Weekly Post

Weekly blog posts

Group Project: Rocking It Asia

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Members: Sonny Nguyen and Kayla Forsyth

Blog: www.rockingitasia.wordpress.com

Storify: https://storify.com/dailysonny/rocking-it-asia

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Alternative Ulaanbaatar

As suggested by Ellis et al (2011) this blog post is written to analyse my personal experience to understand Mongolian hip hop. I have had my initial experience of listening and watching a couple of music videos on Youtube, but has this really given me a full understanding? No. Not at all.

To really understand in an ethnographic sense the cultural significance hip hop has in Mongolia I really have to do some research into certain parts of the practice. In this blog post I will be exploring hip hop as a cultural practice, the significance of music culture in Mongolia, traditional throat singing and where that fits in and how this all ties into the cultural act of hip hop in Mongolia. By the end of this hopefully I will have more of an understanding and reflect on the possible transformative epiphanies I hope to have with this experience. Everyone else is having them, I want in on that!

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What is Hip Hop?

So to begin this exploration into Mongolian hiphop one must know what the hip hop ideology is in itself and how the Mongolian society embraced it for themselves.  Hip hop has been a cultural phenomenon in countries around the world specifically in African American culture. The roots of hip hop have been in African oral traditions, passed down through slavery and then through a way of social commentary (Blanchard, 1999). The appeal that hip hop had on a society that had been in the grips of a soviet backed government called the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) was massive.
The MPRP had attempted to isolate Mongolia from the outside reaches of the west but alas, the curiosity of youth will prevail. Illegally circulated music and items piqued the youth of Mongolia’s interest and as MPRP realised, they did not have the power to stop it all together. They invested in their own brand of popular music and created bands to create their nationalistic music (Marsh, 2010). This only lasted as long as it took for technological and communications to evolve and for popular culture from the ‘West’ to seep in through media as well as influences from a struggling economic and political climate to create a window of opportunity for the young Mongolian population to move on.  Mongolian artists turned hip hop into way of exploring and announcing their societal and cultural problems and issues (Marsh, 2010). This is the essence of hip hop and Mongolian hp hop is no different, it just has a different sound and face. 

Music in Mongolia and Traditional Throat Singing

The Mongolians have been known as “a people of music and poetry.” Their singing, sonorous, bold, passionate and unconstrained, is the true reflection of the temperament of the Mongolian people. (China.org.cn, n.d.)

Mongolia has a rich and deep musical history. When one thinks of Mongolia one might think of the image of a nomad perched on the top of a mountain that is sprinkled with snow, surrounded by… goats? Singing but not in the way you and I might sing. A throaty, raw and echoing call. It’s not the first thing that may come to your mind when you think of modern Mongolian music but there are those who are blending this ancient act into the new music culture.


In my ethnographic research the first and foremost group that stood out to me was Fish Symboled Stamp. They are a Mongolian hip hop group that incorporate their traditional throat singing or “Koomei” into their songs (Campbell and Singh, 2017). The undulations of the Koomei mixed with the 4/4 time stamp of heavy hip hop makes for a seriously confronting sound. But instead of just listening to their sound I know I needed to go deeper into what a Mongolian hip hop group write about, why and how it is received in Mongolia.

Mongolian hip hop artists are writing in this modern age about the cultural themes and  values that they are observing through their lives where they live. Hip hop for young Mongolian’s is a creative way to express ‘one’s self, angst and perception of life, which requires no ghetto-like background or experience” (Wallace, 2015). Here is where it gets a bit hard due to the language barrier, of how to find out what artists are writing about. As explored in Marsh’s article there have been groups that rap about women, alcohol and money and even “imitating” African American rappers, but this has not been welcomed by some in the hip hop community (Marsh, 2010). But most that have been translated by Marsh have been regarding the social and economic issues that relate to their communities and society. In history, Mongolian music is made up of songs about stories, epic tales, love and nature. Songs particularly pertaining to horses, historical events and legends (Hays, 2016). In an interview with the artists Bataar and Odsaikhan in Fish Symboled Stamp, they reveal that their lyrics are dominated by their culture including Mongolian history and legacies (Campbell and Singh, 2017).

