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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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Like a Snow Goggle Doguu: The Origin of Purikura Volume Eyes?

Like a Snow Goggle Doguu: The Origin of Purikura Volume Eyes? by timtak
I am very much persuaded that the wide distribution of palaeolithic "figurines" with large hips, and small feet are as Dr. Leroy McDermott (1996) argues, a portrayal of the first person view of ones own body, rather than emphasizing feminine features as is argued elsewhere. While sometimes these ancient clay figures may be of women, such as in the example shown bottom left in one of Dr. McDermott's photographs (duplicated here without permission - I will cease and desist immediately if requested) which shows an self person view of a pregnant woman, and that of a figurine if it could see itself and presumably the self-person, "autogenus" view of its sculptor. Anyone male or female looking down at the own body will see their chest, hips and shoulders enlarged relative to their hands and feet.

This characteristic, enlarged shoulders, chest and hips, and small hands and feet is shared by Japanese Snow Goggle Doguu figurines from the Joumon period. However what of their massive slit eyes? Some have suggested that they represent the snow goggles worn by Inuit (e.g. Kraus, 1953). Others that they represent the masks of visitors from outer space.

I suggest however that the large size of the eyes in these figurines is explained by the one of the commentators (Elkins, a detractor) on Dr. McDermott's paper who wrote, that if palaeolithic figurines were indeed of autogenus (first person) views then there should be examples resembling the famous first person view by Ernst Mach (1893) above bottom right, which show an enlarged eye and nose. Snow goggles do not especially enlarge the eyes but this figurines eyes are several times larger than anatomical eyes.

My wife tells me that such is the size of a typical Japanese nose it does not impinge upon the the visual field nearly as much as my or Max Ernst's Germanic nose. Likewise being less deep set, it is far more difficult for Japanese to see their eyes. However, if one happens to allow ones eyes to close a little, or even a lot, then one becomes aware of the enormous size of ones eyes that expand to be larger than the breadth of the horizon. Ones visual field, which can itself be considered a self view, may be bigger than mount Fuji if you happen to be looking in that mountain's direction.

These snow goggle figurines may be men. I see myself in the shape of the dogu. And while I am normally unaware of seeing my eyes, I can become aware of them, my self person view, and the visual field itself, that one sided disk that Max Ernst claimed to be the basic stuff of the world. Normally I have lost my disk (Borges, 1975), but looking through the slits of my eyes, helps me to find it.

I think it is clear that we are only dimly aware of our view of the orbits of our eyes and noses, since even in the work of artist that paint or draw first person views the humongous nose and eyes are very rarely represented as can be seen in this gallery. We in fact see our nose twice, semi transparent, pointing in towards, in my close to the centre of our visual field (as seen in this gallery). That fact that one sees two noses, one from each eye, may explain the reason why the figurine above has a cleft nose. You can see the vast orbit your eyes if you narrow your eyes like a snow goggle dougu.

Moving away from artistic representations of self, an awareness of first person views of self is promoted in meditation, most notably that of "The Headless Way," but also, traditionally in Zen. In the Pictures of the Ten Bulls, where the bull represents the experience of the true self, it is "his big nostrils [that] cannot failt to expose his presence.". The promotion of the awareness of the orbits of our eyes, and edgeless darkness surrounding our visual field, may be the reason why Zen meditation is carried out with the eyes half open (e.g. Austin, 1999), and why Zen philosopher Kitarō Nishida drew his "pure experience" (junsui taiken) as concentric circles (see Heisig, 2004, p.8) the outer most of which has no boundary.

The awareness of the large size of ones eyes from a first person perspective may also encourage Japanese women, wishing to present themselves as pure, to enhance the size of their eyes in gal make up, and purikura auto-photography. The eyes are nearly the window frames of the soul.

Austin, J. H. (1999). Zen and the brain: Toward an understanding of meditation and consciousness. The MIT Press.
Borges, J.L. JL (1975). The Book of Sand. Emecé, Buenos Aires
Kraus, B. S. (1953). An outline of Japan's prehistoric cultures. Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology, (9), 12-16.
Heisig, J. W. (2004). Nishida's medieval bent. Japanese journal of religious studies, 55-72.
Mach, E. (1897). Contributions to the Analysis of the Sensations. (C. M. Williams, Trans.). The Open court publishing company. Retrieved from www.archive.org/details/contributionsto00machgoog
McDermott, L. R. (1996). Self-representation in Upper Paleolithic female figurines. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 227–275. Retrieved from www.ucmo.edu/art/facstaff/documents/Self-Representationin...
Reprinted from CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY published by the University of Chicago Press. Used with permission.
© 1996 by Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.
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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.