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

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Hashimoto's Japan and the Monkeys

Hashimoto's Japan and the Monkeys by timtak
Hashimoto's Japan and the Monkeys, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
I recently compared Hirofumi Hashimoto's view of Japanese society with that described in George Orwell's 1984. A better illustration is perhaps the fictive experiment performed on monkeys, illustrated above (click through to a larger version, or 日本語版). The monkey experiment is an Internet meme. Although sometimes attributed to genuine research, the monkey experiment never actually took place.

Hashimoto does not claim that anyone ever sprayed cold water on the Japanese. However, the situation described in the penultimate picture, bottom left in which all the members of society of monkeys refrain from doing what they desire because they are, justifiably, afraid of censure is essentially the same as that which Hashimoto claims to exist in Japan. The Japanese all want to behave like individualists, but they are scared to doing so due to their fear of censure. Their fear of censure is probably justified because Japanese believe that anyone who does not censure individualists will themselves be censured.

I don't think that this does in fact describe Japanese society, where both individual (e.g. Sumo and K1 MMA fights) and group (the Koushien baseball tournament) sports are highly admired. Returning to the Orwellian analogy, to the extent that Japanese have grown to love highly cooperative acts, they have learned to love "Big Brother." Learning to love big brother is not however, as sinister as the process described in George Orwell's book. It is rather that the Japanese see their 'ideal of individualism' as will o the wisp (nai mono denari) and are able to stand back and imagine a society in which everyone gave free reign to their individual desire, and realise that it would not look like the group of happy monkeys pictured in the final frame above.

Hashimoto, H. 橋本博文. (2011). 相互協調性の自己維持メカニズム. 実験社会心理学研究, 50(2), 182–193. Retrieved from japanlinkcenter.org/JST.JSTAGE/jjesp/50.182?from=Google

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