digital asia

eSports on the world stage

This month Valve hosted its annual Dota 2 International, hosting qualifiers and then the main event over 2 weekends, with a total prize pool of over $24 million. I know all of this because my boyfriend went missing in the middle of the night for 2 weekends in a row (but more than made up for his absence later). I already knew that professional gaming or ‘eSports’ was a big industry, with a whole world of spin-off industries like streaming or ‘casting’. What I didn’t know was that it’s an industry worth almost $900 million annually (and growing), or how seriously the gamers at the top take their careers.

State of Play follows the life and career of Starcraft megastar Lee ‘Jaedong’ Jae Dong, shining a light into the intensity of life as a professional gamer in South Korea. The documentary catches the drama and emotion of the players in a way that makes them accessible and human, despite their elite status and unorthodox careers. As we watched, I was blown away by the dedication these guys (even today, eSports is male-dominated) put in – leaving home young to move into corporate-sponsored team houses, training 12 hours a day.

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intense training

But these players know that’s what it takes to get to the top – Jaedong was widely considered one of the best players in Starcraft before his retirement in 2016.

I grew up in south-east Asia, so the intensity and commitment shown by the players in this doco, as well as the blow to their pride and loss of face from failure, is something I understand. This documentary got me wondering why esports is perceived as a uniquely Asian phenomenon? Who are the top players? Who are the most avid viewers? Who are the biggest fans? State of Play shone a spotlight on the fangirls who flocked to gaming superstars – their love, their gift-giving, and their loyalty really tugged on my heartstrings.

Ji Sun

 

Well, 190 million people tune in to follow their favourite eSports every year, most often to watch League of Legends or DOTA 2. Those viewers come from all around the world (and wake up across all time zones to tune in). In LoL, Asian teams still dominate, but 3 of the top 10 teams come from the USA or Europe. In DOTA 2, which has larger prize pools, 6 of the top 10 teams come from Europe or the USA. In both games, commentators, or casters, come from all over the world to accommodate a global viewership in multiple languages.

While the popularity of gaming as eSports spawned in Asia, technology and passion have converged to make it a massive worldwide industry.

Understanding my world through Autoethnography

The idea of Autoethnography is so foreign to me. So far in my academic career I’ve transformed from the high school system “1st person is evil”, to welcoming how your cultural perceptions has shaped how you understand a situation. Ellis et al. defines 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)”

Therefore, this incorporates how a person understands a situation or event due to how their personal experiences have shaped their way of thinking. To be an autoethnographer, you must first explain your cultural upbringing to your readers/audience and then critically analyse how this has formed your understanding.

If you read my last blog, I attempted a little autoethnography, by critically analysing how I took meaning from watching Godzilla based on my cultural upbringing. It was a different approach to writing that I haven’t noticed myself using up to this point in my academic career. Yet, it makes sense to use this form of research and writing, because it can be used as a tool for further understanding of yourself and those around you.

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Photo I took of the beach (Otres Beach, Cambodia)

I noticed myself doing this in my recent travels to Cambodia. I was sitting on a beach, and women were walking up and down the beach selling foot rubs, manicures and pedicures to tourists. I was approached by one woman who was driven to make me buy something from her. I noticed the difference between the selling techniques used by advertising company’s in Australia and her persuasion techniques. She rubbed her hand on my legs and said “Oh! So hairy! You need threading”. I realised this must be how they try to persuade tourists to pay for them for a beauty service. Thinking back to how someone would sell me something in Australia compared to how things are sold in Cambodia is very different. This event made me interested in how the media sold products to Cambodians, and noticed a lot of downgrading their own beauty in order to sell their products. Most of the models on the packaging were white, or looked very similar to white people. This sets the standard of “beauty” in Cambodia and tells people that they aren’t beautiful unless they look white.

I think to how the media sells me products, and I notice a lot of the similar sort of advertising techniques. Therefore, I am interested in researching further into how the Asian advertising market sells its products as part of an autoethnographic project.

