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.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


In the Margins of Basho

In the Margins of Basho by timtak
In the Margins of Basho, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
In today's Asahi Newspaper is an advert for a book called "Walk with Basho: Notes on The narrow road to the Deep North.'" The publishers provide the text of Matsuo Bashou's poetic masterpiece, together with explanatory notes. They also provide spaces for the readers to add their own thoughts, or Haiku, on the same "named" places in the margins of Basho.

This pastime of adding ones own record to the record of others is not new. In a sense Basho himself was writing in the margins of the ancient poets when he wrote "The Narrow Road to the Deep North," since he only visited those places that had been written about previously (Watkings, 2008, p101).

Similar activities may include Midrash commentary, Derrida's book Glas (1990), the manifesto of Vorticism, "Blast," (Lewis, 1914) the practice of leaving stones on Shinto gateways (bearing in mind that stones predated amulets as totemic expressions of self), pasting a "senja fuda" with the symbol or characters for ones name on the entrance to shrines and temples, and more recently having ones photograph taken at famous named places. Japanese tourists write in the margins of their sacred symbol-scapes (Appadurai,1996) as if participating in a kind of rabbinical geography or wordy walkabout.

Bearing in mind, that the Japanese are not wordy (Kim, 2002, 2009; Kim & Ko, 2007), tremendously fond of travel photography, and informed by Ezra Pound's (Pound, 1960, 1970) interpretation Japanese poetry, I think that Japanese are engaging in "phanopoetic"1 mishna, or eschatological.geo-spatial "vorticism"2: the layering of interpretative images upon, interpretative images of sacred spaces.

Why people want to add layer symbols upon symbols, especially upon esteemed or sacred symbols I am not sure, but I think that I see it in the "semiotic" "ethnography" (Culler, 1988) of Western tourism, and what I am doing right now.

1 "phanopoea" - "the throwing of an image on the minds retina" (Pound, 1960, p52).
2 The image is not an idea. It is a radiant node or cluster; it is what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing’ (Pound, 1974, p. 92).

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity At Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (1st ed.). Univ Of Minnesota Press.
Derrida, J. (1990). Glas. (J. P. L. Jr & R. Rand, Trans.). University of Nebraska Press.
Culler, J. D. (1988). The Semiotics of Tourism. Framing the sign. Univ. of Oklahoma Pr.
Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Kim, H. (2009). Social Sharing of Emotion in Words and Otherwise. Emotion Review.
Kim, H., & Ko, D. (2007). Culture and self-expression. Frontiers of social psychology: The self.
Lewis, W. (1914). Blast. John Lane Company.
Pound, E. (1960). Abc of Reading. New Directions Publishing.
Pound, E. (1974). Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir. New Directions Publishing.
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.

Labels: , , , , ,

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