J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

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, March 31, 2015


The Gates of Hell

The Gates of Hell

I wrote recently about the creation myth of Guam. To recap, it goes like this.

Human souls were all slaves in hell but due to a conflagration, one soul managed to escape to Guam where he made a human child out of soften rock and gave it a soul made of the sun. When the king of hell came looking for his lost soul he thought it must be that of the child and tried to bring him back down to hell, but hard as he tried, he could take the child to hell, because its soul was made from the sun.

The creation myth of Guam is almost a paraphrase of that of the Japanese in the Kojiki where it relates that soul of the Japanese is also made from the sun -- the mirror of the sun -- and that the creator of this sun-mirror-soul went to hell - or the underworld - and came back.

Indeed, the deities and heroes of Japanese mythology are always going somewhere rather under-worldly. Susano'o visits the Sun who hides in a cave with hellish consequences. Yamasachi HIko goes down to the kingdom in the sea. But they always manage to come back. And their soul remains, according Heisig's reading of Nishida, visual, self-seeing, in the light, made of the sun. How did the Japanese achieve this?

Consider first the alternative. What is hell or "the underworld." Having at last worked out what Derrida means by "mourning," and what Freud was hinting at by his "acoustic cap," I now realize that hell is that which was nearest and dearest to me, and where in large part I live. Hell is a place where there are dead people. I don't see them, I talk to them. I talk principally to a dead woman, a woman who was never really alive, or even a woman, in my head. This is the essence of the narrative self. Mead calls it a Generalized other, Bakhtin a "super-addressee," Freud the super ego, Lacan (m)other, Adam Smith "the impartial spectator" and I think that the Bible refers to it at first as "Eve." A dead woman to keep you company, for you to get to know, and have relations with. Hell indeed. (There is a Christian solution, that involves replacing the internal interlocutor, with another "of Adam" and, quite understandably, hating on sex.)

So how did the Japanese manage to avoid talking to the dead woman? There are various scenes in the mythology. Izanagi runs throwing down garments which change into food (this chase with dropped objects turning into things that slow down ones attacker is repeated all over the world. I have no idea what it means). And in the next myth cycle, as mentioned recently, the proto-Japanese get the woman to come out of her cave with a sexy dance, a laugh, a mirror and a some zizag pieces of paper to stop her going back in again. In this post I concentrate on the last two, shown in the images above.

The mirror was for her to look at her self. She became convinced it was her self and told the Japanese to worship it as if it was her, which they had done every since, eating her mirror every New Year, until quite recently.
The zigzag pieces of paper have two functions. One in purification rituals where I think they are used to soak up words since the woes of humans are in large part the names given to those woes (e.g. of the proliferation of mental illnesses). As blank pieces of paper are waved over Japanese heads a priest may also chant a prayer about how impurities were written onto little pieces of wood which are used to take all them back to the underworld where they belong.

The other use of zigzag strips is that they can also be used for all the sacred stamped pieces of paper which are used to symbolize identity in Japan, and to encourage the Japanese to realise that words are things in the world - not things that should be in your head. And until recently (Kim, 2002) the Japanese managed to keep the words out of their mirror soul.

But alas it seems to me that the Gates of Hell are opening and the children of the sun are in danger of being sucked back in. How might this be achieved?

The following is the beginning of a recent Japanese journal article (Iwanaga, Kashiwagi, Arayama, Fujioka & Hashimoto, 2013) in my translation (the original is appended below) which, intentionally or not, aims to import Western psychology into Japan.

"As typified by the way in which the phrase "dropouts" (ochikobore) was reported in Japanese newspapers and became a social problem initiated by the report from the national educational research association in 1971, the remaining years of the 1970's saw the symbolic emergence of a variety of educational problems. Thereafter there was an increase in problems such as juvenile delinquency (shounen hikou), school violence (kounaibouryoku), vandalism (kibutsuhason), academic slacking (taigaku), the 1980s saw the arrival of problems such as the increasingly atrocious nature of adolescent crimes including the murder of parents with a metal baseball bat (kinzokubatto ni yoru ryoushin satugaijiken) and the attack and murder of homeless people in Yokohama (furoushashuugekijiken), domestic violence, and bullying, and then in the 1990's the seriousness of educational problems such as the dramatic increase in delinquency (futoukou), dropping out of high school (koukou chuutai), and a series of murders by adolescents steadily increased. "(Iwanaga, Kashiwagi, Arayama, Fujioka & Hashimoto, 2013, p.101)

As you can see the writers are partially aware that all the "problems" that have assailed Japan since the 1970's are in part an "emblematic emergence" or impurities. While some of these problem have worsened in fact, many of them are simply the sort of thing that should be tractable to purification. The Japanese are not for instance assailed by an increase in adolescent crime which as Youro (2003) in his book "the Wall of Foolishness" points out, has decreased and become less violent post war in Japan.

The Japanese are assailed by a variety of emblems - names of problems - which nonetheless cause real suffering.

If it were only this plague of names of social ailments swarming out of hell, then I think that the Japanese would be
fairly safe. The problem is that the above paper, Japanese Education Department, and a great many Japanese clinical psychologists and educators, are offering the Japanese the infernal equivalent of the mirror: self-esteem, a dialogue with the dead woman that allows one to enjoy "mourning," telling oneself for instance, that one is beautiful as one stuffs one's face. The title of the paper (Iwanaga, Kashiwagi, Arayama, Fujioka & Hashimoto, 2013) is "Research on the Determining Factors of the Present State of Childrens' Self-esteem," in which the authors blame the lack of Japanese self-esteem -- the Japanese hardly sext themselves at all-- on the emergence of all the social ailments. What fiendish genius: the cause is being represented as a cure! The Japanese may indeed be dragged back in.

Note Opening paragraph of (Iwanaga, Kashiwagi, Arayama, Fujioka & Hashimoto, 2013) in the original

Iwanaga, S., Kashiwagi, T., Arayama, A., Fujioka Y., & Hashimoto, H. 岩永定, 柏木智子, 芝山明義, 藤岡泰子, & 橋本洋治. (2013). 子どもの自己肯定意識の実態とその規定要因に関する研究. Retrieved from reposit.lib.kumamoto-
Yourou T. 養老孟司. (2003). バカの壁. 新潮社. Retrieved from

Image bottom
お祓い串 by Una Pan, on Flickr

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Thursday, March 26, 2015


Life, Time and Identity

Life, Time and Identity

I take the liberty of using a Japanese newspaper article announcing the tragedy of Germanwings flight 9525 to illustrate differences in the way that Japanese view time.

First of all with regard to the two lines below the article. There is research to show that when Japanese and Westerners are asked to draw a time line and put their life - a mark for their birth and a mark for their death - upon it, Westerners put the two marks close together whereas Japanese put their marks at either end of the line - 57.9% of Japanese females are classified as having an egocentric time perspective using 90% of the line on their lives, significantly more than among Australians(Shiraishi, 1996). Shiraishi suggests that this is because the Japanese were older than the Australians. Cottle (1976: see Cottle, Howard, & Pleck, 1969) however found that older Western children have a less egocentric time perspective so the fact that the Western adolescents were younger makes this difference even more striking. Speaking for myself, the reason why I would be put the two marks close together is because, compared to the enormity of time itself, my life is but a blip upon it. Why do the Japanese put their marks at either end of the line?