My Epiphanies Regarding Mongolian Hip Hop 

I’ve realised throughout this research whilst listening to the music I’m engaging with, that it’s more than what’s on the surface. To understand why this music style is so popular, it’s more than just the type of music. It is the content, the lyrics, the meaning, the cultural significance of using the throat singing and the context of the artists in Mongolia. I’ve realised that I am so constricted by my own language barrier that exploring into a different culture and therefore language has barred myself from fully enjoying and ‘getting’ the music. I feel like to appreciate the music, you really need to realise and understand that there is a cultural significance to the words and feelings.

But again, I realise through this research and this language setback, is that I’m so white and ‘western’. I take for granted that the music that I surround myself around usually is english based. I get the lyrics, I can sing along without getting the words wrong, I get the language and 9 times out of 10 I get the meanings.

 

References

Blanchard, B. (1999). THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF RAP & HIP-HOP CULTURE. [online] Web.stanford.edu. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/socialsignificance.htm

Campbell, J. and Singh, K. (2017). Mongolian melody: Hip-hop duo splices traditional singing and urban beats. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mongolia-music/mongolian-melody-hip-hop-duo-splices-traditional-singing-and-urban-beats-idUSKBN1AE011

China.org.cn. (n.d.). Ethnic Groups – china.org.cn. [online] Available at: http://www.china.org.cn/e-groups/shaoshu/shao-2-mongolian.htm

Hays, J. (2016). TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN MUSIC | Facts and Details. [online] Factsanddetails.com. Available at: http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat5/sub88/entry-4593.html

Marsh, P. (2010). Our generation is opening its eyes: hip-hop and youth identity in contemporary Mongolia. Central Asian Survey, 29(3), pp.345-358.

Love Live – Why I Understand It So Well!

Hey all!

Ultimately, I’ll be changing my DA because I understand Japanese gaming too well. However, I actually really enjoyed realising just how much I understood about Japanese Idol and gaming culture- and then realising that it was making this game easier for me to understand and interpret.

Here’s my podcast:

 

And as always some helpful links:

Saint☆Oniisan – What Did I Just Watch?

When you’ve been a die-hard anime fan for a while, you come to realise that there is something for everyone. You name it, there is probably an anime about it. For my original digital artefact, I wanted to focus on the depiction of the Chinese Zodiac across mediums. However, when I stumbled upon this GIF while scrolling through Tumblr, I found myself intrigued by ‘Anime Jesus’. Why had I never seen him? Where was he from?

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Saint Oniisan (Tumblr)

After some investigation (A.K.A googling ‘Anime Jesus’), I discovered that the GIF was from a slice of life/comedy manga series called Saint Young Men (Saint Oniisan).

‘Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha, the founders of Christianity and Buddhism, are living together as roommates in a Tokyo apartment while taking a vacation on Earth. The comedy often involves jokes about Christianity, Buddhism, and all things related, as well as the main characters’ attempts to hide their identities and understand modern society in Japan.’ – MyAnimeList

Why did I decide on this anime? Well, growing up my primary education on religion was through scripture, which was spent as a bludge more than a time to practice Christianity. Religion is often something I would sweep under the rug as ‘complex’ and ‘unnecessary’. As someone who identifies as atheist, I am not tied to any form of religion. However, a common theme I have noticed in many anime, are the references of spiritual manifestations or religious entities. This theme is always something I passed as a spectacle and paid no mind in understanding it’s deeper context. For this experience, I thought to understand how Saint Oniisan touches on the influence of religious beliefs in Modern Japan.  Spending most of the anime discovering if it trivialises the relationship of the two religious worlds of Christianity and Buddhism when they collide.

Scouring the streaming sites, this series was adapted into both a 2 part OVA (Original Video Animation) and a Movie. I decided to watch the Movie, due to being easier to access on online sites such as KissAnime, Gogoanime and Crunchyroll. There were only subbed versions available and as it was later in the night and I had my fingers crossed that I could stay awake for the length of the animation.

Within the first few minutes, I could already notice that Saint Oniisan’s drawing style, especially of the characters, was quite different to what I was familiar with. Think a more proportioned, ‘realistic’ depiction. Despite their ethnic backgrounds being of foreign decent, Buddha and Jesus have predominantly Japanese features. Their ‘foreignness’ is emphasised in other ways during the animation. For example, the scene where Jesus is mistaken for ‘Johnny Depp. I found this scene particularly interesting, as in this reality, Japanese girls were more likely mistake Jesus as a celebrity rather than a religious figure.

