#Japan

Digital Artefact: Learning Japanese Calligraphy

I’ve always been intrigued by Japanese culture. I was given the opportunity to study the language and culture for one year in high school but the class only taught the most basic of things. In the past year, I have also developed an interest in typography and brush lettering. This style of lettering has been developed from more traditional forms such as Japanese calligraphy, or Shodo. The research I have conducted surrounding Japanese calligraphy and how it works as an art form is a combination of personal narrative and outsourced information and data. My methodology followed Ellis, et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview. I would be using this method of research to describe and analyse my personal experience as a way of understanding this cultural experience (Ellis, et al 2011).

For my digital artefact, I created a three-part series that showcased myself using different application methods to learning the basic skills of Japanese calligraphy. As traditional shodo takes many, many years to practice and perfect, I would only be attempting to learn the stroke order of the hirigana alphabet. I explored both traditional and contemporary methods of application, which can be seen in videos two and three of the series.

Before even attempting to put a pen/ brush to paper, I researched methods of setting up materials and the correct way to prep new tools. It was during this process that I really had my first epiphany. I was so intrigued with the idea that there were so many rules out there when it came to shodo. Being told that I have to sit up straight and have two feet on the floor while writing out characters was more challenging than I thought it would be. I’ve always had poor posture and I tend to slump when I’m writing, drawing or typing, but after actually putting this rule into action, I was able to see why it may be so important in the art form that is shodo.

From this whole experience, I concluded that the more traditional form of shodo was a lot easier to learn. It was far more enjoyable to use a brush and ink to learn than it was using an app on my iPad. The common theme I found with using an app was that it was near impossible to predict the pressure you were placing on the screen. This, ultimately, affected how the hirigana character looked. I also found it difficult to feel immersed in the experience as I was simply just dragging my finger around a screen. It was such a contrast from using a brush and getting ink on my hands and fiddling with the paper. In saying this, the app also acknowledged that it was just a learning tool. When I first opened the app, it had three little ‘Must Reads’. They said “Paper, writing brush and ink are the best and proved method for calligraphy/ practicing…” and “The idea of this app is to help [focus] on the structure of glyphs and mastering the essence of calligraphy”.

All three videos contain some form of voice over. This was just to provide some context into what I was doing, what I was trying to achieve, and how I felt looking back on the experience.  This experience has instilled in me the fact that shodo is an art form and it has allowed me to understand why it is so highly regarded in Japanese culture.

Part 1: Learning the Strokes

Part 2: Saying Bye to Practice Guides

Part 3: Going Digital

References: 

Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011). ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-12.1.1589

Kim, T. (2017). Hiragana Practice Exercises – Learn Japanese. Guidetojapanese.org. http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/hiragana_ex

MAIKOYA. (2017). Japanese Calligraphy (Shodo). https://mai-ko.com/japanese-calligraphy-shodo/

Schumacher, M. (n.d.). Japanese Calligraphy, Calligraphy in Japan & China. Onmarkproductions.com. http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/calligraphy1.shtml

Shodo-japan.com. (n.d.). SHODO JAPAN|書道ジャパン. http://shodo-japan.com/

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A Flying Axe Covered in Glitter and Bubblegum

 

Tayla Bosley

5050583

DIGC330

Digital Artefact:

Autoethnographic Essay:

Autoethnography, as stated by Ellis (2011) is “an autobiographical genre of writing that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural.”

I think this is the absolute best way to summarise autoethnography, and I think I have achieved this in my project. By relaying through self-reflexivity, the multiple accounts of my personal experience with kawaii metal, then critically analysing those experiences and subsequent epiphanies. I hope to have brought a critical understanding of the genre to those that have read my posts, and listened to my podcasts.

As I stated in my blog post ‘Narrative Truth’, my goal has been to walk that knife’s edge “…between rigorous, theoretical, analytical science, and therapeutic, personal, and social experience-writing.” Therefore connecting my personal experience to the culture of kawaii metal, and enabling those who engage with my work to gain a deeper understanding of kawaii metal.