With regard to the Japanese newspaper article announcing the recent tragedy, one characteristic is that it announced from the very first, as a headline the number of Japanese persons presumed to be on the flight. My condolences to their families. While Japanese newspapers are a little more self absorbed, British newspapers also mentioned the number of British passengers.

Another characteristic of Japanese, but not British, newspaper articles is that they always say both the local time, and in the small red rectangle above the equivalent time in Japan. Japanese international newspaper articles and television reports, always do this: give both the time at where the event occurred, and the corresponding Tokyo time.

Taken together with the differences in how Japanese mark their time lines, I suggest that the reason for both the egocentric time perspective, and the incessant reminders of the equivalent local time in Japan, is that the Japanese do not believe time to be something unitary and objective but a subjective quality of experience (a sort of qualia). So there is not one massive march of time but there are many times, their own which began at their birth and ends at their death, and that shared to and extent by people in the Tokyo time zone but not by people in France. For the Japanese, time is not the sort of thing that has an "itself."

This relates to how Westerners conceive of their identities to exist in time or space. The Japanese identity is exists at a place in space and centres on the face (Watsuji). That the Japanese have many "kyara" in each of these places, one for home, another for work does not make them any less self consistent. The Japanese have a spatial (Nishida) geography of the self (Miyamoto, Nisbett & Masuda, 2006; Nisbett, 2010; ), that is no less consistent than the self-narrative.

On the contrary, while I think am the same in all spaces and places, I am "sometimes" something and sometimes something else in any one place ( Cousins, 1980), since for my self is my self-narrative, a history, which exists in Time which is itself which is extended and objective. Thus, for the Japanese their selves in the absence of a spatial situation is merely a "default," (Yamagishi, et. al) for me it is my first and primary self in time: who I am.

Similarly again, conversely, for me space, res extensa, the image is merely a qualia, a quality of subjective experience. For me, space does not have an itself, indeed if empty it is nothing at all.

Cottle, T. J. (1976). Perceiving time: a psychological investigation with men and women. John Wiley & Sons Australia, Limited.
Cottle, T. J., Howard, P., & Pleck, J. (1969). Adolescent perceptions of time: The effect of age, sex, and social class1. Journal of Personality, 37(4), 636–650. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1969.tb01770.x
Cousins, Steven D. "Culture and self-perception in Japan and the United States." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56.1 (1989): 124.
Miyamoto, Y., Nisbett, R. E., & Masuda, T. (2006). Culture and the physical environment holistic versus analytic perceptual affordances. Psychological Science, 17(2), 113-119.
Nisbett, R. (2010). The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently... and. Simon and Schuster.
Yamagishi, T., Hashimoto, H., Cook, K. S., Kiyonari, T., Shinada, M., Mifune, N., ... & Li, Y. (2012). Modesty in self‐presentation: A comparison between the USA and Japan. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 15(1), 60-68.
Shiraishi, T. 白井利明. (1996). 日本の女子青年の時間知覚における Cottle の仮説の検討―サークル・テストとライン・テストの結果から―. Retrieved from

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City Views and the Horror of Impartial Spectation

This video shows the the view over Yamaguchi City from Elephant Head Mountain at the entrance to Oouchi Mihori area of Yamaguchi City. You can climb this mountain from the rear of Toushiro Tea Shop opposite Yellow Hat and Uniqlo in Oouchi Mihori, or from the rear of Itukushima Shrine next to Shinwaniishibashi junction with the four legged pedestrian overpass. There car parks the beginning of both paths. The path from the shrine is wooded and natural. The path from behind the tea shop is made of concrete.

In this video I argue that Japanese people tend to avoid places with good panoramic views since they associate them with the divine which, in the Japanese case, visually spectates rather than listens. The Japanese simulate birds eye views of themselves and their situations in their minds but since this Other is that which allows them to have a self they also hide from themselves that they are doing this 'impartial spectating' (Smith, 1759). As a result of which, while the Japanese are happy and inclined to create imaginative artworks, such as pictures of the floating world and childrens' paintings, from the point of view of the birds eye view (Masuda, Gonzalez, Kwan, & Nisbett, 2008), the Japanese do not actually want to go there, to the dreaded viewing platform.

Often times Japanese are even unaware that viewpoints exist in reality. One of my colleagues was of the opinion that there is nowhere from where our town could be viewed, but in addition to this viewing platform, I live on a mountain or hill of 118m, which taller than the viewing platform shown in this video, at a mere 85m, right in the centre of Yamaguchi City overlooking both the older part of the city and the Hot Spa area. The under-utilization of Japanese viewpoints represents a tremendous potential tourism industry.

The the birds eye viewpoint is an abject place, a terrifying location that should not exist since it always exists as hidden simulation. In Japanese Horror monstresses (a neologism I use because generally Japanese monsters are female) often hang out on ceilings, looking down, or emerge from mirrors and other images. They also hang out on mountain tops as mountain aunties (yamanba).

There should be a Western equivalent of this phenomenon "Nacalianly" transformed from the visual into the linguistic. As a Westerner I should have a horror of "going" to the place where I can 'impartially' hear myself speak, the equivalent of the Japanese birds eye view. But, logophonic "places" are not really "places," but discursive 'viewpoints' or logical 'positions' (ronten 論点 not shiten 視点), so I was (until I am writing this now) confused as to where the "real" equivalent of the "impartial spectator" that I simulate in my mind might be situated in the world. Where is the linguistic version of a mountain top? Where am I scared to go?

I hypothesize now that the place that I am scared of visiting is "the text," or a particular type of text that is addressed to no one in particular. I can write a blog, here, since I imagine that I am speaking to someone, that this burogu is a dialogue with a real other. But as soon as I attempt to write, objectively, for publication, I face "The Problem of the Text" (Bakhtin, 1986) and the absence of a dialogical other and must confront -- or not confront by not writing -- my super-addressee: a monster in my mind. In fact, as I attempt to write, I often find myself going to look at visual views, especially that from the balcony at the end of my fourth floor corridor at Yamaguchi University, perhaps in order to escape *the horror of linguistic impartial spectation*.

This realisation may make it easier for me to write. Perhaps I should write on top of mountains.

