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.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Complete Absence of Graffiti in Japan

Complete Absence of Graffiti in Japan

The Ruth Benedictine notion, supported by almost every other scholar of Japan culture, that Japanese moral behaviour is a form of image maintenance geared towards protecting and maintaining their good image in the eyes of others is given lie by the complete almost absence of graffiti in Japan. British and American university toilets are scattered with generally lewd and or offensive, and sometimes amusing, graffiti. But even though the Japanese are at least as good at pictorial art and as witty, and at least as begrudging of their teachers such as me, there is a complete absence of graffiti in all the cubicles in Yamaguchi University, including the one nearest my research room. If this were a British university there would be a giant bald head with a slit down the middle.


The Japanese think they are just being Collectivist

The Japanese think they are just being Collectivist
The Japanese think that they are being collectivist but there is one simulated autoscopic gaze whose x-ray eyes they can cannot meet. Likewise, we Westerners think that we are only speaking to ourselves and our absent friends but there is one ear that we ignore. Paraphrasing Archimedes, "Give me a place to stand on, and I will make the Earth." Just one subject position hidden: that is all it takes to believe in a visual, or verbal (Kantian, ideal) world.

The need to hide the superaddressee is the reason why Westerners think they are individualists and Japanese think that they are collectivists. The horrific other can be hidden, as well as by being horrific, in one of two ways.

If the superaddressee is an ear then it can't be hidden publicly since one would need to go around talking out loud all the time. This is what children do at first (c.f. Vygotsky) but the content of the chanting that they do is too weird for them to keep doing it out loud. Once they start doing it quietly it does not take long before they think that they are talking purely and simply to themselves (but as Vygotsky demonstrates, children still in the talking out loud stage give up if put in a room full of foreign language speakers). Since we Westerners kid ourselves that we are talking only to ourselves, we claim that we are individualists. Individualism is a lie that helps keep the sin, that is so horrific, hidden.

If the superaddressee is an eye, then it emphasises its own duality be requiring space, or a gap, between the see-er and seen. The way that phonemes require a temporal gap is less obvious. Westerners imaging that it is possible to understand the living word in mind even as it is spoken in immediate "presence." To hide their sin, which is not nearly so disgusting since the superaddressee is less passive, the Japanese claim that they only care about the eyes of others. This allows them to forget that they are posturing to vast and scary Starman, or sun goddess. While, however, individualism is a lie since meaning is always transitive, it is in fact possible to be collectivist. In this situation the Japanese mirror is clean; the abject feminine can be washed from it. For this reason I believe, it may be necessary to be born again, as a Japanese, in the sense of someone who lives in the light, in order to be saved from the beast!

Kayako Saeki pictured above, always looks like she is trying to get out of the image, because like Sadako, she is. Furthermore she is not really modelled as a member of the crowd, with a face that can be seen from the front, but rather as or in the boundary of experience: the first person view of the subject. The Japanese, I believe, look out of her eyes. She is especially difficult to see because East Asians have smaller, invisible, noses like Gachapin!

Image of Kayoko Saeki copyright Aiko Horiuchi and Ghost House Pictures / Vertigo Entertainment

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The X-Ray Eye in the Sky

The X-Ray Eye in the Sky
Ball and Torrance (1978: see Kim, 2002) demonstrated that the Japanese can visualise inside things. Since as demonstrated by our research they have a sort of mirror in their heart (Heine, Takemoto, Moskalenko, Lasaleta, & Henrich, 2008) their internal visualisation ability applies to their underwear, car interiors and hearts. This self directed eye is not something that the Japanese are fully aware of, but is rather the eye of the Other of the Japanese self, their super-ego which also prevents them from writing graffiti in toilet stall, or robbing people even in the dark. The eye in the Japanese sky sees inside things, and in infra-red too, but perhaps not quite so well. Tthe Japanese do tend to get a little more boisterous at night, and there is a division of what one is and is not allowed to do before and after sundown - specifically drink alcohol.

Image bottom left from Vip Style Magazine (July, 2015) p. 131
Image bottom right copyright 株式会社雅

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.org/10.2466/pms.1978.47.3f.1071
Heine, S. J., Takemoto, T., Moskalenko, S., Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(7), 879–887. Retrieved from www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/docs/2008Mirrors.pdf
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.org/10.2466/pms.1978.47.3f.1071

Heine, S. J., Takemoto, T., Moskalenko, S., Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(7), 879–887. Retrieved from www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/docs/2008Mirrors.pdf

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Outside Black Interior Pink

Outside Black Interior Pink

If you tried to have a conversation with this lady you might mistakenly think that she is alll and humble lacking in individuality. She has dressed up her car interior in vivid pink, leaving the outside black with only a hint of weird. The Japanese have an X-ray eye that can see even into their hearts. No Japanese can meet its gaze and live.

Vip Style Magazine (July, 2015) p. 131


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Thursday, June 25, 2015


Shame and the Male Gaze

Shame and the Male Gaze

The image on the left is from a book recommending Nudism to Westerners, in an attempt to "grow up without Shame". The genitals have been by me blurred to conform with current Japanese law. The image on the right is from Nakao (2010) "Since when did the Japanese find being naked embarrassing" and is one of the sketches by Heine in Admiral Perry's impressions of Japan at the end of the Edo period. According to Nakano (2012) and for that matter Isabella Bird, the Japanese did not have anything against the display of genitals until shocked Westerners arrived.

The Japanese did have words about the separation of the sexes however. It was said that Japanese males and females should only "share seats" (sit together) up to the age of 7 (Nakano, 2010, p. 18 「男女7歳にして席を同じうせず」) and that among samurai talking (yes!) to the opposite sex was avoided with males and females being kept strictly apart in the Edo period. (武士では男女が言葉すら交わすことも憚れた時代、男女の別厳しく問われた時代ではなかったか。」ibid).

