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.

Friday, July 29, 2016


The Sound Princess: Japanese Veil

Sound Princess Again: Oto Hime
The sound princes or oto-hime is a device for hiding the sound of ones excretions, which emits the sound of running water. It is made by the Japanese manufacturer Toto. Usually only available in women's toilets (hence my inability to take this photo so far) this one was in the disabled persons toilet. The sound continues, it says, for 25 seconds during which time the user would hope to finish their 'ablutions,' which, disguised by the sounds of running water emitted from this device might not have existed at all.

Since the beginning of time, according to Japanese mythology, the Japanese have endeavoured to hide the desire, sexuality, and nature of women so as to raise the feminine (or castrated feminine) to the level of 'social principle' (Kawai, 1982) or role model.

An as a result all the Japanese to a man, aspire to be a nice kind harmonious watashi a first person pronoun used by men and women, originally only indicating, the woman.

To this day the desire, sexuality, and nature of women is so taboo, so off limits, in Japan that Japanese women: read pornography only about men having sex with men; do not use tampons, use toilets hidden further than those of the gents, laugh behind their hands, wrap themselves in layers layers and of underwear, never suffer from flatulence, almost only use the back-channel in mixed-sex conversation, only moan "no," and use electronic sound-emission devices, such as that shown above to disguise and hide the terrible tinkle or splash.

And I mean terrible. When Japanese women show their true nature, they can often wither Japanese men with a glance.

The noise of the sound princess, and many of the other important meaningless noises emitted by Japanese culture (politician's crooning, sports-persons' shouts, Buddhist chants, pachinko cacophony, mid-day and evening come home Tannoy's, supermarket endless tapes, and New Year's temple bells) may have structural similarities with the Biblical fig leaf and the veil. The sound of the sound princess is a audio cover of female desire, as opposed to a visual cover of male desire.

Click here for YouTube Videos with the sound of the sound princess.

Kawai, H. 河合隼雄. (1982). 中空構造日本の深層. 中央公論社.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016


Coffee Vending Machine Food Preparatation Views

Coffee Vending Machine Food Preparation Views
Just as Japanese ramen restaurants, sushi restaurants, and in the extreme fireside grill (robatayaki) restaurants provide their clean freak, and I argue, scopophilic Japanese clientèle with the opportunity to see their food being prepared, so it is with some Japanese coffee vending machines. The coffee vending machine shown above, equipped with several internal cameras, provides purchasers with a video of their coffee being made (centre top). I should have taken a video of the inspiring internal video.

There is always the possibility that the machine is in fact making coffee using instant coffee powder, and showing everyone the same entertainment video but, even if this were not in Japan, the raw, slightly out of focus, steamy nature of the video made me trust the internal view it provided completely and the coffee taste just a little bit fresher.

Visual information augments, and even overwhelms, that obtained by the nose and the mouth. I hypothesise that even if the machine were indeed really using Nescafe and just showing a fake video, I would be fooled into thinking that the beans were ground and the coffee dripped.

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Shinkansen Bullet Train Urinals

Bullet Train Urinals
Bullet Train Urinals do not have locks. In place of locks bullet train urinals have windows which allow those outside to see if there is someone using the urinal or not. As a senior British male I find it a little uncomfortable to be seen while urinating, and still more for my being seen to be the only thing that prevents people from opening the door while I am urinating - not that anyone would barge in.

Ideally I would like to be able to emerge from a toilette (Americans are so uptight they have to call them "restrooms") secure in the knowledge that those outside in the corridor do not know what I have been doing in the toilet (washing my hands, or even "resting"). In the case of a urinal cubicle, this practically impossible, but the addition of the window and the lack of the lock makes me feel like I have just urinated en plein air. Urinating outside is something that Japanese men did not feel uncomfortable doing as recently as 20 years ago even in groups.

