Week 6

Autoethnography Project Scope: The Amazing Japanese Arcade

In Australia arcades are a pretty poor affair these days. The few dotted around New South Wales, the Timezones and even Market City’s City Amusements are shadows of their former selves. It’s been something I’ve always seen as normal, having visited arcades very little growing up. I can remember playing the racing games with prop cars and bikes at the local bowling alley, or getting some Street Fighter and Time Crisis practice in whenever I managed to spend a spare hour at one.

Last year, before I headed to Japan for the first time, I knew arcades were a big thing over there – but I never expected it to be as big as it was. The quiet, single storey arcades of Sydney were dwarfed by the multistory ‘Club Sega’ that ended up being a regular visit while we there (being one train stop from Akihabara, anime and arcade central, helped here. It’s this contrast and enjoyment that has become the basis of my Digital Artefact – my plan is to examine the Japanese Arcade and its place in Japanese society through the lens of what we see as an arcade here – often a relic of a bygone era.

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A shot from my trip of the huge Club Sega (red building) in Akihabara

My initial experience with arcades in Japan was at the very same Club Sega pictured above, nestled around the corner from the Akihabara train station. When you first walk in your greeted by a ground floor full of UFO catchers (prize machines with the little dangling claws) outfitted with the latest figures from popular anime, stuffed toys and other trinkets. Escalators up and down stood next to the machines, one leading straight down to the featured new games, specifically Pokken Tournament at this point. Another four stories were above, each with their own colouring, feel and theme of games.

At first the huge amount of UFO catchers was peculiar, here they’re usually used for small chocolates or expensive toys and always seen as a scam. I remember seeing PSP’s in machines outside the local Kmart as a kid, never seeing anyone succeed at it and firmly believing they were just a money grab. After even a few hours it was pretty clear how big an attraction they are in Japan, and how – while hard – they still often deliver their prizes to players. There’s even a whole ecosystem of stores that operate solely to buy and sell UFO catcher prizes, but that’s a whole separate project…

Experience notes:

  • Strong smell of smoke, especially in higher up levels (due to indoor smoking being allowed)
  • Games are sorted into floors of the same style of game (ie. rhythm games)
  • High encouragement to buy digital passes that save progress for returning visits
  • Vistors weren’t solely kids, plenty of adults, even in business suits, playing games
  • Action based games like Gundam seemed most popular
  • Cheap and easy – coin changers everywhere and 100 yen coins (roughly $1 AUD) get you ages of play, not just a single race/round
  • the western arcade fighter wasn’t as prevalent
  • branded and rapidly changing promotional games/toys
  • filled with plenty of school or older aged females, breaking the ‘sterotypical’ western arcade attendee

There’s more I have committed to memory, but as a whole I’m very curious to delve deeper than the surface level of arcades that I first experienced. With modern day consoles and computers, what makes people leave their homes to drop 100 yen coins in a tall building filled with games? What do the Japanese arcades owe to their much longer lifespan, and continued support, that we don’t see here?

Below is a video I quickly together with the team from work as a feature on Pokken Tournament (as it was unreleased outside of Japan at this point), which includes some shots of the arcades and my initial thoughts on the experience.

 

My plan for the Digital Artefact is to take this approach one step further, taking a filmed walk through of a Sydney arcade (hopefully City Amusements due to its size) and discussing aspects of it in relation to my experiences in its Japanese counterparts. This is where research, readings and extra resources come in, with the intention of editing it all together into a video package which combines my own experiences with this research.

Ultimately, there’s a lot to unpack here, ranging from the introduction of arcades into Australia in contrast with the prevalence of them in Japan to the actual purpose they serve in each of the two societies. To understand this there’s a lot of history I need to delve in to the culture that surrounds these arcades and districts like Akihabara, places very unlike what I’m used to here in Australia. I’m very curious to learn more about something I enjoy as much as the arcades of Japan – I’ll be sure to keep the daydreaming of being back in one to a minimum.

My Autoethnographic Experience With Yoga.