 

 

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E & Bochner, A.P. 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;

An ethnic’s realisation that she doesn’t know much about anything, especially Godzilla

Memories of my childhood include sitting on the floor of my Nonna and Nonno’s place, attempting to interpret the classic Italian film ‘La Dolce Vita’, or watching RAI Italia and completely zoning out due to having no clue what’s going on. Throughout my life, this kind of experience had been the extent of which I had been exposed to foreign films. These experiences with my Italian family are memories that I hold dear and believe shape the beliefs I have today.

Yesterday, I experienced a Japanese film for the first time.

I went into class not knowing anything about the Godzilla films at all, let alone Japanese films. Yet I came out of the experience mildly confused but extremely intrigued. I should be completely honest here too, realising I was going into class to watch a 1950’s Asian film at the beginning of the semester didn’t make me too excited, and why was this? Is it purely because I’m not exposed to other movies of this genre? Or I am exposed to this media, yet have really felt the urge to indulge?

As the movie began, and the live tweeting process was underway I noticed a few things that were different to the movies I usually watch. The over-dramatic acting was something we’re not used to in Westernised media and movies. Although this was weird to experience, it was understandable as it was a movie created in the 50s, and with little to no CGI enhancements, reacting to the monster ‘Godzilla’ was quite over the top.

The transitions between scenes were also quite dated, reminding me of the transitions between powerpoint slides back in the day when funky powerpoint slides gave you +10 marks for your presentation.

Something that was also surprising to encounter and also quite uncomfortable and awkward to experience was the lack of sound in some of the scenes. Why were there no ambient sounds? Why was there no bubbling when they were underwater at the end? I was truly thankful to the live-tweeting as the typing made up for the awkward silences.

I’m going to be quite honest with you. I had no idea that this Godzilla film had any relation to what Japan went through post WWII. And other than general knowledge, I haven’t actually been exposed to much of Japan’s history. I gave up History as soon as I could in High School – I was not a fan. I study Speech and Drama out of uni and once had to study a poem named ‘No More Hiroshimas’ by James Kirkup. The poem explores a town in Japan following the horrors that unfolded the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The final two stanzas of the poem are as follows:

The other relics:

The ones that made me weep;

The bits of burnt clothing,

The stopped watches, the torn shirts.

The twisted buttons,

The stained and tattered vests and drawers,

The ripped kimonos and charred boots,

The white blouse polka-dotted with atomic rain, indelible,

The cotton summer pants the blasted boys crawled home in, to bleed

And slowly to die.

Remember only these.

They are the memorials we need.

After watching Godzilla, the parallels between post WWII and the movie soon unfolded, with the symbolism of power being quite clear throughout the movie and especially in the ending. Unfortunately, I believe if it weren’t for the experience of studying the poem, I wouldn’t have put together that Godzilla was representing the trauma that Japan as a country dealt with after the war.

Not only the metaphor, but the make of the film in general was definitely a worthwhile experience, and being 100% honest, I believe that if it weren’t for taking the Digital Asia class, I probably would have never exposed myself to this type of media. It’s really opened my eyes to the differences in culture and what I’ve been taught through the westernised media that I’ve grown up and am fond of watching. It’s definitely opened me up to being excited for more experiences throughout the Digital Asia subject.

Gojira (1954); Monster / Metaphor

gojira-with-bridges

At the start of this year I spend some time in Japan where for the first time I was engulfed by the means of Asian media. Anime, Cosplay, Gaming, Manga, you name it. While all adapting to the nation’s ‘Kawaii’ lifestyle. Contemporary forms of the nation’s popular culture, are not only forms of entertainment but also aspects to distinguish contemporary Japan from the rest of the modern world.

