Author: kateescott

King Of Chair

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Abbey, John, Kate & Naomi autoethnographic investigation of the Japanese gameshow ‘King Of Chair’


As evident by a sheer number of articles and videos on the Internet, Westernised countries have interpreted Japanese game shows as “crazy” and “weird”. This is commonly due to the audience recognising the producer forcing the contestants to do strange things for the benefit of the audience. Before first-hand participating in watching a Japanese game show many of us would have agreed that this stereotype is an accurate depiction of Japanese culture.

Generally speaking Westernised game shows consist of contestants testing their knowledge, skill and ability with rewards being prizes of currency and various objects, and whilst this is true in Japanese game shows, they often add a comedic element to the shows, whilst still focusing on the ability of the contestants as they undertake various tasks that are usually painful or painfully funny for the audience.

Game shows were first broadcasted in Japan in the 1950s before becoming well-known as strange, off-the-wall, and at times a bit brutal, but always hilarious and entertaining.”

‘King of Chairs’ was first broadcasted in July 2010 on the TBS network. Its motif is a twist on the classical children’s game, musical chairs. In each episode, ten comedians/idols are released into a large environment where 1000 chairs are scattered and hidden throughout with the King of Chair logo. Out of these, there is only 3 winning chairs, with dozens of traps and surprises that are difficult to avoid as the contestants can only find out if the chair is a winner by sitting on it for 3 seconds. If the sensor on the chair sets off a winning bell, they win one of three spots in the episode’s finale.

The similarities of the Australian children’s game ‘musical chairs’ are present as players compete over chairs. However, it differentiates itself from this as it commonly takes place at parities where players compete for a decreasing number of chairs, with losers in successive rounds being those unable to find a chair to sit on when the music stops.

From what can only be described as a strange remake of the children’s game ‘musical chairs’, King of Chair seemed like a good place to start our groups authethnographical research of a Japanese game show. We started off by watching the video together and recording our initial reactions through a range of social media platforms. With the typical stereotype of Japanese game shows being strange and weird and consisting of the contestants doing odd things for the audiences benefits, we didn’t know what to expect! Yet to our surprise, this show was rather tame, it was only weird because none of us fully understood what was going on.

We were able to pick up the main theme of the show, several people competing for winning chairs and having strange and scary things happening to them as a result of sitting on an incorrect chair. The theme of the show was an easy one and little interpretation was needed to understand what was going on, further making it a good choice for us to watch. This has helped to open our view and perceptions into asian game show culture and prove that not all games are gross, weird and strange.

At the beginning of ‘King of Chairs’ we noticed the girl wearing a sailor costume and automatically began comparing it to a previous cultural experience of encountering Japanese anime at a young age stating, “Sailor Moon – is that you?” and “I like the dress ups. One is wearing rafting gear and the other is Sailor Moon”. However, when further researching into this contestants of the game all appear in uniform. The men are required to wear a school-like uniform or blazer and the women are required to wear sailor-like attire of a blazer, with a helmet. When we look at this from the perspective of Australian culture, we are able to recognise that many game shows do not have a dress code and contestant tend to dress more for comfort.

The main thing that really stood out to us through this collaborative autoethnographic investigation was the large part language plays in one’s comprehension of what is going on in one’s environment. Without dubs or subs, it was really tricky to get the gist of exactly what was going on. It took the entire 45 minute episode for the group to really get a grasp on what exactly it was we were watching, which was really interesting. I We also thought that the use of dubs and subs could further change the way we interpret the show, in a negative way. These translations are never quite perfect, so having this added into the show, would have changed our experience immensely.

For example after watching the show, we took to Reddit and found out what people were saying around the King of Chair. We found out that the participants in the show were actually celebrities in Japan, comedians in , models, actorJapans etc.. So because we missed all of what the participants were actually saying I am sure we all missed a large portion of the humour behind the show. The trap chairs were funny for us to watch visually, however we really missed out on a significant element to the show due to not knowing Japanese.