However, I also agree with Foley (2002) in his criticism of the practise of autoethnography. Foley advocated for a more reflexive epistemological and narrative approach to the research methodology. He believes that by doing this, creating more of a story than a research paper, it would make autoethnographies more engaging and a more common genre of research. Which could contribute to bridging the gap between researchers and ordinary people.

I must agree with Foley, I think that the more engaging, and story-like an autoethnographic account is, the more people will understand and relate to it. This alternative method has a higher chance of achieving the goal of autoethnography; relating the personal to the cultural.

Which is why my autoethnographic podcast is filled with anecdotal stories, creative opinion pieces, and the unending stream of kawaii metal songs under my words. I wanted to give the listener every possible narrative understanding of kawaii metal.

Of course this story-like format that I champion comes with its own limitations. For one, as Mendez states, autoethnography in all its forms require honesty, and a willingness to self-disclose from the researcher.

This is especially important for researchers like me, who desire a more story-like experience, as it can be all too easy to slip from story-like into fairy-tale.

As Anderson (2006) fears, “Autoethnography loses its sociological promise when it devolves into self-absorption.” What I’ve learnt is that this is what makes autoethnography so interesting, and yet so difficult. It is again walking that knife’s edge, between relaying your experience of the culture, and relaying yourself to the reader. While each autoethnographic account is through the researcher’s eyes, the focus should never stray from the culture itself.

There are also ethical considerations that must be addressed when using the autoethnographic research method. Many research topics centre around sensitive issues or beliefs in regards to the researcher themselves or the people around them. Due to this, explicit and early consent, and special consideration must be taken into account by the researcher, so as to not offend or impinge upon the privacy of their research volunteers (Wall, 2008, Mendez 2013).

It is also important to note Ellis’ own point about autoethnography, ‘No researcher is an island.’ We all come with our own experiences, our own cultural view point, our biases, and our own understanding. Thus autoethnographic researchers must disclose each aspects of themselves, least their research becomes tainted, and the reader unaware.

Overall though, the autoethnographic method is like any other research tool; it depends on how you use it, and what you want to achieve with it.

Whether it is a clinical recount of events, or your experience of a culture in its entirety. “What matters is the way in which the story enables the reader to enter the subjective world of the teller -to see the world from her or his point of view, even if this world does not ‘match reality’. Another advantage of writing autoethnographically is that it allows the researcher to write first person accounts which enable his or her voice to be heard, and thus provide him or her with a transition from being an outsider to an insider in the research.” (Hitchcock and Hughes, 1995).

Again, it is this need to bring the outsider inside, which drives the autoethnographic research process. It is making the stranger a friend, and making the alien, home, for both researcher, and reader.

As Ellis said, “On the whole, autoethnographers don’t want you to sit back as spectators; they want readers to feel and care and desire”. And I think this is mostly true of those researchers that use this methodology; their main focus is empathy. When using the autoethnographic method the researcher wants you to feel empathy, as they do while in the research process itself. As it is empathy that incites action (Barkhuizen and Wette 2008)

The entire point, limitations and all, of autoethnography, is to make the reader feel like they are already a part of the culture they are reading about. To make them understand all aspects of the culture through meticulous research, and make them feel like they’ve lived with the culture, through poignant storytelling.

It is this ‘lived in’ feeling that makes autoethnography so powerful for both readers and researchers, and I hope that, in my own reflexive narrative, I have created a story that is filled with the knowledge of kawaii metal, as well as the experience of being a cute girl headbanging to thrash metal music.

References

Songs In Podcast

Aldious: Dominator

BABYMETAL: Doki Doki Morning

BABYMETAL: Gimme chocolate!!

BABYMETAL: Iine!