Prior to this week’s seminar I had not experienced any of the ‘Godzilla’ films especially that of Ishir Honda’s 1953 original ‘Gojira’. But interestingly enough I believe I was quite familiar with the narrative – to which an immense lizard-like monster creates havoc within the cityscape. But why is it, that I was so known to this story? Popular culture has since taken this notion of Gojira and has replicated, regurgitated and revamped it to suit and interest audiences today and as I aged I was always exposed to these kinds of media. (more…)

GOJIRA from the perspective of an uniformed italian girl

Growing up in a family of traditional Italian’s has always been interesting. I have grown up with grandparents who listen to their italian radio while cooking and doing housework, watching RAI Italia of an afternoon with them and trying to translate the The Bold and the Beautiful as a small child. All of these scenarios have shaped me to be the person I am today. However, I realise that I’ve never really been exposed to any sort of asian culture, besides some cartoons while growing up, and in more recent years with the rise of KPOP and JPOP.

So to cut to the chase, Gojira was an experience. Chris played us the original Godzilla film, which was made in 1953. Then, we were asked to live tweet our reactions. The very first thing I noticed…

The sound effects of Godzilla were really weird and unnerving. It wasn’t a sound you would typically hear in a film today. Again, my experience from watching films from this era would typically showcase amazing sound effects which are realistic.

The lead female, Emiko wears ‘1950’s American housewife’ in style clothing as she plays the stereotypical ‘damsel in distress’. Literally every scene she is in, she is either screaming, wailing or loudly crying. Emiko is constantly seeking the comfort and protection from her male counterparts, whether that be Ogata or Serizawa, Emiko seems hopeless. I guess this was a common theme in movies of the time.

Although I laughed at the time while watching, its interesting how realistic this movie is. It shows the emotions and distress that the people were feeling to have this giant lizard attacking everyone. If you’re ever told not to panic, that is when people actually start to panic. So, its really just a true reaction that humans have.

Back to Emiko, but she looked so happy while she was crying? I really didn’t know what to make of this, other than that it could be bad acting? Because I am so used to seeing perfectly executed acting and emotional scenes in modern day film, its interesting to see what these scenes are like from this movie. It’s a great contrast to what i am used to seeing.

Although this movie made me think “WTF” a lot, mainly at the model houses and the giant lizard himself (who was actually a MAN IN A SUIT?!?), it had a lot of underlying history which was explored in an interesting way. As someone who studied History in school, Gojira was an excellent way to explore the effects that the World War had on Japan. One line in the film solidified the intentions of the film, to inform people of the effects that the war had on the Japanese: “If we keep conducting nuclear tests, another Godzilla may appear somewhere in the world.” This line emphasised fears of nuclear energy and weapon testing.

Gojira in today’s film landscape can be seen as a laugh, however, at the time it was a movie based on fear and horror. It is an interesting concept and way to go about expressing the fears, but also very effective. Overall, what a great film. It has moments where you laugh, and a few when you think about how awful it would have been.

I recommend that everyone take the 98 mins to watch it, you will not regret it!

The Art of Autoethnography: Part III

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Studying languages comes easily for some and is a curse for others. I am one of the latter. I have friends that can speak multiple languages fluently and yet I can’t seem to get any further than my native tongue. I am somebody who has attempted to study several languages and not succeeded, even with the help of classes, tutors and so on. Because of this I find it fascinating that people could simply use a TV Show or a game to learn a foreign language. Whether is be stories of migrant learning a language through a TV Show or kids picking up a language through their favourite card game, the evidence for the success of the use of media as a tool for language acquisition is overwhelming.

These observations and stories of language acquisition success have brought me to form a topic for autoethnographic study in this area. Looking language acquisition through Asian language media texts. The answers that I am seeking to discover are not just simply can I learn any aspects of the language but also what can I learn about the culture of that language in the process.

Autoethnography is an approach to research that combines methodological tools and literature with personal experience to obtain a greater understanding of culture. (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011)

To complete the methodology in this autoethnographic study I will combine literature research relating to the study of languages and testimonials/news stories regarding people who have learnt languages using media texts. This will be combined with the personal experience of using Asian language media texts in order to learn aspects and vocabulary of various Asian languages.

When looking online the extent of language learning resources and tips for learning languages can be overwhelming. To obtain some ideas about the types of media texts to use for this research I chose to collate some of the suggestions from a simple google search and the following table summarises what I found.

