Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Japanese and English
The Japanese lexicon is largely made up of about 2000 building blocks, each of which can be pronounced in a couple of ways. Learning these blocks presents a large problem to Japanese school children who gain the impression that Japanese is difficult. English however has little in the way of blocks. The the simplicity of the alphabet gives the impression that learning English may be an easy task when in fact, each of the words are as unique as stones in a drystone wall. And the wall goes on and on. For fluency in English one would need to know approximately 30,000 unique words. English should be dumped as an international language and Japanese should be used as the international language instead.
And that is without considering the simplicity of the pronunciation, spelling (gohti), or regularity of the verbs.
Test: Lego Wall by keempoo
Drystone wall by Haversack
Drystone Wall copyright Codrington Gardens
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The Invasion of Dialogue Vs. Heejun Kimism
It is nothing new. Japanese people who have been abroad marvel at the extent to which Europeans debate, hold dialogue about everything, with everything, even with themselves. And some of them, , such as the authors of this book (Kitagawa and Hirata, 2008) wish to re-import this love of language back to Japan. They lament (in an almost direct emulation of Nakajima) that "Japan has no Dialogue."
Heejun Kim demonstrates however, that language actually gets in the way of East Asian's thought. When encouraged to think and talk Americans perform better. When encouraged to think and talk Asians perform worse. This suggests that Asians are not thinking in language.
When encouraged to think and talk nonsense (e.g. "a, b, c, a, b, c"), and suppress linguistic thought, Japanese are not so put out. They can automatise speech, put it on the back burner. When Americans suppress linguistic thought they almost find it difficult to walk. Western thinking is in language. Japanese thinking is not. It is elsewhere.
But the Japanese, with their endless love of things foreign, attempt to get all that chin wagging brought here. When they succeed, the Japanese will be a pale imitation of the great white whisperers. You are doing it aren't you? Whispering to yourself.
Don't do it Japan! Believe Kim (2002) and repent.
Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. www.psych.ucsb.edu/labs/kim/kim_2002.pdf
Kitagawa, T & HIrata, O. 北川達夫, & 平田オリザ. (2008). ニッポンには対話がない―学びとコミュニケーションの再生. 三省堂.
Nakajima, Y. 中島, 義道. (1997). 「対話」のない社会―思いやりと優しさが圧殺するもの. PHP研究所.
The Invasion of Customized Goods Vs Masaki Yukism
Social and Cultural Psychologist Masaki Yuki, after a spell at Professor Marilynn Brewer 's (presumably Ohio State) university in the US was amazed at the extent to which Americans are proud of and merge with their groups, at least to the extent to which US university students wear university sweat shirts bearing the name of their own institution, and come the day of the university American football game, half the campus would come to the match dressed in the same, university colours, chanting the team name.
As professor Brewer argues, Americans join groups to gain a desirable social identity, as a member of a of a presumed elite with which they merge. Badges and uniforms of membership that enhance the group-individual mind meld, are thus desirable, as are negative evaluations of rival groups. "We are good and/because they are baaad."
The Japanese on the other hand are far more economic in their group membership, preferring to join groups in which they can cooperate to form a unity greater than the sum of its parts. The important thing is the network of exchange relationships between the individuals who physically enhance each other's welling through the synthesis of different skills and aptitudes. Group member uniformity is thus avoided and Japanese group members do not see other groups as rivals, paying little attention to them at all.
While there is a bit of Westernisation going on at my university, and there is a mini invasion of the self-snatching, clone-ware, customised goods, Yuki's cultural psychological theory is probably my favourite (after my own) since it has something qualitative to say about the Japanese side of the cultural equation. In most of the other great cultural theories, Japan is typified by a lack or absence: lack of a internal moral standard (Benedict), lack of individuality (Hofestede), lack of illusion of individuality (Markus and Kitayama), lack of a need for positive self-regard (Heine), lack of linguistic thought (Kim), lack of focus (Masuda and Nisbett).
This post in video: the film of the burogu. Bibliography
Yuki, M. (2003). Intergroup comparison versus intragroup relationships: A cross-cultural examination of social identity theory in North American and East Asian cultural contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 166–183. lynx.let.hokudai.ac.jp/COE21/workingpaper/no04abstract.pdf
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The thing that strikes me about Kaiten pilots, and those that piloted so called "Kamikaze" (Tokkoutai 特攻隊) planes is their last letters. The philosophy expressed in these letters is that described by Markus and Kitayama (1991) as "interdependence," or as espoused by African Ubuntu philosophy such as expressed in the Zulu proverb, "Umuntu ngumuntu ngamantu" which means "I am a person through other people".
