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Culture-Tinted Glasses – Japanese Attitudes towards Foreign Exchange Students

brookiyuki

In my first blog post concerning my upcoming study in Japan, I investigated two possible host universities.  Both are similar in that they offered courses in English, are private institutions in Tokyo, and are both UOW partner universities.  Without any prior knowledge or any past students’ reports to assist me, I utilised the web to decide between the two and ultimately make a decision that I will be living with for the next year.

I had anticipated that it would be an easy task, given Japan’s affinity for technology and their perceived fondness for foreigners; however, I found that their websites were difficult to navigate and hard to understand.  It’s off-putting for a hopeful exchange student to encounter such barriers, but my experience has led me to a few epiphanies as to why this may be the case.

rainbow-bridge-2086645.jpg Tokyo is home to over 20 million residents, and only 1.5% of…

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SAINT☆ONIISAN – What is going on?

In my last post, I narrated my first time watching Hikaru Nakamura’s Saint Oniisan. From the get go, I found it hard not to express my reasoning for interacting with this text in a certain way. However, I now have the freedom to acknowledge and accommodate my subjectivity, emotional response, and my overall influence on this text through further research (Ellis et al., 2010). For this post, I will address the epiphanies I had during this experience.

My first epiphany was that not ALL anime is for my demographic. Maybe not a huge shock, but I genuinely wasn’t familiar with the style of drawing used. I wasn’t aware that there were different drawing styles for different audiences. Saint Oniisan is respectively ‘seinen’. Directed at an older male audience, seinen is characterised by more sophisticated and mature nature such as story line and realistic character proportion. During my teenage years, I spent a lot of time watching a particular type of anime… *cough* shoujo *cough*. My lack of familiarity with the seinen genre was prompted by the fact that it isn’t particularly aimed at a young female audience. Seinen shares many similarities to shoujo with an emphasis on character and plot development. However, shoujo is centralised around romantic relationships.

Looking back at my post, the whole ‘I’m atheist, but these are my opinions on religion’ seemed like a contradiction I was trying to justify. In recent studies, over 60% of people in Japan identify as atheist. This statistic makes me wonder what percentage of atheists make up Saint Oniisan’s overall audience. Japan is also characterised by syncretism; meaning, most people practice more than one religion, sometimes even combining them. Therefore, Christianity and Buddhism’s relationship throughout Saint Oniisan reflects Japans secular society.

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Christianity x Buddhism (Source)

Another point I found particularly interesting was the way characters interact with Christianity. Only a small percentage of Japanese people identify as Christian. However, many of its customs have become popular among the non-Christian population in modern-day Japan such as Christmas. Buddha even comments on how nobody in Japan really knows what Christmas is about.

Japanese Christmas Cake (x) Jesus’ Birthday Cake (x)

This knowledge comes with distinguishing religion from culture. In Saint Oniisans case, I believe that licensing it in some countries could be restricted, even without the language barrier. This is due to the contentiousness surrounding satirical texts based off religion. While the series plays light-heartedly on our affections towards the characters, fan culture can emphasise certain parts of the series. In this case, it is though the persistent, widespread phenomenon known as shipping.  Shipping knows no boundaries of age, demographic and gender. I am not new to the concept of ‘shipping’ or placing the label of ‘One True Pair’ (OTP) onto my favourite personas. With such lovable characters, fandoms sometimes have the tendency to overlook certain cultural sensitivities so I can understand why this was particularly heated. Even manga sites could help but highlight that these two were ‘like an old married couple’ or place them in hypothetical romantic relationships.

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Saint Oniisan Fan Art (Source)

Fan culture can be wonderful because much like auto-ethnographers, they draw from their own experiences to understand different texts. I found this reflection by a fan on Saint Oniisans’ manga.