I wonder if the Western nudists achieve their aim of growing up without shame. I went to a boarding school and managed to cease from being ashamed of my body, especially when as a late developer I had no pubic hair and a small penis compared to my peers. My shame was so great that I think that in order to beat it I had I no longer identified with my body at all. I can remember that the greatest time that I felt shame was when a house master, a father figure of sorts, came into the boys showers when I and some of my peers were there.

I guess that if the Japanese were in gaze of a mother then they would not feel ashamed, and it is only because the gaze felt is somewhat sexualised, that one might feel ashamed at all. Since Westerners feel shame towards their nudity and guilt about their moral behaviour, and Japanese felt shame about their moral behaviour but no shame or guilt about their nudity.

Does this suggest that a reversal therefore of the parent that looks and listens. As a boy I used to imagine that my father was watching, and cheering, me when I ran in cross country races.


West it is felt that there is a
Motherly ear listening (according to Freud and Derrida at least)
Fatherly/Male gaze watching (which would make sense explaining the reason why nudity is so shameful)

Japan it is felt that there is a
Motherly gaze watching (hence the absence of shame towards nudity, since the mother gaze is non sexualised)
Fatherly/Male ear listening (hence the strictness with regard to talking to the opposite sex).

In my lectures I make Japanese men and women, who do not otherwise sit together, sit and talk to each other. What a Westernising devil! Perhaps I should cease and desist.

If anyone wishes I cease and desist with regard to the image on the left please leave a comment below or email me via nihonbunka.com.

Nakano, A. 中野明. (2010). 裸はいつから恥ずかしくなったか―日本人の羞恥心. Tōkyō: 新潮社.
Bird, I. L. (1880). Unbeaten Tracks in Japan: An Account of Travels in the Interior Including Visits to the Aborigines of Yezo and the Shrines of Nikkô and Isé. J. Murray.
Smith, D. C., & Sparks, W. (1986). Growing Up Without Shame. Elysium Growth Press, book.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Barutan Sadako Kayako Returning Japanese to the Image

Barutan Sadako Kayako Returning Japanese to the Image

When the centre of gravity of your self (Dennet, 1992) is your face (Watsuji, 1935/2011) then the discovery of the visually spectating other in your psyche, hidden in the eyes of others, or the eyes of the world (seken) or the sun, returns one to a dead image. In Japan the dead are images but the Japanese, like Westerners, are not aware that they are, as images and voices respectively, we are already dead. Barutan Seijin (the alien from Barutan Star has a ray that freezes people. Sadako turns her victim silent and negative with her gaze. Kayako drags people into mirrors or into photo developer. In all cases the victim is dragged back into the image.

Visual spectators are more active than linguistic ones and can kill just with a stare. They also tend to silence their victims rather than turn them into a scream. The the scream of frozen team member (taiin) in Ultraman (as well as Ultraman himself), and that of Sadako's victim are silent, whereas Kayako's victims do not bother to scream. They know where they are going.

Being of the "imaginaire" (Naclanianly, Lacan) Japanese monsters do not speak but make noise like this.

Dennett, D. C. (1992). The self as a center of narrative gravity. Self and consciousness: Multiple perspectives.
Watsuji, T. (2011). Mask and Persona. Trans. Carl M. Johnson. Japan Studies Review. XV, 147-155. In English https://asian.fiu.edu/projects-and-grants/japan-studies-review/journal-archive/2011.pdf In the original Japanese http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/001395/files/49911_41926.html

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James Wan Dead Silence: Crossover Horror

Dead Silence is about a female ventriloquist that was turned into a ventriloquists puppet when she died. She, as the puppet, rips out the tongues of anyone who screams in her presence. It was directed by James Wan, a Malaysian Chinese in the USA. The death by screaming meme is common to Western horror - were I believe that we realise we are already a dead voice, and already dead voice. This is exemplified most forcefully in The Blair Witch Project where the brash narrative of American films students, are reduced to childish whimpering. Then finally, after they see the writing on the wall, and the filming becomes first person view and they are made to stand in the corner all that is left is a scream.

The whole monstrous ventriloquist structure is very much a metaphor for the structure of the Western self - it is exactly the metaphor I used when I experienced it.

At the same time, the reducing of victims to silence is a theme from Asian horror - where people are dragged into mirrors (Grudge) developer fluid (Grudge) turned into a negative (Ringu) or frozen (Barutan Seijin) i.e. and generally silenced (the legend of Enma, Ringu, Audition) and returned to the image since East Asians, or at least Japanese, think that they are their face. King Emna at the gates of East Asian Hell hangs the wicked on hooks by their tongues and shows them a magic mirror containing their lives. In Enma's famous book are not their deeds (as is the case with St. Peter's book) but only their names. http://flic.kr/p/v4dsox

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Monday, June 22, 2015


Paedo Nation, Paedo Fantasy, or Child God

Paedo Nation, Paedo Fantasy, or Child God
Japan seems to have a bit of a poor reputation among its foreign residents for having paedophillic tendencies based upon the Japanese preference for young female stars (see comments here for example). Is this reputation fair? The graphs on the left from Kenrick and Keefe (1992) for Americans, top, and Oda (2000), based on analyses of lonely hearts advertisements show that Japanese have only a slight preference for younger women in the case of older Japanese men. American 50-somethings advertise for women over about 35 whereas Japanese 50 sometimes (8 years later) advertised for women over 30. At younger male ages the differences in age preference between Japanese and Americans is minimal.