One such last letter, written by Matsuda Mitsuo, was on display in the Kaiten Museum. It reads
"To all my teachers, seniors, parents, relatives and those in my neighbourhood
Thank you all. (Lit. "Everyone, it is hard to be")
Thinking about it,
I had a fun 20 years of life
So laying to rest all your generosity
I will laugh as I launch in.
The spirit of a soldier
Young Cherry Blossom, Then thousand Cherry Blossom Trees
This young man is saying in other words that he owes his life to the generosity of those to whom he addresses the letter, a generosity which has enabled to him to be and have fun and which is so great that it will amuse him to return the favour and give that beautiful, terrible, generosity permanent leave. This gives a good example perhaps of the etymological root of the Japanese word for "thank you": "arigatou" or "(your generosity is such that) it is hard to be".
It is difficult to know the circumstances of Petty Officer Mitsuo's death. He may have been crying and scared. However, in those last moments as Matsuda Mitsuo approached an enemy ship, I like to think that he was indeed amused. Mitsuo (lit "man of light") piloted his submarine into the sea near Okinawa on the 25th of April, 1945. He was 21 years old. He was not a man, he was dynamite.
I have read a lot of the last letters of Kaiten and "Kamikaze" pilots, and though they are all very similar they never fail to bring me to tears. I tried to make a video of this one but could not read it to the end. As I become aware of the similarity of the letters and suspect that pilots were schooled in this line of thinking, it does not make it any less moving and even as I grow older, it seems to become if anything even more true. As Madge (Maddona) says, "I am because we are". Realising ones interdependence upon others can facilitate great acts of sacrifice.
There are Christian mystics such as David Harding that say that they see the light, and the interdependence of the self, how it is "open to loving", but somehow they seem to keep their selves at the same time, keep it for God, or coming home to Suffolk. It seems to me that Christian mystics never let go of logos, still see themselves from a linguistic fourth person perspective, but these young men see, in Mitsuo's cherry trees for instance, a far fiercer light, that is all consuming. I am reminded of Robert Oppenheimer words when he witnessed the first atomic bomb, or so he thought...
"I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. I suppose we all thought that in one way or another."
Markus, Hazel R., and Shinobu Kitayama. "Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation." Psychological review 98.2 (1991): 224.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Ecce homo: how to become what you are. OUP Oxford, 2007.
Tom Jones. Hit or Miss.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
British Menu Book with No Images
There is no plastic food in showcases at British restaurants. There are rarely even any images in their menus. Even if there are images, these may be just to set the atmosphere rather than be images of the food that one can purchase.
But, especially having lived so long In Japan where there are often visual aids to choosing food at restaurants, and copious photographs in all Japanese cook books, I was surprised to find that this British recipe book should have no images inside its pages at all. The only image is the one that adorns its over and it is not made clear which of the 262 recipes therein contained the image depicts. Even assuming that it is in the small print, the decision as to whether to cook and eat the any of the soups and stews described has to be based on the name, the instructions and the ingredients. This maybe testimony to the power of the British imagination but I think not. I think that rather it shows that the British, compared to the Japanese, do not really care what their food looks like so long as it tastes good and is healthy. This morning we had a yoghurt and broccoli soup which, as you can imagine, looked not unlike some bodily fluid or other, but tasted quite delicious.
I am informed that this recipe book is also quite good for those that wish to learn English.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Parents are Brought Up
This catch copy expresses a very Japanese sentiment, philosophy, or I would say central realisation of Japanese culture.
I am not sure of the full standard version of the proverb (will someone tell me?) but it is often said that "parents too are reared", "brought up", or "become adults" (「親も育つ」）, since it is believed that is through bringing up children that people learn about the upbringing that they have received, the trials, tribulations, and sentiment of their own parents, and learn what it is to be, and become, an adult.
This sentiment is central to Japanese culture in many ways.
It is often said that Japanese "Buddhism," (or I would say Shinto under the guise of Buddhism), involves "ancestor worship". "Ancestor worship" sounded, to my Western ears, rather grotesque; like as if the Japanese think their ancestors are god almighty. But Japanese worship, and Japanese "gods" are much more down to earth, un all-powerful entities. They are respected, even revered, but they are far removed from the pain-in-in-the-brain (to atheists at least) omniscient, super-good, perfect beings of the likes of Allah and Yaweh. Japanese ancestors and Japanese gods are respectable. They are as holy or cool as saints. The Japanese view their own ancestors as saints. Even that may sound too far fetchededly arrogant to Western ears, but.... to justify the sentiment I would need to digress too much. This was meant to be a post about a children's clothing advert, but it has so many implications. Let it be said that Japanese ancestors, and therefore to an extent Japanese parents, are deemed to be cool, like Elivis and other heroes and saints are cool, so it takes a while to get there. Being a parent is not easy. It takes being brought up to. There is a long and hard progression to becoming a hero. Heroes don't get there on their own. They need help.