Brave Learning –       Listen to foreign language radio stations

–       Foreign language poems

–       Podcasts

–       Surf the web in a different language

–       Foreign language TV channels

–       Read a foreign language book

–       Write a foreign language blog post

–       Play games in a different language

Fluent U –       Browse reddit (thematically-orientated to one specific region)

–       Use region specific social media

–       Play online video games (use Twitch, language specific)

–       Date in the language (try tinder etc.)

Pick the Brain –       Television (Taiwanese dramas: Sugoideas.com, Korean, Japanese, Chinese Mandarin: Dramafever.com, Japanese anime: Crunchyroll.com)

–       Foreign film movies and trailers

–       Listening to music in your target language

Franglish –       Listen to music in your chosen language

–       Read foreign language comic books

This research gave me some great ideas for a starting point. I chose to not focus on the choice of language as a driving factor for choosing the texts but to simply find texts which interest me not matter the language which the text was done in. this research will not in no means result in me being fluent in a language but I hoped what I would gain from this research is some vocabulary in a language be it only a couple of words and no more. But what I also hope to gain from this experience is a better understanding of language in the context of these various texts.

What I needed to be careful of was as stated by Anderson (2006) not to allow this research to devolve into self-absorption and that would result in the loss of its sociological promise.

Autoethnography allows for creativity in regards to its presentation, going beyond traditional methods of writing. While my research will be writing it will take the shape of journal entries documenting my progress and research through blog posts on my personal blog these posts will simply provide a home for the Snapchat videos documenting my personal experiences throughout this autoethnographic study and allow me to expand and reflect upon my findings.

To start off this autoethnographic research I will include a brief account of my first autoethnographic encounter, learning a language through a Bollywood film. I choose a Bollywood film for three reasons.

  1. It was easy to obtain
  2. I have watched Bollywood movies before and quite enjoy them
  3. And finally, as this was the first emersion into this research I thought I would ease myself in with the language through something that I was familiar with.

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My progress of language acquisition and the Snapchat videos detailing my personal experience will have to wait till my next post but a few things that I did note are;

  • Subtitles don’t always make sense
  • The pause and rewind button got a work out.
  • It was a lot easier to keep up with the dialogue then the songs due to the pace.
  • Attempting to learn aspects of the language and document it at the same time meant that I did not become involved in the storyline of the text at all and watching the movie took twice as long therefore I didn’t finish it because Bollywood movies are already two hours long.
  • The key words I found myself picking up are the ones which sparked my interest, random words which either stood out or were part of the sentences which had unusual sounding subtitles.
  • This approach to learning a language may help with understanding slang or colloquial phrases in a foreign language but it still only provides you with snippets of the language as a whole
  • It does not at all permit the acquisition of written language.

 

Reference List

Anderson, Leon 2006, Analytic Autoethnography, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016].

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. (2013). [film] Johar, K. & Johar, H.

 

BULA! Kava, Fiji and culture

My opening post on Kava was based on perceptions both personal and societal with minimal investigation. This post is almost completely research based. So what is Kava?

Kava is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body. Kava is made from the root or stump of the kava (Piper methysticum) shrub.’ – Dr Edward, Global Healing Centre.

To follow up on my personal interest of the Fijian beverage, I’ll be undertaking a cultural study of how the drink impacts the country’s lifestyle. When attending my brother’s wedding in Fiji, I’ll speak with locals and gather information from the region to assist in unpacking how this iconic drink fits into their society.

ka

Since my initial interest was sparked, I’ve had time to gather information and reassess my approach to the study. Initially my attention came from the side effects of Kava itself and the reasons why it is such a popular beverage in Fiji. This interest certainly still exists, however I’m becoming more fixated on the role it plays in Fijian society and how it impacts the local’s lifestyle and way of living.

My opening blog post proposed seven questions and beliefs surrounding Kava. After engaging in further research into the topic, I’ve come up with a few answers.

Q) The general belief is that Kava is said to contain a very high alcoholic content, so how strong is it?