These days it is only young Japanese boys that urinate outside in groups. Using a Bullet Train urinal makes me feel an age younger than with which I feel comfortable. I respect Japanese men for the their lack of prudery. I note however, that Japanese women are so sensitive that not only would it be utterly unaccepted for them to be seen whilst urinating (kami forbid) but Japanese women use electronic devices (otohime) so that they can not even heard urinating. Japanese women can emerge from toilette cubicles in that ideal situation: no one can be sure of what they have been doing.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016


Magearna is Reason and Eve

Many Japanese animated movies are meditations on the problem of science and the West, and attempt to present solutions as to how the Japanese - as represented by Satoshi, the boy with an "electric rat" and a woman's voice - can save the world.

The latest movie (Pokémon the Movie XY&Z: Volcanion and the Mechanical Magearna) from the Pokémon franchise, written by Atsuhiro Tomioka the same writer as the last, replaces Hooper and mini Hooper with Volcanion and Magearna. Volcanion, like Hooper, has a hoop, and is a bit too strong for his and his surroundings' good.

the Exquisite Magearna is the first robotic Pokémon built by the those blue eyed, blonde, science fanatics -- Westerners -- that often feature in Japanese animations. Magearna has a metal body, crucifixes for pupils, and a sciency cog-bonnet. Apart from having her own shell-like monster ball, into which she retreats when she is afraid, and the ability to produce bunches of flowers from her hands that put others (other than Volcanion) into a romantic mood, she does not do much other be "ezquisite." But she has great power.

The reason for this is related to her removalable "soul heart," which seems to be the very core of science. This heart soul is also said, in the catch copy for the movie*, in contradistinction to almost all other Pokémon, to have a voice.

For my money, Magearna is the linguistic Other who whispers in the hearts of Western "men". Sometimes as listener she is called Reason, by Jefferson and Dawkins, and shown the greatest respect.

"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion (Jefferson see Dawkins, 2008, p64)

But her first name was I think Eve, the first in a long line of Western "robotic" pocket monsters. She is robotic in so far as she is linguistic. She doesn't just bond, and sit on the shoulder of her trainers and friends but alas, whispers to them, in romantic voice of her soul heart. She is the Sibyl that Heraclitus writes of.

Her name in Japanese is a pun on "bent hole," but I am not sure if that is any way intentional

This Pokémon movie reached the conclusion that Volcanion should sacrifice himself to save her, and that she should be taken from the land of the blonde blue eyed men and returned to the wild.

I thought Jarvis, the lead scientist and baddie (who is nonetheless forgiven as Japanese baddies always are) a little similar to David Bowie.

I would like to see or write a sequel where it is found that there is a real living pockemon trapped inside Magearna, who is at last released.

*熱き魂(ソウルハート)の声が聞こえるか!? Can you hear the voice of the 'hot soul heart'!?

Why are Pokémon movies and David Bowie better at explaing reality than science? The advance of science may be moved and supported by converse with an artificial monster far more terrible than that pictured above in her imagined Pokémon GO debut.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016


The Chinese and The Japanese

The Chinese and The Japanese
Ruth Benedic's (1946) classic "Chrysanthemum and the Sword" has been popular in China (translated as 菊与刀) selling 70,000 copies in 2005 alone, since it would provide an explanation how the Japanese managed to kill so many Chinese and yet exhibit a level of remorse that the Chinese feel to be very inappropriate. Ruth Benedict's answer is that the Japanese lack a conscience, caring only what other's think about them. A great deal of Japanese believe this theory, which itself originates in a disgruntled Japanese called Robert Hashimoto (Lummis).

More contemporary Japanese detractors of Benedict's theory do not rarely argue that the Japanese do in fact have conscience, under the conventional meaning of that term, but rather that "conscience" in the sense of internal, self-directed, self-reproval simply does not exist. The main reason for this is that they are aware that they judge themselves visio-aesthetically, and this is not something that one can do from inside ones own head. The Japanese forget that the mind is not inside the head -- it is easy to do, I have -- but rather the other way around.