For my autoethnographic project I will be attempting to practice yoga and observe whether it has an impact on my lifestyle and relaxation levels. I have a basic knowledge of yoga, essentially that it is an ancient practice which is a really good form of exercise as it lowers blood pressure, stress and can enable people to have a more relaxed outlook on life. As a broke and stressed out uni student I need more of all of those things in my life and therefore have absolutely nothing to lose by attempting this. Except maybe a little dignity when I discover I am not as flexibly inclined as I originally assumed.

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Caitlin Turner who goes by  Gypset Goddess on Instagram. Photo via Instagram

 

I have been doing yoga for the past 8 months in between uni, working and  going on holidays I can’t afford, in an attempt to get some zen and relaxation into my routine. I am generally a very high strung person who is stressed about anything and everything. However I realized there must be a better way of dealing with life in general than this. Hence; yoga.

Currently I aim to go 3 times a week and I usually leave feeling somewhat relaxed (never completely) with the impression I have done some exercise even though I basically stayed in the same spot for an hour, sticking my ass into the air and lying on a mat.

Last night I went to a Yin Yang yoga class which involved a lot of twists and turns and holding poses to release pressure on the joints which helps cleanse the body of toxins.

This morning I woke up at 7 am,  and instead of feeling as exhausted as I usually would when I wake up at the crack of dawn, I felt refreshed and energetic and my brain felt somewhat clearer.

I’ve never had this reaction since I began practicing yoga. I’ve felt relaxed and found myself able to concentrate on things better, however this is the first time I’ve felt full of energy after a class. It was awesome.

In my initial experiences practicing yoga I found it surprisingly easy as a result of my many years of dancing as a child into my teens.Giving me a bit more flexibility than a lot of beginners and helped me to enjoy the practice more initially.

Things started getting harder and more strenuous when I realized the class I was attending was in fact one of the easy ones. Meaning I probably wasn’t as good at yoga as I’d hoped.

After doing a Hatha yoga class a couple of weeks later I learnt 3 things

  1. Yoga is not to be messed with for the faint hearted
  2. Yoga is awesome when you do it right
  3. Yoga instructors have the lungs of aliens and can spend 30 seconds taking the same breath and expect you to do the same. They should all be Olympic swimmers or something because that is amazing and unnatural.

 

Hatha yoga is one of the more traditional styles and focuses on keeping breathing and movement in sync. As yoga encourages deep and long breathing while doing quite difficult exercise, this was something I struggled with. Trying to keep my ass and leg in the air  while feeling like my wrists are going to pop out and practicing ‘mindfulness’ with ‘relaxation breathing’ simultaneously, sometimes proves difficult.

Although I’ve attended yoga for a few months now, I realized I didn’t know much at all about the background and theory behind the practices. Therefore it was time I completed some research and found out what it actually was I was participating in.

Hatha yoga refers to any type of physical yoga and consists of 8 Limbs which emphasize the steps for a healthy and happy life.  The limbs are outlined in the Sutras and each one relates to a different aspect of achieving a healthy and fulfilling life. The Limbs include the 5 Yamas which are directives on how a yogi should undertake aspects of life towards others. I find them similar to the 10 commandments of Christianity, however they appear to be less strict and enforced and are more guidelines rather than specific things you can’t do which are considered bad or sinful.

Including;

  • Ahimsa: reffering to non-violence against others and is often used as an argument for choosing to be a vegetarian.
  • Satya: practicing truthfulness
  • Asteya: not stealing from others and also alludes to not bringing people down to make yourself better
  • Brahmacharya: refers to chastity but can mean either celibacy or just control of sexual impulses
  • Aparigraha: not coveting what others have

The next limb is the Niyamas and is broken up 5 ways again to describe how one should act ethically towards themselves.