A) Kava contains NO ALCOHOL! This was news to me. It is however a depressant like alcohol. It is classified as a ‘psychoactive beverage’ made purely from shrub native to Fiji. There are many different strands of Kava creations that have there own profile ranging from sleepy to numb to relaxed.

Q) Another conception of Kava is that it can act in the same way a psychedelic drug would in that it can impact the brain causing an individual to hallucinate. Is this fact or fiction?

A) Kava is not a psychedelic drug in any way and will not give you warped visions that allow you to see different things. The common perception of this derives from the fact that there are hallucinogenic beverages like Kava such as Ayuhuasca that are often confused to be Kava. This confusion has led to the misconception.

Q) Are its origins entirely Fijian?

A) Kava dates back at least 3000 years. While it is prevalent in Fiji, its creation isn’t entirely claimed by the country. The piper methysticum shrub that is used to create it is found across the Pacific Islands and the beverage itself is drunk in places such as Tonga, Hawaii, Vanuatu and Polynesia.

 

Q) The belief is that the beverage is consumed by all ages, is this true? If its alcohol content is as strong as it is said to be, this raises further questions.

A) As previously mentioned, Kava doesn’t contain alcohol. The age limit, if any, of drinkers was difficult to find therefore I’ll ask locals when arriving in the country.

Q) Why is it acceptable to consume alcohol at a young age in Fiji and why does this differ from Australia’s attitudes towards drinking restrictions?

A) As per previous answer.

Q) Most Australians seem to be aware that Kava is a mixture of water and natural plantation, so how is it made and what are its exact ingredients?

A) Kava comes from the root of the Yaqona shrub. The shrub is used in multiple ways ranging from strained, crushed, grounded or powdered with water into a very big wooden bowl. It is as simple as it sounds.

Q) Another myth suggests that the drinking frequency and strength of Kava contributes somewhat to the laid back attitude of the country. A big claim, but does it hold any logistical truth?

A) Another question that will need plenty of clarification from locals. However, its regular consumption at all times of the day and relaxed, sleepy impact on an individual suggests it may contribute. The fact it isn’t as strong as previously believed to be suggests it couldn’t contribute to a prominent portion of local’s everyday attitudes to any massive degree.

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Following up on my initial perceptions of the Fijian beverage I’ve become aware of the huge revelation that it doesn’t contain alcohol and I’ve also come to realise Kava is a VERY traditional and cultural element in Fijian society. The locals engage in ceremonies using the drink as a symbol and method of creating relationships and strong bonds between each other. The ceremonies centring around Kava have rich histories dating back centuries. I’ll aim to attend one of these ceremonies when in the country.

Another area I’ll research that is of new information is that it has many uses including medicinal, sedation, diuretic, muscle relaxant among many others.

Extending on my now base layer of knowledge on Kava I’ll look to further delve into its role in Fijian society. This will be aided by photographs, videos and hopefully audio interviews obtained from the locals.

Okashi

I have to start by saying that any assessment where I get to integrate food is always going to be a good one, especially ‘okashi’, which is the Japanese word for treats and snacks. For my individual autoethnographic research, I decided to purchase a basket full of treats from Wan Long Supermarket Wollongong. This is the closest location to where I live to gain access to Asian groceries without physically having to go to an Asian country. With the guidance of my partner Jon, who has previously lived in Japan, we filled a basket full of primarily Japanese based treats. All of the items chosen were a new taste, not ever having tried them before. I filmed the whole experience of the first taste test which made it very easy to watch over and reflect.

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(Source: Cubit, A 2016)

Firstly, it is worth noting the initial selection process of the Japanese based candy at the supermarket. I struggled to identify the difference of Chinese based packaging to Japanese. Most products did have English translated words, such as “strawberry flavour”. However, without the guidance of Jon, I would have got a largely mixed bag of candy and drinks from all over the Asian region. This brings to light the major barrier that language has on interpreting what it is you are buying. Without English translations that are available on imported goods, or the further guidance of Jon who has tried those foods, speaks Japanese and lived in Japan for over a year, I would have not been able to have had the experience that I did, of trying Japanese candy in Australia.