Viewing platform in Google Earth
Viewing platform  in Google Maps

Bakhtin, M. (1986). The Problem of the Text in Linguistics, Philology, and the Human Sciences: An Experiment in Philosophical Analysis. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, 103-31.
Masuda, T., Gonzalez, R., Kwan, L., & Nisbett, R. E. (2008). Culture and aesthetic preference: Comparing the attention to context of East Asians and Americans. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(9), 1260-1275.
Smith, A. (1759). Theory of Moral Sentiments. Retrieved 2015/03/26 from http://www.ibiblio.org/ml/libri/s/SmithA_MoralSentiments_p.pdf

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015


SSRIs and Suicide in Japan

SSRIs and Suicide in Japan
Upon hearing of Watter's book (Watters, 2010; ウォッターズ. 2013) and the allegations he made regarding the lack of rigour in introducing new antidepressant drugs (SSRIs) to Japan, and knowing how easy it would be to portray the Japanese as depressed compared to Westerners due to their lack of a need for positive self regard (lack of a need to boast: see Heine, Lehman, Markus, Kitayama, 1999), I became alarmed at the possibility that there may be a link between SSRI use and suicide in Japan.

Fortunately there is a study (Nakagawa., Grunebaum., Ellis, Oquendo, Kashima, Gibbons, & Mann, 2007) that appears to prove the opposite: SSRIs were concluded to reduce suicide among the Japanese as well. Phew

The main graphs for men and women from that study is shown above top. I have added some arrows drawn in by hand (without any calculation) to illustrate the my understanding of the authors' conclusions.

The first author claims on a Paxil web page paxil.jp/documents/da/ev/ev004.php (from where the above image is taken) that while there is an overall correlation between SSRI antidepressant use and suicide (illustrated by my red arrows for both men and women) when one looks at the correlation between SSRI use and suicide in each age cohort, one finds a negative correlation between SSRI use and suicide rate as shown by the gently downward sloping blue arrows. The author claims that this is an illustration of "Simpson's Paradox," and that his data shows that SSRIs reduce suicide if one compares like with like.

(Simpson's Paradox is real, as many of the illustrations in the wikipedia page linked demonstrate. I have called Simpson's paradox on the data that suggests that Japanese working mothers have more children, arguing that this is in fact due to the high birth rate among poor women. I suggested, though have no evidence to demonstrate, that the tendency for dual income parents to have more children might be reversed if similar income groups were compared. )

So is this research fair to conclude that SSRI's reduce suicide rates among Japanese? On the face of it I was persuaded by the paper's conclusions since age does seem to be a very major predictor of suicide, and confounding factor in the relationship between SSRIs and sucide, so it would make sense to compare the relationship between SSRI use and suicide among similar age cohorts.

At the same time, I had assumed that the high instance of suicide among older people is due to the higher instance of health related suicide - the most common cause of suicide, rather than depression related suicide. What surprises me is that older people should be taking so much more antidepressants. In other words

1) If older Japanese people are simply more depressed than younger people, and therefore both taking more anti-depressants and committing suicide more, then Nakagawa et al.'s conclusions, and the suggestion that one should look at age cohorts, would seem to be entirely sound.

2) If older Japanese people are being diagnosed more as depressed, taking more antidepressants and therefore committing suicide more then that would be a tragedy.

How can one differentiate between the two hypotheses?

Prior to the introduction of antidepressants ("a cold of the heart") there were far fewer diagnoses of depression in Japan so it would be difficult and unfair to look at diagnoses of depression in the various age groups prior to the introduction of antidepressants. Of course there would have been fewer diagnoses since it was only after the arrival of the drugs that doctors started asking the questionnaires that would allow the prescription of the drugs.

However, if the arrival of anti depressant drugs should have been accompanied by an increase in suicide in older but not younger people then that might suggest reason (2).

After going through this reasoning, I went to see Japanese government data showing suicide rates for age cohorts, which I add below the first set of graphs.

Scarily, there does seem to be an event in about 1999 which spreads the suicide rate especially amongst males with many more older people suddenly killing themselves. The ratio of the suicide rates of young people 15-24, to that of 45 to 64 year olds jumps from three to five to one. In other words, prior to the arrival of antidepressants, the would be "confounding factor:" "old people are depressed and kill themselves more" was not nearly so true.

As pointed out by his New York Times article (Did Antidepressants Depress Japan?) and indeed Nakagawa et al.'s article shows that the introduction of antidepressants was also 1999.

That sudden dramatic post 1999 rise in death by suicide among older men represents in the first ten years of the decade represents more than 120,000 lost lives.

It also seems to me that if one answers a popular Japanese language self-check form for depression in a Japanese geezer (ojisan) way, being honest, as Japanese people are about ones declining vigour, then one is diagnosed with being "slightly depressed," merely by being honest, and perhaps therefore given drugs. This might provide a mechanism for why older people in Japan would be likely to be prescribed more anti-depression drugs.

There is also data to suggest that Japanese try harder in situations of adversity, so that would provide a mechanism for why those traditional Japanese might take their own lives when proscribed SSRIs (Heine, et. al, 2001).

At the very least Nakagawa's statement that, "After eliminating the effects of long-term linear trends, we found annual increases in antidepressant treatment were associated with annual decreases in suicide rates. " appears to be difficult to comprehend in view of the fact that 1999 was marked by a striking non linear increase in Japanese suicide rates, and it appears that that the "long term linear trends" were eliminated only for the period AFTER the introduction of SSRIs (1999-2003) and the contemporaneous step like increase in suicide among older males that continued and continues more than a decade later.

Heine, S. J., Kitayama, S., Lehman, D. R., Takata, T., Ide, E., Leung, C., & Matsumoto, H. (2001). Divergent consequences of success and failure in Japan and North America: An investigation of self-improving motivations and malleable selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(4), 599.
Heine, S. J., Lehman, D. R., Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1999). Is there a universal need for positive self-regard?. Psychological review, 106(4), 766.
Nakagawa, A., Grunebaum, M. F., Ellis, S. P., Oquendo, M. A., Kashima, H., Gibbons, R. D., & Mann, J. J. (2007). Association of suicide and antidepressant prescription rates in Japan, 1999–2003. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 68(6), 908. Retreived from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3804897/
Watters, E. (2010). Crazy like us: The globalization of the American psyche. Simon and Schuster.
ウォッターズ.E著 阿部 宏美訳 (2013)『クレイジー・ライク・アメリカ:心の病はいかに輸出されたか』紀伊國屋書店

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Monday, March 23, 2015


Curved Jewels as (Internal) Ears

Magatama Curved Jewels as (Inner) Ears

Children and adults can make curved jewels at the Yoshinogari museum of ancient Japanese culture in Saga (吉野ヶ里歴史公園) for about 2USD a jewel. My children enjoyed making one each this weekend.

Curved jewels (magatama) are one of the few things mentioned in Japanese mythology that are also found in reality.

As 'transitional object' in both myth and reality, they form one of the three sacred items symbolic of the Japanese imperial lineage the other two being a mirror, of the Sun Goddess, and the sword, that was found inside the tail of a multi-headed snake.

In Japanese mythology, the Sun Goddess is wearing a necklace of curved jewels when she meets her brother Susano who takes some of these jewels, puts them into his mouth, chews (onomatopoeically "kami-kami") them to bits and spits them out into the 'central well of heaven' to create other gods (kami) and imperial ancestors.

This act continues the Japanese mythological theme of "creation via dripping" often onto a reflective surface. The creative act of chewing symbols and spitting them out onto a mirror making the noise of what one is making ("kami" or deities), struck me as being a pagan expression of creation via the word - we speak to internalised other in the mirror of our mind, thereby making the world, speciated, en-wordified.

