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, July 02, 2013


Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell by timtak
Ghost in the Shell, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
There is a long tradition of in Japan of clothing and armour being haunted; being a shell but having a personality. This meme continues with Evangelion and The Ghost in the Shell (Shirow, 1995, 攻殻機動隊), robotic shells animated. These memes illustrate the anxiety of life in the imaginary (Lacan).

With their honed ability at autoscopy (Metzinger) from a third person perspective, a sight apart (riken no ken, Zeami), Japanese can see themselves even without the aid of mirror. Equipped as they are with visual symbols for self they feel themselves "merged" (gattai!) and have overcome Lacan's horrible "hommellette."

However, even seeing themselves, and knowing that they are in there somewhere, but where? They are, even or especially when wearing only their skin, like a ghost in a shell.

Bottom image, promotional poster for Ghost in a Shell copyright held by the producer of the animated film, Production I.G.

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Japanese Fashion in the Mirror of the Heart

Japanese Fashion in the Mirror of the Heart by timtak

The above 5 frame manga illustrates the reason why the Japanese produce the zaniest fashion (Harajuku, cosplay, dance, makeup...) in the world.

See Taro in the middle of a circle of his friends. The Japanese self is often described as being relational (Watsuji, Bendedict, Markus, Hamaguchi) which boils down to it being non-existent, or at best a nexus of self presentation concerns. The Japanese self is in the eye of the other, we are told.

If this were all there were to the Japanese self then how could the Japanese create and wear the zaniest fashion in the world? If this were the case, then if Taro dyed his hair blonde and wore blue contact lenses to college (picture 2), he would feel the harsh, judgemental gaze of his peers and become embarrassed (picture 3).

How could he avoid embarrassment? How could he remind himself of his preference for blonde hair and blue eyes? He could whip out his mirror (picture 4). As demonstrated by Carver ( 1975) and Carver & Scheier (2001) people with increased "objective self awareness" in front of mirrors, remain truer to their beliefs even in the face of social pressure. The trouble is, with all those eyes upon him, Taro would need to walk around looking in his mirror all the time.

But Taro has no need to do his, because Taro and all Japanese, especially those who have practised some kind of martial art or traditional path, has a mirror in his head (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008). Taro can see himself without the aid of a mirror, avow his preference for blonde hair and blue eyes, and be done with the eyes of the world (picture 5).

It is because they have a mirror in their heart - originally a present from the Sun Goddess we are told - that the Japanese make the zaniest fashion in the world.

All five images based on an original by Miho Fujimura.

Carver, C. S. (1975). Physical aggression as a function of objective self-awareness and attitudes toward punishment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 11(6), 510–519. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022103175900025
Carver, Charles S., & Scheier, M. F. (2001). On the Self-Regulation of Behavior. Cambridge University 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. Retrieved from www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/docs/2008Mirrors.pdf

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