The Japanese are therefore in large part blissfully ignorant of the origin of their own morality, which is, the same as that of the Chinese. Both believe that in addition to the censure of other people, heaven is also judging.

In Japanese parlance the kind old sun is watching (otentou sama ga mite iru. お天道さまがみている。See e.g. Akagawa, 2015) and they'd feel her displeasure should they do anything bad.

This does not explain why the Japanese were able to kill so many Chinese, nor why they do not feel more remorse. In order to understand that one would have to read other books, mainly of a more historical nature.

I hope that the Chinese realise that in fact the Japanese do have a conscience before The Chinese and The Japanese come to blows again.

The images above left are the result of an image search for "”菊与刀” 销量" meaning "sales of 'Chrysanthemum and the Sword'" in Chinese, and the cover of a non-academic book entitled "The Kind Old Sun is Watching" (Akagawa, 2015)

Akagawa, J. 赤川浄友. (2015). お天道さまは見ている. 国書刊行会.
Benedict, R. (1946). The chrysanthemum and the sword; patterns of Japanese culture.

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"I am, Because you are"

"I am, because you are"
The sign reads "I am, because you are" or "You are, so I am," which is the philosophy of interdependence (Markus & Kitayama, 1981), or ubuntu, in a nutshell.

Note however that this Japanese interdependence is in the world of speech. The second line reads, "Lets hail each other, and thereby, together do our best." This the above is a slogan encouraging greetings such as "good morning" and "g'day" which the Japanese favour even more than Crocodile Dundee. In the world of language, the Japanese subject, their "I" is "you for you" (Mori, 1999, p.163 complete quote again below).

The interdependence of the Japanese visual self is a little more nuanced. The visual self-encourages and requires an awareness of the social nature of self, and interdependence due to the scopic necessity of focusing upon a surface. This ostensible 'externality' convinces even the Japanese that they are out and out collectivists.

But in the Japanese case, they also believe that the 'the kind old sun is always watching' (See e.g. Akagawa, 2015). Their belief gives them a good measure of independence, and Morality with a capital M. Even if 'everyone else is doing it', the Japanese avoid doing things that look bad because the kind old sun can see them, and they'd feel her displeasure should they do ugly things.

Akagawa, J. 赤川浄友. (2015). お天道さまは見ている. 国書刊行会.
Mori, A. 森有正. (1999). 森有正エッセー集成〈5〉. 筑摩書房.
扨(さ)て私は、「日本人」において「経験」は複数を、更に端的に二人の人間(あるいはその関係)を定義する、と言った。それは一体何を意味しているのであろうか。二人の人間を定義するということは、我々(日本人)の経験と呼ぶものが、自分一個の経験にまで分析されていない、ということである。換言すれば、凡ての経験において、それをもつ主体がどうしても「自己」というものを定義しない、ということである。肉体的に見る限り、一人一人の人間は離れている。常識的にはそこに一人の主題、すなわち自己というものを考えようとする思惑を感ずるが、事態はそのように簡単ではない。それは我々において、「汝」との関係がどれほど深刻であるかを考えてみればある程度納得が行くであろう。もちろん「汝」ということは、日本人のみならず、凡ゆる人間にとって問題となる。要はその問題のなり方である。本質的な点だけに限っていうと、「日本人」においては、「汝」に対立するのは「我」ではないということ、対立するものもまた相手にとっての「汝」なのだ、ということである。私はけして言葉の綾をもてあそんでいるのではない。それは本質的なことなのである。「我と汝」ということが自明のことのように、ある場合には凡ての前提となる合言葉のおうに言われるが、それはこの場合当て嵌まらない。親子の場合をとってみると、親を「汝」として取ると、子が「我」であるのは自明のことのように主和得る。しかしそれはそうではない。子は自分の中に存在の根拠をもつ「我」でなく、当面「汝」である親の「汝」として自分を経験しているのである。Mori, 1999. p.163

