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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Friday, July 16, 2010


The Cultural Psychology Japanese Hachimaki Headbands

Sakura Matsuri (35)
Originally uploaded by David Clow - Maryland
So why do Japanese people wear these "hachimaki" headbands?

I am thinking in particular about the headbands worn by people studying, rather than the headband worn by the gentleman in this photo, who is taking part in a festival but the following might be applied to anyone wearing a headband with writing on it.

Perhaps those who want to concentrate on studying in a Western,
logo-culture, may make a pledge to others and themselves, and remind themselves of their intention to study using phonological thoughts (that is to say remembered and orally produced but silent phonemes) their mind "I've gotta study. I promised everyone I would study. This test is really important to me." Westerners are said to be able to simulate how they sound to others, that is to say they hear the words that the speak from the others point of view, and internalise the reactions that others would have upon hearing them. This is the essence of logocentrism: phonetic words are thought to provide "presence," (is that what Derrida calls it?) the immediate, inseparable, instantiation of their objective meaning. It all sounds so persuasive. Words just mean. But perhaps to some (to Japanese people) spoken words are communicative - allocentric, *for others*.

Perhaps the Hajimaki headband, which usually has ideograms written on it like "try hardest" "must win" is a bit like these pledges and resolutions. They seem to be more allocentric (is that the word?) in that the signs are all pointing outwards, to others. And to an extent this is the case. The headband is far more like a pledge to others. But I think that the wearer will also be made aware of the fact he or she is signing his or her intention to study hard, so the signs and the headbands, often worn in private, so they are also a message to self. Japanese are thought to be able to simulate how they appear to others, that is to say they see themselves from others' points of view and internalise the reactions that others would have upon hearing them. Hence, and I guess that this is the nub of imago-centrism, signs (visual ones) mean as soon as they are out there, like they are shouting a message, like they are one of those loop tapes that Japanese are so good at ignoring. The fact that signs are so "loud" (from a western point of view) may be why the japanese avoid Japanese writing on their T-Shirts. To have a T-shirt with "Frankie Says War" (this reference is probably way too ancient for you) would be like going around saying "Frankie Says War, Frankie Says War" to everyone they meet. The headband is like that. "I am studying, I am studying, I am studying" it is a sign of and a self-stimulation to persist.

C.f. Finger Pointing Checks (signing to the self)

And my new take on why there is Engrish on T-Shirts


Looking on flickr I see that many hachimaki have nothing on them. In that case I suggest that they may signify a mental, spiritual purity, singularity of purpose and the absence of phonemes in the mind.

One of the scary things about Japan and the West is that each seems to hate they others signs/symbols. Derrida goes on about how much writing and visual signs are derided (he puns on his name I believe) in the West. I often get the feeling that a lot of the purification ritual in Shinto is aimed at a silence of mind. And Zen Buddhism is quite explicit about it: out out damn language.

And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.

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