Japanese parents get to their exalted position as parents thanks to their children. Japanese ancestors get to their exalted position as ancestors because they have descendants. Japanese deities get to be sacred because people worship them.
Thus far a Japanese person might agree. The following is more controversial.
Japanese culture is "womb-centric" in a similar way to which Western culture is phallocentric. The model of Western culture is the man. "Mankind," we Westerners say, as Simone De Beauviour pointed out. In Japan it is the reverse. The Japanese human is "woman kind". There is no Japanese word (afaik), that like the English "man" or French "homme" that means, in reverse, both woman and human, but the Japanese word for "I" in its many variations is female in its most general form. "I," in elementary Japanese language textbooks "Watashi," is a word for women, and for everyone. Speaking from a reverse Simone DeBeavoir perspective therefore, it is not surprising that it takes upbringing, and effort, for men at least, to become a "watashi." Men at least do not become their first person singular overnight. They learn to become homo-parentis, thanks to the love of their children.
Imagine yourself to be a full on, normal, testosteroned male. Are you, in that guise, a parent? I'd argue not; not at least you have become a father. Fathers only become fathers as a result of their culture, their experience of bringing up children.
I meant to write much more in the above post, but even if I had I would not have gone so far as to connect this 'sentiment' with the Japanese attitude towards time, which as a commenter pointed out is connected, or likewise central, to Japanese culture, including Japanese tourism to places where time can be felt, such to cherry blossom and red leave viewing sites, and "relics," such as Hiraiizumi (夏草や兵達が夢のあと) where there is little more than grass to be seen but, time can be felt, and vividly imagined.
Going even further into the abstract, Nishida the great Japanese philosopher and his acolyte Watsuji, went to Germany to study philosophy and came back astounded at the extent to which Western philosophy emphasised time as being.
So who emphasises time more? Westerners or Japanese? It seems to me that the world is turned inside out.
To Descartes, the founder of Western philosophy, the cogito or self-narrative is the self, whereas "res extensa," the extended or space, the visual world, is out there and dubitable, ephemeral, 'mere image'. Heidegger went so far as to claim that "the meaning of being (as 'discovered' by Western philosophers in the cogito) is time." Derrida argues that the reason for this adulation of time as being, human being, is due to the Western worship of language, in specie, internal self-narrative. Our (Western) words inside our heads, are felt to be ourselves, and occur in time. Time is that which Westerners believe ourselves to be-in*. Space, on the other hand, is 'out there'.
It is perhaps for this reason that Western tourism is largely about going to places where something can be seen. Westerners go to gaze, or gawp, at anything beautiful. Time does not have to be involved. In this sense, Ippei + Janine's photo-travelogue of beaches in Japan, is unusually Western in that it introduces beautiful Japanese places that are largely ignored by many Japanese relic-seeking, time-travelling tourists.
To most Japanese conversely, the self exists in and as the mirror of the mind, while time is out there. I venture to suggest that Janine looks at and loves the image of their travels as Ippei lives or is them.
How can I bring this back to self-rearing-parenthood? I know there is a way :-)
*"be-in." Ha! A philosophical joke.
Eco-Friendly Plastic Bits
Thursday, April 04, 2013
Deep Sea Fish, Catfish, Static Electricity, Negative Ions and the Next Japanese Earthquake?
Recently there have been reports of increased seismic activity, and sightings of 'earth-quake predicting' oarfish and ribbonfish in Japan, raising concerns that a quake may be looming. This post lists the sighting of the deep sea fish, suggests why they may be appearing and a catfish connection, and how you can test for the same environmental changes that may be predictive of earthquakes.
The local news section of our newspaper reported that a giant deep-sea, oarfish had been caught in a static net off Nagato and brought to the Museum in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on 5th Feburary. The article also mentioned that this was not the first of these rare fish to be spotted in recent weeks.