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Monday, July 18, 2016


The Light that Watches and Protects

The Light that Watches and Protects
The Japanese represent their ancestors by floating lanterns, that watch over and protect the living. The message, "don't worry, we are getting along together really well. Please watch over and protect us forever," is written on the lantern on the right. The " please watch over us" on the young lady's lantern is prefaced by "Kind old Sun*" since the Japanese traditionally believe that ancestors merge with the Sun(goddess), who is always watching and protecting. The visual aspect of the Japanese Other, watching and protecting as it must an 'external' appearance, convinces most that the Japanese are more collectivist and conformist, but the whispering that Westerners do, though it seems solitary, is no less social. We will realise this eventually.

That it seems as if Tiger Woods' head is appearing from a lantern bottom right is a mere coincidence.

*The literal translation is more like "Mister/Madam Sun". The Japanese salutation "sama" is genderless. "Kind old Sun" is a term of respect and endearment for the sun, like the Japanese original, from Wilfred Owen's poem, Futility.

Central image by Azumi Fukuoka. (2016/7/16). Asahi Newspaper. p1.


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Sunday, July 17, 2016


Secretary and the Beast by Yuu Takahashi

Secretary and the Beast by Yuu Takahashi

This post is of an adult, sexual nature.

At the end of the manga, the "beast" of a company boss has very graphically represented relations every which way with his secretary (aslo) male, in the company shower rooms.

The strange thing is that this is part of a genre of comics (bishounen ai or perhasp in this case close to Yaoi) read predominantly by young Japanese girls, perhaps in their late teens. The reason for this, I believe is, that traditionally in Japan it is only female sexuality and desire which is considered taboo, so as long as their are only blokes, then, while smutty and embarassing, there is nothing really bad about it.

Each society hides the harsh reality of the sexual desire that is at its foundation.

Japanese society is based upon rearing children so wombs, whiles and reality of women's desire is hidden. Women appear only as pretty young men.

Western society is based upon horizontal adult to adult "love." (Childrearing is a bit of a "curse.") The above sort of pornography is a mirrored in that which uses lesbians to titillate Western men. In extremis, the male organ and male desire is hidden or completely absent. Men only appear as vorascious lesbians.

Each to each, the ultimate horror, is unhorrible. At the end of the day, this does not bode well for Japanese Western international relations.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Hanya as First Person Face

Hanya as First Person Face
There is apparently absolutely no connection whatsoever between the character of Hanya, a devil woman, that appears in Noh drama and Shinto mythical plays (pictured above), and the Japanese name for The Heart Sutra which distils the pith of the wisdom of Buddhism into a text of one page. In Buddhist terminology, Hannya refers to knowledge of enlightenment.

The story goes that a Buddhist priest who was adept at making Hanya masks was called "Hanya-monk" (般若坊) due to his predilection for the Heart Sutra, and in any event a purely random connection between the sutra and the mask was made. I will here argue otherwise.

The Heart Sutra (Hanya- Shin-Kyo or Hanya Heart Sutra in Japanese) proclaims that" colour is emptiness" and "emptiness is colour". I can appreciate that assertion. Nishida using the language of phenomenology, asserts the same thing: in the purity of experience, when one has bracketed off all that which can be denied, then this big orb of colour has absolutely no qualities, not even those of subject, nor object which, like our initial certainty of colour (that is "red" isn't it?) dissolve into a purity, about which one can say nothing.

At the same time, I do find it impossible to merge myself with this wall of impossible colours. Intellectually, I agree with Nishida, experientially however, something prevents my dissolution.

Nishida (1965) also claims that the self is is supported by a 'devil hidden in the depths of seeing'. What does he mean?

