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.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


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