What then of the prevalence of very young women appearing as scantily clad "idols" on Japanese television and in magazines? The important difference may be that they are not real. Buunk, Dijkstra., Kenrick, and Warntjes (2001) surveyed Americans to regarding their stated minimum age preferences for marriage partners, relationship partners, someone with whom one could fall in love, partners in a causal affair and sexual fantasy partners. They found that only those males in their twenties saw women below twenty as a potential partner even in a fantasy (approximately 18). Bearing in mind that the average age of AKB48 was approximately 22 years, they would seem on that basis of appropriate age for a US band. The average age of the HTK28 idol group based in Fukuoka was however 13.8 at their formation and 16.6 more recently. This is lower than any of the stated ages in the above American male focused research (Buunk, Dijkstra., Kenrick, and Warntjes, 2001) .

An important point may be however that Japanese "idol" groups stress their purity -- they are fired if they have a relationship -- and it is argued that they may be thought of under the literal meaning of "idol," an object of veneration or worship, and not a potential partner of any kind. On the other hand however, the particular appeal of the recent spate of XYZ48 idol groups is that they appear on stages and even shake hands with their fans. They have brought a greater degree of reality to the idol genre (Nishio, 2013, p90). Even so this may mean that simply, like shrine visiting, the fans now can get up close to their idols in the literal sense. It may still be the case that they are not seen as partners in any kind of fantasy, but that they are in a sense child gods. Indeed the depiction of children as gods in Japanese festivals has a long tradition.
The truth is that I do not have data on the extent to which fans of idols see them purely as objects of veneration or partners but the difference in attitudes reflects a massive difference in cultures.

No. Wrong. Stop. Now. いや!悪い!止めろ!今!
twelve years old do those creepy predatory bikini pics 12歳でビキニ姿の卑怯で強奪的な写真も撮る
The utter debasement of a child.子供の心を踏み潰している
what the f. are the parents thinking? 両氏は何を考えているだろう?
Disgusting! This is soft kiddy porn. If the fans were the same age it would not be a problem but the fans are older men! ぞっとする!これはソフトな児童ポルノ。ファンが同じ年齢ならまだしも、しかしファンがおやじだ。
The peadophiles who watch these girls will be so happy!
Stepping up the ante from "quite very creepy" to "incredibly creepy".かなりキモイから、驚くほどキモイへ
Paedogeddon is upon us 小児性愛の悪と善の最終決戦開始前

Kenrick, D. T., & Keefe, R. C. (1992). Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in human reproductive strategies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 15(01), 75-91.
西尾久美子. (2013). エンターテイメント事業の比較分析: 宝塚歌劇と AKB48.
小田亮. (2000). 日本人における配偶相手の好みにみられる性差: 結婚相手募集広告の分析から.
Buunk, B. P., Dijkstra, P., Kenrick, D. T., & Warntjes, A. (2001). Age preferences for mates as related to gender, own age, and involvement level. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22(4), 241-250.

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Friday, June 19, 2015


Positive Thinking and the Absense of Suicide

The Japanese are famous for having been able and willing to lay down their lives for a cause. Suicide in Japan was not considered to be a sin. Sometimes rather honour, or even good manners required it. Certainly many young Japanese seem to have felt, or were taught to feel, that becoming suicide pilots was preferable to being invaded, and having their culture destroyed. I have argued that from an aesthetic, autoscopic, perspective a life and actions towards death may be considered to be the most aesthetic and pleasing to the eye, whereas the decision to "I will now set out on a suicide mission" may fall foul of the ghost of non-contradiction and various other Cretans that protect linguistic thought.

Kant (1797), who based his morality on rationality condemns suicide in the following way immediately after the statement of his foundation of morals "the categorical imperative."

If then there is a supreme principle or, in respect of the human will, a categorical imperative, it must be one which, being drawn from the conception of that which is necessarily and end for everyone because it is an end in itself, constitutes an objective principle of will, and can there fore serve as a universal practical law. The foundation of this principle is: rational nature exist as an end in itself. Man (sic) necessarily conceives his own existence as being so; so far then this is a subjective principle of human actions. [snip] So act as to treat humanity, whether in thing own person or in that of any other in every case as an end withal, never as means only. [snip]
Firstly, under the head of necessary duty to oneself: He who contemplates suicide should ask himself whether his actions can be consistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself. If he destroys himself in order to escape from painful circumstances, he uses a person merely as a mean to maintain a tolerable condition up to the end of life. But a man is not a thing, that is to say, something which can be used merely as means, but in all his actions be always considered as an end in himself. I cannot therefore, dispose an any way of a many in my own persona so as to mutilate him, or to damage or kill him. (Kant, 1797[2008}, p34. My emphasis)

To summarize Kant's view, if you talk to yourself and ask yourself about it, then answering "yes" to "shall I kill myself now?" is categorically unreasonable, upon the assumption that rational being (or hearing oneself speak) is the ultimate end of "man."

After three decades of economic stagnation, and a rise in suicide coincident with the commencement of SSRI antidepressants, the Japanese are now putting great effort into the reduction of the level of suicide in Japan.

Oka, (2015) one of authors of the booklet founded by Kounosuke Matsushita pictured above, entitled "Every day will be fun. Positive Thinking is Best!" went to the municipality with the lowest suicide rate in Japan and through a series of interviews with a large number of the inhabitants found that they thought extremely positively. In a rare example of Japanese self praise one informant respond "Its because its just right here," "It is just the best place to live."

