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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


The Beauty of Loneliness

Lonely pine by Mothlike
Lonely pine, a photo by Mothlike on Flickr.

It is well known that
1) People generally travel with other people, such as their friends and family, rather than alone. There is a lot of data to support this.
2) Japanese tourists are more likely travel in group tours more than those from Western countries. I
n a survey of about 550 Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and North American tourists visiting Thailand and Australia by Linda Osti, in 2007. It was found that Japanese were second most likely to travel in package tours, after the Chinese, and approximately twice as likely to travel as part of a package tour when compared to US citizens (see green bars in the graph from Osti, 2007, p128, below).Figure 5.2. Type of travel by culture (Osti, 2007, p128)
Of visitors to Hungary in 1994, 25.3% of Japanese and only 6.1% of all other tourist were part of a package tour (Balaz & Mitsutake, 1998, p439). Of travellers to Melbourn Australian in 1996, Japanese were far more likely than Australian and, about twice as likely as US, Canadian and Chinese tourists to be travelling on a package tour (see graph compiled from the data in table 1, Turner, Reisinger, & McQuilken, 2002, below).

Tourist Travelling on a Package Tour and Individually % (Turner, Reisinger, & McQuilken, 2002, p94)

3) On the other hand, however, in answer to the survey question do you "Prefer to travel with friends rather than alone" only 59% of Japanese men replied in the affirmative. In the same survey as quoted first above, "the Japanese are the least likely to travel with a partner of with the family:
only 3% travelled with the family and  16%  with  a  partner,  while  33%  travelled  alone  and  41%  with  friends.   North American travellers are most likely to travel with a partner (32%)" (Osti, 2007, p129) .In other words, perhaps, Japanese travel in groups but on their own. There are economic/convenience advantages to travelling in groups. There may be aesthetic, emotional and cultural advantages to travelling alone.

In Japanese literature, specifically Matsuo Basho's travelogue (Matsuo, 1997), there is an aesthetic of loneliness. Bashou writes
寂しさや須磨に勝ちたる浜の秋 Lonliness, Even more than Suma, The pine on the beach
Suma is a famous place in what is now Hyogo prefecture, where one of the last of the Heike clan was defeated, and the pine is referred to in a poem written in the tenth century, to commemorate which Basho is visiting this lonely spot. Indeed, the whole travelogue expresses the famous sabi aesthetic (of wabi sabi fame), the central characteristics of which is the appreciation of loneliness.

Wabi and sabi are notoriously difficult to translate
. Many Japanese are of the opinion that non-Japanese can not appreciate the emotions that these words express. They are related to Buddhism. It seems to me that they are not too complicated, but admittedly not mainstream outside of Japan (Powell, 2004).

The central part of this aesthetic is the appreciation of the ephemeral nature of existence. E.g. an early Japanese travel diary writer wrote, in about 975 AD (Ihonushi),

"Ideally, I would like watch flowers in spring, and the red leaves in autumn, smelling nature and yet without a wish to make any of these my own, and look upon the dew at dawn and the moon in the evenings sky and from them learn of the impermanence of the world. "

There are those that claim that culture or at least all mainstream traditional cultures attempt to hide mortality. No culture could fight wars (and thus win against other cultures) unless it hid mortality from its members
(Solomon, Greenberg, Schimel, Arndt, & Pyszczynski, 2004).

Be that as it may, there is something about Japanese culture that seems to want to encourage its members to realise their mortality, to look at falling leaves, dew, and cherry blossom, and from them realise the impermanence of existence, including their own.

And part of this aesthetic seems to me to include, travelling alone, and realising ones loneliness. A painful, in a sense masochistic but at the same time honest, true, endeavour aimed at going beyond the illusions that culture usually provides us of our immortality. To break the illusion of our immortality we must face up to change and our solitude.

So, do you prefer to travel alone or with others? Is there a wabi sabi, honest, enlightenment-orientated beauty to travelling alone, to be lonely, to realise ones isolation. After all we all change, we all die, and we all die alone. Alone is where we are going, so to appreciate its plus side, its beauty, is to overcome fear of the culturally hidden inevitable.

Bibliography created with Zotero
Balaz, V., & Mitsutake, M. (1998). Japanese tourists in transition countries of Central Europe: present behaviour and future trends. Tourism Management, 19(5), 433–443.
Matsuo, B 松尾芭蕉. (1997). 芭蕉自筆奥の細道. (上野洋三 & 桜井武次郎, Eds.). 岩波書店.
Osti, L. (2007). Travel guidebooks and the independent traveller in the Asia Pacific Region (Ph.D. Thesis). VIctoria University, School of Applied Economics, Faculty of Business and Law, Victoria, NSW, Australia. Retrieved from http://vuir.vu.edu.au/1496/1/Osti.pdf
Powell, R. R. (2004). Wabi Sabi Simple: Create Beauty. Value Imperfection. Live Deeply. Adams Media.
Solomon, S., Greenberg, J., Schimel, J., Arndt, J., & Pyszczynski, T. (2004). Human awareness of mortality and the evolution of culture. In M. Schaller & C. S. Crandall (Eds.), The Psychological Foundations of Culture (pp. 15–40).
Turner, L. W., Reisinger, Y. V., & McQuilken, L. (2002). How Cultural Differences Cause Dimensions of Tourism Satisfaction. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 11(1), 79–101. doi:10.1300/J073v11n01_05

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Friday, April 27, 2012


Flower-place: Heisig, Nishida and Zeami

Flower-place: Heisig, Nishida and Zeami by timtak
Flower-place: Heisig, Nishida and Zeami, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
On the day after the death of his wife of some thirty years, Kitaro Nishida, probably the most famous Japanese philosopher and by then an old man, wrote a poem which went something like this (from memory),

The plant on my window ledge
That I planted last autumn
Will bloom in spring
But there will be no body there
To see it

This is, literally, too sad! I will come back to this point at the end.

Yesterday I attempted to read two excellent articles by James Heisig, (Heisig, 2004 and 2010, both online) the renowned author of two of the most famous books for students of Japanese, "Learning the Kanji," and professor of philosophy at the Nanzan Institute of Religion and Culture. I am of course academically a million miles away, and yet I feel jealous. Fortunately, I was consoled by the fact that 'there is always someone above the person above' as they say in Japan, and in this case, that would be the subject of these two papers: Nishida Kitaro. Both papers were very interesting, very good introductions to Nishida but rather critical.

In the first, (Heisig, 2004) after expressing his doubts regarding the confidence with which Nishida expressed his ideas, professor Heisig likens Nishida's thought to medieval European mysticism, a genre of thought that he seems to feel is something from which we need to move on.

Heisig writes, "If I had to focus these general impressions on a single idea running through Nishida’s writings, it would be his almost superstitious belief in the fundamental unity of consciousness and reality: a belief never questioned, never proved, never even argued, and yet never very far from his mind. "

Heisig claims that like medieval European thinkers, such as Eckhart and Cusanus, Nishida located the infinite in the finite world, in the experience of a sphere without edges, a single world, or mental mirror, both terms given in the Latin of medieval scholars, ”unus mundus” and ”speculum mentis” respectively. Secondly Nishida finds a unity in the “identity of absolute contradictories,” which is shared by medieval philosophers though in a different way, the latter by appeal to an infinite god. Finally Heisig questions the purity of Nishida's pure experience, wondering I think whether from with the god of the medieval mystics it has yet to be distilled. Wow. I did not really understand, or agree, but I was very impressed.

Following on from this, I feel, in the second paper Heisig questions how Nishida's place, referred to several times as a mirror, can act as a unifying principle rather than the the 'blooming buzzing confusion' found in William James. Heisig complains (quite rightly in a way I think) about the lack of scent or smell in Nishida's 'place' despite the fact that it is found in Zeami's notion of "flower" which grows from the same Buddhist ground. Heisig finds Nishida's logic of place which "relies throughout on images of space and sight" (p.), "thanks the primacy given [to the] sense of sight."(p.)

I am just loving Heisig's version of Nishida and agree with everything that I understand, except the rather harsh criticism. I am looking forward to reading lots more Nishida. I was inspired to make a picture of a blooming, buzzing confusion, superimposed with Zeami's Kanji for flower, which I have called flower-place. I think that Heisig was spot on to point out the parallel between Zeami's flower, Nishida's place, and that both have something to do with an appreciation of Kanji - which Heisig has in abundance.

When reading the second paper, I was kind of trembling with excitement (!) because I thought that Heisig would come to the same conclusion as my own: that the unifying principle in Nishida's logic basho is indeed supplied by Zeami in riken no ken(Yusa, 1987), or the ability to see oneself. Zeami claimed that practising Noh allowed the actor to see himself from the perspective of the audience. In Heisig's discussion of Nishida's "mirror" it comes across as all blooming, and confusing, but perhaps that is to forget that Nishida's place is a flower-place: the sort of "mental mirror" that no only reflects but is seen, and means something.

Returning to the blooming confusion of William James, the Western answer to the provision of unity to the experience is as provided by Mead(1967), through the action of the rational intellect, or more precisely through speech. Speech enables us to express ourselves and hear, and understand, that which we express from the point of view of others, and thus to have meaning. Meaning is found in this our ability to hear from the point of view of others, ever more universal, in the sound box of our mind. Mead rejected the idea that humans could reflect visually without the aid of a mirror, and says that such visual introspection, and meaning making is limited to actors.

"Is is only the actor who uses bodily expressions as a means of looking as he wants others to feel. He gets a response which reveals to him how he looks by continually using a mirror. He registers anger, he registers love, he registers this that or the other attitude and he examines himself in a glass to see how he does so." Mead, 1987, p66-67)

In my own very limited research (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008) we have shown that that the ability to see oneself is not limited to actors, Noh or otherwise, but to Japanese in general. A seminar student found that this ability was particularly prevalent among those who had mastered a Japanese martial art.