BABYMETAL: Ijime, Dame, Zettai

BABYMETAL: Karate

BABYMETAL: Megitsune

BABYMETAL: Only the fox god knows audio

Band-Maid: Choose Me

Band-Maid: Real Existence

Band-Maid: Thrill

Bridear: Light in the Dark

Doll$boxx: Loud Twin Stars

Doll$boxx: Take My Chance

Ladybaby: Age Age Money

Ladybaby: Nippon Manju

Websites

Chaisson, J. (2017). This Is A Thing: Kawaii Metal. [online] Geeklyinc.com. Available at: https://geeklyinc.com/this-is-a-thing-kawaii-metal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Crook, L. and Ransom, D. (2014). Babymetal’s fusion of Japanese teen pop and death metal is the greatest thing you’ll see today. [online] The Daily Dot. Available at: https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/babymetal-metal-japanese-pop/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2016). BABYMETAL. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/babymetal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2016). Baby who?. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/baby-who/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2014). BABYMETAL- the return. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/babymetal-the-return/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Articles

Barbier, E. (2017). A beginner’s guide to Kawaii metal – The Concordian. [online] The Concordian. Available at: http://theconcordian.com/2017/03/a-beginners-guide-to-kawaii-metal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Burns, M. (2015). A New Sub-genre of Music Is Growing in Japan. [online] Anitay.kinja.com. Available at: http://anitay.kinja.com/a-new-sub-genre-of-music-is-growing-in-japan-1678920805 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Nash, R. (2016). BabyMetal: Japan’s heavy metal girl-band sensation. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/babymetal-japans-heavy-metal-girl-band-sensation-20160526-gp4pl2.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Threads/Youtube

BABYMETAL. (2017). BABYMETAL. [online] Available at: http://www.babymetal.com/biography/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Kluseba (2017). Kawaii metal thread. [online] Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives. Available at: https://www.metal-archives.com/board/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=119301 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Hoshiya, Y. (2015). Inside the world of “Kawaii metal”. [online] Kawaii-B. Available at: http://kawaiibuk.blogspot.com.au/2015/12/inside-world-of-kawaii-metal.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). BABYMETALofficial. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BABYMETALofficial [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). LADYBABY. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKlfTlx0oY6BiCH7Qvabrhg [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). BANDMAID. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BANDMAID [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Kikuchi, D. (2016). Spotify finally launches in Japan, a nation where other music streaming services have struggled | The Japan Times. [online] The Japan Times. Available at: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/29/business/tech/spotify-launches-japan-nation-streamers-struggled/#.We07G2iCzIU [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Definitions

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). cute | Definition of cute in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cute [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Cuteness. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuteness [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Kawaii. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawaii#History

Journal Articles

Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic autoethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35,373-395.

Barkhuizen, G., & Wette, R. (2008). Narrative frames for investigating the experiences of language teachers. System, 36, 372-387.

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 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Foley, D. (2002). Critical ethnography: The reflexive turn. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 15(4), pp.469-490.

Hitchcock, G., & Hughes, D. (1995). Research and the teacher. (2 ed.) London: Routledge.

Méndez, M. (2014). Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticisms. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 15(2), p.279.

Wall, S. (2008). Easier said than done: Writing an autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 7, 38-53.

 

Origami Paper Cranes

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When thinking of what to do for this assessment I was stumped. I didn’t know which way I wanted to go in terms of topics and found myself procrastinating heavily through the weeks and putting it off.  It was a few weeks before I had to present this Digital Artefact to a group of people in the tutorial that I had an epiphany that guided me to the topic that I have chosen for my DA. Originally for another class, I’m creating a paper origami crane art piece. This involves making as many cranes as possible in the time frame, tying them to fishing wire then hanging them from the roof from three metal meshes.

In order to tie this subject/idea of origami paper cranes to this subject, I have chosen to do some ethnographic and specifically autoethnographic research. Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing which seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand a cultural experience. In order to “do autoethnography,” I have chosen to investigate the history behind origami and paper cranes while also drawing my experiences with making these cranes for my art project.

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The word “origami” comes from the Japanese language where “Ori” means folded and “Kami” is paper. The art of paper folding infiltrated the Japanese culture more strongly than any other. However, the traditional art of paper folding didn’t just exist in Japan alone.

During the 6th CE, paper was introduced into Korea and then into Japan by Buddhist monks. The process of folding origami become an art form as well as a religious ritual for formal ceremonies. It was also practiced in the Japanese imperial court where it was considered amusing and an elegant way to pass the time.