Another general comment in regards to the autoethnographic process, is that I noticed how critical we  was were when we are looking at something with fresh eyes. Perhaps the autoethnographic process just makes you notice something that is always happening naturally, but we did  I am automatically comparing it to something else, like an experience I have already had within the context of my culture.  Perhaps that was the autoethnographic process shining through??

I was having a good experience on a gameshow called “The King of Chair”. Other group mates were having different experiences because of subs or dubs. The video does not have any English subs which is challenging for them, and also provides a different environment within a language barrier. I personally study Japanese now so I partly understand the structure and the flow of the game, which I have a different experience from the gameshow.

To me, the rules of the game is quite tricky and different from the original game. Those contestants, who are mixed with comedians, idols, actors/actresses, and even athletes, are chasing for what they called “real chair” to win the game out of 1000 chairs. It just blown my mind that how creative Japanese people are and how they make the show become intense and exciting by using different items or shenanigans to trick players, and using pop-out Japanese wording to show the excitement or anger when players do not find the real chair.

Somehow, I found some of the players were overreacting. I don’t know if they did that purposely or for humour, when they fell down from a fake chair, they just kept yelled “Itai,itai, itai”, which means it hurts. The facial expression of different players are different. Seems like comedians were trying to be “Funny”, even they know the chair is shenanigan, they just sit down and get tricked. The characters of Japanese people are quite obvious, such idols need to be like an “idol”, pretty, lovely image, while actor and actress try to gain more fame by being brave in the show. The industry of tv show in Japan seems to be “Funny or Brave to win”.

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Japan: Can You Or Can You Not? Revisited

The experiences of social conventions vary immensely across the globe. From Andrei Mamor: Social Conventions, conventional rules have an arbitrary nature. This means that we should be able to determine an alternative rule to achieve the same purpose, and if the conventional rules are not followed within the community they lose their specific purpose. But why do people follow conventional rules? It is tied to the fact that others follow it too, and therefore it becomes a recognisable expression that indicates a specific purpose. For example, in Australia consider the convention of saying “hello” when we answer the phone, the same response reflects the manifest feature as an expression that enables the caller to recognise that someone has answered.

What I didn’t realise, is just how different these are translated across cultures, this was seen in my first YouTube encounter in ‘Japan: Can You Not?’ where I began to question the many facets of Japanese life. By revisiting the social conventions examined in the post it is clear, as stated on Inside Japanese Tours, “there are many social conventions in Japan that westerners might find it hard to understand, but that is the nature of different cultures and is part of the fun of being in a country like Japan.”

As has been alluded to for much of this ethnographic study, Japanese social conventions have affirmed to be extremely complicated for someone who has not grown up in the culture, or is a foreign visitor. As stated on Inside Japanese Tours how, “Japanese people grow up picking up the subtleties of the unique culture as they progress through life, respecting both the invisible and varied societal rules.” It comes to one question, how can a communities social conventions be developed to a point whereby other communities and visitors are able to recognise them?

For the purpose of this study, this discussion will examine the Japanese social climate comparing it to that of Australia where possible. With the general lack of conclusive and comparative data, all statements made are based on my ethnographic scope.

In 2013 it was recorded that the population of Japan was 127.3 million, being strikingly homogenous, with ethnic Japanese accounting for around 98.5%. Parts of the country are known for having distinctive, colourful local dialects, however the whole country essentially speaks the same language. Traditional Japanese society and culture stress the values of harmony, consensus decision-making and social conformity.

The common Japanese saying and guideline of social behaviour comes from the saying

“the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” (Global Sherpa).

On the other hand in 2013 Australia’s population was recorded at 23.13 million with white Australians consisting of 92% of the population, and therefore are associated with high linguistic affiliation and having a dominant language of English with little multi-lingualism. Australian’s are often perceived as casual, easy going and familiar with the ideology of egalitarianism. (Sources: Every Culture, Convict Creations).

When examining this, the social differences between the two nations become apparent. With these figures, it translates that there are major cultural and language barriers that exist across cultures making translation of social conventions difficult.