  • Saucha: referring to cleanliness and alludes to keeping pure intentions
  • Santosa: contentment with oneself
  • Tapas: self discipline
  • Svadhyay: self study to look within yourself for answers
  • Isvara pranidhana: surrender to a higher power

The other 6 of the 8 limbs of yoga include:

  • Asana: the physical practice of yoga postures
  • Pranyama: the practice of breathing exercises
  • Pratyahara: the withdrawal of senses, so the outside world isn’t a distraction from the internal inside individuals
  • Dharana: concentration, the ability to focus uninterrupted by internal and external distraction.
  • Dhyana: Meditation and the ability to extend your concentration beyond a single thing
  • Samadhi: bliss, and the transcendence of the self through meditation where an individual merges with the universe. This is also known as enlightenment

I’ve heard allusions to some of the Limbs before during my practices, however what I didn’t expect was the implied chastity practice in Brahmacharya. As I’ve always seen yoga as a free and relaxed form of practice which allows individual interpretation of the limbs, I didn’t expect such a direct instruction regarding sexuality. I would expect this from the stricter religions although because yoga has such Buddhist and Hindu roots, there would be some sharing of morals and guidelines.

Over the next few weeks, I aim to practice yoga and attempt to observe the 8 limbs which aim to attain health and fulfillment. I will document my practices and how I feel and then my auto ethnographic experience to how well I was able to achieve a better lifestyle through undertaking yoga.

 

References:

NIHON Encounters

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The individual research project practices autoethnography by allowing us to document personal experiences of a particular culture, different to my own and brings further research to allow social, cultural and political understandings of the experience. You can say that I’ve basically cheated and went ahead before this semester started by already incorporating myself into a cultural experience.

Earlier, during the break between semester one and two, my friends and I went for a month’s holiday in Japan and South Korea. I vlogged, recorded and took pictures of my whole journey. Coming back to Uni and going through the DIGC330 course, I realised that everything I recorded, everything I did and experienced in Japan and Korea could be used as an advantage for this individual research project. So, as Chris said, I’m basically cheating- but in a good way!

For my individual project, I’ve decided to draw upon my experience in Japan (not Korea, because it was my second time there), travelling through Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto within a week for the first time. This includes cultural experiences through historical sites and landmarks across the country, social encounters with Japanese citizens as well as indulging the gourmet food. In doing so, I plan to incorporate all the images and video recordings I’ve captured through not only my camera but also personalised Snapchat stories – and using all this footage to form a sort of journal – like story. Combining photos of landscapes, mouth- watering food shots, cultural sites and cities that I’ve taken myself; I intend to personalise my individual artefact and reflect on my autoethnographic experience.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The platform I’ve decided to use is Instagram. I thought this would be most suitable in uploading images and short videos quickly and easy without having the need to heavily edit. The platform allows hashtags to help people navigate my images as well as GPS location tagging. Having the option of adding a description for the image or video enables reflection with each individual experience. Overall, Instagram would be beneficial as a visual journal of my encounter in Japan and its culture.

A few raw observations from my experience:

  • Sushi preparation and whole etiquette was very different with either set menus or a la carte with options with or without wasabi on the actual sushi rather than on the side. Soy sauce is usually not needed and seafood was very delicate and melted in your mouth
  • Gave you a small wet towel to wipe your hands before you eat as well as serviettes if needed
  • Tea was usually accompanied with meals at sushi restaurants or miso soup
  • Convenience store has full meals available- not just average sandwiches but bento sets and noodle meals as well as microwaves to reheat and hot water for instant noodles
  • Restaurants are small; some with only even 8 seats while watching food get made in front of you. It was very intimate and allows communication with the chef
  • Cities like Tokyo and Osaka were much quieter during the day than expected- not many people walking around the streets but rather busier at night
  • Lots of natural scenic views and historical sites- such as shrines, temples, rivers, bridges and forests
  • Lots of English on street signs and restaurant menus- or they had images to choose
  • Subway system was very confusing with various transportation cards for different rail companies and subway tickets were small like a coupon and had no English- it was confusing figuring out what ticket we needed for each destination
  • People are very welcoming, friendly and bright and always went out of their way to help. I noticed people would offer to take a photo for us when we were taking ‘selfies’ or video blogging.
  • Although there was lots of English around the street and on signs but the people didn’t know English very well- evident language barrier
  • When ordering food they had either vending machines where you choose your meal then received a ticket to give to staff or they had English menus with images.
  • Lots of souvenir shops at shrines and temples had ‘good luck’ charms for different aspects of life such as money, relationships, health, family and safety.
  • Restaurants displayed menu items through shop windows at the front with waxed figures that resembled the exact meal. Presentation was very bright, colourful, neat and to high standards
  • Seafood was very cheap compared to Australia however, fruit was very expensive- an apple cost around $5AUD at a convenience store.
  • Lots of places opened quite late- at around 10-11am and closed late also; thus attracting nightlife
  • Alcohol was allowed to be consumed in public- In Kyoto people gathered at night beside the water bank and drank alcohol, ate and enjoyed live music.
  • Arcades had sticker photo booths that were very westernised and edited photos to have bigger eyes and whiter faces with bright lighting and funny edits. Beauty products, hair tools and costumes were available to be used for people to take photos which were surprising. Gamers were fast paced, devoted and very competitive
  • Temples and shrines had wooden panels that can be purchased and written on with wishes, then hung and showcased.
  • Very little pollution on streets and public bins were very difficult to come across; noticed a lot of people taking their own rubbish home to dispose.
  • At temples and shrines, I noticed lots of people wearing traditional kimonos and was dressed up with appropriate attire- including wooden shoes.
  • Cars were mostly petite and cubed with lots of older models. There wasn’t a lot of traffic and I noticed lots of people on bikes and using public transport than cars.
  • When eating we were worried about leaving leftover food when we couldn’t finish the meal as it could be rude.
  • Whenever we entered a restaurant, staff would welcome and bow. Bowing was very common whenever entering or leaving an establishment

You can follow my instagram account @linhdoesjapan_ for all the images and experiences of Japan!

 

 

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Live Reaction/Review: Stardom 5 Star GP Night One – Part 1

Brendan Vs The World

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This is my first experience with Stardom but I am fairly familiar with Japanese Wrestling in general. Stardom is an all female wrestling promotion based in Japan. The 5 Star GP is an annual tournament that they run. It features a round robin system with 2 blocks (Blue/Red) with the block winners facing each other to crown the tournament champion.

Match 1: Azumi Vs. Momo Watanabe

I’ll be honest no idea who is who in this one. Both wrestlers are quite short and the commentators keep saying ‘kid fight’ so I think that’s why these two are paired together. Also I’m pretty sure this is a non tournament match. It seemed like a bit of a throwaway match to just warm up the crowd. Well they are both actually kids that’s why the announcers were saying ‘kid fight’ Azumi is 12 years old and Momo is 15. Ok the match is already over, it was really…

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Medical Tourism in the Philippines

So this time I watched another television show, but this time it was from the Philippines and it has a cosmetic surgery focus. The show is called Belo Beauty 101 and it was created by and for the Belo Medical Group – a large cosmetic surgery and beauty product company in the Phillipines that was founded by Vicky Belo. The show explains the basics of cosmetic surgery procedures and always has various guests that are both everyday people and celebrities, in each episode these guests have various procedures done. While the show is hosted by Vicky’s daughter, Cristalle, the celebrity guests talk with Vicky about their experiences and what they recommend. Belo Beauty 101 has been running since 2007 and is in both Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines) and English. If you want to watch the show and you only speak one of those languages (I assume English) be prepared to be occasionally confused by the constant switching back and forth between them.

 

 

I watched a few random episodes from season 7 which is the most recent season. When I originally saw the description for the show I expected it to be a bit more graphic as it had mentioned that it showed the actual procedures being done. While it does show some graphic footage it is sped up and the editing cuts from one scene to another very quickly in the procedure scenes. Additionally, the show seems to have more of an emphasis on the stories of persons undergoing procedures and the results achieved rather than the actual procedures.