Although this is fictional, I believe there is some truth behind the attitude of community members such as the elderly and children towards the prominent religious figures. I couldn’t help but observe their ideas on ‘happiness’, ‘enlightenment’ and ‘revitalisation’. One of the more interesting characters in the anime, was the yakuza. We are introduced to him during the sauna scene, where his Buddha tattoo grabs their attention. Characterised by his criminal behaviour, he parallels Jesus’ historical experiences with his own.

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Yakuza with Buddha Tattoo (Gogoanime)

Modern means of expressing faith are challenged throughout Saint Oniisan. Presented by events, food, places and objects scattered throughout the anime. Buddha and Jesus are continuously seen wearing different shirts which I’m assuming had relevant virtues of their religions printed on them. I wasn’t aware of this until one of the community members commented on it and I was upset that these sayings were written in kanji so I couldn’t read them.

Like its name says, slice of life commonly presents the ‘every day’ experiences of a culture. Buddha and Jesus engage with places such as theme parks and spas in the location of Tachikawa. Contextualising their experiences to a specific Japanese suburb (which I had never heard of) presented it in an almost touristic nature. Despite these new and exciting adventures for the characters on earth, the place itself was not particularly new and exciting for me. The repetitive nature of slice of life was well… boring. Nearing the end of the movie, I found myself checking my phone every so often. Even having to re-watch parts as I was distracted by thoughts of hitting pause and going to bed. The one thing that kept me watching was Jesus and Buddha’s relationship, which I couldn’t help but label a ‘bromance’. Almost feeling borderline sacrilegious, it was hard not to wonder whether or not this was avoidable.

I was surprised how much this text made me think. I’m my next post I will be having a more in-depth look at what stood out as epiphanies during this experience.

Why Korean MMOs are Hardcore (Ethnography)

During my time in the Korean servers of Closers, I learned about how different the MMO experience is when it’s designed for a Korean audience in comparison to a Western/Japanese audience. My experiences were documented here. To summarize briefly;

Closers is a Korean-developed MMO by Naddic Games and published in Korea by Nexon. Originally released in December 30th 2014 in Korea. As of 2017 there are currently only 3 other servers live right now; Japan, China, Indonesia while an international US/EU server in alpha testing.

The overall aim of this research is to utilise this personal experience to outline aspects of cultural experience, making characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders (Elis, et al, 2011)

In the time I’ve played Closers, I’ve done a lot of research regarding why things are the way they are. One of my first discoveries when signing up for a Korean Nexon account was the sheer amount of security surrounding the sign up process. Originally a KSSN (Korean Social Security Number) was required to sign up for all MMOs. However due to the large amount of companies and services requiring a KSSN, cases of identity fraud and theft became commonplace. Because of this, the system was changed from using a KSSN to using I-PIN which is a form of identification that is only available to residents of South Korea. In addition to this, Korea has something called the shutdown law in place. This law forbids anyone under the age of 16 to play online video games from 12am to 6am. With this law in place, children stole KSSNs of adults to circumvent this barrier but led to identity theft and fraud.

As for why they have such a rigorous security system that requires so much to get past is because of the Cyber defamation law . Essentially this law is in place to prevent anonymous acts of defamation. Whatever a person does online, it’s linked to their real self. This allows perpetrators to be easily tracked if doing inappropriate acts online. While there are many debates of anonymity in the western world, South Korea already has an act in place to prevent any sort of anonymity online.

In my previous post, I pointed out that online services in Korea have strong security. With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder they take such measures to protect your account. Because your identity is out in the open and you can’t hide it like in the western world.

Another thing I discovered while playing Closers was the stamina system. While it isn’t unique to Closers, quite a few Korean developed MMOs (Dungeon Fighter Online, Elsword, etc) have a stamina system. In regards to western games these systems are commonplace in mobile games but rarely implemented if at all in MMOs. This topic is often discussed in forums and the common answer as to why the system is implemented is because it combats the act of “botting”.