Going off at what might seem a tangent, Dr. Leroy McDermott (1979), a professor of psychology formerly of the University of Central Missouri, argues that the shape of paleolithic figurines, which tend to be of a plump, lozenge shape, and are found the world over, is not due to the fact that people back then were fat, nor due to some emphasis upon feminine fecundity, but due to the fact that they were of self-person body views.

The first thing that struck me about McDermott's brilliant insight is that I had not even realised that my first person view of my body is any different from the third person view such I am shown in photos or as is reflected in a mirror. It takes however, moment of self inspection to realise that, yes, my hands and feet do of course taper off to spidery extremities, and my chest shoulders and stomach are very large. Even though I am a man, my first person view of myself has full bosom.

My initial interest in Dr. McDermott's research was merely to note that his thesis largely applies to Japanese snow goggle dogu figurines from a similar palaeolithic period. I contacted him with this observation. He responded politely. I wondered whether the famous snow goggled faces of Japanese Venus figurines might also represent a first person view of someone squinting through almost shut eyes.

It was only much later that I became interested in the question as to *why* palaeolithic people made such representations. Here I must respectfully part company with the brilliant Dr. McDermott. He argues that their construction was motivated by a desire for self-representation coupled with the lack of mirrors or reflective technology. But as a McDermott-detractor mentioned to me privately, and as one of the commentators to his paper asserts, even if looking glasses were particularly dark in those days, surfaces of water did exist and, more to the point, sculptors were regularly and universally presented with images of their peers. Even the most primitive person should and would have been able to add two and two, or people and puddle, together. So, there must have been some other reason for the worldwide propensity to reproduce such, to our way of thinking, distorted body views.

This detraction, while tempting, misses a step. It succeeds for me in disconfirming Dr. McDermott's 'lack of mirror technology thesis'. Even palaeolithic sculptors, if motivated solely by the desire to self-represent, would also have been able to extrapolate from puddles and peers. But at the same time, bearing in mind the strong resemblance between palaeolithic figurines and the first person form, as clearly demonstrated by Dr. McDermott's papers, to reject this resemblance as original/causal -- replacing it with some supposed universal woman-shape-worshipping fertility rite -- would be to chuck the baby out with the bath water. The supposed lack of mirrors is bath water, in one way or another. The humongous baby is the amazing and persuasive realisation that the universality of the shape of palaeolithic Venus figurines is due to the fact that they really do represent first person body views. This is the insight that brings science and sensibility to that which was previously considered to be some sort of misguided, magical hocus-pocus.

We are still left with the question as to why did so many peoples all over the globe at a similar stage of human development, find themselves so interested in the form of the first person body view, that they should create sculptures representing first-person-body views over and over again, almost to the exclusion of all other sculptural self-representations? Why were they so obsessed?

I can suggest two reasons from developmental psychology, both of which seem to be overlooked.

The first is that developmental psychologists, from, for example, observation of infants playing the mobiles that are typically left to hang above cribs, reach the conclusion that the first, most primitive, initial, and original recognition and representation of self, occurring many months before we narrate or recognise ourselves in mirrors, is the first person view of self.

Lewis and Brooks-Gunn (1979) for example argue, persuasively to my ears, in the following way.

"Gregory is also about 3 months old. Lately he has begun to coo loudly during those moments between waking and calling his mother by crying. One morning, Gregory's mother walks quietly into his bedroom and finds him awake, on his back, with his right hand extended above him and to the right; his head is turned towards his hand and he is watching his fingers move with considerable interest.

The proprioceptive feedback from the two events and actions (looking and moving one's hands and fingers) are both located in the same nervous system. This example differs markedly from the first since the child can operate on both events, rather than just one event, being external to the organism. The infant, having control of both actions can turn to look at the object or have the object move into the field of vision. This duality of subject and object must represent the beginning of the self as distinct from other." (Lewis & Brooks-Gunn, 1979, p.3.)