 

I was also surprised to learn about a lot of smaller basic procedures that exist. In one episode a male celebrity wanted to get rid of his love handles so he consulted Belo, they decided a good procedure would be to freeze his cellulite in that area to kill the fat cells. I didn’t know that was a thing until now… Honestly I couldn’t stop yelling ‘JUST EXERCISE!’ at my laptop screen but I had to remember that this was a cosmetic surgery show, they aim for slender but they like to get there the easy way as depicted by Belo Medical’s Instagram.

 

 

Celebrities are really open about their plastic surgeries and Belo Medical has various celebrity ambassadors and sponsors. This ties back to the episode of Get it Beauty that I watched where celebrities were heavily featured throughout the episodes, there isn’t as much of a stigma around plastic surgery so some celebrities don’t seem to feel the need to hide it that much.

 

When you look into their services and products it becomes much more apparent that they provide more than just traditional cosmetic surgery, I mean they have various skin care product lines and weight management programs that don’t necessarily have anything to do with liposuction. So would I call them a hybrid or just acknowledge the fact that in more advanced cosmetic surgery countries there are just way more options?

 

For the Philippines there seems to be insufficient statistics regarding how commonplace cosmetic surgery is and what the most popular procedures are, however I was able to find statics regarding the Philippines’s major medical tourism industry. This means that their surgeries are so cheap that it attracts hundreds of thousands of foreigners who otherwise could not afford it. Additionally the Philippines is already a bit of a tourist destination, thus many patients have recovery vacations thereafter their procedures. Now the sponsor from the first few episodes of Belo Beauty 101 season 7 makes sense, the sponsor company was a resort at Boracay island. In 2006 the Philippines earned an estimated $200 million from medical tourism which put it up in the same league as established medical tourism areas like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

 

Whilst I did know this was a thing in Singapore, I didn’t know it was a thing in my mother’s homeland… oh wait! Yes I did, my family and I used to go to the Philippines to get dentistry work done because we couldn’t afford to do everyone at once in Australia. Good job Mary! Really putting two and two together there…

 

Sources:

http://www.treatmentabroad.com/news/2006-11-philippines-cosmetic-surgery-120

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/medical-tourism-on-the-rise-despite-warnings-20140113-30q4v.html

Slightly Immersive Experience in Kwaidan (1964)

That digital output of Japanese movies is to say the least pretty extensive, so in choosing the horror film from Japan that I was going to view I went straight to an internet list. You might say that was callous, and that if I was serious about trying to find a scary Japanese horror film I would do more research than an internet top ten list. And you would be correct.

The first eye opener on this journey is; if you want to watch a scary movie, get a few more confirmations than an internet list before deciding to deem it scary. OK that being said my live tweeting experience of  the film Kwaidan was enjoyable, but not scary. #Ifellasleep

The main reason I opted straight for Kwaidan is that it was made in 1964 and as you probably know the 60s was a pivotal political period, so I was hoping the film might indicate what Japan was facing politically. Looking over my tweets, which you can see here, from my brief overview of them it seems to me that political tensions concerning gender and possibly more can be found in the films content. However I will be looking into this more deeply for my digital artefact to see where exactly the film stood politically and if there was any social and political controversies that could be noted to add more depth to the picture I have.

Tweeting the experience did feel exciting and it gave me more of an appreciation for the film, the process though was stifling, I didn’t feel that I got fully immersed in the what Kwaidan was trying to convey. I had to stop the film sometimes to tweet what I was seeing/feeling and it felt like a detachment from the event each time.

Not as immersed as I would like to be, it seems from the tweets that I liked the film mainly for its aesthetics and knowledge. The dialogue appears to have particularly burdened me. What I did get though, was a new found interest in Japan’s very rich history. And when I say rich I’m talking thousands of years, compared to little baby Australia’s 300 years or so recorded history, Japan’s is epic, and glorious… samurais, battle scenes, samurai clans, baby emperors, it’s thrilling! which would be an indication as to why their films are so good. My digital Artefact will investigate this theory more.