Christian religiosity also correlate with positive thinking (Rudski, 2004) and the absence of suicide (Dervic et al., 2004). After finding a correlation between optimism and religiosity and pessimism and its absence Rudski writes "One can easily speculate that religiosity offers an attractive answer to finding meaning in an often-confusing existence and that such answers are often optimistic in nature with promises of eternal life. (Rudski, 2004, p373). Dervic et al. write "Religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behavior in depressed inpatients. After other factors were controlled, it was found that greater moral objections to suicide [snip] may function as protective factors against suicide attempts. (Dervic et al., 2004, p2303)

So if one were to introduce more "positive thinking", and even Christianity, into Japan it would probably result in a reduction of suicide, and the destruction of Japanese culture. What would the "suicide pilots" have thought? Where they simply misguided or did they represent Japanese culture? Their squadrons were named such things as "Mountain Cherry" after Motoori Norinaga poems, one of which goes "If asked the nature of the Japanese heart, tell them that it is the blossom of mountain cherry, fragrant in the summer sun."

The eradication of suicide or as the title of one book puts it the move from a "suicide society" to a "society that is good to live in" (Shimizu, 2010) often seems to be contaminant with a shift from traditional Japanese to Western values. Books on the eradication of suicide have section titles such as "The Japanese who ask "Can you fight 24 hours a day?" are worker ants." (Shimizu, ibid) "Japanese society is like a hair dryer with only an on button" (ibid) "Thinking about the value of not doing, but being" (ibid). This last movement is one from *seeing* value as manifested in action, to having value as a result of some hidden "being" (the philosophy of presence) that even Japanese people will one day be felt to possess. The title of Dr. Oka's 2013 book, "The town that is good to live in, has a low suicide rate for a reason" likewise, gives the Western game away: that people need a "reason" (words, value purports to exist, inhere, without any action) for living well. When the Japanese believe this then they will be damned too. They will need to be whispering to a dead mother in their heads, or with their heads in the underworld, telling themselves that they are really valuable people.

It is interesting that one of the founders of the West, after Plato, Jesus Christ was also fairly suicidal in the sense that he seems to have gone on what could be described as a suicide mission. He was the Kamikaze that would have sank sin. Does this mean that he was Japanese? While he was a walking bible, the word made flesh, Jesus is also said to have also kept on going on about "the light". And as Kieerkegard (1843) points out, contra Kant, the Christian religion encourages people to live not rationally but in faith. Perhaps he was the word made flesh who wanted to bring the word into the light. He certainly saw no irrationality in his mission, which was perhaps an aesthetically attractive one. Despite being the word made flesh, and and may become a replacement Eve, helpmeet or paraclete, as mentioned before, he may also silence words in mind. A suicidal listener that brings those that talk to him into the light. I reminded of James Cameron's two messianic heroes in Terminator 2: Judgment Day who sacrificed themselves to destroy what they had created (essentially a sort of time slip or loop) in the case of Miles, or that rationality that which they incarnated, in the case of the T-1000. This moved a long way from suicide in Japan.

Dervic, K., Oquendo, M. A., Grunebaum, M. F., Ellis, S., Burke, A. K., & Mann, J. J. (2004). Religious Affiliation and Suicide Attempt. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(12), 2303–2308. doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.161.12.2303
Kant, I. (2008). On the Metaphysics of Morals and Ethics: Kant. Wilder Publications.
Oka, M. 岡檀. (2015, May 9). そもそも「前向き」って何だろう. 月刊PHP.
Rudski, J. (2004). The illusion of control, superstitious belief, and optimism. Current Psychology, 22(4), 306–315. doi.org/10.1007/s12144-004-1036-8

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Bathing with Daughter: Daddy Arrested

Bathing with Daughter: Daddy Arrested
In my lecture on comparative morality as part of my inter-cultural communication course, I suggest that one should be careful about admitting that one is bathing with ones children in the UK since you might be arrested. I based this wild assertion on the controversial case of a two doctors in Cleveland, UK in the 1980s brought sexual abuse charges against parents that had been showering with their children. The children were diagnosed using a controversial physical test, but I believe that the initial suspicion was aroused due the children's showering practices. If they had been bathing as opposed to showering, with daddy, I think still greater suspicion would have been aroused especially in view of the fact that this practice is seen in Japan as a form of "skinship" (a Japanese portmanteau from skin and friendship but more touchy feely) or a social bonding leisure activity (see below).

It seems that my warning was appropriate. This recent Asahi Newspaper article relates that the Japanese Foreign Ministry has now issued a warning on its homepage saying that in a Japanese national living in an "advanced / first world" nation wrote an school essay entitled "I am looking forward to bathing with daddy," as a result of which the school informed the police and the father was arrested under suspicion of sexual abuse.

The foreign office homepage is here, complete with cartoons showing the co-bathing father being reprimanded by a policeman suggesting that photos (no one takes photos) or memories of bathing with his daughter are pornographic. Another cartoon warns against leaving children in cars.

The above article also states that the average age to which Japanese daughters bathe with their father is 9 years of age, reducing to about 10% of eleven year old daughters. 10% of eleven year old Japanese daughters are getting into a 1.5m square bath with their father partly because (so one person mentioned in the article opines) Japanese fathers are estranged due to the amount of time they spend working. Since they can only spend a smaller amount of time with their children it is appropriate, it is argued, that they spend it closer proximity with their offspring.

My favourite philosopher, Derrida (2008) writes that shame regarding nakedness is fundamental condition of being human and having morality.

"It is generally thought, although none of the philosophers that I am about to examine actually mention it, that the property unique to animals what is in the last instance distinguishes them from man (sic), is their being naked without knowing it. Not being naked therefore, not having knowledge of their nudity, in short, without consciousness of good and evil." (Derrida, 2008, p4-5; Derrida, 2002

That is not to say that the Japanese are animals, but not "men." It is my belief that the Japanese are humans in a different way.

Derrida, J., & Wills, D. (2002). The animal that therefore I am (more to follow). Critical Inquiry, 369–418. Retrieved from www.englweb.umd.edu/englfac/KChuh/Clark.Seminar.Doc.1.Der...