Many Western semioticians and linguists (Barthes, 1977; DeFrancis, 1989; McDonald, 2009; Unger, 1990) however, are quite categorical or even vehement in their dismissal of meaning in vision. They claim that for any meaning that is more than rudimentary, visual meanings have to be pass through the vector of spoken words. This debate has become positively passionate (see Lurie, 2006) in the field of sinology on the part of those that critique the "ideographic myth" (see Hansen, 1993).

In the Chinese language each Kanji has a different sound, so the phono-centric myth is more plausible. Japanese is perhaps alone in using Kanji alongside multiple readings. I do not know how Zeami pronounced the Kanji in the image above, "ka" or "hana," and I don't say either when I see it, but I do know that he used it to mean something like the background of the image. So when sinologists like DeFrancis (1989) claim that it visual meaning is "unthinkable," what I think that they mean is that they can not think see those characters from the viewpoint of another, and can not integrate them with the phonetic medium of their thought, their selfing (McAdams, 1997). For those in this mode of self, there can be no meaning, and no unifying principle in the visual.

It is this ability to simulate the consciousness of another that allows one to mean to oneself and create a self for oneself. At the limit the self may be expunged, but the ability to see or understand, the God part of the equation, is only subsequently expunged.

The important point is that it comes with practice. Language does not come with a mirror built into it, and nor are Japanese born with a mirror in their heads. Westerners learn to "express themselves," define their objectives, debate, and think objectively by thinking about how others would hear their expressions, definitions and oration. Japanese people, through different kinds of practice and attention learn to see from the eyes of the world. These different types of practice give rise to different types of unifying ability, different kinds of "God." Not that the Japanese do "God" exactly. In Japan the notion of God is more often replaced especially these days with the notion of loving 'ancestors' those by whom we have been predeceased.

I like to think that in a way Nishida's wife saw his flower when it came into bloom.

Barthes, R. (1977). Elements of Semiology. Hill and Wang.
Hansen, C. (1993). Chinese Ideographs and Western Ideas. The Journal of Asian Studies, 52(02), 373–399. doi:10.2307/2059652
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. doi:10.2307/2059652 http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/Website/Papers/Mirrors-pspb4%5B1%5D.pdf
Heisig, J. W. (2004). Nishida’s medieval bent. Japanese journal of religious studies, 55–72. nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/publications/jjrs/pdf/674.pdf
Heisig, J. W. (2010). Nishida’s Deodorized Basho and the Scent of Zeami’s Flower. Frontiers of Japanese Philosophy 7: Classical Japanese Philosophy (p. 247–73). Nagoya: Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture. Retrieved from nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/staff/jheisig/pdf/Nishida%20and%20Zea...
Lurie, D. B. (2006). Language, writing, and disciplinarity in the Critique of the ‘“Ideographic Myth”’: Some proleptical remarks. Language & Communication, (26), 25–269. Retrieved from www.columbia.edu/~dbl11/Lurie-LangWritingDisc.pdf
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.
McAdams, D. P. (1997). The case for unity in the (post) modern self. Self and identity: Fundamental issues, 1, 46–78.
McDonald, E. (2009). Getting over the Walls of Discourse: ‘Character Fetishization’ in Chinese Studies. The Journal of Asian Studies, 68(04), 1189. doi:10.1017/S0021911809990763
Unger, J. M. (1990). The Very Idea. The Notion of Ideogram in China and Japan. Monumenta Nipponica, 45(4), 391–411.
Yusa, M. (1987). Riken no Ken. Zeami’s Theory of Acting and Theatrical Appreciation. Monumenta Nipponica, 42(3), 331–345.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Nostalgia in Premodern Japan

Nostalgia in the Suma Diary by timtak
Nostalgia in the Suma Diary, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
A variety of authors (Ashkenazi, 2001; Askew, 2007; Gerster, 2006; Rea, 2000; Robertson, 1988) suggest that the Japanese love of historical tourism, be it for Japan related history or histories of pre-modern ideals, is due to the modernisation of Japan. According to these authors, Japanese are seeking a nostalgic return to pre-modern, pre-Western self.

I claim that the the Japanese love of historical theme parks, such as Furusato (home-towns/villages), Heide in Switzerland, Beatrix Potter in the UK, Anne of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island Canada, is indeed because the Japanese are attracted to nostalgia. But I believe the Japanese always have been wallowing in nostalgia because nostalgia is just pandemic in Japan. In the UK nostalgia is for old folks like myself, but in Japan even young people - e.g. my students - like to proclaim that something is "natsukashii!" (nostalgic). Things do not need to be all that old to be nostalgic. Indeed it helps if they are not so that young people can remember them.

The Japanese love of nostalgia has nothing to do with the West.

The point I want to make is that the Japanese interest in nostalgia has little to do with a yearning for a pre-modernised, pre-Westernised Japan. The Japanese have been into nostalgia for a long time, well before anything that might be described as modern or western and an impact upon Japanese society. Nostalgia lies on the same emotional seam as wabi, sabi and aware, the wet, masochistic love of the unfolding of time, as manifested in solitude and decay, and the Japanese were into this aesthetic since the dawn of recorded history.

In one of the earliest travelogues (Zouki, c975) and the earliest poetic diary describing a pilgrimage the author visits places significant in Japanese mythology, and reminisces about the time of the gods all the while typically Japanese aesthetic enjoying the impermanence of things.
If possible I would like watch flowers in spring, and the red leaves in autumn, smelling nature and yet without a wish to make any of these my prize, look upon the dew at dawn and the moon in the evenings sky and from them learn of the impermanence of the world.

Seven hundred years later, in 1689, the post travelling poet, Matsuo Basho waxes lyrical about ancient "ruins" (see Hudson, 1999, p1-2) as mentioned in a previous post. Basho visits sites where there is nothing to see but grass, and is moved to weeping by a sense of nostalgic impermanence.

At a stone commemorating a castle long since destroyed, Basho writes, "Time passes and the world changes. The remains of the past are shrouded in uncertainty. And yet, here before my eyes was a monument which none would deny had lasted a thousand years. I felt as if I were looking into the minds of the men of old...I forgot the weariness of my journey and was moved to tears of Joy." (Keene, 1955, p366 in Hudson, 1999, p1) .

And in one of his most famous poems composed at site of a once famous samurai family, where now only summer grass remains, he writes (Basho, 1997):

夏艸や兵どもが夢の跡 Summer Grass, Warriors, Trace of their dreams

Donald Keene (1999) claims that Basho was so into nostalgia, or at least reliving literary precedent, that he only commented on scenes that had been mentioned by previous poets.

"He (Basho) had absolutely no desire to be the first ever to set foot atop a mountain peak or to notice some site that earlier poets had ignored. On the contrary, no matter how spectacular a landscape might be, unless it had attracted the attention of his predecessors, the lack of poetic overtones deprived it of charm for Basho. When, for example, he travelled along a stretch of the sear of Japan coast that inspired no important poems, he did not mention the scenery" (Keene, 1999, p 311 in Watkins, 2008, p101).

Another 250 years later a cultured traveller Kikushi Tamiko (1821) set off "in a cultural quest for the locations and events made famous by the texts that she had read"(Nenzi, 2004, p). Once again, her criteria of selection "in terms of  its presence  (or  absence) in  the pages of  classical  literature," (Ibid, p291). The innate beauty of the destination did not matter because, according to Nenzi (ibid), "For culture travellers, the essence of the experience of meisho [named-places] was to recover "the idea behind" rather than to delve into the present substance of the sight."

Basho was clearly not alone, but part of an immense tradition that he helped to perpetuate. When a lowly warrior was sent from Kurume City (my old town) to Tokyo, then Edo, in 1839 as part of the alternate attendance/hostage system (Sankinkoutai), he wrote in his diary "While in Edo, we may also go to see the places where Basho visited, and this brings on great nostalgia."(Aoki, 2005, in Vaporis, 1996, p296)

At about the same period, more than a decade before the opening of Japan to the Wet, the Suma Diary (Kagawa, 1847) details a trip to Sumaura in what is now Hyougo Prefecture, to the ruins of the palace of one of the poets whose poem was featured in the famous collection of 100 poets used on Japanese playing cards, originally from the second most famous old book of poetry (Saeki, 1981).

Here below is the excerpt from the travel diary above, translated with a little help from my Japanese wife, and with my attempt at a modern Japanese, non poetic version in brackets.

願ひし須磨の浦につく。 (願った行き先である須磨の浦に到着しました。)
I arrive at Suma Bay, the place I had been yearning to reach.
The view from here is out over the sea.
There is nothing like it. Just a wilderness of water.
It is not easy to put into words, even if I go on talking. And even now??
At each house the bamboo blinds are down. As if they have a reason for (not) living here?? (Maybe suggesting that they are waiting).
???? Nostalgic.
I hired an old man guide. We went on together talking. Look at that. At that little mountain there.
When Lord Yukihira Chunagon went to get water from the bay.
This is the Inaba Mountain in the poem (one of the 100 that are told at new year).
Stare and go (come?) from/to the beach.
Very interesting! ???
Starting with Suma Temple, the ruins of the palace, and the Ichinotani battlefield.
I even started to count the autumn grass above (the ruins) with my eyes.
Becoming like the shadow of a pine (this may be another reference to the woman in the aforemented poem who was told to wait like a pine tree for her lord to come back to her.)
I prayed at the burial mound of Taira no Atsumori.
And all the while, the sounds of the wind and waves, runs through me.
And the memory of you, (my lord) rises before my eyes.
たちよれば君を忍ぶの草おひてあらぬ露さへおきそはりけり (たちよったら中納言の君を忍ぶ草にあった露さえ落ち添わった。)
Having paid my visit, even the dew on the grass that remembers you has increased.
(This is a reference to another ancient poem --kokinshuu, 545 -- and suggests that the author is crying and thus increasing the dew)
I can't but be nostalgic about the place I am seeing.