By examining etiquette in Japan: Can You Not?’, I discovered many social conventions that westernized countries would more than likely be unfamiliar with. Firstly, I stated “Don’t get emotional: But I’m just generally an emotional person”, but reflecting on it maybe this is due to my upbringing around high emotions with everyone around my outwardly expressing negativity – did it become apart of my nature and habits? Bridges To Japan recognises the Japanese culture to consider open expression of emotion, especially negative ones, to be immature and indicative of lack of self-control.

Secondly, I stated my immediate thoughts in response to the YouTube video on restaurant etiquette, questioning why they can’t customize food orders, but when further researching I discovered the extend of restaurant etiquette in Japan. This came from Convict Conventions where stated that Japanese etiquette is reasonably relaxed aside from refraining from actions that have death associations. These include sticking chopstick up right in rice (this is how rice may be presented to deceased ancestors in the obon festival) or even passing food using chopsticks. In Australia however, etiquette varies according to the nature of the restaurant, but generally taboo to use hands on anything except chips and bread.

Another element of the YouTube video that stood out for me was the use of phones in public places in Japan in specific buses and trains. I questioned this after noticing just how many people in Australia rely on their phones on public transport, however after researching I found that in Japan talking on the phone while riding on a bus or train is frowned upon, and Go Japan Go states that “messages asking passengers not to make calls and to switch their phones to silent mode (“manner mode” in Japanese) are played frequently.” Quora explains the two reasons to this, one being that Japanese people use their time spent on the train to “rest and recharge”, and secondly that Japanese people are mortally afraid of causing trouble to others, so everything they do is done with careful consideration of its possible impact on people around them. Quora depicts the Western world consisting of people who generally feel less inhibition to outwardly express themselves resulting in less proactive empathy than self-interest, and therefore phones are more tolerated.

With Japan proving to having a unique cultural with a very strict code of etiquette, as stated in the Smart Traveller guide by the Australian Government it is important when travelling to be aware of any local differences, and as appropriate, take similar precautions to those you would take in Australia. Being in an unfamiliar location without your typical support mechanisms always create additional challenges.

To conclude, the nature of social climates and their values can be easily misinterpreted cross-culturally, with social etiquette playing a large role within society. The sheer amount of individuals and their cultural differences, upbringing and values constitute, and give each community their own form and adaption of social and cultural etiquette. For travellers or individuals raised outside the culture this can create extreme difficulties when interacting and participating in Japanese culture.

Japan Can You Not?

For my individual research project I have set out for an ethnographic study of social conventions in Japan. I decided to redefine my project through the perspective of an Australian audience trying to understand these conventions via YouTube videos. This comes as Ellis outlines autoethnography “is an approach to research and writing that seeks to systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”, including manners, customs and the ‘Japanese way’.

Social conventions are very much about following arbitrary rules and norms that govern countless behaviours that we all engage with on an everyday basis, without even necessarily thinking about them, take driving on the left side of the road as an example. However, to someone who is not familiar, or has not grown up within the culture e.g. a foreign visitor, this can seem extremely complicated.

I classify myself as an individual that has grown up and engaged everyday with Australian social conventions. However, I have not travelled to Japan, I have been to Singapore and had a vast amount of friends and family visit the country where they have discussed the challenges they faced. Take in Australia, when you’re at a Japanese restaurant for example, they call out to you as they leave and you insist on saying “thank you” back, in Japan this is apparently considered rude as they intend to have the last say. By looking into this I am able to determine aspects of my individual identity, but how can I get to a point in my life where I understand Japanese social conventions instead of Australian?

By reflecting on my past experiences I intend to engage with the statement “about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or possessing a particular cultural identity” (Ellis). When studying Japanese social conventions using autoethnography I must remember it is important to remain objective to ensure personal feelings, assumptions and presumptions are disengaged in order to effectively learn the ‘Japanese way’.

In addition to this, I will examine YouTube videos discussing experiences with Japanese social conventions from inside and outside of their culture. I have decided to document my week ethnographic experience of these videos with the intended outcome consisting of detailed and inclusive analysis, forming a research report.