In Japanese mythology this act of creation, however, ends in disaster. Susano commits all manner of "sins" and his sister the Sun Goddess is lost to the world, since she hides in her cave. When the sun goddess has hidden in her cave, Amenouzume (lit "the headdress wearing woman of heaven) the founder of Japanese masked theatre (and I believe Susano in drag) wears a special headdress including curved jewels, to encourage the sun goddess to come back out of her cave by performing an erotic dance on top of a drum which made all present laugh, which encourages the Sun Goddess to come out of her cave again.

[My interpretation is that this is Susano attempting to return from the hell of the narrative self, by enacting it as an erotic solo, transsexual, auditory - hence the drum - dance to achieve enlightenment through satire and humour. Derrida represents the tragedy in a book of self addressed loving, erotic postcards. Japanese mythology and dance is more behavioural. ]

The curved jewels are said to have first have been made by deity by the name of "Parent of the Jewels" whose shrine is about 20 km from where I live in Yamaguchi Prefecture near Hōfu City (Tamanooya Jinja 玉祖神社).

This brings me to the occurrence of curved jewels in reality. They are found widely in ancient Japanese Joumon (lit. "string pattern" [pottery]) archaeological sites and in ancient burial mounds and in ancient archaeological royal sites from Korea.

The Japanese claim that the curved jewels spread from Japan to Korea, whereas Koreans claim that they spread from Korea to Japan. In Korea they are called gogok or comma shaped jewels and are found paired with mirrors on the regalia of Korean Kings in decidedly ear shaped forms, hanging from a tree shaped crown (similar that worn by Ameno-Uzume, the head-dress-woman, my "Sunsano in drag").

The fact that they hang from a tree has suggested that they represent a fruit.

[A fruit reminds me of Adam's apple, which gets stuck in our throat. I would also be inclined to suggest that the tree crown may also have had a practical purposes as a primitive "selfie-stick" to enable its wearer to see himself reflected, and echoed, in mirrors and jewels, there dangling.]

There are several other theories as to the significance of the shape of curved or comma jewels, all of the following from Wikipedia.
The shape of an animal tusk
The shape of the moon
The shape of a two or three part tomoe (as represented in the above image top row)
The shape of the moon
The shape of the soul
The shape of ear decorations

I had liked the part tomoe (Taoist and Shinto symbol) interpretation, for no good reason, but the ear decoration theory is more persuasive.

According to recent research (Suzuki, 2006) on curved jewels unearthed in Korea and Japan, curved jewels are found alongside "nearly circular ear jewellery split into two halves. The visual evidence for ear jewellery as the origin of curved jewels appears to be strong (see the above link and bottom left in the above image).

This interpretation does not conflict with the tomoe or soul interpretation. Various scholars (Mead, Bakhtin, Freud, Lacan, Derrida) claim that the self is dependent upon the assumption of an ear into the psyche. As such, a fitting together (either as a circle or tomoe) ear-shaped or ear-associated jewel may have represented a transitional, partial-self-object.

It is known that mirrors were given to others as remembrance tokens or keepsakes by the ancient Japanese from poems in the Book of Ten Thousand Leaves (manyoushuu). Looking at a mirror presented by a loved one, one might feel their gaze. Hearing the sound of the clinking of a curved jewel, made from the earring of ones mother or girlfriend, one might imagine the attention of their loving ear.

I have also claimed that headless deformed Venus figurines, including ancient Japanese dogu and and ancient Jewish Ishtar idols, may have represented the represented part of an autoscopic visual self. 'The ancients' may have known more about the parts from which the self is created, or at least been more fully aware that the self is created from parts. Moderns may have become more prudish, and lost our sense of humour.

In Japanese mythology, when Susano chewed the Sun Goddesses' curved jewels and spat them out into a reflective surface (in which he may have been reflected as his sister, I claim), she took his sword and chewed it and spat it out likewise into the well of heaven. The curved jewels therefore form a pair with swords. In a myth parallel to that in which the sword (Kusanagi no Tsurugi) was found in the tail of a snake, the sword is associated with the naming of its owner. Indeed it could be argued that the sword that Susano finds in the snake is his symbolic self-representation. If jewels represent internalised ears, then it would be appropriate that they be paired with swords as self symbols or names. Mirrors can represent the perspective/gaze, and the transitional, part-self image that is gazed at, and the world-heart in which it takes place.

It seems to me that my self-narrative and any internal ear take place on or in the mirror of my consciousness which sees as it is seen.

In China, "nearly circular" earrings (I thought that they were "butt" shaped earrings in an earlier version of this post!) are sometimes represented as a snake or dragon biting its own tail. Out out damn butt (! I jest, ketsu, 玦) snake! My self narrative is gay.

That in Japan the "incomplete circle" 玦 "pig dragon" earrings are broken into two, and worn as necklaces seems to me to represent the way in which language and the linguistic self in Japan does not form an "incomplete circle," completed by the reality of the ear or face, nor go around in Japanese people's minds but is broken. The linguistic self, the "I" of the cogito, is in Japan, as Mori claims, broken, a "you for you."

Under this reading, the myths of Susano - with his sister and in Izumo - are about how one form of selfing defeated another: in Japan the paradoxical circle of light defeated the incomplete snake circle of speaking. Or paraphrasing the myth from Guam, some humans managed to escape from hell to live in the light of the sun, without physically or imaginatively nailing themselves to a tree.

Perhaps I should dress up in drag and dance in front of a mirror. I did in fact recommend dancing in front of a mirror to a schizophrenic many years ago. That patient showed remarkable but only temporary improvement.


Suzuki, K. 鈴木克彦 (2006) "縄文勾玉の起源に関する考証."『玉文化』3号.

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Opium War Three or a Blessing?

Opium War Three

Since the late 1990s European and American drug manufacturers have been carrying out research into attitudes towards depression in countries across the world and have been asking, for example in the above survey, are you satisfied with the way that depression is treated in your company. Only 21% of Japanese respondents said that they are "satisfied" which is the lowest in the world, and shows according to the professor who carried out the survey, that Japanese responses to depression are backward.

The biggest problem with surveys such as these is that in any self-evaluative measure, Westerners are generally inclined to rate themselves (Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999) and their groups (Heine and Lehman, 1997) unrealistically positively, i.e in the vernacular we are full of ****, whereas Japanese tend to rate themselves realistically (Heine et. al. ibid). Indeed, the West, the tendency to be realistic is only prevalent among the clinically depressed (Taylor & Brown, 1988)!

This should show the Japanese that Western society is awash with arrogance, pride, and is sick to its core. Instead however, the Japanese are taking Westerners as role models, purchasing their drugs and contemporaneously with the sky rocketing use of Western anti-depressants, there has been an great increase in suicide. This is not the first time that Westerners have sold drugs to East Asians. I strikes me as being extremely worrying, and possibly tragic, misguided in the extreme (See Watters, 2010;ウォッターズ, 2013).

