Monday, September 30, 2013
The Western and Japanese Self
The Western and Japanese Self, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Westerners think of themselves as a narrative. I think therefore I am. They also think that they are universal, "homonarrans," but they are not.
The Japanese are homo-mirrans, or homo-imaginans.
The really interesting part of this difference is the fact that each culture contains a bit of the other.
The Western narrative loop can not be completed. There is no way that I can speak myself into existence without referring to my visual image. The visual image is a mere image, a covering. It is just a stepping stone that is trodden upon only so very briefly, when I explain that my narrative is not someone else's narrative: my narrative takes place in that, my face.
For example, Dawkins (2006 p361) writes "I see the human effort to understand the universe as a model-building enterprise. Each of us builds, inside our head, a model of the world in which we find ourselves." (my emphasis) This is very true, but "our head" is also part of our model, so how can the model be in part of the model? We can believe in this possibility, that a model can be inside a model, due to a quick flash of visual self imagination.
Westerners that like their face are rather naff and "Narcissistic" - like the hero of the myth, into their image.
Japanese identify with, and are, their own imaginings. But likewise they can not loop the loop. Whose imaginings are these? The required twist in their Möbius strip requires, for a brief step, their name (Pika, Pika-!). Liking ones appearance, staying thin, wearing the right gear, having hair, behaving in the right way, posing the right pose, and looking cute, is however, as important as any American's spiel. But, in Japan, liking ones name, or ones phonemic self-representations, is as naff (or as juvenile) as liking ones visual self representations in the West. Liking ones self narrative, or rather self-spiel is naff in Japan, narcissism-Japan-style.
But both cultures step, and have to step, briefly, into the other domain to maintain the illusion of their ability to self-refer.
Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. London: Bantam.
Labels: japan, japanese culture, nihonbunka, 日本文化
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.