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, July 27, 2015


Hoopa: The hooper that that could not loop

I thought "Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages" was a Japanese commentary on Western culture personified in "Hoopa, the hooper that could not loop" (my subtitle).

Hoopa has two forms (as do many Pokémon), and as are believed to exist in the Buddhist view of ourselves: the small (unenlightened) and large (enlightened) self. We see the giant form of Hoopa first who uses giant hoops to move (or steal) things from anywhere in the world. Hoopa's power rests in this telekinetic ability. Herein lies the first parallel with Western culture. The Japanese have a bit of a tendency, in my limited experience, to see the British and their descendants as thieves, or "vikings" as they tactfully put it, conquering the world and taking it home. The seven hoops of Hoopa (one around each of his six arms, and one around his waist) may correspond to the sense of Buddhism (although there is one too many) which include the sense of the heart. From some Japanese points of view Westerners look upon nature and the world as a source of things to take, rather than as something with which one feels in harmony, to an extent unified.

Hoopa finds himself internally conflicted and unable to evolve into his large self who remains trapped in a bottle by a religious organisation that bears more than a passing resemblance to Judeo-Christianity. From a Japanese perspective Western culture separates God and humankind whereas in Japan, the enlightened, a supreme martial artist for instance, becomes one with God or the Buddha - which tend to be seen as the same things.

This inability to evolve into his large self, and being in conflict with it, parallels Hoopa's inability to pass through his own hoop. As we have seen Hoopa has six hoops (plus one around his body) that he uses to move or plunder the cosmos. He seems partially able to pass through one of his hoops (the one around his middle) but unable to pass through any of his others.

This inability to pass through his own hoops is due to Hoopa's lack of gratitude. Through his experience of growing up once again as small Hooper, however, Hoopa learns to love and feel gratitude and finally, when he does this he is able to pass through one of his own hoops. In this sequence, before the triumphant auto-looping-hooping the hoop, and overcoming self-conflict, Hoopa imagines himself growing up and all the love he has received. This introspection - literally seeing himself - works on a lot of levels as the defining characteristic of Japanese culture. The Japanese believe their heart to be a mirror, are found to literally have a mirror in their heart, they are (through the practice of Noh and Karate forms) able to see themselves from a perspective outside, and use this ability to see themselves from the points of view of others. Autoscopy is also especially noticeable in the last letters of suicide pilots and the Japanese version of psychoanalysis: Naikan therapy.

This self-seeing, or self perception may be what the whole "Pocket Monster" mythology is about as represented by the Pikachu Satoshi Diad. There is a monster within us, sitting on our shoulder, who sees us, but at some level, or in some way, Satoshi and Pikachu are one. Perhaps in a final Pokémon movie this fact will be revealed. Or perhaps it already has. I have only seen two Pokémon movies.

Reading perhaps far too much into the iconography, it seems proper that Hoopa should be appear from out of one of his hoops (little Hoopa), have hoops on his ears (little Hoopa) or have one of his hoops as a hole at his centre (Big Hoopa) since Westerners do feel able to perceive themselves, linguistically. Only being able to perceive ourselves through this especially dark mirror, we are able to wreck destruction on an unparalleled scale, believing that anything that can be linguistically justified is acceptable. Hence a Briton feels able in saying that the British enforced importation of narcotics into China, for more than a hundred years, was acceptable because "the Chinese chose to smoke (opium). Or, in my experience, Americans (and others from the allied nations) generally continue to approve of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as just since 'the Japanese started it.' It is only when one starts to see oneself, hear the crying children, smell the stench of results of what one does, it is only when one passes through other hoops, that such justifications become untenable. We need to learn other forms of insight fast.

Hoopa learns gratitude, becomes able to perceive himself, is no longer conflicted, walks in the light, or becomes Japanese, in harmony with, not apart from the world. In the last part of the movie giant Hoopa spends his time rebuilding that which he has destroyed, only plundering the occasional doughnut.

I was moved by the compassion with which Hoopa the destroyer was viewed. Even though he destroyed the humans that fed him, Hoopa was not punished with death, but merely part of him kept in a bottle, since after all, as grandfather says, Hoopa is one of the family.

(I have a Japanese family, and lack gratitude, so this notion moves me to tears.)

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Japanese Repression of Proactive interference

Japanese Release from Proactive Interference
There were only 10 subjects and I did not manage to explain the test too well so three subject did *worse* in the first trial but there was successive proactive inhibition as the subjects were given memory tests on sets of three modes of transport as icons, and a release from proactive inhibition on the forth trial when that fourth trial used words as opposed to icons as used on the previous three trials.

That Westerners gain a release from proactive inhibition when they are shown a fourth trial with pictures, but not a fourth trial with words, following pictures, (Hopkins, et al. 1973) is due to the fact I believe that Westerners will chant (Vygoski) the words for the pictures that they are shown so showing pictures uses up their short term memory for words. Japanese however, as demonstrated by Kim (2002) do not speak to themselves when they are shown visual problems, so when the fourth trial is words (as above) then their short term memory for words is not proactively inhibited.