The use of a bot to act out tedious tasks in an MMO. This is then used to gather resources or items to sell in the market to make in-game money. The act of botting is frowned upon as it ruins the in-game economy. In regards to Korean MMOs, grinding and farming (a term to describe repetitive acts of killing enemies or leveling) is a common thing. Korean MMOs are infamous for requiring to invest numerous hours of doing repetitive tasks which lead to people using bots. The solution to this is of course, the stamina system.

Another benefit that comes from the stamina system is that it makes the game last longer. It forces the player to take it at a slower pace than they normally would. Personally after playing the Japanese version of Closers where stamina could be refilled with in-game money, reaching level 70 within 8 hours is very possible, even at a casual pace. On top of this the game feels repetitive (even more so) without it. The stamina hides that repetitive nature of the game.

Throughout my time with Closers, it’s given me a new perspective on game design. Before Closers, I was very familiar with the different principles of Japanese/Western game design. But after playing Closers I’ve learn many new things and I’ve gotten context for so many things that I questioned in Korean games.

References:

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

 

‘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

 

 

Japanese Visual Novels

After experiencing the Japanese visual novel and dating simulator game, Hatoful Boyfriend, I have found myself intrigued by the popularity of these types of video games. Before playing Hatoful Boyfriend, I had never heard of a visual novel. While it is true that most video games do hold an element of ‘visual novel’, this game in particular purposely lacked a lot of gamer control that I’m used to. This surprised me as it technically is categorised as a video game, yet your options to manipulate the game itself is very little. Now and then there would be an option to choose, for example, which High School Club you were going to join, which would essentially shift the story’s direction. This means to uncover every aspect of the novel the game would have to be played at least ten times, revealing each possible play. Personally, unless you were invested in the game’s storyline the whole thing can become a bit tedious at the start. Wondering if it was just me finding the game boring after reading several reviews online I turned to Reddit where users shared their own Hatoful Boyfriend perspective. Each user’s experience actually differed from one another depending on the route they followed. While some ended up with the expected outcome- a boyfriend- others ended up down a darker path. This path involved the protagonist’s murder and player’s having to continue the story through the eyes of one of the pigeons trying to discover the truth. Reading each player’s experience made me reinvest in the game and its surprisingly complex structure and storyline.

After so many Reddit users taking an interest in the game and sharing just how unique the storyline actually is, I found an interview with the Japanese creators, Hato Moa and Damurushi, to uncover the intent behind the pigeon dating simulator. It was actually created as an April Fool’s Joke, a parody of another Japanese dating simulator, which explains the game’s humourous tones. The creators met through an internet community and were both highly interested in creating their own JRPG (Japanese role playing game). There was less thought behind the choice of using pigeons, as it was discovered Hato Moa has quite the fascination with birds.

The overall interest of the game has made me fascinated in the popularity and history of visual novels in Asian culture, specifically Japan. My initial idea for this blog post was to research both visual novels and dating simulators in the Asian market, however, after finding out that majority of dating simulators are in fact rated X, I’ve decided it best to just focus on the visual novel element.

The history of visual novels backtracks to 33 years ago when the Japanese video game publisher, Enix came out with an interactive mystery game called Portopia Renzku Satsujin Jiken. It follows the murder of the highly prominent banker Kouzou Yamakawa. The game relied on text-based inputs and dialogue scenes essentially introducing the visual novel format – onscreen visuals and dynamic character interaction- to the Japanese industry. From this, most visual novels still remain mostly in Japan however the introduction of the platform to the western world has increased. One reason for this introduction is the fan groups that have pushed the transition of certain games into the western world. Fans contacting game creators for an official translation and localisation making it available for western countries.

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Regardless of visual novels in western society, in Japan they are still hugely popular. One reason for this is because the Japanese tend to be huge on reading. In a lot of their games text is already very much integrated. This is another aspect which I’m interested in. For my research project I hope to further examine the key characteristics that make up typical Japanese video games. At the moment my experience with them is still limited so I hope to also branch out into different genres. My starting point could be the mystery game Portopia Renzku Satsujin Jiken. I do not know yet how difficult this 33-year-old game will be to get my hands on but I have already found YouTube How to Play videos on the game. Along with this I still hope to investigate the visual novel trend in Japan further.