Similarly, it was evident throughout the whole 20 minutes of taste testing, I was critically referencing what I was trying, back to an Australian based taste. For example, “this biscuit reminds me of tiny teddies”. This could mean one of two things. The first is that it could be me trying to understand Japanese culture through my Australian context. For me to grasp and take in what It was I was trying, I was searching for the Australian equivalent. Similarly, it could also have meant that I understood that the video was going to be watched by an Australian audience, thus I could have been referring to the Australian context, to ensure my audience could connect with the foods I was trying.

Moreover, the packaging was something that really stood out to me. The colours were all very bright and most included images of the flavour for example. The candy also largely had a cartoon character of some sort, which I believe was to connect the target market of children, with the product. A cross-cultural study on the affects of advertising in US, Japanese and English families outlined how “Japanese children have a significantly lower level of television viewing that the US and British children” (Robertson et al., 1989). Perhaps this is why the packaging is so bold and colourful, as marketers are focusing on the need to gain attention of children in-store as television advertising targeted towards children is absent or minimal in Japan? Such packaging also could fit with the Kawaii or “cute” culture in Japan.

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(Source: Dreamstime.com)

The reoccurring theme in my above deconstruction of my initial post is how my Australian context not only forms my opinion of product selection, tastes, and packaging, it also informed my method of recording as well as the factors I chose to analyse. Living in metropolitan Australia, I am lucky enough to have access to a range of groceries from Asia, with the closest Asian grocer only 5 minutes away. This is a central factor to my research as I was able to gain access to the treats quite easily. It wasn’t a huge event in tracking down such foods. Thus making my experience of accessing Japanese culture and foods straight forward, even though I am almost 8000km away from Japan.

Sources:

Dreamstime, 2016, Kawaii Foods, retrieved from <https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/cute-kawaii-dessert-cake-macaroon-ice-cream-icons-vector-set-food-isolated-white-54668595.jpg.&gt;

Free Map Tools, 2016, Tokyo to Sydney, retrieved from < https://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between-sydney_-australia-and-tokyo_-japan.htm>

Robertson, T, Ward, S, Gatignon, H, & Klees, D 1989, ‘Advertising and Children: A Cross-Cultural Study’,Communication Research, 16, 4, p. 459, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 September 2016.

Japan through my eyes

Experiencing the unique Japanese culture, I was able to distinguish differences from my own. Being from a westernised culture, there were many significant confusions and cultural misinterpretations, however past and present research has allowed an understanding of this cultural experience.

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Meji Shrine, Tokyo

A cultural model by Hofstede distinguishes various cultures through five dimensions of power distance, individualism vs collectivism, masculinity vs femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long term vs short term orientation. This allows an understanding of Japanese culture by comparing it to Australian culture through these five dimensions enabling to make sense of my experience. Japan is a hierarchical society with importance to age and power which isn’t significantly different to Australia. Bowing is a form of greeting and respect consistent in Japan especially when entering an establishment. When entering restaurants a formal loud greeting from staff followed by a bow was practised. This is understood as being an exchange of greeting or showing kindness. Even the various Japanese language has informalities and formal language. I used ‘arigatou gozaimasu’, meaning Thank you; however I was told it was a more polite way such as ‘Thank you very much’ rather than just a simple ‘arigatou’.

I also noticed many people brought their palms together in front of their chest before and after eating; saying ‘Itadakimasu’ which means ‘to receive or accept’. This expression of gratitude towards food and the person that prepared it demonstrates the etiquette absent in western culture. I took upon this etiquette as well as bowing in Japan to avoid any culture misinterpretations and to ensure that I was polite in all situations.

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Ramen in Shinjuku, Tokyo

When eating, wet towels (oshibori) were provided to clean hands as simple hygiene and commonly replaced with napkins. Some sushi establishments actually don’t provide cutlery and customers are expected to use their hands to avoid spillage and allow easier dipping techniques. In Australia, wet towels aren’t provided and using your hands may be considered rude or lacking of table manners. Slurping soup and food in Australia is considered to be quite rude, however in Japan when consuming Ramen, slurping can be heard throughout the restaurant and is common, displaying to the cook that you are thoroughly enjoying the meal and is actually rumoured that this technique makes the noodles actually taste better (Japan National Tourism Organisation, 2015). I was worried about etiquette when finishing meals and made sure everything was finished- this is actually a common etiquette in eastern cultures.