‘Two who have seen every possible form of human happiness and unhappiness in the world and have now gone beyond it, and now seeking vacation in this world… just there feeling what it means to be happy by living an ordinary human life’ – Cited in Prohl and Nelson (2012)

Within my narrated response, one of my major epiphanies was the materialism perpetuated in the modern world. Specifically, around religious pursuits. This quote provides a different perspective, which is surely due to their own experiences. They emphasise that the interactions of the characters are not so much not superficial but genuine to modern culture. This comment also touches on my opinions on the slice of life genre. Which I liked to blame for my sleepiness during my narration. This genre focuses on how the character is shaped by the world.

During this process of research, I couldn’t help but read other blogs and their narrative experience with the anime. I found it particularly interesting understanding the different perspectives or points they highlighted. Whether it be the cinematography traditions or specific tropes  which are explored. Auto-ethnography has allowed me to reflect on my own experiences in the context of others.

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Train to Busan

In the last post, I talked about THE HOST and I stated that I would follow up with my experiences watching Train to Busan. Firstly I’d just like to say that I am a fan of the macabre sense of humor that both of these films share. When a recently deceased deer cracks back to life after being run over I know I’m in for a good time.

This film feels like one part mission impossible and another part Evil Dead and it is easy to see the influence of western cinema on this film but it somehow manages to stay fresh and engaging. The zombie genre is often trite and perhaps it is just refreshing to see something original but I think there is more to it than just a new idea. Zombie films at their core evoke the fears of the societies that they are made in. I found this great video essay about zombie films that I thought I’d share.

This is now one of my favorite zombie films and  I would be curious to see how the Genre is tackled in other cultures given that it has historically been Americanized. Perhaps it was just seeing the survivors story from a Korean perspective but the film was captivating from start to finish, a big part of my engagement with this film is how invested you become in the story of the main characters, this was the case watching the Host but I feel like it is more relevant here. The special effects are fantastic but you never feel as if the story is being compromised for spectacle.  The Family unit appears to play a major part in Korean Horror films thus far and I would be interested to see how these values exist in Korean culture. my experience of western horror films specifically in the zombie sub-genre often features strangers who are often at odds with one another working together to survive. The film takes a lot of moments to breathe and lets the characters develop and my enjoyment of this film derived from the human element.

 

I appreciate that the film added new dimensions to the Zombie mythos while keeping them fresh and interesting, by having the Zombies distracted by the passing lights of the tunnel the filmmakers managed to make the formula work in a lateral direction.

I liked that baseball players were a major part of the plot and I was aware going into the film that it has gained popularity as a pastime in Korea when it comes to bludgeoning zombies to death (or at least back to death) it is best to use the weapon of your national sport (see Shaun of the dead)

 

 

I was caught off guard by the use of martial arts in this film the characters all seem like quite proficient fighters during several of the scenes and I wonder if this is a trope that is enjoyed by Asian audiences or if I am just generalizing. my experiences of western zombie films often involve the main characters haphazardly fighting off the horde so it was kind of interesting that Train to Busan made all of its characters such ass-kickers despite their backgrounds.

Some concluding thoughts.

This film is incredibly well made and I’m interested to consume more Korean cinema specifically action and Horror. I’d like to research how it was recieved regionally in other parts of Asia as well as internationally to see if the film or films like it have the chance to become box-office heavyweights in the western market because for my two-cents it’s one of the best zombie films I’ve seen in a long time and I hope more like it are made.

 

 

Deal or Noo-dle?

i am conor oleary

While this is something that is supposed to be about a new Asian experience, I have to admit that instant noodles are an old and familiar friend.  I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in the area by any stretch, but I have consumed a good few bowls in my day.  If the last post was supposed to be purely experience based – documenting epiphanies with the cultural product, than this post will hopefully provide some context.

In last week’s blog I wrote about my encounter with ‘Shin Ramyun’, the kind of gold standard for instant noodles in the Korean/ Japanese style (and the best for breakfast according to this post).  They were great!  Everything you would want in a quick and easy snack; affordability, accessibility, little preparation, and of course they are bloody tasty.

