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, June 30, 2011


Obake by Kyosai

Obake by Kyosai by timtak
Obake by Kyosai, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Another Japanese monster comes out of the image from here. For others click on ringu.

I believe that Japanese are identified with their bodies, or self image from the perspective of their universalised eye of the other (e.g. secularly "Seken no me" or religiously, the sungoddess' mirror). Images of people are therefore, as well as being anthropomorphised to a far greater extent (consider Japanese virtual idols, such as Hajime Miku), inherently problematic in that they give the lie to the imaginary Japanese self. When in a horror morive an image becomes real, it promotes the realisation that the viewer is also an image, and "already dead" (Lacan, and Sixth Sense:-).

How quickly can I explain my understand of Lacan and Japanese culture?!

The internalisation of an other is essential for self. Humans gain their sense of self by internalising the perspectives of others, first their parents, and then more generally and learning to see themselves, and identify with these internalised-external perspectives. These "selves" give individuality just as they take it away. Self is gained at the price of internalising others, or the other. Self is gained at the price of morality.

Most Western theorists, such as George Herbert Mead, argue that the internalisation of the other is fully or effectively achieved only in Language. They assume this to be the case based on the fact that phonetic speech *only needs to be said to be heard*, it bends around, it does not need a mirror, they point out. The self therefore is found in the experience of hearing oneself speak (Derrida's s'entred parle?).

What these Western theorist fail to note is that
1) As a mental experience, self representations in language are no more inherently reflected than self-representations in images. One only needs to think "I" as to experience the thought, true. But one only needs to imagine oneself as to experience that imagining.
2) There is no necessity entailed in speech, vocal or mental, that requires the vocaliser or thinker to identify with self speach. This identification is cultural. We Westerners are taught to identify with ourselves as meanings. And people can be taught to identify with themselves as imaginings, as I argue they are in Japan.

In either case there needs to be cultural encouragement to agregate and care about the aggregation of either linguistic or imagined views upon self.

Lacan was a obscurantist, and I understand little of what he had to say but he says things that (alas!) I can't find in any other author.

1) That both linguistic and imagined self-representations are possible.
2) That the self is believed in due to the percieved intersection of these two forms of self-representation.

We ignore the fact that sound never comes from vision, that there is no essential difference between speech and miming (see the tragedy of those watching mimed songs in David Lynch's Blue Velvet and Mullholland Drive).

Even so, Lacan, like other Western theorists, decry the imagined. Lacan says that the imaginary world lacks the possibility of universalisation.

A person that lives in the imaginary is always trapped in binary relationships between themselves and a viewer. He is right in a way, but he did not take into account the skill with which Japanese people layer so many different imaginary self perspectives, so many eyes, to achieve as much autonomy, or almost as much autonomy, as those that aggregate the ear of the other.

In both Japanese and Western culture there is a drive towards purifying the self of either the linguistic or imaginary. Westerners "should" be purely worded. Japanese should be purely un-worded and imagined.

But in both cultures, the absence of the other-style of self-recognition is self-destroying; both are needed to maintain the illusion of self.

The Japanese are far happier with the realisation of truth. Their greatest and finest look the void in the eye. But for the rank and file, for anyone, loss of self is terrifying. To realise that ones self is only a self-represtantion, a dead thing, an externality, is both liberating, and the
greatest horror.

And here, in the above image, is that horror. The image comes to life, and tells us that the, our image, is only an image.

When the words stop, when the telephone is just a recording (chakushin ari), or noise (ringu), and the image comes to life (above), one is faced with the lie and the terrifying truth.

Another cool thing about Lacan is that he associated the visual with the motherly and language with the fatherly. We live in our mothers eye, and our father's ear. "Fathers" are a social linguistic construct and "mothers" are the people that looked at us, reared us. It is for that reason that the superego is dad, and the Lacanian Other is the topos of name of the father, and that the monsters that come out of the image in Japanese horror are women. I think that this ghost, in the above image, is a woman.

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