It should be noted however, that the vast majority of studies show that the use of antidepressants either do not effect or in the case of SNRIs reduce suicide, among Caucasians and African Americans (Clouston, Rubin, Clen & Link, 2014) in England (Gunnell, Middleton., Whitley, Dorling, & Frankel, 2003 and Japanese (Nakagawa., Grunebaum., Ellis, Oquendo, Kashima, Gibbons, & Mann, 2007). So lets hope that even if the reasons for their introduction are not necessarily entirely rigorous (As claimed by Watters, 2010;ウォッターズ, 2013), SSRIs are still a blessing.

Article above by
Isawa, T. 伊沢友之(2015年3月18日)職場のうつ病社員支援、日本は最下位 16カ国調査. 朝日新聞.

Barbui, C., Campomori, A., D'avanzo, B., Negri, E., & Garattini, S. (1999). Antidepressant drug use in Italy since the introduction of SSRIs: national trends, regional differences and impact on suicide rates. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 34(3), 152-156.
Clouston, S. A., Rubin, M. S., Colen, C. G., & Link, B. G. (2014). Social inequalities in suicide: the role of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. American journal of epidemiology, 180(7), 696-704.
Gunnell, D., Middleton, N., Whitley, E., Dorling, D., & Frankel, S. (2003). Why are suicide rates rising in young men but falling in the elderly?—a time-series analysis of trends in England and Wales 1950–1998. Social science & medicine, 57(4), 595-611.
Heine, S. J., & Lehman, D. R. (1997). The cultural construction of self-enhancement: an examination of group-serving biases. Journal of personality and social psychology, 72(6), 1268.
Heine, S. J., Lehman, D. R., Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1999). Is there a universal need for positive self-regard?. Psychological review, 106(4), 766.
Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: a social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological bulletin, 103(2), 193.
Nakagawa, A., Grunebaum, M. F., Ellis, S. P., Oquendo, M. A., Kashima, H., Gibbons, R. D., & Mann, J. J. (2007). Association of suicide and antidepressant prescription rates in Japan, 1999–2003. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 68(6), 908.
Watters, E. (2010). Crazy like us: The globalization of the American psyche. Simon and Schuster.
ウォッターズ.E著 阿部 宏美訳 (2013)『クレイジー・ライク・アメリカ:心の病はいかに輸出されたか』紀伊國屋書店

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Friday, March 20, 2015


Food Autonomy in the Matrivisual

Not withstanding the superb research by Hazel Marcus (Kitayama, Snibbe, Markus, & Suzuki, 2004; Markus, 2008; Markus & Schwartz, 2010; Savani, Markus, & Conner, 2008; Savani, Markus, Naidu, Kumar, & Berlia, 2010) on the way in which non W.E.I.R.D (White Educated Industrial Rich Democratic) (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010) persons are not so interested in making choices, it is my opinion that the cultural desire to exercise ones autonomy depends upon the medium or channel in which the choice is to be made.

"Choices" generally refer to verbal expressions, vocalised or thought. Westerners look at menus and make orders and people bring them things. Westerners like to do this. They feel that it increases their self-esteem, empowers them, and makes them feel like God, in whose image they were made, with the word.

The Japanese however often say "I'll have that too" copying the first person to order, and feel less desire to make choices as expressed in verbal orders for food. The Japanese even feel that making choices and orders to be a burden so that good service in Japan, as shown in the above video is often believed to be one in which the verbal choices are made by an expert host who serves his guests with the food that is in that season and locale, the most delicious, and it was indeed delicious and looked great.

But at the same time, the Japanese are very keen to express their autonomy in the visio-behavioural domain. For this reason it is another strong characteristic of Japanese food as served at Japanese restaurants, that it allows the patrons to make it themselves, there on the table according to their proclivities.

Making a sexist assumption, which I believe largely underpins these differences, Japanese restaurants allow and facilitate mummy-autonomy rather than daddy-autonomy. If you want to bark orders to a wife, do not come to Japan. If you want to be free to make food how you like it, then Japan is heaven. Strangely, among feminists, Japan has a bad press.

I also note that the Japanese creation myth or mix starts with what might be called celestial cooking. The first deities mix the 'oily' primal soup and make the first island by dripping salty water. Christians believe in and enjoy creation 'ex-nihilo' by vocalisation. Japanese enjoy creation ex-soup by stirring, and dripping -- a common creative trope in Shinto mythology -- and a lot of fun at the farewell party banquet table.

'ex-nihilo' is a lie, about a lie!

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 61–83. Retrieved from http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0140525X0999152X
Kitayama, S., Snibbe, A. C., Markus, H. R., & Suzuki, T. (2004). Is There Any ‘Free’ Choice? Psychological Science, 15(8), 527.
Markus, H. R. (2008). Does Choice Mean Freedom and Well-Being?. Presented at the International Society for  Cross-Cultural Psychology, Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/651242
Markus, H. R., & Schwartz, B. (2010). Does Choice Mean Freedom and Well-Being? Journal of Consumer Research, 37(2), 344–355. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/651242
Savani, K., Markus, H. R., & Conner, A. L. (2008). Let your preference be your guide? Preferences and choices are more tightly linked for North Americans than for Indians. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(4), 861–876.
Savani, K., Markus, H. R., Naidu, N. V. R., Kumar, S., & Berlia, N. (2010). What Counts as a Choice?: U.S. Americans Are More Likely Than Indians to Construe Actions as Choices. Psychological Science, 21(3), 391–398. http://doi.org/10.1177/0956797609359908

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Christmas Illuminations

It was partly thanks to the Japanese that the Christians became the scourge of the earth! The Jesuits -- officially the Society of Jesus -- were not great in number. Inspired by the founder Ignatius of Loyola - a former soldier from Spain - a group of six friends set sail with traders to spread the word, and Francisco Xavier found himself in Japan.

There it was the Jesuits' initial success with the Japanese, who initially found the Jesuits very compelling, that inspired Europeans to make large monetary donations to the Jesuits and for the Jesuits and other Christian religious orders to set off proselyting around the world, and -- as the Japanese had been warned by the British inhabitant of Japan William Adams -- subsequently colonizing some, or many of the countries in which there were Christian converts.

In Japan initially the the Jesuits and the Japanese were mutually appreciative of each other. The Jesuits wrote back with glowing praise regarding the Japanese people. Xavier wrote "[Japan] surpasses in goodness any of the nations lately discovered...none that has more natural goodness than the Japanese" (Xavier in Coleridge, 1872, p237) and "They are wonderfully inclined to all that is good and honest, and have an extreme eagerness to learn" (ibid, p238).

According to Francisco's writing - which can be read online -- the Japanese appeared to have been impressed with the humility, poverty, chastity, bravery (in the face of Buddhist repression) and helping the poor - perhaps in contradistinction to the lay appreciation of Buddhist priests. The Buddhists also had no explanation for how the world was created, the Buddha having refused to answer the question regarding the origin of the illusory world, telling people to get over it. The Christians who as we know, claim that God created the world with his word. Impressed by all this initially, there were a great many Japanese converts including among their leaders. Later Jesuits were less popular.