To better understand the phenomenon that is these little bricks of fried noodles it is…

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‘Duterte Harry’: An Analysis of Epiphanies

Upon embarkation of analysing the propaganda of the Duterte administration in my previous autoethnographical post, I have been immediately taken back to many conversations and realisations of how his election campaign and presidency have affected me personally within my own social and cultural framework.

Ellis et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview’ describes autoethnography as ‘an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)’. Thus, in order to assist insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) in understanding the political culture of the Philippines, I must analyse my own experiences (epiphanies) and consider the way others may experience similar epiphanies.

One of my most impactful moments trying to understand the excitement around President Duterte was on a deserted island in the Philippines at 3am after an 18th birthday debut. We had just swum to shore from accidentally hijacking a sailboat, and may or may not have had a little mix of tequila, Tanduay, and San Miguel beer (sorry mum). With this liquid courage, I was able to instigate a political discourse with young Filipinos that I would not normally feel comfortable talking about due to potential differences in ideology stemming from geographical upbringing and education. From what I had already witnessed in glimpses in international media, I pondered how a person in such a position of power could speak so casually with profanities, unapologetic rape jokes, and profess themself as a mass murderer, whilst still maintaining such strong public support. Surprisingly, some of these students agreed with my distaste of the President’s language, indicating that they preferred the representative of their country in the global sphere to possess eloquence and higher respect. The majority, however, saw him as the embodiment of the unfiltered, anti-corruption ideals that many of the marginalised did not have the voice to express themselves.

‘He backed the extra-judicial killings of drug dealers, alleged that journalists were killed because they were corrupt and called Philippines bishops critical of him “sons of whores”, among other crude comments’ (Desker, 2016).

Historically, with the country’s struggles of presidential corruption (Ferdinand Marcos, Ninoy Aquino, Jejomar Binay, etc.), celebrity (Joseph Estrada and Manny Pacquiao) and nepotism (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), it can be argued that Duterte’s attitude of populism (that is, the support for the concerns of the ordinary people) secured him as a front-running candidate in the election.

Sociologist, Nicole Curato, and editor of ‘A Duterte Reader: Critical Essays on Rodrigo Duterte’s Early Presidency’ describes this portrayal as ‘Dutertismo’ – ‘a brand of leadership that [scholars agree] has elements that the country has never seen before’. Howie Severino discusses this further by appreciating Duterte’s role as an ‘underdog outsider’, and I think this perfectly reflects the thoughts of the young Filipinos I spoke with around the beach bonfire. For them and the majority of the country (as indicated by the 2016 election being the highest electoral turnout in decades at 81.62% and Duterte’s overwhelmingly high Trust rate of 91%), the President represents an appeal to the people, to the provinces, and to the anti-elite. Duterte speaks like the people in a ‘gutter language [that] lends credibility to the urgency of saving the republic. By rendering the visceral rejection of the status quo visible, he gives voice to the people’s frustration’ (Curato, 2016). Further, his determination to speak in English, his roots in the South (Visayan), and refusal to live in the Presidential Malacañang Palace heightens his position in populism, demonstrating a dismissal of the traditional, Manila-political-elite lifestyle associated with past corruption.

It cannot be denied that Duterte has changed the nature of public political discussion. I have in my research realised – why is it that this particular presidency has caused so much international debate and uproar amongst citizens and foreigners? Curato in ‘Flirting with Authoritarian Fantasies? Rodrigo Duterte and the New Terms of Philippine Populism’, attributes Duterte’s success in contemporary populism to ‘an age of communicative abundance’ with ‘a reality that politics today is predominantly conducted in televised and digital media’ and in a time when 94% of Filipinos have access to these platforms.