In Japan, Oarfish are called Ryuuguunotukai (リュウグウノツカイ/竜宮の遣い）or "Messengers of the Sea God" since they are said to warn of earthquakes. In Taiwan they are known, more prosaically as "seismic fish" (地震鱼) for the same reason. Usually living in depths greater than 200m, they rarely come into coastal shallow waters. A Japanese academic theorised that oarfish come into shallow waters when tectonic plate movement generates electricity, causing electric shocks in 2 to 5 meter long bodies, which the fish come up to shallow water to avoid.
Searching for news of Oarfish sightings on Google News in Japanese, I see that there has been a spate of sightings recently as shown on the map above. The are summarised in English as as follows. Click the links for pictures of the giant fish.
In addition to the fish that was caught in Yamaguchi prefecture, on the same day, February 5th, a 2.7 meter oarfish was caught in a net trawling in the bay off Oita Airport in Oita Prefecture. It is the first such fish to be caught in that area in nine years, as reported in the Oita Press.
On January 2nd, a man caught a 3m oarfish swimming near the surface of the sea near Naoetsu and brought it into the Jouetsu City Aquarium, both in Niigata prefecture as was reported on the 14th by the Asahi Newspaper.
On January 10th, a 4.1m fish was found floating in Hansei River estuary off Obama City, in Fukui Prefecture. A local fisherman, who has fished the waters in the area for 20 years had not seen an oarfish in this time, as reported in the Fukui Newspaper. Legend has it in Fukui that if the fish is alive, as it was, then it is a good omen.
On January 18th, a 2.67m oarfish was caught in a static net on the border between Toyama and Niigata Prefecture and brought to Ozu Aquarium in Ozu City in Toyoma Precture. This is the first such fish to be caught in the region since three years ago as reported by Nichi Television News 24.
A blogger reports finding a 2.4m specimen on a Tottori beach on the 19th of January.
On February 2nd, the official blog of the Odawara fish market, in a post tagged "rare fish" (with photo) reported catching an small 1m oarfish in a static net, remarking that this is only the second such fish to be caught in Odawara in memory and that the last time was 2 months prior to the Tohoku earthquake.
On February 10th a 44 year old fisherman saw a 3m oarfish floating near the coast. It was the first time he had seen one of these fish in his life as reported in the Fukui Shinbun (newspaper). I have not added this to the map. It is in almost the same place as the Jan 18th sighting in Ozu.
The sightings roughly follow coastline parallel to the Niigata Kobe Tectonic Zone (image above) of seismic activity, at the edge of the Eurasian (or Amurian) plate.This region of seismic activity goes through the highly populated areas of Central Japan (Osaka, Kyoto, Koube).
The last time there were increased sightings of oarfish in late 2009 early 2010, as reported in the Telegraph Newspaper in March 2010 there were no major earthquakes until the megathrust earthquake and Tsunami on 11th March 2011 a year later.
On the 9th, a review article in the Mainichi Newspaper, reports that while usually these fish are seen at a rate of one every few years, the fish brought into the Hagi Museum on the 5th was the 8th caught in the sea of Japan in recent weeks. This still does not match the 30 fish that were caught in late 2009 early 2010, but it is certainly a "high pace" and "remains a mystery".
On the 14th another species of earthquake predicting fish, ribbonfish, are also being sighted in comparatively large numbers too. Ribbonfish or "Sake-Gashira" are called earthquake fish (地震魚) in Japanese. These are the same characters used for both the oarfish and the ribbonfish in Taiwanese, since likewise, they are said to warn of impending earthquakes. Also like oarfish, ribbonfish have a long body often meters in length and live at depths of about 1000 meters - they are deep sea fish.
In other words, increased sightings of deep-sea, long-bodied, long-finned fish in coastal waters may, if there is any truth to the legends at all, indicate build ups of static electricity caused by tectonic plate movement.
Very recently (January 7th 2013) scientists have been hypothesising that static electricity may be used to detect earthquakes. Scientists at Quakefinder "believe a rise in static electricity below the ground could be a reliable indicator that a quake is imminent" (Daily Mail, UK).
This electricity is generated as granite is crushed in tectonic plate movement like a giant piezoelectric lighter I presume. Dr. Freund of Quakefinder hypotheses that "Maybe some people, some animals [or fish?] can react to the stimuli coming from deep below."
Another fish that has fins that act as sense organs are catfish, which use their whisker-like barbels to sense the movement of prey. It I believe no coincidence that another whiskered fish, catfish (in Japanese namazu) were thought to CAUSE earthquakes in Japan. Edo period representations of earthquakes showed a giant catfish (
A picture of Namazu, the earth shaker in my Shinto blog, writhing under the ground.