After the long period of Christian repression, when Christian missionaries returned in the post revolution, Meiji period, there were far fewer converts and Japanese remain largely disinterested in Christianity to this day. There is however, a great consumerist splurge at Christmas, a reinterpretation of the message of love as one related to Erotic love, and a great many illuminations especially in my town of Yamaguchi, where Francisco Xavier preached.

Coleridge, H. J. (1872). The life and letters of St. Francis Xavier : in two volumes. Asian Educational Services. https://archive.org/details/thelifeandletter02coleuoft

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Thursday, March 19, 2015


Trapping Time: Taming Impermance

The Japanese have a fascination with and aesthetic appreciation - wabi - of the passing of time. They enjoy going to see cherry blossom, which marks the beginning of spring, and enjoy cherry blossom most when it is falling in clouds of pink snow; when it is at its most ephemeral. Thus it would seem that the Japanese enjoy an awareness of temporal flow and impermanence. SInce it is true that things are always changing, whereas there is a tendency to think that they are remaining the same, this makes the Japanese sound very Buddhist, very enlightened.

On other hand it might be argued that Britons who like to surround themselves with antiques, old cutlery and china, old houses, and relics of the past, are demonstrating a desire to stop time, and ignore impermanence and temporal flow.

But then it also occurred to me that, according to the central theory of this blog, Westerners are inclined to identify with their self narrative, which as Bruner (1987) emphasises usually has a temporal unfolding, a plot, a history, and are therefore quite happy to be aware of the the movement of time, and the awareness of their development and difference over time. The Japanese on the other hand might be happier to be aware of their changing "kyara" or visually cognised character, in each of several social spaces (Fujimura, 2015), but attempt to maintain temporal intransigence, very successfully often. The Japanese age really well.

And then it occurred to me that even when Japanese are being at their most impermanent, such as when they are enjoying the passing of the seasons and, quintessentially, cherry blossom, they do so situating these seasonal events within a yearly calendar that transforms the natural phenomena into a place within a series of symbols or icons. Cherry blossom are thus yanked out of the immediacy of temporal flow, and tamed to becomes the symbol of March and that spring has arrived again.

This transformation reminded me of the theory of Clifford Geertz (1973) on persons and time and Bali (I say the Trobriand Islands in the video). He argues that since the Balinese emphasise socio-temporal role names (infant, teenage, dad, granddad) as do the Japanese rather than individual names over the course of the lifespan, this de-emphasises the passing of time - except on the days when roles change - and gives the impression of a motionless present. One can gain this impression in Japan. For many years one remains the same until suddenly one because a "granddad," like the end of the Japanese myth "Urashima Taro." There is also something motionless about time in Japan.

Similarly by situating the flow of the seasons within a series of socio-temporal nature-roles, the flow of natural time is at once exposed and hidden. Cherry blossom become permanently flowing and yet not flowing at all, trapped within the expression of March-ness. This reminded me of cine-graph images like that below.

Into the same rivers we step and do not step, we are and are not? I am confused. The Japanese have a different appreciation of time.

Bruner, J. (1987). Life as narrative. Social research, 11-32.
Clifford, G. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic, 412-453.
Fujimura, M. (2015). キャラと視点 (Kyara and Perspective). Unpublished graduation thesis. Yamaguchi University, Department of Economics.

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41.6% of high School Students Enjoy Studying English: Too Kind

Japan Today reports with its usual tone of anti-Japanese mirth, that "58.4% of high school seniors say they don't like studying English." This implies that 41.6% of Japanese high school students like studying English! Japanese language education is doing something right.

But then, personally I think that that percentage is far too high for success. English lessons are, especially if communicative, seen to be a time for having fun. Students come to my classes expecting something like tea-time-with-Timothy, and are painfully surprised. If the Japanese want to learn to communicate in English, before they graduate from university, lessons need to be a lot more harsh than tea-time, and mine are which is why they are so unpopular ;-; If I could persuade 41.6% of students to like my lessons I would be very happy.

Foreign languages are pools of non-meaning into which learners must jump, even though humans fear the absence of meaning almost as as much as death (Heine & Proulx, 2006). People, even the Japanese to an extent, narrate themselves into existence, so the absence of a response - which happens often when one is attempting to speak a foreign language - is a sort of death, or hell (Bakhtin, 1986).

The Japanese are a very polite bunch of people, who do not wish to cause others distress, so Japanese teachers teach vocabulary and grammar forever rather than demand that their students jump into a Bakhtinian hell. But jump they must. Japanese kindness (yasashisa) is thus perhaps the biggest block to English improvement. Teachers and students need to realise that in order to gain communicative competence they will have to learn to put each other on the block.

I teach my English classes upon the model of martial arts classes where the idea is to attack ones opponent. While the Japanese are very kind to each other in most social situations, they are aware that the objective is to knock their opponents brains out (figuratively) in kendo (Japanese swordsmanship) and Karate classes, and change their behaviour accordingly. Ordinarily gentle high-school girls transform into killer swords women in the kendo dojo. Since my classes also contain a lot of role playing, I am thinking of calling this martial role-playing English teaching technique Ninja English (忍者英語).

私の英語の授業を履修してください。多少つらいですが、英語が話せるようになりますよ。 Image: School boy 2 by Romeas ロメアス Thomas トマ, on Flick Bakhtin, M. (1986). The Problem of the Text in Linguistics, Philology, and the Human Sciences: An Experiment in Philosophical Analysis. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, 103-31. Heine, S. J., Proulx, T., & Vohs, K. D. (2006). The meaning maintenance model: On the coherence of social motivations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2), 88-110. http://flic.kr/p/rFGA1n

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Provide all the Accoutrements of a Temple

All the Accoutrements of a Temple

This is a bell at Two Lovers Point in Guam. The management of this most popular iconic spot on the resort island of Guam are at least subconsciously aware that if you want Japanese tourists to come to your destination, then provide them with all the accoutrements of a pagan temple: a legend, something symbolic ideally natural, some good luck charms (locks), a place to leave votive offerings (the rails to leave love locks), a way of making non-linguistic noise either by clapping, or ideally by a bell (as pictured above), and an opportunity for autoscopy: a mirror or place to take a selfie. Tourism is secular pilgrimage.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Japanese Try Harder When they Fail

As demonstrated by Heine et al.,'s famed experiment, (2001) the Japanese try harder when they fail, whereas Americans try harder when they succeed.

This is explained upon the theorisation that the important thing for North Americans is to feel good about themselves, so they try hard when they succeed, whereas the important thing for Japanese is to feel appreciated and socially included so they try hard when they fail. I remain highly impressed by this research and have been teaching its conclusions in my cultural psychology classes for the past several years.

But upon reflection, the former explanation regarding North Americans is more persuasive than the latter regarding Japanese. Groups express gratitude as much as they sanction so why should it be that Japanese try harder when they fail?