(Corrections gratefully received!)

In other words, the author, went to some lonely spot on the coast of Japan in what is now Hyougo Prefecture, to the site of the residence of one of the poets who had been famous almost one thousand years years previously, and then, staring at sea and grass, he felt an image of that lonely, ancient, love-struck poet spring to mind. And imagining the ancient poet, this tourist wept, mega-nostalgically. Contra Urry (2002), in this most quintessentially Japanese touristic experience, there was nothing to be seen. There was only grass, only sea. There was nothing that the tourist or traveller could not have seen in many other places far nearer to home. But at the same time, the author did see, did experience nostalgia and the pity of things (mono no aware), because the traveller called images to mind.

Japanese "site-seeing" (thing seeing: kenbutsu, 見物) is about seeing but not of sights, not of external visual images, but rather of visions: physical absence juxtaposed with images in the heart.

   In order to bring the observations above back to a theory of the visual-imaginary (Takemoto, 2002), or "lococentrism" (Lebra, 2004) of the Japanese self, I might perhaps go via "phallocentrism"(Spivak, 1976). The narratival, linguistic self is that which is accompanies identification with the symbolic parent.  whereas the visual-imaginary self is that which accompanies identification with the primary care giver (Lacan, 1949). I could then link nostalgia with "pay-forward" and pay-back families as I did in my last post. In order to link nostalgia with lococentrism directly, would have to create a deconstruction of the theory of place (Nishida, 1987)!
  Western theorists (Mead, 1967; Lacan, 1949) insist that visual self-identification can only take place in the presence of a real other (mirror or person) and that the subject is thus never free to develop or simulate an objective, generalised view on self. While the visual is decried in this way language is seen to provide a "generalised" (Mead, 1967), capitalised (Other, Lacan, 1998), "super" (Bakhtin, 1986) objective 'perspective' on self a priori. Above all, visual self-views are almost always considered to be external (e.g. Cohen & Gunz, 2002), whereas linguistic representations of self are seen to be somehow inherently private or at least internalisable (for exceptions see Duranti, 1986; Koster, 2009; Wittgenstein, 1973, and to an extent Derrida).
   Derrida sees nostalgia (Derrida, 1998, p240) as a desire for time before language, "[The] Dream of a mute society, of a society before the origin of languages, that is to say, strictly speaking, a society before society." From a position within the logocentric tradition that he is critiquing, Derrida, sees this nostalgic longing for self presence, or authenticity, as a longing for self before self.  This critique is founded in the impossibility of non-linguistic self-reference (or even non-referential self-reference).
   Accepting this contradiction, Nishida (1987) argues that a phenomenological -- and I would say viso-imaginary -- self-experience can be achieved even as, or especially once, language is expunged. Once language is externalised, it is possible to experience an "absolutely contradictory self indentity:" self as the immediate environment, self as place. Japanese tourists aim to achieve this kind of pre-symbolic authenticity, by visiting the symbolic sites, sights which have themselves become markers, deliciously, from a Japanese viewpoint, "encrusted with renown" (Culler, 1988, p8 in the online version).

   Words do always result in "differance" (Derrida, 1998), but images are not "timed"(contra Fenollosa & Pound, 1936). Whereas words are always differed, mean something in the future, images are always of something recalled, already in the past.  The Japanese tourist is not loving any image real or imagined, but the place in which it appears. 
    Hmm, really riffing here...Derrida says that the phoneme results in differance. But while phonemes do exist in time they only point forwards in time under the assumption of a static presence or place. If he insists on any before and after then Derrida is as nostalgic as Rousseau, or our tourist. It is the admixture of place that makes the phoneme forward speaking. Conversely it is the removal of temporally differing language that makes the place, the mirror shine brightest in recollection of the past.
    Incidentally, the opposite of nostalgia is hope and we, Westerners, are awash with it. I am hoping I make sense one day:-)

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Watkins, L. (2008). Japanese Travel Culture: An Investigation of the Links between Early Japanese Pilgrimage and Modern Japanese Travel Behaviour. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, 10(2), 93–110.

Diary and Poems
Kagawa, K. 香川景周. (1847). 須磨日記 (Suma Diary my trans). In 岸上質賢 (Ed.) "續紀行文集". Retrieved from books.google.co.jp/books?id=qKk9as-h84kC&printsec=fro...
【百人一首講座】立ち別れいなばの山の峰に生ふる まつとしきかば今かへり来む─中納言行平 京都せんべい おかき専門店【長岡京小倉山荘】. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2012, from www.ogurasansou.co.jp/site/hyakunin/016.html
Kokinshuu 古今和歌集の部屋. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2012, from http://www.milord-club.com/Kokin/uta0545.htm
Matuso, B. 松尾 芭蕉. (1997). 芭蕉自筆奥の細道. (上野 洋三 & 桜井 武次郎, Eds.). 岩波書店.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Retro Confectionary as Japanese Nostalgia

Retro Confectionary as Japanese Nostalgia by timtak
Retro Confectionary as Japanese Nostalgia, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Showa period (1926-1989) confectionery has been popular these past few years and the above shop specialises in its provision. The whole shop has been decorated to represent a bygone age. The UK has a few oldy-worldy sweetshops too, but I think that Japan has more of them.

Tourism theorists (Creighton, 2009; Guichard-Anguis, 2009a, 2009b; Tomomitsu-Tomasson, 2005) point out that the Japanese want to visit hometown mountains (satoyama), "Edoic" (Creighton, 2009) places, and traditional Japanese hotels (ryokan, see Guichard-Anguis, 2009). This is due in part to the Westernisation of Japanese society, and the nostalgia for the lost traditions of Japan. This sweet shop is motivated in part by the same social phenomenon.

The problem with this theory, that Japanese nostalgia is for a Pre-Western(ized) authentic Japanese self, is that, as reported in the same literature (Hudson, 1999 see Plutschow, 1981, p1-2; Nenzi, 2994) the Japanese were into nostalgia, and travelling for the purpose of nostalgia from well before the arrival of Western influence. Matsuo Basho was wallowing in nostalgia in the seventeenth century, continuing a tradition that had continued for centuries before, well before Japan became Westernised. Nostalgia is and, for millennia, always has been big in Japan.

Another reason for the popularity of retro confectionery is because nostalgia is just big in Japan. I think this is partly because of the structure of the Japanese family. In the West we make our children sleep alone, prioritizing the relationship between the parents over that between parents and children. As the standard Freudian interpretation would have us know, Western children grow up looking forward to the time when they can have a home, and a bedroom of their own. British children are forced to invest in their future. They have a nest egg to look forward to.

In Japan however, the relationship between parents and children (or at least between mothers and children) is prioritised over that between the parents. The children are treated with considerable indulgence. Japan is overall a very child friendly society. The Japanese are kind to their children. This sounds all very well and good but, when Japanese adults grew up however, they are socially required to repay the debt that they incurred as children. Japanese children are forced to take out a loan. But what can they look forward to? Nostalgia, for the time when they were loved as children. I think that this is another reason why sweet shops that sell treats from the generation before are so popular.

This pack-back (Japan) v.s. pay-forward (the west) dichotomy is to my mind one of the biggest differences between Western and Japanese society. Of course, there are all sorts of variations within both cultures too.

Creighton, M. (2009). The Heroic Edo-ic: Travelling the History Highway in Today’s Tokugawa Japan. In A. Guichard-Anguis, O. Moon, & M. R. del Alisal (Eds.), Japanese Tourism and Travel Culture (1st ed., pp. 37–75). Routledge.
Guichard-Anguis, S. (2009). Japanese Inns (Ryokan) as Producers of Japanese Identity. In A. Guichard-Anguis, O. Moon, & M. R. del Alisal (Eds.), Japanese Tourism and Travel Culture (1st ed., pp. 76–101). Routledge.
Hudson, M. (1999). Ruins of identity: ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands. University of Hawaii Press.
Nenzi, L. (2004). Cultured Travelers and Consumer Tourists in Edo-Period Sagami. Monumenta Nipponica, 59(3), 285–319.
Plutschow, H. (1981). Four Japanese Travel Diaries of the Middle Ages. Cornell Univ East Asia Program.
Tomomitsu-Tomasson, J. (2005). Furusato and Theme Parks: Cultural Authenticity and Domestic Tourism. Furusato and Theme Parks: Cultural Authenticity and Domestic Tourism. Unpublished essay submitted for coursework: The Tourist Gaze, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from www.lancs.ac.uk/postgrad/tomomits/authenticity.pdf

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Tours Galore: The Variety of Japanese Domestic Tourism

Tours Galore: The Variety of Japanese Domestic Tourism by timtak
Tours Galore: The Variety of Japanese Domestic Tourism, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
There are about 180 different domestic package tours being offered by this travel agent. That the Japanese use group tours is sometimes argued to be indicative of Japanese social conformism (Graburn, 1983; Mak, 2003; Kato, 1994) and collectivism.

It can also be argued on the contrary (e.g. Hendry & Raveri, 2002) that Japanese leisure activities demonstrate the myth of Japanese homogeneity, and I agree. Just look at the choice available here and this is just domestic tourism. Furthermore, as Hendry (Hendry, 2009. p132) points out, with all the foreign country themed parks, it is possible to do a fantasy world tour with out leaving Japan. The variety of Japanese leisure activities are phenomenal.

A package tour does not necessary imply that one travels in a group only that the tour operator has purchased the elements of the package in bulk. As soon as one gets off the plane, bus, or train, one may act individually, almost unaware of the fact that there are others that have rooms at the same hotel, or tickets to the same museums.