The reason for this legend is surely that, while no one saw what happened to oarfish and ribbon fish as their whiskers received piezoelectric shocks deep beneath the sea, they could see catfish writhing as piezoelectric current caused their barbels to hurt, and presumed their movements caused the earthquake. Since static electricity can cause hairs to stand on end, this may also be why our furry friends, dogs and cats, are said to be forewarned of earthquakes in Japan often barking for days before a quake.
So, what should we do to be warned of earthquakes other than watching out for oarfish and ribbon fish on beaches? Should we keep an oarfish in our bath? Keep a close eye on your cat or dog? How can the build up of static electricity be measured?
One way, apparently, may be from the quantity of ions in the air. Dr. Tom Bleier from Quakefinder reports that an instrument measuring ions in the air "saturated" (went off the chart) for in the region of and 13 hours prior to a quake, coming down about one hour before the quake hit. Air ion counters can be purchased cheaply, (from ebay too) and, even if they are useless for predicting earthquakes, they can be used to measure how well your air-purifier is producing negative ions and to test for the presence of ghosts.
The seismic piezoelectric radiation sensitivity of fish and animals has been and demonstrated by Professor Motoji Ikeya in his Earthquakes and Animals: From Folk Legends to Science by Ikeya.
The first six chapters (concerning animals and legends) are available on Google Books. The Japanese versions are a lot cheaper (地震の前、なぜ動物は騒ぐのか―電磁気地震学の誕生 and 大地震の前兆 こんな現象が危ない) and there is a free children's version called "What are our Pets Trying to tell Us? which goes into surprising detail. The last page, showing earthquake predictions along with the even news, shows I think the professor's dream. He died before it became a reality but with the work of Quakefinder and others, it may become a reality soon. In any event, professor Ikeya's video of catfish reacting to electric fields is just great TV.
During July and August of this 2014 81 catfish were washed up in Murotomisaki on the south Western tip of Kouchi prefecture! Murotomisaki could be said to be at the entrance to Oosaka Bay.
10th April 2015 156 dolphins beached just north of Tokyo.
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Tourism as Reconstruction: What is unmoving in Cherry Blossom viewing?
Derrida "deconstructs" Western philosophy so it may fair to say, conversely, that the polemic that Western philosophers indulge in should be called the ongoing process of "reconstruction."
Western philosophers use polemical sleights of hand to convince us that all is well, and dualistic, in the world. Western philosophers draw our attention to defective signs, such as writing, "speech acts", "indicative signs," to assure us that there are good and proper signs that are dual, that come laden with, co-present with meaning, with "ideas". In so doing these nervous philosophers assure us and themselves that the act of hearing ourselves speak is not a gollum auto-crooning in the darkness, but a meaningful "expressive act."
This philosophical polemic is one example of "reconstruction," of the narrative-self. But is is not only philosophers who indulge in this sleight of hand. We are all to an extent a little perplexed by the whole speaking-to-ourselves thing. We are all a little worried about the existence of the meaning, "ideas" and the self as idea, and we all want therefore to indulge in a little self-reconstruction, to assure ourselves of our own selfiness.
Tourism is reconstruction par excellence. As Jackson's Mary-who-knows-no-red (Jackson, 1976) convinces philosophers of duality, the tourist who had never seen Breton clogs, is convinced of the existence of the idea by, in the act of discovering them. Look, there is Frenchiness (Culler)! Western tourists go to see the sights, to gaze, at that redness, that cultural icon which, hithertoo, existed for them only as an idea.
Japanese tourists, Zen though they may be, travel to indulge in reconstruction too, except they want to believe in non-duality, and the self as that place (場所, Nishida) where mind and matter meet. Just as Westerner tourists go to gaze at things for which they only had ideas and in doing so prove that the image is out there, Japanese tourist go to places where there are signs for which they only had images, where they allow their imagination to run riot in the mirror of their mind. Japanese also visit sites where they can experience the unfolding of time ("differance"), in order to return themselves to the purity of the mirror, which is the only thing that remains, un-moving, in cherry blossom viewing.
People travel to experience and expunge that which they visit and leave behind. Western tourists go to gaze (Urry) and leave the world of sight. Japanese tourists go to expunge those names, and expunging duality and time, enter the liquid world of light.
Jackson, F. (1986). What Mary didn't know. The Journal of Philosophy, 83(5), 291-295. http://220.127.116.11/perpus-fkip/Perpustakaan/Perpus%20Cero/Filsafat/Filsafat%20Modern/Materialisme%20Modern.pdf#page=199
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.