An earlier example of paper folding called “Shide” is a method where the paper is cut into zig-zag shapes. This method of paper folding was used in Shinto purification rituals and are found tied around and in objects, shrines and sacred spaces as an indication that spirits and Gods are present.
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When the art of folding paper become recreational as well as ceremonial a book was published in 1797 by Akisato Rito, which documented recreational paper folding called ‘Folding 1,000 paper cranes’. Before this book origami was taught by elders to the younger children but after this book was published the secrets of origami were recorded and allowed for many people to learn how to fold origami.

Akira Yoshizawa is also considered to be one of the instigators or modern origami. He developed a system of folding patterns which used symbols, arrows, and diagrams that were published and became widely available which contributed to its global reach and standardization. As the art of origami became widely available the methods of folding started to develop and mix together into origami that we usually see today. Many of the origami models found in Europe tended to have a grid crease, pattern with squares, rectangles, and diagonals while ceremonial folds from old Japanese methods tended to have judgment folds where the location of the creases was up to personal taste and interpretation of the individual.

855480_orig.jpgPaper cranes are usually the first thing people think of when origami is concerned. The paper cranes carry heavy symbolism and meaning in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures. In these cultures, cranes represent good fortune and longevity. In Japanese culture the crane is known as the “bird of happiness”, Chinese culture also believes them to be heavenly and full of wisdom. In these cultures, the wings of the crane were believed to be able to carry souls up to heaven and carry people to higher levels of spiritual enlightenment.

Mainly in Japan, the crane is known to be a mystical creature which is believed to be able to live for thousands of years. As a result, these animals are held in the highest regard and has become a symbol of hope during challenging times. Because of this, it has become popular to fold 1,000 paper cranes or “senbazuru” in Japanese. The cranes would usually be strung together on strings and given as wedding or baby shower gifts.

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The story of Sadako Sasaki was the reason why folding 1,000 paper cranes became so popular. Sadako survived the Hiroshima bombing when she was only 2 years old, as she grew older her injuries grew worse and she notices her glands were becoming swollen and purple spots appearing on her legs. She was later diagnosed with leukemia – a cancer of the bone marrow. While she was deteriorating Sadako made the decision to make 1,000 paper cranes, she made the cranes as a way to let out her pain, suffering, and boredom. Sadako hid her suffering and pain through making paper origami cranes and ended up making 644 cranes out of her 1,000 goal. She ended up passing away before reaching her goal so friends, classmates, and family members came together to finish it for her and she ended up being buried with her cranes and a promise of a wish.

sadako-photo.jpg

 

So far I have made around 200 paper cranes and am hoping that I will be able to create another 200 for my art piece. Folding paper cranes have become somewhat therapeutic for me and it’s something that I will continue to do in my free time. I originally used Youtube as a source to understand how to fold the cranes properly because the diagrams available were quite confusing and hard to figure out. When I used Youtube as a source I found that other people who were helping me make them also found it easier to understand which was also helpful. When the art piece is finished and marked I’m planning on keeping it and hanging it somewhere in my room somehow. I think that the story and history behind the origami art form is a beautiful one that I think will definitely stick with me beyond the university assessments I have completed about it.

 

 

WHY AM I LIKE THIS?

After watching the first couple of episodes of any television show, I will usually make the decision to continue watching the show, or remove it from my Netflix list and never think about it again. Unfortunately, for Terrace House, the latter happened. And it has also been quite a while since watching the show. Whilst remembering what I thought about the show, I’ve somehow forgotten what I actually witnessed. University and an excessive amount of alcohol will do that to you I guess (also a large amount of procrastination, lol help).

Now, Ellis et al defines epiphanies as “remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life, times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyse lived experience, and events after which life does not seem quite the same”. This definition is quite intense, yet there are definitely moments in my reaction to Terrace House that made me think differently about Japanese culture.

Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City (テラスハウス ボーイズ&ガールズ イン・ザ・シティ) is a Japanese reality television series. It premiered on Netflix as an original in September 2015. Basically, people that are just like you and me are literally just thrust into a position where they need to live together. To be completely honest with you, just seeing people live their lives seems quite boring to me – I mean, if I wanted to do that, I’d go upstairs and sit with my family every once in a while, right?