It is true that the Japanese are more likely to go on package tours than American tourists, but there are more advantages to travelling in groups than collective conformism. No matter which way you cut it, package tours offer economies of scale (Mak, 2003) so unless you are so obsessed with "expressing your individuality", (Markus, Uchida, Omoregie, Townsend, & Kitayama, 2006) or have such fear of the collective, that you are prepared to pay through the nose to avoid a group tour, the straightforward individual who is not hung up on her individuality, will choose a package tour that suits her preferences because packages are cheaper, and Japanese tour operators offer variety in abundance.

Graburn, N. H. H. (1983). To pray, pay and play: the cultural structure of Japanese domestic tourism. Université de droit, d’économie et des sciences, Centre des hautes études touristiques.
Hendry, J., & Raveri, M. (2002). Japan at play: the ludic and the logic of power. Routledge.
Kato, A. (1994). Package tours, pilgrimages and pleasure trips’. The Electric Geisha: Exploring Japan’s Popular Culture. Tokyo: Kodansha International.
Mak, J. (2003). Tourism and the Economy: Understanding the Economics of Tourism. University of Hawaii Press.
Markus, H., & Kitayama, S. (1994). A Collective Fear of the Collective: Implications for Selves and Theories of Selves.
Markus, H. R., Uchida, Y., Omoregie, H., Townsend, S. S. M., & Kitayama, S. (2006). Going for the Gold Models of Agency in Japanese and American Contexts. Psychological Science, 17(2), 103–112. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01672.x

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Sunday, April 15, 2012


Space and Time: Heidegger, Derrida, Nishida and the Tardis

Space and Time: Heidegger, Derrida, Nishida and the Tardis by timtak
Space and Time: Heidegger, Derrida, Nishida and the Tardis, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
When I was young I was a fan of Dr. Who, a BBC children's' program about a man who could travel through time. The Doctor (played by a variety of actors) was a "Time Lord," someone who could travel through time, using a Tardis (time machine), pictured above.

Like many young British children, and as fans often do, I wanted to be Dr. Who. I wanted to travel through time. And at the same time, I had a notion that I did and do (quick time travel there) travel through time, that my identity was (is!) temporal. I kidded myself, that I was a "Tim(e) Lord!"

I was concerned about the identity of myself across time. Am I the same person today as I was yesterday or a moment ago? Am I the same person across time? Can I wait and still be myself?

If I were Japanese, could I also have been concerned about questions such as am I the same person here as I am in my living room? Am I the same person across space? Can I turn and spin to see myself?

Lately thinking about the Japanese, and their concept of tourism, I am reminded of time and space.

Nishida (1987) and all the best Japanese philosophers and Japanologists (Watsuji, 1979; Hamaguchi, 1982; Nakane, 1972; Bachnik, 1998; Pilgrim 1986; Kimura, 1972) have a tendency to equate human being, or Japanese conceptions of human, or Japanese society, with space.

Nishida even said that humans are,"beings as space" (Dilworth, 1970). In an attempt to describe (Japanese) people Hamaguchi (1982) used the ideograms for human backwards (間人) to create a neologism which transliterates as "spacemen."

The official translation of Hamaguchi's term is, however, "relatum" (Hamaguchi, 1997). This gives gives the theory a very conceptual air, and for a long time I attempted to understand such theories in a theoretical way, as "interdependent selves" (Markus and Kitayama, 1991), for instance.

Notwithstanding my aforementioned "Dr. Who-y" feeling that I exist in time, I have of late come to appreciate Nishida's assertion from a more phenomenological perspective. Put more simply, I may perhaps have become aware of what it feels like to be a "relatum" or 'spaceman,' I kid you not.

In a Japanese version of the cogito, Nishida argues that space, or place, is primordial, that the ultimate indubitable is not that "I am," but that there is a space of pure experience.

Would-be-philosophical waffle.
If I meditate on my existence, I can, like Descartes, think that all the things in this spacey stuff, "res-extensa," are just a dream. But hold on, the words that form my 'I think therefore I am' take place, have a place, in the space of consciousness. I can doubt my words (they may be meaningless) but there is a place, a field, a "pure experience" in which the words take place.

This goldfish bowl, my consciousness, this sound box, the place where the 'dubitable' 'res-extensa' occur, is itself indubitable. I may not know that "I" exist. Something exists, I do know that something is going on somewhere, that there is an experience. It seems to me fairer to say that place pre-dates, is more "primordial" than time.

Derrida (1998) says that the phoneme that we Westerners are so keen on, or the cogito that we westerners hold most dear, occurs in time. The phonetic medium, where my thoughts about my existence unfold, is a 'deferred,' temporal one. Derrida says, I think, that any sign must be itterable, repeatable and this again requires time.

If we stop our words and all symbolic activity, and just observe, then as soon as one wants to get away from its pure chaotic becoming nature, one needs to combat Heraclitus' river (which can be crossed only once) and demand that 'it', whatever being is, repeats or persists in time. Pure experience is and is not.

Phenomenologically, the space of our experience is essential. But phenomenon are so fleeting as to not-exist. Nishida was okay with that. His primordial space was space only, and nothing-ness. As soon as one want to point, say, assert, that something exists one needs time, repetition, to assert that anything might be. Heidegger asked what the meaning of being was and asserted that it is time (note 1). Without time one can not have any being. Nishida asserts that without place space, there is nowhere for being to be.
End of waffle

Returning to Japanology, it was Watsuji's frustration with Heidiggers emphasis on time, that encouraged him to write his opus on Japanese culture (Fudoron, "Climate and Culture") based upon Nishida's philosophy of space (Mochizuki, 2006, p45-46: recommended & linked below).

Indeed, as mentioned above, there are lots of academics asserting the importance of place in Japan. The climate, the seasons, the "air," "time place and occasion," Uchi and Soto, outside and in. I agree with them. There is something spatial about the organisation, and representations of Japanese society.

Admittedly similar things could also be said that in English too we say "we are close to someone," or that "He is distant," we have an "inner circle" and call others "outsiders," we have "backstage experiences" and we "put on a front." So is the Japan-Anglophone distinction naff? I don't think so. In a recent post I wrote about attributional and locational self definitions. It seems clear to me that Japanese are always using locational self-definitions: locational membership of a house (ie) being perhaps the most basic (Nakane, 1972).

I think that the "attributional" self-definitions of Westerners are often teleological, that is to say concerned with our goals and objectives in time. If I say that I am a of a certain village or say where my company is I am speak locationally, geographically. But if I say I am a teacher, or window maker, or accountant I am speaking about my objectives in time. The Japanese do not concern themselves with teleological objectives, or define their goals, nearly so much.

Japanese go on about spaces, about their insides and outsides. Westerners go on about time, about their end points and their start points. If a Japanese anthropologist came to the UK she would write about how these strange Britons bring time even into their discussions social relations, classifying others as "old friends" and forming social bonds based upon shared "goals and objectives."

Note 1 from Johnson, 2000:

"Heidegger concludes that temporality is the condition for the possibility that things will be meaningful to human beings (iethe meaning of being is time) (Heidegger, 1927/ 1962, p. 38)"

Bibliography created with Zotero
Bachnik, J. M. (1998). Time, space and person in Japanese relationships. Interpreting Japanese Society. Anthropological Approaches. London: Routledge, 91–116.
Derrida, J. (1998). Of grammatology. JHU Press.
Dilworth, D. A. (1970). Nishida’s Final Essay: the Logic of Place and a Religious World-View. Philosophy East and West, 20(4), 355–. Retrieved from html://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew27020.htm
Hamaguchi, E. 浜口恵俊. (1982). 間人主義の社会日本. 東洋経済新報社.
Hamaguchi, E. (1997). A methodological Basis for Japanese Studies: With Regard to ‘Relatum’ as its foundation. Japan Review, 9, 41–63. Retrieved from
Johnson, M. E. (2000). Heidegger and meaning: Implications for phenomenological research. Nursing Philosophy, 1(2), 134–146.
Kimura, B. 木村敏. (1972). 人と人との間―精神病理学的日本論. 弘文堂.
Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review; Psychological Review, 98(2), 224. Retrieved from http://www.biu.ac.il/PS/docs/diesendruck/2.pdf
Mochizuki, T. (2006). Climate and Ethics: Ethical Implications of Watsuji Tetsuro’s Concepts:‘ Climate’ and‘ Climaticity’. Philosophia Osaka, 1, 43–55. Retrieved from http://ir.library.osaka-u.ac.jp/metadb/up/LIBPHILOO/po_01_043.pdf
Nakane, C. (1972). Japanese Society (1st pb ed.). University of California Press.
Nishida, K. 西田幾多郎, & 上田閑照. (1987). 場所. 西田幾多郎哲学論集〈1〉場所・私と汝 他六篇. 岩波書店.
Pilgrim, R. B. (1986). Intervals (‘ Ma’) in Space and Time: Foundations for a Religio-Aesthetic Paradigm in Japan. History of Religions, 25(3), 255–277.
Watsuji, T. 和辻哲郎. (1979). 風土―人間学的考察. 岩波書店.

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Hand Size Estimates in Schizophrenic and Healthy Japanese

Hand Size Estimates in Schizophrenic and Healthy Japanese by timtak
Hand Size Estimates in Schizophrenic and Healthy Japanese, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
With Gishin Imamura, I did a study (Takemoto and Imamura, 2001) comparing self body views of Japanese and Japanese schizophrenics which we presented at a regional psychology conference just over 10 years ago.

In the experiment we showed both groups a picture of a hand and asked them to zoom in or zoom out until the picture is the same as actual size. We found, contra previous research which find that schizophrenics have unrealistic self body views, that Japanese schizophrenics were more accurate than "healthy" Japanese people who consistently underestimated the size of their hands, as if subjective first person body views were affecting their size estimates.

This goes against my theory of Japanese culture; that the Japanese are particularly good at seeing themselves from a third person view having a visual generalised other (Heine, et al. 2008; Masuda, T., Gonzalez, R., Kwan, L., & Nisbett, R. E. 2008). Or does it?!