This weeks study has focused on my initial experience of Japanese social conventions from the YouTube video ‘What NOT to do in Japan’:

Here is a list of the thoughts and questions that filled my mind when watching the ‘What NOT to do in Japan’:

Don’t use your cell phone on buses or trains:

  • So what do they do then?
  • How do they avoid interacting with people around them?
  • Wow, I really do rely on my phone
  • Manner mode? Does everyone just sit there in silence or..?
  • Don’t be loud – if only this was actually enforced on Sydney trains, trying to get silence in the ‘silent’ carriage is hard enough
  • Don’t eat or drink – well I thought that was the case in Sydney too, until that one person gets on your carriage and devours their smelly food

Don’t get emotional:

  • But I’m just generally an emotional person
  • It’s making me angry that I’m not allowed to be angry – can’t tell me what to do
  • Don’t complain? But complaining is a part of my second nature
  • I never realized how much Westerners really do direct their anger at one another – guilty, time to conform to the self-blame game
  • I wonder how often my friends are uncomfortable because I’m in a bad mood – haha sorry friends

Don’t take pictures of strangers:

  • Imagine trying not to get someone in your photo in Sydney
  • Actually, I wonder how many strangers photo’s I’m in the background of – at least I hope I look good in them and I’m not stuffing my face with food or something
  • Blurring people out? Imagine sitting at the Kodak photo machines blurring 60 people out of your photo, may as well just blur yourself out too
  • Maybe they ask people to move out of their photos? Haha surely not

Restaurants:

  • Wait did I hear that right, you can’t customize food orders? I don’t think I’d ever survive in Japan – I’m probably the fussiest person you’ll ever meet
  • Oh ouch, I’m ‘childish’ because I pick tomato off my wraps on the daily – I mean lets be honest who likes there food going soggy and tasting entirely like nope

Other:

  • Well women can’t show off their cleavage – so there goes half the Australian population – or maybe just the area I live in anyway moving on
  • I agree that excessive cleavage gives woman a bad image
  • Don’t carry pocketknives – that’s probably the last thing I’d think to ensure I had if I was to go travelling
  • ‘Try not to be too noticeable’ – but you’re basically one of the only Caucasian looking people here

Thinking about this now, it must be said that most of my knowledge of social conventions has been formed through my own experiences, and knowledge passed on from parents and educational institutions. This drive, to teach myself other cultures conventions comes from the lack of knowledge, and the fear of travelling without actually knowing. Take being told from a young age to say “thank you” when you receive anything including service, at the time I would have been young enough to have not understood why, but now working in a retail environment it is evident how rude not saying “thank you” can be considered in circumstances, and I think this has considerably contributed to and played a vital role in the development of my social and cultural identity.

Re-examining Gojira (1954)

Re-examining my first post for DICG330 ‘Autoethnography and Gojira (1954)’, I have developed deeper concepts and knowledge surrounding this subject, including autoethnographic research. To recap:

“autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis 2011).

In my first post, I expressed my thoughts and experience of the film, Gojira (1954), which is “viewed as a thinly veiled critique of the incendiary and atomic bombings of Japan during World War II.” One of the main assumptions that I researched in relation to Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film was the metaphorical concept of nuclear warfare. Buchman (2015) states that, “the film might be a monster movie at first look, but beneath the surface the film is a profound political statement against the use of nuclear weapons in warfare.” This comes as World War II had ended recently before the release of Gojira, and therefore scenes such as Godzilla’s rampage are symbolic representations of the atomic bombings as Godzilla portrays all the characteristics of a nuclear weapon. This can be depicted at the start of the movie as the prehistoric dinosaur Godzilla arises from the depths of the ocean after being awaken by underwater hydrogen bomb testing, and the use of kaiju as a symbol for the nuclear holocaust suffered by Japan. The film producer Tomoyuki Tanaka stated that “mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind.”