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Thursday, June 11, 2015


Flashed Face Distortion Effect and Japanese Self-Caricaturization

Flashed Face Distortion Effect and Japanese Self Mangaization
The Japanese do not linguistically self enhance (Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999) and since language is generally considered to be the universal modality of self, it is often argued that the Japanese do not self enhance at all. However from inspection of their autophotography (Leuers & Sonoda, 1999), collage, and self-manga (such as those of manga artist Yoshinori Kobayashi) it seems that Japanese do enhance their visual self representations. I argue that this is due to fact that Japanese identify with self-manga but not with verbal self representations.

What is it to identify with a self-representation? Many psychologists claim that in order to have or cognise a self we need to see it from the point of view of another within self, "the generalised other" of Mead, the "super-addressee" of Bakhtin, the "alter ego" of Derrida, the "Other" of Lacan, the "impartial spectator" of Smith, "the third person perspective" of Mori (1999), and the "super ego" of Freud.

Bataille (1992, p31) for example says "We do not know ourselves distinctly and clearly until the day we see ourselves from the outside as another."

The Flashed Face Distortion (FFD) effect (Tangen, Murphy, & Thompson, 2011) is a trippy newly discovered illusion in which when faces are flashed side by side we seem distorted, to an extent in caricature (see videos here and here).

It is not clear why. I suggest that it is probably that this caricaturization of faces is not limited to times when faces are flashed, but that we become aware of the caricaturisation when faces are flashed.

Still more recent brain neuro-imaging research (Wen and Kung, 2014) finds that the FFD effect is mediated by at least two neural networks: "one that is likely responsible for perception and another that is likely responsible for subjective feelings and engagement".

Why should subjective feelings and engagement processing take place? Again, it is not clear to me, but it seems likely that "subjective feelings and engagement" would differ for ones own face as opposed to the faces of others.

I created therefore a similar video except with my own face as one of the target faces. The video is far from ideal (as you can see) but it seems that the FFD is much weaker in this situation. The face that I am comparing various versions of my own face to is only slightly distorted or caricaturized whereas my own face does not appear to be caricaturized at all. I presume that this is a function of a variation in subjective feelings and engagement, and because I do not see my own face as the face of another, and either do not bother or feel inclined to caricaturize my own face. But then, I don't think of my face is my self. I think of that which is described by my self narrative as my self.

I hypothesize that from the way in which Japanese enhance their self representations, from the way it is claimed that their "mask" is the centre of their persona (Watsuji, 2011), and from in their self-enhancing self-manga ("jimanga") that Japanese will feel the Flashed Face Distortion (Tangen, Murphy, & Thompson, 2011) effect even when watching a video of their own faces. This is because they are seeing their own face as another and this is, paradoxically, a condition of seeing ones face as ones "self."

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds., V. W. McGee, Trans.) (Second Printing). University of Texas Press. Retrieved from pubpages.unh.edu/~jds/BAKHTINSG.htm
Bataille, G. (1992). Theory of Religion. (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Zone Books.
Derrida, J. (1978). Edmund Husserl’s origin of geometry: An introduction. U of Nebraska Press. Retrieved from books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pW9PQxAOo0s...
Freud, S. (1961). The ego and the id. Standard Edition, 19: 12-66. London: Hogarth Press.
Heine, S., Lehman, D., Markus, H., & Kitayama, S. (1999). Is there a universal need for positive self-regard?. Psychological Review. Lacan, J. (2007). Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. (B. Fink, Trans.) (1st ed.). W W Norton & Co Inc.
Leuers, T., & Sonoda, N. (1999). The eye of the other and the independent self of the Japanese. In Symposium presentation at the 3rd Conference of the Asian Association of Social Psychology, Taipei, Taiwan. Retrieved from nihonbunka.com/docs/aasp99.htm
Mead, G. H. (1967). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Vol. 1). The University of Chicago Press. Nelson, T. O., Metzler, J., & Reed, D. A. (1974). Role of details in the long-term recognition of pictures and verbal descriptions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 102(1), 184–186. doi.org/10.1037/h0035700
Mori, 森, 有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.
Smith, A. (1812). The theory of moral sentiments. Retrieved from books.google.co.jp/books?hl=en&lr=&id=d-UUAAAAQAA...
Takemoto, T. (2002). 鏡の前の日本人. In 選書メチエ編集部, ニッポンは面白いか (講談社選書メチエ. 講談社.
Tangen, J. M., Murphy, S. C., & Thompson, M. B. (2011). Flashed face distortion effect: Grotesque faces from relative spaces. Perception-London, 40(5), 628. Retrieved from expertiseandevidence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/TanMu...
Tversky, B., & Baratz, D. (1985). Memory for faces: Are caricatures better than photographs? Memory & Cognition, 13(1), 45–49. Retrieved from link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03198442
Wen, T., & Kung, C. C. (2014). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore the flashed face distortion. Retrieved from jov.arvojournals.org/data/Journals/JOV/933545/i1534-7362-...
Watsuji, T. (2011). Mask and Persona. Japan Studies Review, 15, 147–155. Retrieved from asian.fiu.edu/projects-and-grants/japan-studies-review/jo...

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Tuesday, June 09, 2015




Tenskwatawa was a Shawnee "prophet" and revolutionary who had visions of the Great Spirit and attempted to unite First Americans ("American Indians") against European American invaders. He tried to encourage First Americans to have no contact with the Europeans, to cease all trade, and to only give them food if they (I mean we) were starving - an incredibly generous act.