Westerners are good at seeing themselves from a third person linguistic perspective describing themselves in the same way irrespective of who they are talking to (Kanagawa, Cross & Markus, 2001) having a *linguistic* "super addressee" (Bakhtin, 1986. p126) or *linguistic* generalised other (Mead, 1967), unlike the Japanese for who lack a linguistic third person perspective on the self, and whom the first person is a "you for you" (Mori, 1999). According to our analysis, (Leuers and Sonoda, 1999b) Japanese, but not Canadian, even self-descriptions given in response to a paper based Twenty Statements Test showed "dialogical markers" suggesting that Japanese were describing themselves to imagined real others even when no other was present.

At the same time, despite this generalised view of self, Westerners and not Japanese are the ones to bend their self view to suit themselves - that is to say to present themselves linguistically in an unrealistically positive light (Heine, Lehman, Markus and Kitayama, 1999). Similarly it is Japanese and not Westerners that present themselves photographically in an unrealistic light ({Takemoto ne} Leuers and Sonoda, 1999a: see Heine, 2011, p?)

Having a generalised other in a certain media provides an objective view of the self but it is from the point of view of an other with which one identifies, is self-simulated or that loves the self. Thus, paradoxically, the presence of a "generalised other" (Mead, 1967) super addressee (Bakhtin, 1986. p126) , or third person perspective (Mori, 1999) can result in the most self-serving, subjective self-cognitions. And that may be what we are seeing here in the above experimental results. Perhaps.

Addendum (No the Opposite!?)
The healthy subjects are only worse than the SC (schizophrenic) subjects when the image was two metres from the eyes. At 30 cm (a typical distance when looking at ones hands) their was no difference between the two groups. One never normally sees ones hands at a distance of two metres. We asked subjects to make the images on the screen actual size (so that when they put their hand on the screen their hand would be the same size as the image). Healthy subjects made their hands consistently smaller.

On second thoughts I don't see how this can be attributed to the influence of a subjective, auto-genus, first person view since that view never exists of hands at 2m, and would tend to make hands larger since they always appear larger since they are always within 1m.

I did not need to invoke the tortuous paradox mentioned above. The paradox does exist. Both Americans in language, and Japanese in vision, do self-enhance even though they have an objective viewpoint on self. But I think that the paradox only comes into play when there is a difference in value. Americans enhance, linguistically, but they also strive for consistency, to be objective whereas Japanese do not.

But why are the Japanese seeing their hand smaller than it really is when 2m away? Do they have a view of themselves from a long way away (like the eye in the sky found by Masuda et. al)? I am confused.

Bibliography created using Zotero
Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (V. W. McGee, Trans.) (Second Printing.). University of Texas Press.
Cohen, D., & Gunz, A. (2002). As seen by the other...: perspectives on the self in the memories and emotional perceptions of Easterners and Westerners. Psychological Science, 13(1), 55–59.
Cohen, D., Hoshino-Browne, E., & Leung, A. K. (2007). Culture and the structure of personal experience: Insider and outsider phenomenologies of the self and social world. Advances in experimental social psychology, 39, 1–67.
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.
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. http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/Website/Papers/Mirrors-pspb4%5B1%5D.pdf
Heine, S., Lehman, D., Markus, H., & Kitayama, S. (1999). Is there a universal need for positive self-regard?. Psychological review.
Heine, S. J. (2011). Cultural Psychology (Second ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.
{Takemoto ne} Leuers, T., & Sonoda, N. (1999a). The eye of the other and the independent self of the Japanese. Symposium presentation at the 3rd Conference of the Asian Association of Social Psychology, Taipei, Taiwan.
Leuers, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (1999b). Independent self bias. Progress in asian social psychology, 3, 87–104.
Masuda, T., Gonzalez, R., Kwan, L., & Nisbett, R. E. (2008). Culture and aesthetic preference: comparing the attention to context of East Asians and Americans. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(9), 1260–1275.
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press.
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.
武本Timothy and 今村義臣(2001)"分裂病患者の身体像:身体の末梢部位と物体の 大きさの恒常性" 九州社会心理学会,佐賀大学

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Friday, April 13, 2012


Attributional and Locational Collectivism

The attached video shows a Mr. Mikami demonstrate how to change the netting in a Amido (網戸) or net window. Note that when Mr. Mikami introduces himself in answer to my question at 5;15, he starts with his affiliation as polite Japanese gentlemen do (Nakane, 1970, p2-3, in, Hasegawa & Hirose, 2005, p222).

Here is the quote from Nakane (1970) describing Mr. Mikami's self introduction perfectly.
"This ready tendency of the Japanese to stress situational position in a particular frame, rather than universal attribute can be seen in the following example; when a Japanese ' faces the outside' (confronts another person) and affixes some position to himself socially he is inclined to give precedence to institution over kind of occupation. Rather than saying, "I am a type-setter' or 'I am a filing clerk,' he is likely to say, 'I am from B Publishing Group' or 'I belong to S Company'. p2-3

The great part about this quote is that (although she does backtrack somewhat in rest of the same paragraph) both the "attribute" and the "institution" (which Nakane has earlier defined as a "frame" or "ba") are both described as being "social" "positions". Nakane is spot on. Westerners can loose track of the fact that they are defining themselves socially when they use "universal attributes" because it can seem as if they are not expressing membership of a group but rather something specific to themselves.

Other than Nakane's opinion that both are social positions, how should one decide? One way would be to examine the commonality of these self definitions. If one picked 100 Japanese and 100 Americans and asked them for self-definitions, who would give the more overlapping self-definitions, the "frame" mentioning Japanese or the "attribute" mentioning Americans? This is exactly what I examined in one of my few social psychology papers (Takemoto ne Leuers & Sonoda, 1999). The results showed that the self descriptions of Americans overlap more than those of Japanese, and are therefore, though attributional, more social.

Bibliography created using Zotero
Hasegawa, Y., & Hirose, Y. (2005). What the Japanese Language Tells Us about the Alleged Japanese Relational Self. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 25(2), 219–251. doi:10.1080/07268600500233019 Retrieved 2012/4/12 from http://hasegawa.berkeley.edu/Papers/Self.pdf
Leuers, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (1999). Independent self bias. Progress in asian social psychology, 3, 87–104. Retrieved 2012/4/13 from http://www.nihonbunka.com/docs/independent_self.rtf
Nakane, C. (1972). Japanese Society (1st pb ed.). University of California Press.

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Monday, April 09, 2012


Cherry Blossom as Symbol: A Floral Science of the Concrete

Cherry Blossom as Symbol: A Floral Science of the Concrete by timtak
Cherry Blossom as Symbol: A Floral Science of the Concrete, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
"The Science of the Concrete," (Levi-Strauss, 1966) is very much alive and well in Japan.

Every spring beer cans and other products, otherwise unrelated to the seasons, are adorned with images of cherry blossom, and every autumn with red and brown leaves. Their beer cans are the nearest that many Japanese will come to the cherry blossom and autumn leaves but as a nation the Japanese are very keen on using nature - particularly flora - as symbols, for strength (e.g. see Miyamoto Musashi's book on swordsmanship, the Book of Fiver Rings, 2009), for the passing of time (e.g. this beer can) and for themselves (e.g. in surnames, Japanese heraldry or Kamon, national and regional flowers, and mountain cherry as a symbol for the spirit of the Japanese as in Motoori Nobunaga's famous poem below).

If asked what is the spirit of the Japanese people,
I'll say it is the mountain cherry blossoming in the morning sun.

Many years later Wasuji says that the Japanese spirit is the Japanese "climate" or fuudo (Mochizuki, 2006).

This morning's Asahi Newspaper has an article by a professor at The International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Yousaburou Shirahata (2012), entitled "Why do we watch cherry blossom" (なぜ花見をするのか), introducing several books on the history of cherry blossom viewing in Japan, as follows. Saitou (2002) records misgivings towards cherry blossom due to its use as a nationalist symbol during the second world war. One of the books that may have helped to create Saito's negative image of Sakura may have been Yamada book (Yamada and Yamada, 1990) on the history of cherry blossom and cherry trees in Japan. Satou (2005) records how a particular type of cherry tree, Somei-Yoshino, developed in the late Edo period was planted all over Japan and helped to unify the country by providing a marker, which sweeps up from the South to the North, of the arrival of spring. Nakao (1986) argues that while flower watching is carried out all over the world, Westerners watch flowers "instinctively" whereas in Japan a learnt cultural aesthetic of flower watching has developed. hirahata also references his own book (Shirahata, 2000), which I have just ordered from Amazon in Japan.

I wonder if any of these books mention Yanagita's assertion (Yanagita, 1990, about page 214) that Shinto use to see the branches of flowering trees as a sacred sign, a precursor to the zig-zag strips of paper found at Shinto shrines, or the possibility that cherry was a form of deity and self-defining symbol in a floral 'Science of the Concrete."

Beer can image copyright Kirin Beverage.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1966). The science of the concrete. In G. Weidenfield (Trans.), The Savage Mind. University Of Chicago Press. Retrieved from homepage.mac.com/allanmcnyc/textpdfs/levistrauss.pdf
Miyamoto, M. (2009). Book of Five Rings. www.bnpublishing.net.
Mochizuki, T. (2006). Climate and Ethics: Ethical Implications of Watsuji Tetsuro’s Concepts:‘ Climate’ and‘ Climaticity’. Philosophia Osaka, 1, 43–55. Retrieved from ir.library.osaka-u.ac.jp/metadb/up/LIBPHILOO/po_01_043.pdf
Nakao, S. 中尾佐助. (1986). 花と木の文化史. 岩波書店.
Saitou, S. 斎藤正二. (2002). 齋藤正二著作選集 5 日本人とサクラ・花の思想史. 八坂書房.
Satou. S. 佐藤俊樹. (2005). 桜が創った「日本」―ソメイヨシノ 起源への旅. 岩波書店.
Shirahata. Y. 白幡洋三郎. (2012/4/9). なぜ花見をするのか ("Why do we watch cherry blossom", my trans), Asahi Newspaper. p. 9.
Shirahata, y. 白幡洋三郎. (2000). 花見と桜―日本的なるもの再考. PHP研究所.
Yamada, Y. & Yamada. T. 山田孝雄, & 山田忠雄. (1990). 桜史. 講談社.
Yanagita, K. 柳田国男. (1990). 神樹篇. 柳田国男全集 (Vol. 14).