In turn, this rise of dialogic outlets has made it so ‘the issue is no longer the lack of information but the deficit of attention among audiences saturated with various messages’ (Curato, 2016). Thus, for Duterte, the media has become his stage, and his theatrical performance has been dubbed the #DuterteSerye. Due to this communicative abundance, I have found through my personal interactions, that there is an obvious tension in his supporters between justifying his policies as necessary measures to ensure strong domestic stability, and straight-up denying the existence of these policies. These students on the beach, normal citizens, were becoming increasingly heated in the conversation of Duterte’s presidency arguing that outsider news outlets were “twisting words” and “did not understand the country we live in”. And honestly, sometimes this discussion scares me. I have read examples of online thuggery where people have received death threats for expressing their concerns with Duterte’s administration. This discourse has driven normal, everyday people to make comments defending rape jokes saying, ‘better a bad joke than a bad government’, or ignoring the statistics of record-high murder rates in favour of believing claims of safer streets.

This discussion of President Duterte’s political propaganda and context has always been a heavy topic, with scholars only now really emerging to publish strong expressions of discontent and critique. And as much as I would love to continue this post’s analysis of Duterte’s power, I will save myself for my next post.

References

Severino, H (2017), ‘Scholars weigh in on a disruptive presidency’, GMA News Online Available at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/opinion/content/625558/scholars-weigh-in-on-a-disruptive-presidency/story/

Curato. N (2016) ‘‘Flirting with Authoritarian Fantasies? Rodrigo Duterte and the New Terms of Philippine Populism’, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Volume 47, Issue 1). Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00472336.2016.1239751?scroll=top&needAccess=true

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Desker, B. (2016). President Duterte: A Different Philippine Leader. (RSIS Commentaries, No. 145). RSIS Commentaries. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. Available at: https://dr.ntu.edu.sg/bitstream/handle/10220/40765/CO16145.pdf?sequence=1

Heydarian, R. J. (2016). What Duterte Portends for Philippine Foreign Policy. (RSIS Commentaries, No. 123). RSIS Commentaries. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. Available at: https://dr.ntu.edu.sg/bitstream/handle/10220/40774/CO16123b.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

 

 

The Host with the most; my experience with Korean Horror

Scrolling through my Netflix & Stan catalogues deciding what I could watch for my digital Asia project I waded through the very extensive selection of Asian cinema made available on both services, and while I am interested in watching some of the other films on the list two films caught my attention interestingly both were produced in South Korea. The first film I came across was the zombie action film Train to Basan, a film that has generated a lot of buzz on the international film circuit and the latter being the monster film  THE HOST I made the decision to watch The Host upon a recommendation from a friend but I will probably follow up with Train to Basan at some point.

In trying to undertake an ethnographic approach to this film I had to establish how my own personal context influences my experience of the film and I instantly found myself drawing parallels to western monster movies that I have seen. tonally I found the film similar to the Piranha films in the sense that they were quite liberal with the funny death sequences and over the top gore. the film plays more as a Horror comedy in some parts and balances this with genuine moments of dread the scene with Park Gang-du watching as Park Gang-du is snatched away by the creature was genuinely distressing. I found the role of the American military in the film quite interesting, given that it is the reckless actions of one of their pathologist that resulted in the creation of the creature the fact they take control of the situation in a foolhardy attempt to stop the monster I can’t help but think that the film is taking a subtle critique of US military intervention.

The film plays with tropes seen in western monster movies but at times subverted my expectation in really interesting ways, one such moment is when the quarantine officer asks if anybody came in contact with the creature, Park Gang-Du oblivious to the ramifications happily raises his hand. Moments like this made the film really captivating for me everything from the cinematography to the music had a weird over the top off kilter quality to it that I really enjoyed.

I’ll take a moment to talk about the CGI in this film from my understanding it was produced in the united states and it is pretty average, the monster is very obviously not real and yet the film manages to suspend my disbelief. The film really amps up for me when it is discovered that the creature is the ‘host of a virus’ I thought that this was a really inventive way to make the creature legitimately threatening and also added stakes to the film given that Park Gang-Du himself is now at risk. I thought the film really utilized its human characters to progress the story opposed to relying on the spectacle of the monster

I found the role of the American military in the film quite interesting, given that it is the reckless actions of one of their pathologist that resulted in the creation of the creature the fact they take control of the situation in a foolhardy attempt to stop the monster I can’t help but think that the film is taking a subtle critique of US military intervention. I found it really interesting that the film cuts between English and Korean periodically whenever a military character is on screen. I almost found it distracting to hear English spoken when most of the cast is speaking Korean.

