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.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Double Dreams in the Floating World

Double Dreams in the Floating World by timtak
Double Dreams in the Floating World, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Laura Nenzi (2008, p189) uses the above image by way of conclusion to her excellent book on travel in Japan. She writes "But dreams and aspirations (collective and individual alike) are slippery subjects that more often than not hide between lines or amid icons alread dense with meaning. Difficult to verbalize, difficult to grasp, they are impossible tricky for the historian to recover with any sense of certainty. Leave it then to Isoda Koryuusai (1735-1790) to come to the rescue of the text-bound historian with a mesmerizing image that, in the limited space of one woodblock print (19.1cm x 25.4com), concisely summarizes what countless travelers (as well as the historian in question) have spilled rivers of ink attempting to articulate (Figure 14). Dreaming of Walking near Fuji (1770-1773) captures and freezes in time the hopes and desires of two characters from the floating world...What the dream of movement meant to these two is clear: liberation from the everyday. Out of the house, away from all that is predictable and commonplace, they have finally achieved that state of complete disengagement that is the prerequisite for re-creation.
As the juxtaposition of movement and immobility in this image suggests, motion is, in a sense, the antithesis of order: it displaces what ought to stay put; it frees what ought to be contained." (p 187-188. Image on page 189, emphasis mine.)

Bearing in mind her subject matter - Japanese travellers who go to see sights where there is nothing to see - this is a fabulous choice of image to close with. Prof Nenzi is on the money, but I wish she had spilt a little more ink, at least in the interrogative. Do "collective" dreams exist? Can we share our dreams like these dreamers, in some way, in any way? Why are these Japanese dreamers dreaming autoscopically (Masuda,Gonzalez, Kwan, Nisbett, 2008; Cohen and Gunz, 2002) each seeing the image of themselves in their own dream - the dream is doubly double? From whose perspective is the dream seen? Perhaps the most important question for a theory of travel is, have the dreamers seen mount Fuji? And the million dollar question, bearing in mind the genre of the artwork, when they wake up will the erstwhile dreamers then share the same picture of the floating world.?

To be honest I can't answer these questions for myself let alone the Japanese. But at least, I think that there is considerable cultural difference at least in degree, and that these differences help explain cultural differences in travel behaviour.

The position of these (as Nenzi notes) sexually ambiguous lovers, reminds me of the cover of "The Postcard." (Derrida, 1987) which I consider to have been self, or intra-psychologically addressed. It is also reminiscent of the many pictures of the floating world that Kitayama (2005) uses to illustrate the, he argues, psychologically important trope of "looking together." Furthermore, if the Japanese are capable of autoscopy even when awake ( as my research, Heine, et al., 2008, shows), the picture may be illustrative not only of Japanese travel behaviour, but also of the Japanese self".

Image credits: Isoda Koryuusai, Dreaming of Walking near Fuji, 1770-1773. Woodblock print, ink and color on paper, 19.1 b 25.4cm. M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (The Anne van Biema Collection, S2004.3.23)

Bibliography Created by Zotero
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. Retrieved from web.missouri.edu/~ajgbp7/personal/Cohen_Gunz_2002.pdf
Derrida, J. (1987). The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. (A. Bass, Trans.) (First ed.). University Of Chicago Press.
Heine, S. J., Takemoto, T., Moskalenko, S., Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(7), 879–887. http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/Website/Papers/Mirrors-pspb4%5B1%5D.pdf
Kitayama, O. 北山修. (2005). 共視論. 講談社.
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.
Metzinger, T. (2009). The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self (1st ed.). Basic Books. (I have not read this but it sounded like Nishida and uses the word "autoscopy" so it is on my reading list)
Nenzi, L. N. D. (2008). Excursions in identity: travel and the intersection of place, gender, and status in Edo Japan. University of Hawaii Press.

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