The Land of the Loving Transvestites and Ancestor Worship

The Land of the Loving Transvestites by timtak
The Land of the Loving Transvestites, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
There are a lot of men who feel themselves to be, or impersonate, women on Japanese TV.

Why is this?

There are many reasons. Here I will only address one of them.

This above image is of a poster advertising one of the most famous cross gendered celebrities, Mr. Miwa Akihiro. It advertises an evening of music with the theme of love in my town in August of this year.

In Japanese theatre it was traditional for men to play female roles. The "onna-gata" (woman-formed) actors were very popular.

In the famous Takarazuka theatre group (and school) women who impersonate men are also very popular but female male impersonators are less popular in the mainstream media.

Hofestede's cross cultural psychology research (2001) claims that Japanese culture is very masculine, with the highest "MAS" score by far of any other country. On the other hand, Markus and Kitayama's theory of the interdependent self (1991) was originally published, using almost the same data, as a theory regarding women in Markus and Cross (1990) the year before.

In the face of modernisation, Japanese religion becomes concentrated upon 'ancestor worship,' or 'respect for ancestors.' The belief that there is something sacred in Shrines becomes hocus pocus, but the assertion that 'without ancestors we would not be here' remains tenable. The Japanese respect their ancestors, and aspire to be them.

It seems to me that the Japanese see themselves above all as ancestors-to-be, or parents and as such, to an extent feminised. It is probably very biased of me but I am of the opinion that parenting is a more feminine, than masculine, trait.

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.
Markus, H.R, & Cross, S. E. (1990). The interpersonal self. In L. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 576-608). New York: Guilford.
Markus, H.R. & Kitayama, S. (1991). "Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation". Psychological Review 98 (2): 224–53. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.98.2.224.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


Shinto Symbols as Totemism/Bricolage

Shinto shrines are covered in pieces of paper, often zigzag strips of paper. They hang from the rice straw ropes (shimenawa 注連縄) that mark a sacred site. They are attached to the sacred branches that people give as an offering in Shinto ceremonies (tamagushi 玉串). They are used as a tool for purification, when swung to and fro in bulk at the end of a wand (大幣/祓い串). They stand next to mirrors at shrines as gohei(御幣).

In addition the the zig zag strips however, there are other pieces of paper that Shrines give out, specifically the pieces of paper that people take home to put in their household shrines (ofudaお札), and the pieces of paper that are contained inside Shinto lucky charms (omamoriお守り).

However, in many case, as Yanagita (1990) bewails, the same things are at once offerings to the gods (like money today) and invested of, containing the gods themselves (note 1).

It seems to me that essentially they are all the same, the vector for the sacred symbols of Shinto: the offerings which start out as simply pieces of paper become sacred as a result of their use as symbols. When they are in their zig-zag form, the form which is usually given to shrines, they have yet to have been cut or torn into their individual form for distribution to worshippers as sacred tags (fuda札) or lucky charms (omamori).

This video shows you how to make the zigzag strips and how I propose they were originally used, to create strips of paper for distribution to the faithful.

There is strong evidence to suggest that these strips of paper evolved from the use of branches, leaves, and grass as is recorded in the ethnology of Kunio Yanagita(1990), and as is suggested by the form of the tamagushi, which like the composite forms recorded by Yanagita, may be the old form of the Shinto symbol (a branch with leaves) combined with new (the zig zag strips shown in this video). For ethnographic evidence that these strips of paper were once branches and leaves, and that they were distributed, please notes in Japanese at the bottom of this post.

Bearing in mind the natural origins of Shinto symbols, I think that Shinto can be interpreted as a form of totemism, that is to say, a religion that values, structures, distributes a certain type of sign. Levi-Strauss (1966) redefined totemism as "bricolage," (DIY) or "the science of the concrete": the use of things to hand, things in the world to signify their gods *and themselves*. The importance of this observation is that it provides a hint to a non-logocentric (i.e. hearing yourself speak) form of self.

The problem with this interpretation is that, while Levi-Strauss(1966) concentrates on the use of natural articles for thought, he does mention the use of manufactured articles (such as gourds) used as totems, and even mythical articles (mythical creatures) used for totems. This considered, the distinction between "savage thought" and Western thought (using mental images of phonemes) becomes very vague. If Shinto is a form of totemism then it has moved beyond using solely natural articles to using seals printed on pieces of paper. In what sense if any are such symbols "concrete" or part of the world any more than phonemes are part of the world? I suggest that these symbols, that are organised, distributed and valued by the Shinto religion are above all visual, understood by the eye rather than ear of the mind.

That visual signs can mean by themselves without the vector of the phoneme is argued persuasively by Hansen (1993) but runs directly against the Western tradition (Barthes, 1977) and is attacked vociferously by scholars such as Unger (1990).

That Japanese may have used branches, leaves, and grass as important religious symbols may be the reason why they are recorded as saying things in the "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves" (Manyoushu) and why, as recorded in the same book, as a result of the imperial government being so effectively organised (and I suggest the use of paper and ideograms) that the same trees and grass stopped saying things. I need to find those two poems.

Sorry it was not poems. In the great purification ritual in the Shinto book of prayers and rituals (engishiki) it says
国内にあらぶる神たちをば、神問はしに問はし給ひ、神掃ひに掃ひ給ひて、語問ひひ磐ね樹だち、草の片葉をも語止めて、天之磐座放れ、天の八重雲をいつの千別に千別きて、天降りし依しまつりき (Toyota, 1980, p74)
Which may mean something like. To all the wild spirits throughout the land, impeaching them and sweeping them away, the rocks and trees and the leaves of grass that before called out to us, stopped speaking, when (and) the imperial ancestors left the rock of heaven and parting the clouds came down from heaven.

By performing the purification ritual (which these days is accompanied by a lot of waving of paper, but in those days seemed to use tablets or pieces of wood that are washed away in a river) the ancient Japanese felt that their ritual provided by the new imperial system enabled them to rid of their wild spirits, and prevent the rocks, trees, and grass from speaking despite the fact that they had done so hithertoo. I argue that what we are seeing here is the gradual transformation (or subjugation) of a purely natural science of the concrete (totemism), wherein rocks, trees and grass where used as symbols - hence the spoke - into a ritualistically structured legal, political religious system eventually using Chinese characters stamped on pieces of wood, cloth and paper. By way of analogy imagine if some deposed EU bureaucrats from Brussels, went to live with the Nuer (as studied by Evans-Prichard, 1940), and rather than converting them to Christianity, ordered and persuaded the Nuer to formalise their belief system. "No, there is no need to cut scars into your face any more. Please use these ID cards instead. Don't worry, the same information will be contained in the bar-code here. Yes, the bar-code reader will be available at all marriages and festivals." And so the science of the concrete evolved, but it did not become logo-phoocentric (Derrida), or alphabetical (Hansen, 1993).

Barthes, R. (1977). Elements of Semiology. Hill and Wang.
Hansen, C. (1993). Chinese Ideographs and Western Ideas. The Journal of Asian Studies, 52(02), 373--399. doi:10.2307/2059652
Lévi-Strauss, C. (1966). The science of the concrete. In G. Weidenfield (Trans.), The Savage Mind. University Of Chicago Press. Retrieved from http://homepage.mac.com/allanmcnyc/textpdfs/levistrauss.pdf
Toyotai, K. 豊田国夫(1980)『日本の言霊思想』講談社学術文庫
Unger, J. M. (1990). The Very Idea. The Notion of Ideogram in China and Japan. Monumenta Nipponica, 45(4), 391--411.
Yamada, T. (n.d.). Shinto Symbols. Contemporary Religions in Japan, 7(2), 89--142.
Yanagita, K. 柳田国男. (1990). 神樹篇-柳 田国男全集.

Note 1
Yanagita (1990, p214) confused as to how an offering can be holy. My comments in [brackets]
これは日本の神道の解きに くい問題の一つだが、[神の憑代である]シデと[お供えされた]ヌサのとの区別がはっきりとしていない。[神の憑代である]ミテグラは明らかに手に執る祭の木の名であったに もかかわらず、[お供え物の意味のある]幣帛(ミテクラ・へいはく)という漢字の古訓として久しく用いられ、今でも俗間では[神の憑代である]斎串(いぐし)を[お供え物]御幣と呼んでいる。幣は、贈遣でありま た財物このことであって、むしろ今日の貨幣の用法が正しいのに、どういうわけがあってわが邦(くに)でばかり、これを神々の依りたまう木の名にしたか、と いうことがまた説明せられていないのである。
On the one hand these things (natural or strips of paper) are things that are given to shrines somewhat like money is today, and at the same time are things that the deities are said to possess (such as fuda, which are containers of spirit). At some point in their history, as argued in the video above, the transition from mere offering or artefact to vessel of the sacred may have been achieved by stamping pieces of paper with a shrine seal but it is not the stamp that is important, rather the way that the artefact is used. A branch from a special tree given to a shrine may be just a branch. Leaves from the same branch given to worshippers can be symbols signifying group membership, the ability to marry (see recent post on other types of "omamori"), and identity. By their symbolic function they are transformed from mere leaves to very special things.

