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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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This Japanese perspective on the West is somewhat surprising, considering that Japan is arguably unique among non-Western nations in the extent to which it imitated our crimes/failings. In fact, many (perhaps even most) Chinese and Koreans seem to feel that the Japanese are still unwilling "to see oneself, hear the crying children, smell the stench of results of what one does" with regard to their 20th century history.
Thank you very much for your comment.

First of all, all the above article was written by a British guy, so it may be completely wrong with respect to the Japanese.

This British guy does agree with you in that I believe the Japanese were fairly unique in their ability to immitate Western imperialism. The Japanese had a policy of if you can't beat 'em join 'em, or rather "leave Asia, Join Europe" (脱亜入欧) and put it into effect.

I am not sure about whether the Japanese have seen their own failings or not with regard to their 20th century history. Some of the most chilling (to the point of being subsequently regarded as being fictional) books on the subject of comfort women for example
are Japanese and there are 679 boooks (of all persuasions) on comfort women in Japanese on amazon Japan .

But it was less the extent to which the British and Japanese have come to terms with their past than the two different ways in which the British and Japanese come to terms with the past. The overall theory of the blog is that Britons, in the tradition of Plato, Kant, Mead etc have narratival insight: we narrate our behaviour and hear how it sounds. Whereas Japanese may have visual insight: they imagine their behaviour and judge how it looks.

It could be that the Korean's and Chinese do not want visual insight, but narratival self condemnation.

In all cases, this is just one British guy's opinion.

Thank you again for your comment.
Thanks for your reply. While I realize it's not technically a topic of the original post, the notion that the continuing hard feelings between Chinese/Koreans and Japanese may to some extent be a result of Japanese inability to comprehend other peoples' insistence on "appropriate" narrative self-recrimination is actually very interesting. My impression (very much an outsider's perspective, since I've never lived in Japan) is that Japanese people often genuinely do not understand what Chinese and Korean anger is all about. This may be why...

Going back to your original post, I was also wondering whether the Japanese tend to see contemporary Britain/British people in the way you described, or were you talking about Japanese perspectives on British history?
Thanks again for your comment.

I don't think that many Japanese would even recognize my interpretation above. It is rather my analysis of a possible, but unconscious attitude. As such it is very shaky, but as far as it goes I think that applies to the Japanese view of Westerners now as well as in the past. There are a number of semi-baddies in Japanese children's fiction such as Baikin Man (Anpanman), Rocket Dan (pocket monster), and the villiage in "mononoke hime" that are a bit too good with technology, to the detriment of themselves even, and a bit too self-loving. They are at the same time somewhat lovable. Does these lovable rogues represent the Japanese view of Westerners? I am probably just imagining it.
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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.