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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.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Children's Picture Book about Urination

Picture Book about Urination
As previously noted (1, 2)Japan is human waste friendly. This children's picture book is not so much about potty training, as a book that takes the tittering out of tinkling.

It simply shows that Nontan, the cat pictured and all his friends, urinate, and that sometimes (as in this case) this may happen accidentally. On each of the pagers there is either a picture of one ore more characters saying "what is that tinkling sound?" or a picture of one or more characters urinating. On the final page of the book (above) the titular character is shown wetting himself. The book indulges the readers taste for toilet humour, and disippates it by being matter of fact.

In a survey of issues that were taboo between partents and children in the UK and Japan it was found that while sex and menstruation were equally taboo in both nations (contra my hypotheses), human waste was a topic of breakfast time conversation in Japan, but in the UK, "you have got to be kidding." (Peter E. Bull, and Timothy Takemoto, c2000)

Image and words copyright the author and publisher. The book may be purchased from amazon.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014


Double Basketball: The Great Leveller

Top Basket for the Win
This game is played a sports days at primary schools all over Japan. Note that there are many balls in the lower of the two baskets on the pole, but none in the basket further up the pole.

The object of the competion is to get as manny balls into the two basskets as possible. At the end of the alloted time the balls are counted and the team (pictured here is one team, there was another team to the left) with the most balls in the baskets wins.

At the end of the game, the balls are counted out one by one as a representative from each team removes one ball at a time from each team's baskets. This is not the first time I have seen a competition of this type. I noticed today that the number of balls basketed by both team is always almost neck and neck. There was only a single digit difference, despite the large number of players and balls.

I think that perhaps this is the reason for playing this game: to show children that no matter how hard they try, they will only ever achieve a score almost identical to another group of children who are also trying, because people are all pretty much the same .

If that is the case then perhaps I should not make public the following strategy.

The reason why he number of balls is always neck and neck is because the balls are light, there are many people throwing at once, so it is very difficult to aim. As a result, the players -- the children especially-- only attempt to get the balls into the bottom basket. Or rather, there is just a freenzied upward shower of balls.

The allotted time is such that both teams are able to fill the bottom basket to overflowing. Since each team has baskets of the same size (in this case containing approximately 100 balls), each team achieves a score of 100 plus alpha where alpha is the very small number of balls in the top, hard to reach basket.

Hence, if a few of the adults playing for one or other team attempted to put their balls into the top basket alone, then they might win, since the bottom basket will get filled by the random shower of balls anyway. Or at least, this strategy would turn the game into one of skill, and increase the variance in the result, because people are, in their ability to aim, not all pretty much the same.

It is probably a lot more fun to just shower balls into the baskets as usual, and enjoy the close finish.

Thursday, May 01, 2014


Get Thin Japanese Style

Get Thin Japanese Style: Cut your bread in half

There is a rumour that the Japanese diet leads to longeivity. I think that this is true to an extent, but surprisingly, the Japanese these days eat bread, meat and pasta, and not all that much fish or veg. By the far the biggest difference between the Japanese and Western diet seems to me to be the quantity.

If the Japanese ate something different - rice, raw fish and green tea for instance - then we'd be able to emulate them fairly easily. Going from meat, potatoes and brown tea (standard British tea) to rice, raw fish and green tea is something that quite a lot of people might be able to manage, such as one can swap from a high carbohydrate diet to a paelo or Aktins diet, and back again without all that much hassle. And so folks scan the literature, and world cuisines in search of the diet that will make them healthy. But the truth is the largest part of the health differential is not in what you eat, but how much, and wether you eat more than you burn.

While we can swap between bread and rice, meat and fish, or protein and carbs, It is far more difficult to swap between a big diet, especially in terms of calories, and a small one.

It is almost impossible to find a fish based lunch box, or fish based meal in many Japanese universities. The lunch boxes and the meals at Japanese canteens contain deep fried pork in batter. The fact that it comes with rice as opposed to potatoes is not a big deal either.

But the size of Japanese vs western portions/helpings meals is just vastly different.

So how do the Japanese do it? How do they manage to eat smaller amounts?

My axe to grind, my theory is that the Japanese live in the visual rather than the linguistic.

If you speak to yourself all the time (as I do) and understand your world, yourself, in words, then this impacts upon both the size of the food you eat and the person that you want to be.

Concentrating first on the size of the food you eat, the Japanese are fully (if unconsciously) cognisant of the fact that *there is no absolute size information in the visual world*. If you get up close to a train set it could be a real, full-sized, bullet train. If you get up close and personal when you prune a bonsai tree then it, the visual information that it presents, could be an enourmous oak. There is no difference. A small gravel garden could be, looks the same as, a vast inland sea. A small room or tea house, with fine lattice grids could be a a large room with a larger lattice. What looks like a rock, or a mountain, in an ink drawing scroll could be a rock, or it could be a mountain. There is nothing in visually presented information - *the image* - that indicates absolute size.

So, to see your food as big, make it small. Make mini cakes, mini steaks, mini chocolate bars. And when you eat them, when you eat any and all of your food, bring it up close to your eyes. The Japanese (to the derision of the Koreans) raise their (fish/meat/egg/whatever topped) rice bowls to within centimetres of their face when they eat (the Koreans lower their face to the bowl). From either viewpoint, even a small bowl of rice topped with meat or fish, could be a bucket of the same at arms length.

Above all the rule is *look at it,* your food, and do not think, about it in words). If your food is beautiful then it need not be big. Bigness is in the evaluating, analytical, linguistic mind. Look at your food, like it and move on.

But how do you move on? If you think of yourselve as a 'person' narrated and about the treat you "deserve" because you are "good" or need to be "happy" then the calorific sky is the limit. On the other hand, if you just *see* yourself, as you *see* your food, as something beautiful, or not, then you will want to move on.

How horrible is this visual way of living? How superficial?

What are more superficial than words? What is more social, unindividual, herdlike than language?

The "superfice" of the visual is as deep as a thousand words.

Cut your loaf in half and look it up close. Treat each half slice as a whole slice. Do no think about it, but just do it.

Finally however, I should say that there are downsides to the Japanese way of getting thin. Especialy, beware of getting lung cancer. East Asians are thin, but they smoke themselves to death because they cannot *see* the harm it is doing. Soon or already the Japanese, and other East Asians, will take photographs of the interior of their lungs and give up smoking.

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