Another possible explanation might be due to the fact that the task was a linguistic one - a word game. North Americans are obsessed with word games, and expect themselves to be good at them. Japanese however, do not expect themselves to be good at word games and would be less likely to feel bad about having failed at the task. What would have happened if the task was to create something in folded paper, or some sort of visual manipulation task?

This question relates to the other main theoretical thrust of the paper in question: the assertion that Japanese believe themselves and their performance, to be tractable to effort, whereas North Americans believe themselves to have intrinsic aptitudes and abilities that are not tractable to effort. Thus North Americans attempt to find the areas in which they themselves and only themselves excel, and avoid those areas where they fail, whereas Japanese are more inclined to believe that given the right environment (the right club, the right coach, the right incentive) anyone can achieve anything if they put themselves in the right environment and try hard.

I believe that Heine's theory conforms to an extent to the facts. Yes, Japanese are more inclined to believe in the power of effort and whereas yes, Americans are more inclined to believe in the importance of aptitude.

I am aware that the third experiment in the same paper tested whether manipulation of the these self views effect performance. Japanese and American subjects were told that their performance would, or would not, vary according to effort, or conversely that performance was, or was not, related to aptitude. It was found that, in the failure condition, telling Japanese that the task was tractable to effort changed their effort little, whereas telling North Americans that the task was tractable to effort changed and enhanced their performance a lot. It was argued that therefore, Japanese chronically presume their performance to be dependent upon effort (so being told that "effort work"s had little effect) whereas Americans when told that effort is effective, tried harder.

[I have tried the reverse manipulation in the success situation with non-significant but Heine predict result among Japanese. Japanese were told that that they had succeeded at a word game - thinking up positive adjectives and then being told that the average student can only think of x adjectives where x is less than the true mean. One third of the subjects were told that the task was about ability (才能) a third were told that the task was tractable to effort and a third were told nothing. I then left the room, saying that I had to get another survey and told them that they could write some more positive adjectives if they like below the line signifying those that they had written with the test time. The group that were told that the task was about ability wrote more extra words that those in the other conditions but not significantly. Having an American mindset, about words at least, makes Japanese try harder in success situations whereas having a Japanese mindset makes Americans rebound better in failure situations.]

But what if the task itself were culturally dependent? Is it that Japanese believe themselves to malleable, and North Americans believe themselves to be a product of their aptitudes as Heine argues?

Or could it be that with regard to word games (the task) North Americans believe themselves, as narrative selves, to be intractable to effort, whereas Japanese who see word games as irrelevant, believe that effort works?

The cultural attitude towards effort and aptitude was also tested, in experiment 4 or 5 of the same paper, finding North Americans to far more inclined to believe in aptitude, and Japanese far more inclined to believe in effort. However the tasks (that I can remember) were ability in History and piano playing, both rather 'logo-phono-centric.' If it is true that North Americans and Westerners in general believe themselves to be self narratives, whereas Japanese do not, then narratival ability -- definitely history, perhaps music -- may be seen to be aptitude based by North Americans and Westerners.

If however Japanese believe themselves to be autoscopically apprehended corporealities then visual tasks might be believed to be more aptitude based.

This, my hypothesis, is fraught. Even very visual, corporeal activities, such as baseball, are believed to be very tractable to effort in Japan.

At the same time, I continue to believe that the "centre of gravity" of the Japanese self may be visual, and that of Westerners narratival, so the belief in effort-changeable malleability, or conversely in aptitude, may depend upon the conception of self, and the nature of the task.

AND, oh dear, these considerations lead me to question the nature of 'identity' across time and space. Narratives exist in time, vision exist in space. Hence anyone believing in a visual self or a narratival self would be likely to believe in differing amounts of 'malleability' in the spacial and temporal dimensions.

Those believing in the centre of gravity of the narratival self would be more inclined to believe in a history, their ongoing story and temporal variability combined with a socio-spatial consistency (changing in time, invariant in space in any one time) whereas those believing that the centre of gravity of their selves is their face, would be more inclined to believe in their spatial dimensionality or plurality or extendedness in socio-spatial situations, and time invariance (changing in space, invariant in time).

Image above translated from figure 1 in Heine, S. J., Kitayama, S., Lehman, D. R., Takata, T., Ide, E., Leung, C., & Matsumoto, H. (2001). Divergent consequences of success and failure in Japan and North America: An investigation of self-improving motivations and malleable selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(4), 599.

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Friday, March 06, 2015


Face up to It: Kyari Pamyupamyu and the End of the World

Face up to It

It is a matter of some merriment that the two Japanese artists that represent the visual version of the Freudian trinity, and the Watsujian self as mask, in their work, are dating each other.

Doll-like envizualised KyariPamyuPmayu is haunted by a vast watcher (and spews up eyeballs), and broken, seeking Fukase is haunted by a massive 'watched' - a fat man in a grotesque mask. [There have been two of the masked clowns, bottom, rear, called "DJ LOVE," and second generation JD LOVE so its presence is clearly by design.]

And at least in August for 2014, Kyari Pamyupamyu and Fukase, the lead singer of The End of the World (Sekai no Owari) , were a couple.

I think that this just goes to show that one can see the horror and be creative and happy. It may also perhaps illustrate the sort of mindset expressed by Fukase's song "Phantom Self." At about 3:40 in to the song (preceded by some fascinating viisual art) Fukase sings, "If you meet a phantom in a dream, that is not a phantom any more. I will become an phantom myself." That seems like a very healthy attitude to have and he may be putting it into practice. Fukase is looking more and more like his clown. I hope they are all happy.

I was going to say that Fukase's philosophy is religious, absurd, or both, and like Nishida's perhaps it is, but the real beauty of the visual self is that it does not need to be real, or even thought to be real, to be believed. See this video, by the doyen of the visual self, Olaf Blanke, for proof. The sort of leap, required to believe in a self as narrative is a lot more tricky. Narrative calls for honesty, which the narrative self is is not.

So, as science advances and shows us all those ridiculous things that I write about on my other blog, such as that the universe is flat and oval, and it becomes more and more difficult to deny what is really going on, there may be no alternative, for scientists at least, but to become Japanese:-) It is not easy though. I can't say I have managed to silence the evil whispering and believe, video ergo sum.

Images copyright Lastrum Music and Warner Music (click the links to hear the songs).


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Thursday, March 05, 2015


The Synagogue of the Japanese Mind


I went to a Jewish synagogue once. There were a lot of guys reading a book. The book was in front of the guys. They took it from an altar in front of them and they read it in front of them, of course.

They were reading God's Word. And at the same time, the women were present, yes present, sitting in the wings. In the synagogue that I went to the women were sitting on the left hand side (maybe this is only a feature of the one synagogue that I have been to, in Edinburgh).

This structure is similar to that proposed by Freud as the structure of the self.

While the self seems to be directed forwards, an "acoustic cap" or super-ego, listens on the left hand side according to Freud. The Japanese do not have synagogues, or even churches or any places of communal worship where they congregate, much. But they have martial arts training rooms (Dojo) where the mothers sit and watch from the side (as shown above) or behind. In front of the Japanese men there is no book, but instead mirrors.