Secondly, when researching the use of miniature sets that were used to creatively film highly detailed objects (that I couldn’t believe they ended up been mostly destroyed), I learnt that within Gojira the combination of miniature sets and costumed actors, gave birth to a whole new genre known as tokusatsu (“special filming”). Ryūsuke (2014) discusses how the distinctive style that was pioneered by Tsuburaya Eiji went on to become highly influential in Japan and overseas, leading to many memorable creations including the TV show Ultraman. Meanwhile, the storyline of destruction in Gojira is similar to many modern-day monster films, it is rare to see them filmed using the technique of miniatures and other objects that bring fantasy world to life, as they decline due to increase of computer graphics.

Another element of the film that stood out to me from my cultural experience was the portrayal of emotion appearing very dramatic and displays of affection not only being alluded to, but unlike anything you’d expect to see in modern film. James Orr (2001) states that, ‘in postwar Japanese discourse on peace, mothers and wives were portrayed as the virtuous women whose plight symbolized the nation’s nuclear victimhood” illustrating how through their good and admirable qualities their emotional commitment to families wellbeing’s stood before their lucid commitment to the welfare of the community.

Following my research I now understand the influence that world events can have on the film industry, and in particular the influence of World War II on Gojira. It has become clear to me that each individuals personal past and culture produces the way we encounter different experiences of the same film. It is evident that Gojira plays an important part in Japanese history conveying nostalgia, special effects and emotion.

References:
The Victim As Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan – James Joseph Orr.
A Brief History of Godzilla, Our Walking Nuclear Nightmare- Brian Merchant
Autoethnography: An Overview – Ellis, Adams & Bochner
Japan: The Second Golden Age – Film Reference
Classic Films – Godzilla (1954) – Michelle Buchman

Autoethnography and Gojira (1954)

Autoethnography is a qualitative research practice that forms from analytically looking at experience. It is the way we study the formation of ourselves, as it requires self-reflection and writing to explore personal ideas and realizations that occur, and are made possible due to being part of a culture and/or from possessing a specific cultural identity.

As Ellis states, Autoethnography

“acknowledges and accommodates subjectivity, emotionality, and the researcher’s influence on research, rather than hiding from these matters or assuming they don’t exist.”

gojira-790x569(Gojira: The Japanese Original)

The concept of Autoethnography relates to Digital Asia as I reflect and write on the similarities and differences that occur between cultures, specifically in the industry of film. Watching the film Gojira (1954) explored a whole different side of film which was a new experience for me. I found it extremely interesting and thought provoking once I got past reading the subtitles at the commencement of the film.

Here are some thoughts I had in the duration of the what felt like three-hour film:

  • If it wasn’t for this subject I’d probably never take it upon myself to watch a foreign film, especially not action films in Japanese – is this because I’m like a typical white-girl?
  • The lack of dialogue and music made it difficult to focus although the storyline appeared fairly easy to follow, and not to mention that I’ve never sat through an entire black and white movie before
  • I was impressed by the miniature sets that were used to creatively film highly detailed objects to portray scenes of gigantic monsters in cityscapes even though they were mostly destroyed – how could you do that?!
  • The fast pacing and the ‘wipe’ scene transition is used to represent the chaotic state of mind in the country of Japan at the time
  • The framing element used in the Japanese map caught my attention – in the scene the island nation was pictured on a ninety-degrees angle. I began question if it was an accident or on purpose (was it to play with my mind like it did, or was it some sort of political message?)
  • The storyline is similar to many modern-day monster films. I began questioning if the success of this film provided the beginning of an Eastern step towards Western film through the theme of destruction
  • The portrayal of emotion is a bit dramatic – specifically in the death of the fish scene
  • Displays of affection was not only alluded to, but in this 1950 film it is so unlike what you would expect to see now – for example the scene the shows shoulder grabbing as affectionate. I don’t think this is something you would expect (or at least I wouldn’t) in modern film
  • I began getting frustrated by how little was going on, and how slow-paced it was

By taking an autoethnographic approach to this film, I think it outlined how “forms of representation deepen our capacity to empathize with people who are different from us” by reflecting on personal experience and cultural knowledge. Therefore, through the product and process of autoethnography research is treated “as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act” which I hope to further investigate across the duration of this course.

References:

Ellis C, Adams T.E., & Bochner A.P. 2011. Autoethnography: An Overview, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1., available from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095