Tenskwatawa claimed to have  a series of visions wherein he was possess by the Great Spirit who said, "The Americans I did not make; they are not my children but the children of the evil spirit. They grew from the scum of the great waters when it was troubled by the evil spirit and the froth was driven into the woods by a strong east wind. They are numerous, but I hate them. My children, you must not speak of this talk to the whites. It must be hidden from them. I am now on the earth sent by the great spirit to instruct you. Each village must send me two or more principal chiefs to represent you, that yo may be taught. The bearer of this talk will point out to you the path to my wigwam. I could not come myself to Abre Crocted, because the world is changed from what it was. It is broken and leans down, and as it declines, the Chippewas and all beyond, will fall off and die; therefore you must come to see me and be instructed. The villages which do not listen to this talk and send me two deputies, will be cut from the face of the earth."

Shortly thereafter the confederation of First Americans, together with the British, fought the Americans in the war of 1812. The result of this war was not good for the First Americans (although the British managed to save Canada for the Commonwealth) and the First Americans were, in very large part, cut off from the face of the earth,as Tenskwatawa predicted.

On the right is Shouin Yoshida . He was a late nineteenth century revolutionary who encouraged the Japanese to arm, and invade or otherwise persuade other Asian countries to federalise with Japan since he felt that Japan was surrounded by European enemies. As we know, the Japanese did do as Shouin suggested but eventually they were pushed back to their island, and finally invaded. Today the inhabitants are gradually becoming Westernised. Tenskwatawa, or at least Shouin Yoshida would be rather upset.

The notion that a people might be formed from 'scum on the water when troubled by the evil spirit' is interesting since it is a theme shared in creation myth of the Japanese. The Japanese trace their own origins to a defilement floating on the surface of the water, a problem which they eventually overcame, temporarily perhaps.

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Was Shouin Yoshida an Agressor?

TWas Shouin Dangerous?

This article in the Asahi Newspaper this morning (June 9th 2015) presents the view of an author, Kazutoshi Hando (Soseki's grandson and editor of "Japan's Longest Summer"), who points out that Shouin Yoshida, the famed Yamaguchi Confucian scholar, educator and revolutionary encouraged the Japanese to invade or otherwise persuade Okinawans, Koreans, Taiwanese to federate with the Japanese. In other words, Handou argues that the Meiji Restoration was from the outset imperialist and "dangerous." He argues argues further that the people of Yamaguchi likewise trace their roots back to the restoration and tend to think of themselves as saviours of Japan. He also points out that prime minister Abe traces his roots to the Yamaguchi region and to the philosophy espoused by Shouin Yoshida.

The part of Shouin's writing that the author refers to is the only part translated into modern Japanese on wikisource.


My translation

If the sun does not rise it sets, if the moon does not wax it wanes and if a country does not rise and prosper it falls and becomes weak. So to keep a country in a good condition, sadly disused land will be lost, and useful land will be gained. We should now immediately by all means prepare our armed forces, plan battleships and armaments, send pioneers into Hokkaidou and integrate the tribes within our feudal system, take Kamchatka and Okhotsku, demand of Korea and China that, as in the prosperous past when [we or they I am not sure] gave tribute, that they give us the land of Manchuria, and in the South rule Taiwan and the Luzon islands (of the Philippines) and little by little show some energy in advance. We should then show love to [all] residents, foster persons of high morals, take care to defend, govern well, and pledge to keep the nation in a good condition. If we don't do this, and on the other hand just do nothing while groups of foreign nations fight each other to as they assemble around us, while we didn't do so much as lift a finger, preventing the fall of our country depends on this juncture, these opportunities.

I have placed the Asahi Newspaper article on top of the newsletter of the Old Boys association of my faculty, who are as the above scholar suggests, pleased to trace their roots back to the time of the restoration.


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Monday, June 08, 2015


Obedience in Japan and America

People the world over, including the Japanese, believe the Japanese to be more groupist than Westerners. In my experience of living here for more than half of my life, I do not find this to be the case. Rather, while the philosophies of individualism and collectivism exist in the West and Japan, there is little difference in the actual levels of either as demonstrated for example by the experiments of Miligram, Bickman, and Berkowitz, 1969 p80 and Inaba et al. who repeated the same experiment, seeing what percentage of people would stop and stare if a group of stooges pointed upwards in a certain direction. The results show that the "drawing power" of crowds is greater in America with the blue line being generally higher than the dark line (for Japan in the day time). I think that this lower obedience/conformance in Japan is partly due to this being a visible behaviour. In Yotaro Takno's experiments demonstrating that the Japanese are no less conforming that Americans, the subjects were required to expresses their responses by moving to one or other side of the class room being used as a laboratory. If one were to ask Japanese their opinions and then tell them that their opinion is outlier (show them the verbal Nacalain transformation of someone pointing) they might change their opinion. If I were to ask a Japanese person "The capital of America is New York isn't it" in the presence of a lot of stooges saying "yes, yes, sure, yeah" then a Japanese person might not have any problem conforming.

The issue is what is considered to be "self." Westerners consider their speech to be self so they aim for and achieve consistency in their self[-narrative, and trash "mere appearance." Japanese consider their image to be self so they aim for and achieve consistency in their self-image. Conversely, image matters little to Westerners and speech matters little to Japanese.