The film works for me on a number of levels, the performance put on by the cast makes the film really enjoyable, I went into this film expecting and over the top gore fest but found myself pleasantly surprised at how much the story of the central characters kept me captivated. Inventive use of set design and costuming makes the film come alive and it is easy to see why this film did so well internationally. as this is my first foray into Korean cinema I am very interested to see what else the country has to offer cinematically and will keep you updated on my thoughts on Train to Basan.

 

 

 

 

Responding to 爱: What if Fictional Love isn’t Universal?

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“…romance movies is a genre that is always easy to watch”
-me, two weeks ago

In retrospect, this quote was a glaringly, poor oversight. Not only was I forgetting about the plethora of terrible, Western romance films (ever seen that one with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock who sent letters to each other in the past/future via a magical letterbox at a lake-house? I erased it from my memory for a reason and you should too), but I also forgot that poor writing and poor film making would be a universal concept. And that trying to watch a movie from another country, that you have no personal connection to, is probably not the best way to watch a new romance movie.

“Easy” was certainly true for the most part of “The Stolen Years”, but enjoyable….used only marginally. My anecdotes of the trip that was my first Chinese Romance Film can be found here, and no I wouldn’t recommend watching this film either. That isn’t too say it was bad, in fact i’d say it was quite similar to any trashy romance you’d pull out of Netflix, with only a few errors in its entirety (it was way too god damn long).

So, why did I not enjoy it? I had thought that if it was a romance, and had the essential story of two people falling in love, whatever else around it wouldn’t deter it from its essential element. Maybe understanding and enjoying fictional love is not a universal concept to me.

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Epiphanies in My Bollywood Experience

In my previous post, I got incredibly excited discussing my plans to begin exploring the world of Bollywood! I discussed which films I planned to view and further note my understandings and experience as well as those from family and friends. In this blog, I will discuss my epiphanies, as discussed in ‘Ellis et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview’ as well as various other features of the Autoethnographic experience that can be found within my initial experience with Bollywood as well as looking into how my cultural framework has affected this experience. (more…)

Reflecting on my anime experience

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In my last post, I wrote about my initial experience with the 1995 Anime ‘Ghost in the Shell’. This autoethnographic experience has shaped the way I think about and understand the process of autoethnography.

In my initial account, I briefly talked about how my personal understanding of this different cultural item i.e. anime, had affected the way I would perceive the text. I held a pre-conceived idea that anime was a childish and somewhat silly medium, and that it could not tell a powerful and gripping story in the same way that ordinary film can. It was important for me to make this bias clear.  My personal ideas are part of the research, as “Autoethnographers recognize the innumerable ways personal experience influences the research process.” (Ellis et al. 2011)

Watching Ghost in the Shell was always going to be different for me than it would for anyone else, especially if…

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Chinese TV show and my own autoethnographic view.

blog post 7.4

http://subsbychrissy.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/happy-camp-list.html

In my previous blog, I have written about Chinese TV show: Happy Camp and my first impressions about the show. Today I am going to step aside and analyse my own experience while watching the show.

Firstly, the most highlighting part in the show is the masculinity – feminist. As I have discussed in the previous part, whenever they play games and need to divide teams, there are hardly a situation that one team has more female members than others. Moreover, while playing games using strength, the male guests often offer to use one hand if possible. It shows the value of gentle towards female but in other hand, it is discrimination to think they can’t do it as they are female. It even becomes more highlighted when a female is stronger or tougher than they are supposed to be and be called ‘Nǚ hànzi’ (女汉子) which means a very tough girl. In one of the researches I found online, hànzi indicates a strong and masculine man, so when a girl is called Nǚ hànzi, it shows that they are a very independent, decisive and strong girl (Dung Ca Xinh 2014). It has a really good meaning but besides that, I found a very strong discrimination as when you use this word, you are assuming that only guys can be tough, independent and strong.