Japan is highly dependent on convenience. Lots of restaurants had a ticketing system such as a vending machine to choose your meals and prepay in which you would be given a ticket to give to staff with your order. Although most menus had only Japanese, images were accompanied at almost all restaurants. When eating at a popular ramen branch, Ichiramen, customers are able to fill out the degree of spice, how flavoursome the soup is etc. according to how each person specifically likes it. This was then given to staff for your own custom ordered ramen. Every process in Japanese lifestyle practices was convenient and efficient. In saying that, every tourist attraction or popular restaurant had a waiting line but due to the efficient and fast systems in Japan, everything went quite smoothly- even though we did have to wait from 30 minutes to 2 hours sometimes. This is also when I realised that we, in western cultures are quite impatient. Eastern cultures see patience as a virtue and associate it with Buddhism as a value of perfect enlightenment. They tend to take longer in making important decisions and are patient in that due to being a long-term orientated society (Bergiel, 2012).

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Dontonburi- the nightlife district of Osaka, Japan

Site seeing in Japan is largely focused on historical shrines and temples. Rather than being religiously based the temples were spiritually based and are provided as beautiful architecture and landscapes within parks and mountains for tourists. Many shrines visited such as the Meji Shrine or the Fuishimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto were places full of tourists and were the first shrines I’ve ever encountered. Personally I expected these places to be relaxed, reverent and respectful and assumed it to be similar to religious places in Australia that I have been to; however the nature of it being a tourist attraction was strongly evident. However, they were still seen as spiritual places with wishing paper/ wooden plates where people could write down their wishes and prayers and hang them on trees. Souvenirs available at temples related to personal wellbeing, health, money and good luck which were different to typical souvenirs available here, such as a magnet of the harbour bridge. They also highly value a clean environment which was demonstrated through the lack of pollution on the streets and even the high use of public transport or bikes rather than cars.

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Wooden boards with visitors wishes at Meji Shrine, Tokyo

Japan according to Hofstede’s Five Cultural Dimensions Source: Geert Hofstede

 

 

Japan was a unique experience and was very different to my own culture. The whole culture was recognised as being completely opposite to what I’m used to in Australia as shown in the graph above from Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions. My expectations of Japan were different to what I encountered. Due to pictures and online videos of Tokyo, I perceived Japan as a high tech, busy nightlife city but was presented with a much more relaxed country. It did exceed my expectations with its advanced systems and busier suburbs at night such as Shibuya in Tokyo and Dontonburi in Osaka, but overall the cities were quiet with not many people on streets and empty during the day.

Follow my individual artefact instagram for more pictures/ videos of my trip to Japan @linhdoesjapan_

 

*All photos are my own unless stated*

References:

Bergiel. EB, Bergiel. BJ, Upson. JW, 2012, ‘Revisiting Hofstede’s Dimensions: Examining the Cultural Convergence of the United States and Japan’, American Journal of Management Vol. 12 (1) pp. 69-77 http://www.na-businesspress.com/AJM/BergielEB_Web12_1_.pdf

Frost. A, 2013, ‘Japanese Culture and Hofstede’s Five Dimensions‘ http://restaurantkyoto.dk/blog/en/japanese-culture/

Hofstede. G, ‘Japan’ https://geert-hofstede.com/japan.html

2015, ‘Japanese Table Manners’ in Japan Guide http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2005.html

Japan National Tourism Organisation, ‘Shrines and Temples’ in Japan: the Official Guide http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/exotic/lifestyle/see.html

Mooji. MD, Hofstede. G, 2010, ‘The Hofstede model: Applications to global branding and advertising strategy and research’, International Journal of Advertising, 29 (1) pp. 85-110

 