That these strips are given to people not just to shrines/gods
p50 棒の上端に藁苞を取り付け、それへたくさんの幣を指すベンケイのような形になる家々にその幣を配って、軒に指させ全をもらった。

That this distribution of strips of paper is not only in the paper form but also in the natural form.

p51 稲荷山の杉・伊豆さ山の梛(なぎ)[tt常緑高木、榊に少し似ている]の葉のごとく、信者が神木の枝を折って行く慣習と、著しく類似する点があるのである。

Again that originally it was not paper but branches that were used
p70竿の尖に取り付けた藁苞(わらづと) に、たくさんの小さい御幣を押し、それを抜いて家々に配る風習は前に述べておいたが、天然の神木において、祭りのたびごとにこれと類似した小枝の分配があった。その最も古­い出処は、『貞観儀式(じょうがんいしき)』巻三、大嘗祭の儀式中に、舞人八人、布の帯末額(おびまっこう)[はちまき?]を着け、おのおの阿札木(あれき)を執るとあるのがそれであろう。。。。阿札木・ミアレキは[玉串・御幣のように]神の降りたまうことである。

Prior to the use of paper, things made out of trees and their bark were used, and before that branches and grass were used as is.
白紙を細かく剪(き)ったものをシデとする以前、こちらにもすでにいろいろのシデがあった。最も著名であったのはユウシデである。このユウにも木綿 という漢字をあてているが、いまあるモメンとはまったく別なもので、何か楮(こうぞ[used in Japanese paper making, of mulberry family])の類の木の皮の繊維、またはその織物の白く晒したのを祭りの木の端に結び垂れていたろうと思われる。近世は朝の苧糸をもってこれに代用 し、紙の流行もまたこれに基づいたものらしいが、そのユウシデとても工芸品であるからには、やはり最初からの習わしとは見ることができないのである。
い ま一段と古いころのシデとしては、イトススキの葉などが想像せられる。。。。今でも稀ならず各処に伝わっている。たとえば、大井、大竜の二川の流域など を、夏の祭りのころに汽車で通ってみれば高い幟(のぼり)の竿の頂上にははきっと芒(ススキ Silver grass. )が結びつけてある。東北地方の燈籠木(とうろうぎ)には、三 ところに杉の青葉をつけたものが多い。

These strips that hang from shimenawa are called Shide (or hanging-down things) but Yanagita suggests that they originated in a word for flora.
213 (シデは垂れるのではなく) 繁きを意味する言葉で、たださまざまの木立ち草立ちの中にあっ[た」。

213 Process of using man made things instead of natural articles. This is one step away from the bricoleur who uses natural things as symbols, but it is a symbolism that is still using things as symbols.

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Because I, my face, am

Because I, my face, am by timtak
Because I, my face, am, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
This poster advertising a Japanese popular music concert is using the band members faces in place of "I" in the sentence "Because I am." I think that this is how Japanese think of themselves, visually, scrapboookily, as a collection of images rather than as a self narrative, and hence the Japanese gesture for "I"

Pointing at ones nose and identifying with ones self image may appear silly or vain, but no less silly or vain than talking to oneself and identifying with ones self narrative or "I".

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God with Mirror Head

God with Mirror Head by timtak
God with Mirror Head, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

The Sun Goddess is often depicted as if with a halo, appearing out of a mirror or the sun. The above Edo period image (Chiba, 2001) depicts the social turmoil after an earthquake in Japan with people put out of work by the earth quake pushing over the cornerstone that keeps the earth stable, thus providing the cause of the calamity that afflicts them. The picture is interesting to me for the depiction of the Sun Godess, or perhaps sun god (referred to in the text as Tendou or heavenly path) who has a mirror for a head. The sun god is holding out a Japanese agricultural implement called a kuwa (a cross between a shovel and a rake, popular to this day) and saying to the peasants who have been put out of work after the earthquake, "Take your shovel-rake and go and get work as a plasterer, which will make money, and earn your living that way."

Sober first person views of self, such as Ernst Mach's Field of Vision, may be said to represent the author as headless (see www.headless.org/), or having only a nose for a head! But on the other hand, metaphorically at least, Mach's picture, or one like it, is at the place where my head should be. Mach's picture should be spherical or elliptical. A pure experience of the visual field, a transcendental meditation of sorts, might be represented by the deity in the image above, with a mirror for a head.

Munetada Kurozumi, the founder of the Kurozumi faith, claims that the heart of humans is a mirror of the Sun Goddess.

Nishida, Watsuji and perhaps Hamaguchi (of "Kanjin" 間人 fame) may be argued to be suggesting that the human psyche is a space.

Chiba, K. 千葉慶. (2001). アマテラス=明治天皇のシンボリズム : 明治初期における民心収攬の政治学. 千葉大学社会文化科学研究科研究プロジェクト報告書, 第57集 若桑みどり編『権力と視覚表象(2)』所収, 58–94.

Friday, April 06, 2012


Japanese Lucky Charm: Pubic hair

Japanese Lucky Charm: Pubic hair by timtak
Japanese Lucky Charm: Pubic hair, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
PG 14. Please do not read this if you feel sex related topics offensive.

In Japan there is an outlier tradition of regarding pubic hair, specifically that of a female virgin, as a good luck charm. This tradition, while rare, is even to be found among the 8th century Japanese soldiers mentioned in the "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves" (Manyōshū) (Kamata, 2000, p19).

Soldiers going to war, high school students preparing for an entrance exam, or in the case of the manga above, a professional Mah-jong player before a match, may ask the woman they love for a strand of pubic hair as a good luck charm. This practice is sufficiently rare, even in Japan, for many Japanese to be unaware of its existence, judging by the number of posts to Japanese Internet forums, of the form, "my boyfriend asked me for a strand. Is he strange?"

I do not, therefore, pretend this is a common practice but perhaps it sheds just a little light on one way in which a good luck charm may work. There are theories that hairs have magical power, or that in the case of soldiers, leaving ones girlfriend with "no (or one less) hair" puns on "no harm" (keganai).

Alternatively, from a more psychological perspective, this particular charm is a symbol of being loved by someone, being significant to someone of the opposite sex. For that reasons, I can see how a young man going to war, or to an entrance exam, might feel this lucky charm empowering.

It should also be noted that the use of pubic hair as a lucky charm does not mean that it is any less taboo. In Japan it is illegal to publish photos of the human form if such hair is showing, and Japanese are inclined to use the English loanword "hea" (hair) due the Japanese word being considered too impolite.

Image copyright Itasaka Yasuhiro and Muraoka Eiichi (1977) "Kazebaiden," Published by Commikku-Sha. Image scanned by 近代麻雀漫画生活. Frames reordered to read left to right. My translation.

Kamata, T. 鎌田東二. (2000). 神道とは何か: 自然の霊性を感じて生きる (What is Shinto? Live feeling the spirituality of nature, my trans). PHP研究所. Google Books

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Culture, Tourism and the Self: Travels in name and space

Culture, Tourism and the Self: Travels in name and space by timtak
Culture, Tourism and the Self: Travels in name and space, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

Japanese travel to places for symbols where they themselves provide the sights from the imagination or bodily via auto-photography, whereas Western tourists go places for sights which they interpret and narrate in their thoughts and words. The purpose in each case, of going all that way to experience otherness, is to return to an experience of self undiluted by other.

“Japanese tend to associate tourism with historical landmarks, but foreigners are interested in people’s lives and their lifestyles,” he said. “Places like the fish market were never really considered a tourist site until quite recently, so both sides are really confused.” Yuji Nakanishi, professor of Tourism at Rikkyou University (Tanikawa, 2009)

A few days ago in the village near our beach house, a rainy day, a group of Japanese tourists went from community centre to Buddhist temple, to road side shrine, collecting stamps as part of one of those uniquely Japanese "stamp rallies." No one came to the beach in front of our house. The panoramic view of inland sea, with gulls and fishing boats and its setting sun was of no interest to them. Likewise, this jaded old Westerner can not think of a more boring, more pointless tourism experience than a traipsing around a grey landscape collecting the blotchy red imprints left by a set of rubber stamps.

As Urry (2002) famously argues, Western tourism is about going to see something. This form of tourism has a very long tradition. The picture above left is from a stained glass window in Canterbury Cathedral, England (Wells, 2002, p127、Crown Copyright NMR), the destination of Medieval Christian pilgrimage. Wells, and more famously the anthropologist Victor Turner (Turner & Turner, 1995), have argued that there is a visual bias to Christian pilgrimage, or that the destination of Christian pilgrimage is a located image, such as stained glass, a sacred image or icon.

That the Japanese word for tourism, Kankou is often glossed as "seeing the sights" persuades us that Japanese tourist too are interested in going to see. In fact the would "Kankou" originates n the Tao-Te-Ching which argues that rulers should travel to other countries so as to gain information on how better to rule their own. The passage which introduces the word "kankou" is a recommendation not to travellers but to hosts to " indicate (shiimesu, kangamiru) the (high)lights of your country." Even on a literal reading, "Kankou" (Japanese tourism) is about going to places where things are explained (note 0).

The stamp rally has its origins in the proof of visitation required of Japanese tourists during the Tokugawa period (Graburn, 1983; Reader, 2005), but before that Japanese accumulated pieces of paper stamped with scared symbols for more than one thousand years. The religious act of Shinto, far more than prayer, is a form of pilgrimage, shrine-visiting, mairi or moude, a movement of the worshiper. And at the shrine, before amulets and sacred stamped pieces of card, were distributed symbols first branches of trees and stones, latter stamped pieces of paper. The destinations provided the names. They were the named places (meisho). But did Japanese pilgrimage destinations provide the sights?

Not only in the stamp rally but in many forms of Japanese tourism is the sight strangely eschewed. Japanese tourists visit castle towns, such as the most famous, Haji, where there is NO CASTLE TO BE SEEN! They visit ruins ('of identity') such as that visited by Matsuo Basho, where there is NOTHING to be SEEN at all.