Secondly, every MC remains their roles/ positions while playing games. As I have mentioned in my previous blog, each MCs has their own characters and supposedly remains the same character under all types of situations. For example, Du Haitao, one of the male MCs, always represents of a young, simple- minded man and black hole of a game. But, as I have watched the show for more than 4 years, unlike the ‘simple’ appearance, Haitao is actually a pretty smart, funny and thoughtful guy. He is now considered one of the most popular host in HNTV, the owner of a good restaurant and has casted in quite a number of movies and dramas (Wikipedia, Du Haitao).

Photo for blog 7

https://cdramadevotee.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/happy-camp-review/

Thirdly, the show is mainly to promote the new upcoming movie or drama in Hunan Broadcasting TV. But, they always invite the most popular actors/ actresses of the time to boost up the viewer rate. Here are names of a few.Photo for blog 7.1

Song Joong-ki (South Korean actor: 4th from the left) https://www.google.com.au/search?rlz=1C1PRFI_enAU709AU709&biw=1745&bih=864&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=song+joong+ki+happy+camp&oq=happy+camp+song+joo&gs_l=psy-ab.3.0.0i8i30k1j0i24k1.4810.6109.0.8290.9.9.0.0.0.0.365.1461.0j3j1j2.6.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..3.6.1461…0j0i67k1.tJPovtx_QXs#imgrc=-rFLcNJ7NKBWGM:

Photo for blog 7.2

From left to right: Weijia (MC), Nicky Wu (Mainland Chinese legend), William Chan (Chinese dancer, singer, actor), Zhao Li ying (one of 4 new beauties of China), Xie Na (MC)

https://www.google.com.au/search?rlz=1C1PRFI_enAU709AU709&biw=1745&bih=864&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=happy+camp+zhao+liying&oq=happy+camp+zhao+liying&gs_l=psy-ab.3…27124.30952.0.31101.18.16.1.0.0.0.469.2309.0j8j2j0j1.11.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..6.10.1950…0j0i24k1j0i67k1j0i8i30k1.QyqNUl0hBGo#imgrc=Ms5ELjoW2niXjM:

Last but not least, as the show has continued for up to 20 years now, the special friendship has been formed between the MCs. And I get the most impression with the friendship between Hejiong and Xiena. They are a very close friend to each other for such a long time. As Hejiong said in one of the show he hosted, he always tries to be a friend who supports Xiena in her ways of growing and glooming. Their friendship has been questioned until 2011 when Xiena announced that she was going to marry her 4- year boyfriend- Jason Zhang. In one of the episode of Happy Camp show, both MCs played a game together to show how much understanding they have towards each other. The answers are once again melt everyone’s heart. One of the questions was what the reason for the first time Hejiong cried in front of Xiena is. And the answer was because she fell and hurt her face. Here is the link of the show but it is completely in Mandarin as there is no English- subtitle version. The example is found in this video (the first 1 and a half minute).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SPy9wrcPDI&t=48s

In conclusion, I have analysed my own perspective towards the show ‘Happy Camp’. This blog post is pretty interesting for me as it gives me a chance to deeply think of the reasons why I enjoy the show as well as what my own values, cultures and beliefs are. It is like a first step before I start my group project. Hope that you guys find this enjoyable as much as my interest while writing it.

References

Dung Ca Xinh 2014, ‘Slow Chinese: 女汉子 (Nǚ hànzi), viewed 15 September 2017, <http://kienthuctiengtrung.info/2014/08/19/slow-chinese-87-nu-hanzi-nu-han-tu/>

Wikipedia, ‘Du Haitao’, viewed 15 September 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Du_Haitao>