I also predict the reverse reversal, wherein Japanese will not experience a release from proactive interference when they are presented with a sequence of words to remember followed by pictures because when presented with words they will supply the pictures, "chanting" or rather imagining, or flashing them to their internal-external other.

The Japanese Other is internal-external. It is inside the Japanese psyche but outside the Japanese head since it can see their face, and yet has X-ray eyes because it can see their imaginings, underwear, truck "madonna" and car interiors.

I wrote all the following before then deleted it by mistake. What follows (who cares!) is a rehash.

There are phenomenological or (proto?) physical limits to self deception. The important point is deception.

But there are ways that one can deceive oneself that seem (to me now) to be governed by almost Kantian "proto-physical" or "phenomenological" imperatives due to the difference between eyes and ears: eyes can be seen but ears can not normally be heard because they do not make sounds.

There are therefore proto-physical, or phenomenological facts that limits the extent, and ways in which one can deceive oneself.

I can not deceive myself into thinking that I am seen from any other than an external (e.g. on my shoulder, Pika!) view point. On the other hand, I can deceive myself into thinking that I am heard from an internal ear-point. I can believe that the ear of the other is inside my head.

Ears are more passive than gazes since eyes participate in the world of sight, whereas ears are not heard.

Perhaps the grammatological requirement that there be a subject if there is an object is of the same order as the above phenomenological limits to deception.

Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Hopkins, R. H., Edwards, R. E., Tamayo, F. M. V., Holman, M. A., & Cook, C. L. (1973). Presentation modality and proactive interference in short-term retention using a mixed-morality distractor task. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 439–442.
Wickens, D. D. (1973). Some characteristics of word encoding. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 485–490. Retrieved from link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03208913

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Western Release from proactive interference

Audio to Visual not Visual to Audio
"Proactive interference" (Wickens, 1973) is jargon for the way in which it gets more and more difficult to remember sets of the same type of stimuli, since previously remembered sets interfere or confuse.

"Release from proactive interference" (Wickens, 1973) describes the way in which after a series of similar memory tests one is given a novel set of items to remember, then ones short term memory returns almost to fresh, first test or second test levels, since the novel stimuli are not confused or "interfered with" by the previous tests sets.

"Release from proactive interference" between visual and audio modalities, mentioned previously, is only found, in Western subjects, when moving from audio to visual stimuli and not when moving from visual to audio stimuli (Hopkins, Edwards, Tamayo, Holman, & Cook, 1973).

In other words, if Western subjects are given three memory tests with three pictures of fruit followed by a memory test using fruit words, their performance does not return to previous levels.

But if Western subjects are given three tests using fruit words, and an a fourth with pictures of fruit their performance does improve to previous levels.

The reason for this asymmetry may be due to the fact that, even when shown pictures of fruit, Western subjects are likely to think, or hear themselves speak (Derrida), the words for the fruit, so that their short term memory of fruit words is being depleted ('proactively interfered' with) even in the visual pre-test condition.

In the case where Western subjects are first given fruit word memory tests however, the Western subjects may not generally imagine the fruit corresponding to the fruit words, so if on the fourth trial they are shown fruit images, these images are felt to be novel stimuli, that are not "proactively interfered" with by the previous verbal trials.

I predict that Japanese may show the reverse pattern in that moving from audio fruit words to visual fruit pictures may not result in a "release from proactive interference" since in the audio condition Japanese may imagine the fruit that is presented in words.

However in the visual pretest condition, the Japanese may not bother to say the words for the fruit to themselves (see Kim, 2002 for evidence), so if the fourth trial is of fruit words, then they may show a release from proactive interference -- an improvement in recall -- since the fruit words will be felt to be novel stimuli.

This would be easier to test than self-related stimuli.

The test response method (getting subjects to say or draw the fruit) and distractor task between trials (getting subjects to add visually and verbal presented digits) may also confound results.

Interestingly a mixed audio and visual filler task (adding visually presented digits) produced the same results as an audio tasks adding orally presented digits. Again, I think that this is because Western subjects would be likely to self-speak the images of digits, so images are always mixed mode for Westerners. Following the reasoning in Kim (2002) the same may not be the case in Japan. According to a Nacalian transformation, a mixed filler task would be equivalent to a visual filler task since Japanese will provide the visuals when presented with oral stimuli. Oral stimuli are likely to be always mixed mode for Japanese.

I wonder if there is pre-existing Japanese research on this paradigm, and whether a reversal has already been found. Or whether the same tendency was found. No this paper (Hopkins, Edwards, Tamayo, Holman, & Cook, 1973) seems to be cited only three times, and only by researchers in the West. Searching for the authors surnames and Japanese keywords likewise yields no hits.

There is some Japanese research by Tadashi Fujita (Fujita, 1995; 藤田正, 1985, 1988) and the results are not good from the point of view of my hypotheses.