The practioners do not read themselves from a book in front of themselves while women listen from the side, but see themselves in mirrors in front of themselves while women watch from the side and behind. And so it I think is with the Jewish and Japanese mind.

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Photography not Prohibited at the End of the World

Japan Today and Rocket News ask why Photography is Prohibited at Japanese concerts.

Vision is central. Japan is one of the few countries where one owns ones image to the extent that taking pictures of other people without their consent in public places is against the law (unless for a registered media corporation). Things *are* what they look like, there is little sense of their being interior qualities that define authenticity. So for example, Ise Shrine can be built new every 25 years but still felt to be Ise Shrine,. Likewise copies of foreign towns are felt to be authentic (authenticopies) if they look the same as that which they are copying, just as we believe that words manage to mean the same thing. Japanese Gods are happy with mirrors and sculptures and pictures of horses (ema) since to be is to be seen. All this is because the Other of the Japanese psyche is not something that listens but something that looks -- a mirror -- so the 'centre of gravity of the Japanese self', is not their self-narrative (which gets in the way) but their face or mask. So if one were able to take photos at concerts one would be stealing the essence of the experience..

The lead singer of the one Japanese band which is allowing photography to be allowed at its concerts, The End of the World / Sekai no Owari, who made a visit to a psychiatric hospital after an attempt to study in the USA, seems to be wise to the nature of Japanese "apparitional life" (Maboroshi no inochi with English Captions), their first single.

Watsuji, T. (2011). Mask and Persona. Japan Studies Review, 15, 147–155. Retrieved from asian.fiu.edu/projects-and-grants/japan-studies-review/jo...

Images of Sekai no Owari: Sekai No Owari Free Live "Tree" in Tokyo: Fukase by Dick Thomas Johnson, on Flickr

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015


Which image did You / Your Opponent See

Which image did You / Your Opponent See

Heine, Takata, & Lehman's study (2000) based upon that of Takata (1987) are the only studies that I know of that claim to show that Japanese are self-critical behaviourally. These studies make this claim due to the fact that Japanese require more information to make a decision upon who is better at a task, themselves or their opponent, when they are shown information that suggests that they are better than when they are shown information that they were worse. These requests for more information are behavioural. But the judgement they are making is entirely linguistic. They being asked to say "I was better than the other guy," which the Japanese have no desire to say or "I was worse than the other guy," which the Japanese have no problem saying.

However, in my view, the Japanese do have a desire to look better, see themselves as cuter than everyone else (Google ”自分が一番かわいい” jibun ga ichiban kawaii). In order to test this perhaps one could ask Japanese to complete the same test asking the difference in number of say red and blue rectangles, regarding images containing both random and regular patterns of coloured rectangles.

Then one could ask about a series which is in fact different, "Did you, or your partner see this image?" While disguised as a memory test, it would be asking who got the easy task. I hypothesise that Japanese would be more inclined to attribute the easy image (those on the right above) to their partner, and the difficult image (those on the left above) especially when told that the are told that their opponent did better, but I am not sure.

Another problem is that the patterned images are easier to remember than the random images so if different then all subjects would be inclined to attribute them to the partner. So therefore, the patterned images could be the same as those presented to the subject. In other words, in order to visually self-enhance subjects would be required to attribute an easy image to their partner which they had in fact themselves seen. I think that the Japanese may be so visually self-enhancing that they may do this.

Takata, T. (1987). Self-Deprecative Tendencies in Self Evaluation Through Social Comparison. The Japanese Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 27(1), 27–36. doi:10.2130/jjesp.27.27 Heine, S. J., Takata, T., & Lehman, D. R. (2000). Beyond self-presentation: Evidence for self-criticism among Japanese. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26(1), 71–78. http://flic.kr/p/rbmV3n

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Empire of Underwear

Inspired by Ms. Matsutani's graduation thesis (Matsutani, 2015) this is a video about Japanese underwear in which I claim that the Japanese visual Other, allows them to see not only themselves, but, especially if they practice Noh (Zeami: see Yusa, 1987) but inside (Ball and Torrance, 1978) and through things such as their outer clothing, allowing themselves to see their own underwear, which results in a greater emphasis upon wearing nice underwear such as the 12 layers of undergarments worn in the Heian period (Shuu, 2014) and the underwear in this video, and also, occasionally wearing underwear as an outer garment (such as kamiso-ru fashion see Matsudani, ibid; and kosode in the Muramachi Period, see Kitamura, 1985).

Ball, O. E., & Torrance, E. P. (1978). Culture and Tendencies to Draw Objects in Internal Visual Perspective. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47(3f), 1071–1075. doi:10.2466/pms.1978.47.3f.1071
Kitamura, T. 北村哲郎. (1985). 小袖の誕生と和装小物. In 主婦の友社 (Ed.), 日本の装い (Vol. 第九巻). 三共.
Matsutani, M. 松谷麻美(2015) "日本人の服装のホンネ:日本人の下着と普段着が表わす性格と理想 (The hidden truth about Japanese clothing: The character and ideals expressed by Japanese outerwear and underwear: Takemoto's translation)." Unpublished graduation thesis. Yamaguchi University, Faculty of Economics, Yamaguchi, Japan.
Shuu. S. 周成梅. (2014, October 17). 女房装束に関する研究 [text]. Retrieved 31 December 2014, from http://ir.lib.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/00035793
Yusa, M. (1987). Riken no Ken. Zeami’s Theory of Acting and Theatrical Appreciation. Monumenta Nipponica, 42(3), 331–345. Retrieved from http://myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/yusa/docs/riken.pdf

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015


Better or Worse, Believe it or Not

In Takata's 1987 study, Japanese subjects were shown 20 different grids of coloured rectangular boxes like that in the bottom half of the image above, and asked questions such as "what is the difference in number in red and blue rectangles," being given 13 seconds to given an answer. At the end of the test, they were shown their own results compared to a bogus competitors results. They were then asked to decide who is better at the test you (the subject) or the competitor. When the bogus test results showed that the competitor was better, they needed only on average 3.3 comparisons before deciding that their competitor was better than them. When on the other hand the bogus competitor is on average worse, then (in the same high a variance condition) they needed on average 9.8 test results before coming to the conclusion that they are better than their opponent. The reverse trend is found among North Americans (Heine, Takata, & Lehman, 2000), who need less data to come to the conclusion that they are better than an opponent. This is deemed to be a behavioural demonstration of Japanese self-critical, western self-enhancing tendencies, since the dependent variable is how much data they asked to be shown. At the same time, the self-presentation "He is better than me" or "He is worse than me" is entirely linguistic. Takata, T. (1987). Self-Deprecative Tendencies in Self Evaluation Through Social Comparison. The Japanese Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 27(1), 27–36. doi:10.2130/jjesp.27.27 Heine, S. J., Takata, T., & Lehman, D. R. (2000). Beyond self-presentation: Evidence for self-criticism among Japanese. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26(1), 71–78. http://flic.kr/p/qvbWJB

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