Sunday, December 14, 2014
The Interdependence of the Visual Self
I often make out that the Japanese are just as independent as Westerners it is just that they percieve themselves from the point of view of an eye rather than an ear, a visual rather than linguistic intra-psychic Other (super-addressee, super-addressee, super-ego, impartial spectator, generalised other, cranial comforter, Eve).
Having a visual self makes possible very close-knit, "inderdepended," inter human bonds as these Japanese comics illustrate.
The above is a very Japanese two page spread from "Emblem Take 2" (Kiuchi & Watanabe, 1991, pp 22-23) where a group of three Japanese mafiosi (yakuza) reaffirm their unity, and intention to seek revenge for one of their number who has been shot. The comic is read from the top right and I first translate the words, but the very Japanese bit occurs in the frames where nothing is said.
On the top of the right page, one of the two underlings -- who both look older and tougher than their boss -- says "Though we were born seperately we can die at the same time time. That is the oath of "wine bowl" isn't it?
To which the boss replies mid left "Ha...What "Oat"? You have been watching too many Yakuza movies!"
The underlings then reply, shocked "Big brother!" (how can you be so cold, cynical?).
The remaining frames are almost silent, except for a little laughter, and the three mafiosi leave the hospital as one, in a vendetta kind of mood, we presume.
What is going on? First of all it should be explained that the plege of alliegence to the yakuza gang is performed via an oath where one accepts a bowl (sakazuki) of rice wine from the mafia boss. The recipient keeps the bowl, generally close to their heart, as well as the wine and becomes as one with the boss, the group, and at least one of the family - hence the exclamations of "big brother," by the underlings even though they are not conventionally related.
It is my view that in a sense they are married, and that the ritual of the rice bowl is the same as that shared by Japanese couples when they marry under with the two sips and a gulp rice bowl ritual (san san ku dou 三々九度), where the bride ang groom share a similar bowl of rice wine.
From having performed the ritual, the shape of the bowls, the fact that a diety drinks a reflection in the Kojiki Myth, and my uderstanding of the Japanese visio-imaginary self, I think that both the Sakazuki oath performed by yakuza, and the sansankudou oath performed by marrying couples, represent the drinking of other's reflection, in recognition of the fact that each will exist, interdependently, as seen an imagined in the mirror of each other's heart. But that is all talk.
The actual bonding takes place in the remaining frames where the yakuza look at each other, sweat, laugh, and leave together. If you live in the light then you need and have your companions since, to a large extent, without them you would not have a face.
But at the same time to an extent, the Japanese have a god, an imaginary friend (in two ways), their very own view of themselves, and to that extent their autoscopy, and our, Western, "hearing ourselves speak," facilitates an independent self of sorts. But, they way in which the self facilitates bonding and provides for an illusory independence are two sides of the same coin. The self is social. That Yahew made Eve - the original comforter - out of a piece of our chest results in our cleaving to others and institution of marriage (as illustrated in the next image).
Image page 22 and 23 of Kazumasa Kiuchi (story), Jun Watanabe (Artwork) (1991) "代紋TAKE2." ("Emblem Take 2") Koudansha. www.amazon.co.jp/%e4%bb%a3%e7%b4%8bTAKE2-5-%e3%83%a4%e3%8....
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.