Reference:

https://www.gamespot.com/forums/games-discussion-1000000/visual-novels-could-they-work-in-western-market-28997195/

http://www.denofgeek.com/us/games/video-games/255200/the-rise-of-the-western-visual-novel

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2016-03-30/.100434

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

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thanks imgflip

“…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.

(more…)

Analise This!!

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In this blog post I’ll be analysing my previous post on my experience with stand-up comedy in Japan, so for those of you reading this post that haven’t read the post I did before, go read it. I chose to look at Japanese stand-up because I have a huge passion for stand up. I was curious as to what I would find in Japan, the country that has already given me so much. Anime, manga, ramen, sushi, so many amazing video games, all stuff that I love and all from Japan. Surely there stand up would be amazing as well.

In my analysis of my experience I will be looking at the epiphanies I had while I was immersing myself in Japanese stand up and the culture around it. Now the definition of epiphanies given in Ellis et al’s reading on Autoethnography ,

“remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 1992; COUSER, 1997; DENZIN, 1989), times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyse lived experience (ZANER, 2004), and events after which life does not seem quite the same.”

May be a bit strong considering I’m talking about watching Japanese stand up on Youtube, but the premise still rings true. I’m looking at the moments that I remember that changed what I thought about stand up in Japan.

The first epiphany I had, and I’m not sure if I even wrote about it in my first blog, is that there didn’t seem to be a lot of comedians, at least not on stage performing a stand-up routine I’m used to. I’ve learnt that the reason I couldn’t find more comedians isn’t because people just aren’t putting the videos on Youtube, or I just wasn’t looking well enough. It’s because in Japan the way for a comedian to make it big isn’t to go into stand up in the way that I’m familiar with, but to go into television. For the prime time shows in Japan it’s a necessity to have comedians on the show, either as a contestant competing in one of the many weird competitions to come out of Japanese television, or as a host. Some people claiming around 80% of the tv personalities in Japan are comedians, so with such high numbers going into TV it’s easy to see why there aren’t many acts performing stand up like I’m used to.

The second and biggest epiphany I had was that there were quite a few different types of acts, and looking into it I found there were more than I thought. There are 5 main styles of comedy that all of the acts in Japan fall roughly under, and some may be a mix of a few.

The first is Kyogen, an old form of comedy dating back to the 14th century. Kyogen is based on slapstick and satire, and performed in an outdated version of Japanese. Gamarjobat were probably the closest thing I saw to this, though they don’t speak for the most part.

The second is Manzai, which features a straight man, known as a Tsukkomi, and a funny man, known as a Boke, that quickly trade jokes. You only have to watch one Abbot and Costello bit, and you’ll understand what Manzai is. This was probably the type of act I saw the most, and its that’s probably because it’s the style that works best on stage.

Third we have Konto, and it’s really just a subgenre of Manzai. In Konto groups perform short bits that revolve around a comical story, weird situation, or strange encounter. A lot of the double acts seemed to perform in this style if it was a longer performance, rather than just a short video.

Forth we have a style that I missed the first time around, rakugo. In rakugo, the performer sits in a kimono with their legs tucked under and tells a funny story. I don’t know how I missed any of these acts the first time I was looking into Japanese stand up, probably because it’s quite unique. I watched a few after I found out about it and it’s not really like anything I’ve seen before. Even with comedians who just tell stories, rakugo is different. There also seems to be a real mix of what looks like more traditional rakugo performances and modern performances that are trying to change things up. The traditional performances were kind of like some of the really long jokes that your grandpa might tell you, where the modern ones, for lack of a better word, where just weird.

The fifth and final style is Owarai, this pretty much encompasses everything else in the modern comedy seen in Japan. Owarai acts tend to be regulars on Japanese variety shows, game shows, food segments, travel features and musical performances. From what I’ve seen this is where the majority of the comedians in Japan are going.

So here we are at the end of my analysis of my exploration of Japanese stand up. I definitely feel like I have grown in my understanding of the topic, but I don’t know if I got what I wanted. I didn’t really go into this with an agenda, I think there was part of me that wanted to find that Japanese stand up was just going to be the same as the stand-up I’m used to but only focusing on this idea I have of life in Japan that I have in my head. I’m glad I didn’t find that in the end, it would have been weird, and the stuff that I found was funny and I genuinely laughed at most of the acts I watched.