もともとの研究(Miligram, Bickman, and Berkowitz, 1969 p80)でも、 欧米人も感染されて5人の段階では、日本人は立ち 止まらなかったが米人の17%は立ち止まり、日本人の昼35%~朝47%は通行しながら見たが、欧米人は80%でした。両方の結果を上で合併しました。アメリカでの同調性(従順性)は青い線で、「午後」New Yorkで行われていた。日本での朝や昼の線のいずれよりも行動感染が高い。 しかし、このように、日本人の方が他人の行動に感染されないのはその行動が指差しで示されている視線の向きであって、極めて視覚的なものです。高野陽太郎(2008)の同調性の実験も、ただ単にサクラたちが言わされたら誤った回答に同調するかどうかだけではなく、被験者はその回答を、実験が行われた教室の右か左に移動することで示さなければならなかった。日本人は視覚内省力が高い()から、視覚的に察知できる自らの行動を鮮明に意識できるし、顔や体に感情移入しているので、バカな行動をとりたくありません。もしも口頭だけで「アメリカの首都はニューヨークよね」に対して「はい」か「いいえ」で答えなければならなかったら、サクラたちに同調して「はい」と揃うのはそう辛くもないかもしれない。

Milligram http://ift.tt/1QhgujW... http://flic.kr/p/ukgUwX

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Japanese Risk Taking: Irreligiousity

Japanese Risk Taking: Irreligiousity

Most analyses of Japan behaviour argue that there are quantitative differences due to the lack of individualism or greater collectivism of the Japanese. Thus, I feel sure that the the risk aversion of Japanese has been explained in terms of their desire not to stand out because, as we are always being told, "the nail that stands out gets hit."

It seems to me rather that Japanese differ little from Westerners in terms of their desire for and achievement of individuality, but rather it is the modality in which they express it that is different. The Japanese express themselves visually since they have internalised and hidden a helper who sees (the mirror of the Sun Goddess) whereas Westerners tend to prefer to love themselves linguistically since they have internalised and hidden a helper or paraclete (Eve or Jesus) who hears.

When it comes to "risk taking behaviour," this usually refers to behaviours which result in physical harm to the body. Since the Japanese identify with their self-image, damaging their bodies is something that they are very averse to doing. The risky behaviours highlighted by Guzman and Pohlman (2014) : "Self-Injurious Behaviours, Violence, and Suicide, Substance Use, Risky Sexual Behaviour, and Behaviours Related to Obesity and Unhealthy Dieting," are all of this type. The Japanese avoid all of these risks.

Indeed the very definition of taking risk (doing dangerous things) usually relates to the lack of aversion to bodily harm so perhaps it is the case that the Japanese are generally less risk averse.

Fortunately there is a category of risks which the Japanese are prepared to take: those that relate to spiritual harm. According to Freese (2004, p88) "A clever and intriguing hypothesis in the sociology of religion is the idea that irreligiousness is analogous to other forms of risk-taking, and so variations in risk preferences play an important role in understanding variations in religiousness."

And at least according to Pascal, being religious can be considered to be a sort of insurance for ones soul. In this instance, the Japanese are found to be second only to the the Chinese is in their irreligiousity with 31% of Japanese claiming to be atheists. The Japanese take great care of their bodies, because they can be seen, but a large proportion of them care very much less about their soul since, at least on a naive view, it can't.

Again it should be noted that the Japanese claim to be atheists but involve themselves in a wide range of religio-cultural practices, such as shrine visiting and hiding their thumbs. In other words the Japanese are fairly happy to take risks when it comes to their lack of a linguistic avowal of some sort of creed or religion because no one is listening. But they are risk averse (as I found out with a survey) when it comes to skipping out on a shrine visit to praying for the health of their three, five, and seven year old children. Japanese behaviour thus appears to be paradoxical until one realises that what matters is how things appear, not what people say.

There should be many other linguistic risks that the Japanese take, at least if only by omission.

Image based on data from the Global Index of Religion and Atheism.

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Sexual Risk Taking: Japan is Fairly Safe

Sexual Risk Taking: Japan is Fairly Safe

The Japanese rate themselves to be the most risk averse nation in the world with more than 70% of Japanese saying that they are NOT someone who enjoys taking risks (World Values Survey). I believe that the differences between Japan and other developed nations are qualitative rather than quantitative so there should be some area of Japanese behaviour in which they are shown to take risks. I think it unlikely that they would say that they enjoy taking risks since this would be similar to standing out in their linguistic self expressions - something that they have no interest in doing.

Eating blowfish and getting on roller coasters are both not very risky behaviours when compared to skydiving (the 5th most dangerous sport after BASE jumping, swimming, cycling and running).

Guzman and Pohlman (2014) highlight the following classes of risky behaviour among youth worldwide: "Self-Injurious Behaviours, Violence, and Suicide, Substance Use, Risky Sexual Behaviour, and Behaviours Related to Obesity and Unhealthy Dieting." Only suicide is clearly elevated in Japan but that is a special case of risky behaviour. I am not sure that self annihilation is actually "taking a risk," but may on the contrary be a way of avoiding risk, and heightening certainty. The only other risky behaviour on that list that might be high in Japan is risky sexual behaviour.

However, Japanese sexual behaviour does not appear to be all that risky. While no where near as risk averse as their self rating would appear to indicate, the Japanese are below the global average (47%) of percent of adults who have had unprotected sex with a person whose sexual history one is unaware at 42%. And the Japanese have better than the global average (77%) of persons who have never had a sexual accident, my term for unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, at 84%. Both sets of data are from the Durex World Sex Survey (2005).

So where is Japanese risky behaviour?

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Blowfish (Fugu) is Safer than Skydiving: And Both are Very Safe

Blowfish is Safer than Skydiving
The Japanese eat 10,000 tonnes ( Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods - TIME ) or 9,000,000 kg of blowfish or fugu which is approximately 90 million servings, since one does not usually eat more than about 100 grams, or less, per serving (my estimate).