My main problem though throughout the film was pacing, I had real trouble remaining focused. There were so many beautiful images on screen, they just didn’t seem to be leading to anything quick enough for me. For my digital artefact I want to unpack this, the pacing of films has changed quite a bit over time, I would like to research what experts have commented about this and develop more of a clearer understanding of its social, cultural, and political implications.

Reference

Kwaidan 1964 by Masaki Kobayashi

A Look into the Eyes of Anime

As a continuation of my latest article on what defines an anime, I have decided to continue the discussion, focusing on the concept of Anime Eyes as the subject of exploration for this task. As I noted last week, an anime character’s eyes are a distinct and unique design unique to the art form, and differ in characteristics and importance to other types of animation. In anime productions, a character’s eyes are often quite detailed, depicting not only the pupil, but the orbit, eyelid and eyelashes aswell.

Eyes in anime are used as a device to express character emotion, as well as a way to show one’s personality. Flickering eyes can express sadness and pain, particularly if the character is on the verge of tears. In some cases, the eyes can simply be a defined shape, with no internal definition of the pupils, which is used to define anger, and is used extensively in fighting sequences or when a character is yelling in anger. The image below details Fairy Tail’s main character, Natsu fighting a tree, showing his “anger” at his friends, Gray and Erza.

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In my studies I have discovered that another defining feature of Anime Eyes is their size, which is not only used to define “cuteness”, but also youth and innocence. The following example contains minor spoilers of the anime series Fairy Tail, so if you wish to avoid spoilers, skip this paragraph. Drawing another example from Fairy Tail episode 20, we meet a young character named Lisanna in a flashback. She is a close friend of Natsu Dragneel, and considered a romantic interest of the young Natsu in these flashbacks. Lisanna shows little in her time on screen but kindness and pure innocence in terms of her character development throughout the episode and her eyes reinforce the innocent and youthful nature of the young girl. Lisanna, who was previously assumed to be deceased, returns in episode 79 of the anime series, alive and noticeably older than the young girl we know from previous episodes. The older Lisanna, also pictured below, maintains some of the characteristics that remind you of her younger self, with the exception that her eyes are not as large as her younger self, which reinforces the idea that her eyes are used to show her age and innocence in her youthful self.

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So far my study on anime eyes has begun to take shape, and so for the remainder of this session my autoethnographic study will be exploring this concept. In my next blog i’ll continue to explore my work on expressionism. See you next time!

Social Gaming Perspectives

Alright so after a bunch of real world problems got in the way I’m back with a vengeance and ready to hunker down and focus on my work. My last posts were a little scattered, I wasn’t too sure what to lock in on. I have however finally decided what I’m going to look into.

Social gaming.

Yeah… It’s a pretty broad topic. What I really mean is the spaces that people play their video games in. I was unfortunately too young to truly experience the old arcade days, when people would compete at their local store for the top score on Pac-Man.

I’m not saying that social gaming is dead, all I mean is that in my experience as a twenty-something who lives in Australia, is that social gaming doesn’t seem to happen in arcades. People own consoles or PCs and simply play online.

I suppose what I’m really going to look at is where and how people play games. Obviously my own social circle is not the best research sample so I’m either going to have to make new friends or go to social gaming places. While arcades are not as common as they once were, there are still arcades in the city (Sydney) where I can go to first hand experience what I’m researching. There’s also the gaming community at university I can immerse myself in.

All in all I’m looking forward to seeing why people play games where and the way they do.

To start this off though, I really need a starting point. I’m going to start with how I play video games. In my bedroom I have my computer and my Xbox 360. I have a smart phone that plays some games but I don’t personally consider that a gaming device. I also own a Nintendo 3Ds which is basically my Pokemon machine. Outside of my bedroom I tend not to play too many video games.

The PC and 360 are difficult to relocate and none of my friends play multiplayer mobile or 3Ds games so all my multiplayer gaming happens in my bedroom. I’m OK with this since my mates are all readily accessible online whenever I want to play a game so this isn’t a problem. We all go on Skype and blast each other to pieces and it’s lots of fun. Honestly I can’t see my opinions changing based just on locale.