriloquist structure is very much a metaphor for the structure of the Western self - it is exactly the metaphor I used when I experienced it.

At the same time, the reducing of victims to silence is a theme from Asian horror - where people are dragged into mirrors (Grudge) developer fluid (Grudge) turned into a negative (Ringu) or frozen (Barutan Seijin) i.e. and generally silenced (the legend of Enma, Ringu, Audition) and returned to the image since East Asians, or at least Japanese, think that they are their face. King Emna at the gates of East Asian Hell hangs the wicked on hooks by their tongues and shows them a magic mirror containing their lives. In Enma's famous book are not their deeds (as is the case with St. Peter's book) but only their names. http://flic.kr/p/v4dsox

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