Traditionally shrines, the destination Japanese par excellence contained a prototypical named-thing (meibutsu), the God-body (goshintai) of the shrine that might be a mirror, sword, jewel, or sacred stone but it was *forbidden to see this item*. The goshintai was situated symbolically . It was wrapped up in layer upon layer of cloth, box, inner shrine, out shrine and shrine walls (Hendry, 1995) partly to ensure that it was never seen at all. Shrines have the structure of an onion (see Pilgrim, 1986; Bachnik & Quinn, 1994). The visitor may never become aware that there is anything at their centre, other than the fact that the visitor knows that something is there, symbolically. After all, shrines are the prototypical, great and famous, named place (meisho). According to a Japanese tour guide the vast majority of Japanese tourists visiting Ise shrine today, visit the woods around the shrine, see at most its outer walls, and the souvenir shop, and the car park. Japanese tourists have thronged to Ise for centuries (especially inspired by stories of sacred symbols falling from the sky (fudaori), but without special appointment they do not see the shrine itself, much less the holy of hollies, the mirror of the sun goddess, the goshintai, prototypical named-thing (meibutsu) at its centre.

Or do the Japanese really fail to see the mirror at Ise? Why do Japanese go to these symbolically significant places?

It seems to me that the answer can be found in theories of the Western, and Japanese self. For the Westerner, the self is the self narrative. Tourists of the MacCannelian or Cullerian kind visit and play ethnographer or semiologist (MacCannell, 1976; Culler, 1988) regarding the sights that they see. The Western tourists provides the narrative because they are narrative and the sight is the otherness which they attempt to interpret. To these tourists the things that they see are signs but they are signs which have the structure of an alibi (Culler, 1988; Barthes,1972), signing off to a meaning which the tourist, in their phonetic inner narrative, provides. The Western tourists may take of photo of the sight, or better still purchase a photo upon the reverse of which she will narrate herself in this location. The Western tourist goes to see and say. Like ethnologists or anthropologists they use the phenomenological technique of bracketing away preconceptions (the more other unusual, opaque to the interpretations that they have to hand that a sight is the more that task is performed for them) and then they make pronouncement upon the sights that they see. This transcendental meditation employed by Western Anthropologists and Tourists alike, can be described in the following way,

From this new transcendental standpoint Husserl maintained that the manifold stream of contingent world-objects could be perceived in a new way, giving 'a new kind of experience: transcendental experience'. The transcendental ego because a 'disinterested onlooker' whose only motive is neutrally to describe 'what he sees, purely as seen, as what is seen and seen in such and such a manner' (Rayment-Pickard, 2003)

Japanese tourists on the other hand do not go to provide symbols about sights, but to provide sights or images regarding symbolic locations. The symbolic sites visited by Japanese tourists, the named places, the named things, do not have the structure of the alibi (see Hansen, 1993 for a non dualistic theory of the sign) but are the signs themselves. That Japanese tourists go to places with literary, historical, named significant, that they visit symbolic geographies as been ascribed (as all things Japanese always are) to their "groupism," and also, in the face of Westernisation, to their nostalgic desire to return to their historical routes, to their self. This latter interpretation hits the mark I think because the Japanese self is a space (Kanjin; Hamaguchi, 1997) , a primordial space (Nishida, Watsuji; see Mochizuki, 2006) a mirror (Kurozumi). The Japanese travel to places precisely because they are "encrusted with renown,&quot (Culler); and are all the more happy if as at shrines, or ruins, their is nothing to see because it is in the space of their mind that they provide the images to go with the otherness of the symbols that they are visiting. Indeed in a sense they do see that holy of holies, the mirror of the sun goddess in the internal space that is the Japanese mind.

Lacan argues that the self is at the presumed intersection of linguistic self signification -self narration, and visual self reflection, mirrorings and imagingings. Neither the symbolic nor the imaginary can say or see itself. The word can not enunciate the enunciated even in time since it is always delayed, defered (Derrida, 1998), never the person that it was what the attempt was started. Husserl's "living present" is always already gone. Likewise, the minds eye is unable to see itself. It requires the admixture of an other, the image of oneself, the name of oneself for each to enable the self to wrap around upon itself and self itself into self hood. This admixture is to be kept to a minimum. The self image in the West is external, when identified a sign of vanity or 'narcissism'. The word or symbol in Japan is external, and when internalised an impurity of mind (See Kim, 2002).

In either case, these essential impurities or 'supplements,' which are both required to complete and are additional to self(Derrida, 1998) are washed away in the experience of tourism when the Western and Japanese tourist meets the other as image or symbol respectively. The transcendental meditation for the Japanese tourist, at the British Museum, at the Named Place ruin of a famous castle, at the walls of Ise Shrine, becomes a interested visualiser of the place hidden in time, behind those walls. Japanese shrines, and tourism destinations are places where images spring to mind (Souzou ga fukuramu). And even as they Japanese tourists tour ("Kankou") they shut their eyes to the world (Hitomi wo Tojiru) and call to mind the past glory of the place they are visiting and in that experience, see themselves as the visual space, place or soul, that they believe themselves to be.

If either the Western tourist leaves something of himself it narratival. He signs a guest book. He narrates himself on a postcard (postcards are not sold for writing upon in Japan but only as packs, as symbolic souvenirs).

The Japanese tourist on the other hand provides the images, not just in her own mind, but also in the form of auto-photography so central to the tourism experience in Japan.

These differences have important implications for the tourist industries catering to Western and Japanese tourists.

When serving Japanese tourists it is important to provide the names, the narrative the guidebooks (which Japanese tourists themselves prepare in relative abundance), the words. They must also be provided the opportunity to provide images: above all to to imagine, and also to photograph themselves. Tourist destinations that do not have words related to them (iware no nai) are not of interest. Japanese tourist travel all the way to the lake district in the North of England, ignoring the beauty of the Powys hills completely, because the former have no literature - no words associated with them. They avoid the markets of London concentrating on the British museum and tower since the latter are redolent with renown. Japanese tourism providers need to counter the ocular turn of contemporary tourism theory and as the Japanese policy paper at the start of the ”tourism-oriented country" advocates a return to the original meaning of Kankou, or rather the provision of Kankou, which is not merely in the gaze directed, but in the of indication of facts, of nominal, symbolic entities:

"When promoting tourism it is therefore essential to return to this [etymological] origin of tourism, and create revolution in the very notion of tourism. The origin of tourism is not just looking at famous places and scenery, or seeing the sights, in regard to the the things that the local population feel happy about, to the things that the inhabitants of a certain land feel proud of and "indicating these highlights." (note 1)

Those especially in Japan however, who are catering to Western tourists should be aware that a place does not need to have a name for the Western tourist to want to visit it. In fact it helps if (other than the "markers" to find it) the destination is un-named "authentic" since the Western visitor provides the words. He is the words that he provides. These ethnographic, phenomenological tourists want to narrate, pronounce, theorise (what I am now doing) about the things that they see and in so doing they (I make myself shiver) have a transcendental experience of who they are, the words that drift across the universe of 'exterior' visual phenomena. Give us a view, any view, something to speak about, a picture and postcard, a picture postcard, above all give us something to see and some means by which they can narrate and we will be happy. There are such opportunities in every Japanese village not only the famous ones. Western tourist go to see spaces and places, and there is (or should be) much more for them to see. Alas at present, or until recently, the Japanese presume that their visitors are also Japanese and "indicate the highlights" (Kankou) or show the Named-places only. Very recently, there is a trend to promote regional tourism resources which do not have a name, this geographical tourism (shock!) had to be given a neologism "jitabi," (literally, geo-travel!) since the very concept of simply going to see a place was alien to the Japanese.

Finally the above theoretical position resolves the problem how tourists can be going in search of authenticity (MacCannell, 1986) even in blatantly inauthentic "post tourism" (Urry, 2002) sites: on tour we bring ourselves to confront the other of the self, we find our self in maximal authenticity.

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note 0
The [relevant passage] of the Tao Te Ching reads "*Indicating* [Shimesu, Kanagmiru] the lights of the country are good to use as hospitality for a king". where country mean the localities of contemporary China, and "lights" [highlights] refer to the superior or special things of that locality. (my translation, my emphasis, and my comments in brackets).

note 1
観光立国の推進に当たっては、まずはこうした「観光の原点」に立ち返ること、つまり「観光」概念の革新が必要になる。観光の原点は、ただ単に名所や風景などの「光を見る」ことだけではなく、一つの地域に住む人々がその地に住むことに誇りをもつことができ、幸せを感じられることによって、その地域が「光を示す」ことにある。 「国の光を観る」 −観光の原点−

note 2
I think that the primordial space of the Japanese self (Nishida's ba), or the "climate" (Wasuji's fudo) can best be understood from a Western perspective as the "Field of Vision" (Mach, 1897). The visual field pictured in Mach's self portrait is usually seen, if existing at all, as being a form of barrier ("veil" "tain" or "hymen") between self and the world. To the Japanese this field, this primordial space, however, is the purest experience of self, as inseparable from spatial other. This Japanese self is however separable, indeed separate from the world of symbols but, Japanese need the admixture of symbol, the name, their own name, for the Japanese child to believe that the their body houses this ephemeral mirror. In Japan it is precisely the linguistic which is public and space, place and vision which is private. Taking a balanced view, neither images nor language are more private than the other, both requiring an other to have meaning, but it took Westerners almost two millenia to realise that language is meaningless if private (Wittgenstein, 1973).

The title of this blog post was inspired by Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the Self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review; Psychological Review, 98(2), 224. Retrieved from http://www.iacmr.org/v2/Conferences/WS2011/Submission_XM/Participant/Readings/Lecture8A_JiaLin/Markus%20et%20al%20%281991%29%20Culture%20and%20Self%20-%20Implications%20for%20Cognition%20Emotion%20and%20Motivation-8a.pdf

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