Further, the risk of deaths from eating fugu are even less than that of skydiving. The list below is from the Japanese wikipedia article on fugu, and claims to be comprehensive list of "main" deaths by fugu poisoning since 2000 (perhaps there were others that are not reported). Assuming that there have been 90 million servings a year for the past 14.5 years, or nearly 1300 million servings but only 13 deaths that makes the risk of dying from fugu poisoning to be about one in 100 million. So to compare the death rates, the risk of dying from skydiving according to one estimate is 25/3,000,000 per sky dive. Divided by 1/100,000,000 (my estimation) for the risk of dying as a result of eating a serving of fugu and, I think that we can cross off the millions, so that is 25/3 divided by 1/100. Or about 800. And the wikipedia article also notes that in the ten years from 1995 to 2005 31 people died of fugu poisoning in Japan in similar situations. That is about twice the rate of the 2000s, or 400 times less dangerous than skydiving.

And just as in estimation of the dangers of skydiving where we found that it was experienced, risk-taking skydivers that were dying, similarly, with fugu eating it is those taking risks (preparing, usually self-caught the fish without a licence, and eating the most dangerous parts, the liver or other innards), and not those eating it at fugu restaurants, who are dying.

So skydiving is about 400 to 800 times more dangerous than eating a serving of fugu, but both are very safe activities unless you really try your luck. Indeed, both activities are probably at least in part, enjoyable precisely because one appears to be (but one is not in fact) trying ones luck. This makes skydiving and eating blowfish similar to getting on a roller coaster ride, for thrills.

The Japanese rate themselves as being the most risk averse nation in the world and may only enjoy simulated risks. 

From フグ - Wikipedia
April 2001 Tokyo, Person in 60s prepared sashimi from fugu self-caught
May 2002 Kagawa Prefecture, two persons in their 50s boiled self caught fugu
November 2002 Person in 60s ate poison containing fugu liver
November 2003 Person in 70s ate dried fugu received from a friend.
May 2005 Nagasaki Prefecture Person in 70s made miso soup from self-caught fugu.
September 2005 Aichi Prefecture ate poison containing fugu liver
March 2006 Miyazaki Prefecture. Person in 60s cooked fugu themselves
January 2007 Nagasaki Prefecture. Person in 60s made sashimi for themselves.
August 2007 Nagasaki Prefecture. person in their 40s made a stew of fugu innards containing poison.
December 2007 Hyougo Prefecture. Person in 50s prepared fugu that they had caught themselves.
January Aicii Prefecture. A sushi restaurant proprietor ate some fugu innards with a customer and died. The proprietor did not have a fugu preparation licence. Another person (presumably the customer) was hospitalized.
October 2014 Hyougo Prefecture. Person in their 50s took home the left overs from a colleague's fugu cooking practice and ate the liver and died.

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Monday, June 01, 2015


School Rules and the Wolf Cut

According many Japanese commentators such as Shiba Ryoutaro (1986) the rule of law, and laws themselves, are extremely important in the USA, in places where traditional praxes, ways of doing things may suffice in Japan. Indeed one of the ways in which Japan is now awash with Western culture is that it is being swamped with requirements to manualize everything. Wakamatsu (2007), a former Toyota line manager, argues that the recent glut of written materials (shiryou 資料) can kill efficiency with a lethal dose ([chi]shiryou)死量) of voluminous paper (shiryou 紙量). I think he is right. The recent lack of competitive efficiency of Japanese companies is I believe due to their sinking under mountains of shiryou with western sounding names (po-toforio, adomisshion porishi-, gurajue-shon porishi-), in an attempt to be as linguistically regulated as Western countries.

Despite the fact that the West, or at least the USA, is know as being the land of the "shiryou" Westerners at the same time like to draw attention to some of the places in which Japanese have traditionally been very strict, as in the above image, school student dress regulations. And these regulations certainly are very strict, attempting to define each measurement, each cloth colour, the types of hairstyle that are allowed. So why is it that in this particular area, the Japanese have voluminous regulations?

There are so many regulations on appearance because the Japanese desire to express themselves in their appearance so much, that regulations of this severity are required to prevent them from being outlandish (which somehow the Japanese are also claimed to be).

I do not mean to suggest that Japanese are any more or less collectivistic than Westerners. Elsewhere, however, always the focus is upon collectivism and individualism. The image above is from a paper entitled "The Nail That Came out all the Way," which suggests that Japanese outlandishness is individualistic aberration in the face of ruthless, 'militaristic', collectivism. Many people still hold this impression of Japan. Bearing in mind the way that individualism is valourised in the West, being thought a militantly collectivistic country is, needless to say not a positive impression.

The truth is that Japanese dress and dress codes are neither outlandishly individualistic nor collectivist to the point of being militaristic, but that the Japanese have a stronger desire to express themselves matri-visually, in their wombimagocentric culture. They care not a toss about daddy and his logos, but they want to look cool at least in large part for mummy, or at least originating in the pleasure of her simulated gaze.

The hairstyle shown above bottom (from Google image search) is called a "wolf cut" which is spiky at the front, with along wolf's mane hanging behind, is certainly pretty noticeable. No wolf cuts is one of the items of the above dress code. That Japanese schools wish to ban wolf-cuts does need to surprise. That British school do not have an explicit ban on the "wolf cut" is more to do with the lack of self-expression in the area, that liberal nature of British school dress codes. Correspondingly there are few hate speech laws, or other curbs on linguistic expression, since, for the most part, the Japanese do not desire to be radical in their speech, but they do have some wild haircuts.

Image top from Thorsten Morimoto, 1996, p206, originally from Sakamoto, 1986.
Image bottom from Google image search "ウルフカット"

Thorsten Morimoto, M. (1996). The Nail That Came Out All the Way. In W. Dissanayake (Ed.), Narratives of agency: Self-making in China, India, and Japan. U of Minnesota Press.
坂本秀夫. (1986). 「校則」の研究―だれのための生徒心得か. 東京: 三一書房.
司馬遼太郎. (1986). アメリカ素描. 読売新聞社.
若松義人. (2007). トヨタの上司は現場で何を伝えているのか. Tōkyō: PHP研究所.

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