BABYMETAL- the return

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After revisiting Babymetal (or BABYMETAL as the band scribes) since my initial encounter, I have begun to delve deeper into the origin of the band and have looked into their significance on the global music scene. So far I’ve learnt that the group has come together in the same fashion as other ‘idol’ bands such as One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer, and similarly to these young, vibrant, formulated pop groups, Babymetal has reached immense success not only in their home country of Japan, but appealing to both metal and non-metal fans worldwide. The band defines its style of music as an original genre known as “kawaii metal”, “kawaii” meaning cute in Japanese, and cute (as mentioned in my previous blog) is definitely an accurate description of this band. It is the creative mash up of J-Pop and heavy metal that creates this unique sound. I also found it really funny to learn that the girls in this band barely knew what metal was prior to the formation of this band- but hey, in the media these days when does anyone let the truth get in the way of a good story?

It is an obvious challenge to conduct rigorous autoethnogrpahic research about a culture from the opposite side of the world, however due to the ever-growing (and somewhat terrifying) realms of the World Wide Web, I have been able to grasp a deeper understanding of how Babymetal have evolved and why they are so popular. There are thousands upon thousands of posts on Reddit regarding Babymetal, and while there is immense support from Japanese fans, it appears that their fandom is equally as extensive with fans from the US and UK. There are fan clubs devoted to the band left, right, and centre, and the fan-base is collectively known as “The One”. The fan-base is a mixture of ‘metal heads’ who love the musical aspect of the band, and J-Pop lovers who are crazy about their costumes and style. I found it really interesting to find many pages on Reddit dedicated solely to Babymetal ‘memes’ which transcend both Japanese and Western culture. In my previous post I also noted the humour behind the song “Gimme Chocolate,” however I’ve learned thus far that the lyrical themes found in many of Babymetal’s songs reflect real-world issues, particularly aimed towards young girls. Ideas such as encouraging young teens to accept and stand up for themselves, as well as rejecting the idea that the “ideal women” has to be thin (hence the song about eating chocolate), allows this band to be a role model for young Japanese girls. No wonder they are so popular with the Japanese youth.b1b781c1e80256f61b16a25034dc5038

I also looked at how Japanese fans access music, and while Babymetal are popular on American music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, I found that Spotify is not used in Japan and Apple Music and still very new there, instead, Japanese music streaming app Line Music is the most popular media used to listen to Babymetal. Youtube also remains to be a very popular tool used to consume the work of Babymetal as the costuming and theatrics are a leading part of the band’s success.

In order to conduct further autoethnographic research and begin to make sense of Babymetal, it is important that I look back at my initial encounter with the band and determine what the defining factors were which allowed me to make sense of the music I was listening to. In my previous blog, I noted that it took me a while to even realise that the song I was listening to was not in English. I believe this may have been the case because as I have mentioned, I am not a fan of heavy metal, so upon hearing the loud, heavy sounds of the drums and electric guitar, it is likely that I simply tuned out as normally this is not the kind of music I pay attention to or enjoy. Also, the fact that what I heard was on an Australian national radio station contributed to the element of surprise as I was certainly not expecting to hear a Japanese metal band in the early hours of a Wednesday night. The rarity of hearing a Japanese song on the radio added to my interest

The culture and context of my initial autoethnographic experience significantly impacted my understanding of the band and the music at hand. I inevitably viewed Babymetal through an Australian/Western cultural lens, therefore my way of understanding the music I was listening to was by comparing it to other metal music that I was aware of. I compared Babymetal to Australian ‘metalcore’ band Amity Affliction as I could draw similarities between the two bands as I find that while the music of Amity Affliction is considered metal, I don’t consider it as heavy as other bands in that genre and find that some of their songs have catchy choruses and hooks. I feel like this is the kind of metal that gets more airplay on the radio, therefore I could relate to Babymetal in this way.

This is only the beginning of my autoethnographic research into this unique group, however it has been fascinating to learn of the band’s popularity due to their individuality, and their role as a model for young women. I’m really excited to learn more and construct my independent research project.