Despite the persuasiveness of such developmental psychological theories of the self as originating in self-views, 'this great leap for mankind' is all but ignored in non-developmental psychological theories of the self, such as those of Smith, Mead, Freud, Bakhtin, Vygotsky and the numerous 'narrative self' psychologists. Where did the first person view self disappear to?

And this brings me to my second and more important reason why palaeolithic people the world over may have been interested in representing their first person view of self, which is because she was then, and is now, still here. That deserves capitalisation, and then some. SHE IS STILL HERE!

My sudden use of the feminine pronoun "she" to refer to "the first person view self," runs ahead of its explanation.

In the same aforementioned, fairly mainstream scholarship of the self -- Smith, Mead, Freud, Bakhtin, Vygotsky and others -- there is also mention of the need for an intra-psychic other: some one else in our mind (!). This very peculiar "other" is argued to be essential, but at the same time it is given short shrift. Very little explanation is given of what, where, and how, this most proximal of others might be.

Re-enter the first person self-view, which is closer than the veins in our neck.

Upon inspection of the features of my my own face from my first person view point, it seems to me that it has considerable similarity with the features of the classic, devil woman Hanya mask of Japanese dramatic art.

Note first that Hanya does not look anything like real Japanese ladies, who tend to have small noses, flat cheekbones, and small round chins.

My first person view of my face, and the first person view that Japanese ladies and men have of their faces, however has quite a lot in common the features represented by the Hanya mask. While, unlike Dr. McDermott, I find myself unable to take a first person perspective photo of my face from my the perspective of my own eyes, I hope readers will be persuaded that (numbers correspond to those on the insert bottom left)
1) The nose in both is extremely large at least for a Japanese woman (the Western version of Hanya would be even more grotesque)
2) Our brow impinges upon our view such as is suggested by Hanya's overhung brow
3) The cheeks in my first person view and Hanya's face, protrude absurdly
4) Nothing is visible of my lower face except, with effort my lower lip which may explain the protrusion of Hanya's chin. In other words, my first person face view is all squeezed up around my eyes, with a glimpse of bottom lip like this representation.
5) Unless I or any woman, were to have a long fringe ony that would be visible. My forehead, upper head and hair (if I had any) is invisible. The small forehead of the hanya mask is more appropriate than the my mock-up in the insert.
6) Our mouths are invisible. I am not sure why they are large. The related Shinja ("true snake") mask is portrayed with a tongue which I can see if I stick it out.
7) Our eyes about which our first-person view of our face form but glimpse of a frame, contain the whole world of "colour" or light. As such they may be said to be "metallic" like the tain of mirror, or as in the case of the larger mask, on fire.

This hypothesis does not explain the fangs or horns but if my first person view is really the place where the "demon" (Nishida) is lurking, then their addition may help to that Hanya's countenance is so terrible, that I am generally unable to become aware of her.

And by this means, it is with Hanya's help, I think, that I believe that I am my third person self-representations, and that my representations of others, these little people that walk across my visual field are not empty, but real. I propose therefore that when one sees the truth of the Heart Sutra, one meets Hanya, and vice versa.

The naming of the Heart Sutra is initially quite fortuitous, but turns out to be, in retrospect, no coincidence. That monk knew what he was going on about.

Hanya and my heart are two sides of the same emptiness. Or rather, at the edge of that emptiness, Hanya stands guard.

In other cultural contexts Hanya may be referred to as "the whore." I prefer Hanya since it implies respect.

The main image top centre is a picture of an excellent handcrafted Hanya Craft Mask available for purchase from The Japan Store.

Lewis, M., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1979). Social Cognition and the Acquisition of Self. Boston, MA: Springer US. Retrieved from link.springer.com/10.1007/978-1-4684-3566-5
McDermott, L. R. (1996). Self-representation in Upper Paleolithic female figurines. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 227–275. websites.rcc.edu/herrera/files/2011/04/PREHISTORIC-Self-R...

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