In the main the research I have found is not testing audio visual modality shifts and repression of proactive inhibition but in the one article which did investigate modality (Fujita, 1995), to a degree, by looking at the way in which kanji characters interfere with each other, it was found that similar kanji pronunciations do result in proactive interference (suggesting that Japanese do not process kanji by image alone, as is well known) whereas different pronunciations result in a release from proactive inhibition. And even worse for my hypothesis, changing the radical of kanji did not however result in a release from proactive interference, whereas semantic differences between tests did. This suggests, contra my hypotheses, that Japanese are thinking in phonemes and semantics (meaning) more than purely in kanji morphology. In a more recent paper (Fujita, 2007) it was found that Japanese (kun) reading of the kanji has more effect than the Chinese (on) reading.

I would be more interested to know what happens when Japanese remember non linguistic images or icons, other than kanji. Fujita's research used a different methodology, with successive tests being in the same or different groupings rather than three tests in the same followed by one in a different group.

Fujita, T., & others. (1995). Buildup of proactive interference in Japanese Kanji learning. Retrieved from near.nara-edu.ac.jp/handle/10105/703
藤田正. (1985). 順向抑制の形成に及ぼすリスト類似性の効果. Retrieved from libneardspace.nara-edu.ac.jp/handle/10105/2221
Fujita, T. 藤田正. (1988). 順向抑制の形成に及ぼす隣接試行の類似性の効果. Retrieved from dspace.nara-edu.ac.jp/handle/10105/2042
藤田正. (2007). 訓主漢字と音主漢字の記憶における分散効果. Retrieved from dspace.nara-edu.ac.jp/handle/10105/637
Hopkins, R. H., Edwards, R. E., Tamayo, F. M. V., Holman, M. A., & Cook, C. L. (1973). Presentation modality and proactive interference in short-term retention using a mixed-morality distractor task. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 439–442.
Kim, H. (2002). We talk, therefore we think? A cultural analysis of the effect of talking on thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Wickens, D. D. (1973). Some characteristics of word encoding. Memory & Cognition, 1(4), 485–490. Retrieved from link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03208913

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Thursday, July 02, 2015


A You for You and An Eye for an Eye

A You for You and An Eye for an Eye

One of the simplest Nacalian transformations that I have yet to fully expand upon, is that of Mori Arimasa's theory of the Japanese first person pronoun. I have said most of this before, but I have not yet expressed the the rather bemused way in which Japanese view Western faces, or how we should conceptualise our faces in a Japanese frame of mind.

Mori argued that the Japanese first person pronoun is expressed in a variety of forms, in a variety of forms of language that always binds it into binary relationships with its interlocutor you, such that, expressed in a French frame of mind, the meaning of "I" in Japanese is merely "a you for a you" (汝の汝).

One half of Nacalian transformation of Mori's theory has, and had, already been argued by Lacan. Lacan argued that infants identify first with mirror images and as they mature, with their the first person of their self narrative. This progression is inevitable and desirable, Lacan claims, since in the "mirror stage" humans are locked into binary relationships with mirrors and others since the face is only face for another face, or rather in the same way that the Japanese I is (according to Mori, who was surely influenced by Lacan) another interlocutor for its interlocutor, the Western face is locked into a relationship with its 'visual interlocutor' or spectator. The Western face is in other words, just an eye for an eye. Just as the Japanese only hear their first person pronoun through the ears of the second person that they are addressing, Westerners can only see our eyes via mirrors or through the eyes of another. Lacan and Mori (and Bakhtin, Mead, Freud etc) further argue that, in France at least, language provides a third person perspective enabling Francophones to have an I which is objective.

The missing part of this "Nacalian" (Lacan backwards) transformation is my assertion that in Japan, the face is not merely a visual interlocutor for another interlocutor but felt to be observed by a third person generalised other (Senken no Me, Otentousama) that frees the Japanese face, and persona or self, from dependence upon binary relationships.

In each case the achievement of these freedom comes at a price. First of all, we are no longer our true selves. And futher, Derrida and I (!) argue that this extra other, in the West "The Ear of the Other," is uncanny (unheimlich): something once familiar that is now horrific and repressed (Derrida, 1985, p33), repressed and horrific.

Bearing in mind that Western faces are like eyes for eyes, it should appear to the Japanese that our faces are dependent upon the binary relationship in which we find ourselves. Indeed this is the case that Japanese perceive Westerners as always making rather grotesque (oogesa na) "faces" (and gestures) whereas their own facial expressions incline towards remaining objective, and 'composed'.

Bearing in mind that the objective and subjective is reversed - that is to say that the power relationship between the visual and the linguistic is reversed - leads to world views turned inside out, with completely different notions of time, space, travel, tourism and morality.

I prefer the Japanese method of self-reflection since I believe that that vision is somewhat less prone to "spin" or the self-enhancement that Westerners are so good at, and because matriarchy is more natural and effective than patriarchy. Indeed, patriarchy seems to me to be a sort of deviant version of matriarchy, where men somehow worked out how to use some of the natural control methods of matriarchs.

Image: kajap.hypotheses.org/450

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