 

I made it clear in my video response to the show that I had never seen an Asian show before Bianca introduced me to Terrace House months ago. Although watching Terrace House: Aloha State was quite a different experience to Boys and Girls in the City, as it was set in Hawaii, and some of the people involved were mainly American students. This meant that much of the show was westernised and easy to understand. While watching Boys and Girls in the City, the culture was extremely different to shows I am used to watching.

My personal understanding of reality television (I made this very clear in the video, a little too clear maybe, oops) made me believe that reality television is all about drama and winning a competition. I believe that Australia (and other westernised shows) has a large focus on the drama in a reality show due to the issue of ratings. I also believed that although the reassurance from the ‘commentators’ that the members of the house didn’t have scripts, it felt painstakingly scripted and to be fair – all around boring. I dismissed Terrace House as purely cultural tourism, but I didn’t really understand at first what the show did that set it apart from others of its kind.

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“In a reality TV landscape cluttered by fame, hungry pseudo-human caricatures, Terrace House stands alone by simply letting actual humans be delightfully, heartbreakingly human.”

Although there isn’t a large amount of drama in the show and the conflicts are on a much smaller scale, it is to my belief that the Japanese culture would react to this show much better than I did. Since watching the show, and conducting some research, I learned that the Japanese are generalised as being quite polite, and this is also expressed in their body language. An example of this is in the second episode when there are quite extensive scenes dedicated to resolving issues calmly, such as the issue of unwashed dishes.

Justin McElroy coined an article for Polygon that explored the differences between American Reality TV and Terrace House, claiming that reality aims at perverting people “into creatures of perfect ambition, whose every move is a calculated step towards getting what they’re after. Terrace House shows people as they are, big, dumb wads of conflicting, unexamined emotions just trying to get by.”

Although I believe this to be true, I am also fully understanding to the fact that the Japanese are generally quite polite, genuine and friendly people. Instead of blowing up over unwashed dishes, they will clean the house, and resolve the conflict in a mature and adult manner.

I definitely lack the cultural familiarity that is required to 100% understand Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City, yet I can appreciate the traits in some of the cast, such as impulsivity, compassion and the sense of realness that is portrayed.

The show’s cultural differences are large, and one that I realise now that I don’t think I did before is the fact that it takes several episodes for there to be any kind of physical contact between any romantic partners. There are dates, the girls help each other get ready, yet the physical connections aren’t there. This show is a large view into Japanese culture and how it perceives itself, yet it is nothing that I am used to having on my television screen. I believe that now, I know what it’s like if I were to ever come into contact with Japanese people, it’s a truly refreshing look at the world.

I believe that Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City is an accurate portrayal of young, modern, Japanese people and how they live their lives: chasing ambitions and dating people that may lead to something more, but generally just fizzle. There’s also laundry responsibilities, so that’s fun too.

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

Iron chef ethnographic

Iron Chef is a Japanese cooking competition where guest chefs battle one of the three Iron Chefs in a timed cooking battle which is built around one specific ingredient. The series premiered on October 10, 1993 and ended on September 24, 1999. Iron Chef is regularly broadcasted on SBS.The host of the show is the flamboyant Takeshi Kaga. The Japanese version of Iron Chef has a back story, which is recounted at the beginning of every episode.

  • A title card, with a quote from famed French food author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin first appears: “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Then, it is said that Kaga “realized his dream in a form never seen before” and specially constructed a cooking arena called “Kitchen Stadium” in his castle. There, visiting chefs from “around the world” would compete against his Gourmet Academy, led by his three (later four) Iron Chefs.

Chairman Kaga himself is a showpiece, always dressed in outlandish examples of men’s formal attire. This brings me to my first point. The costume details in the Japanese Iron Chef is something I have never witnessed or experienced before. For a typical cooking show, the hosts are often dressed conservatively. However, the Japanese have dramatic costuming which can be seen as crazy for people who have never experienced it before. Comparing this to italian cooking shows which I watched growing up, they are more similar to Australian shows costume-wise. So, watching this show was a shock to me.

Moving onto the actual ingredients which Iron Chef uses, they were crazy and nothing that I had experienced before. Ingredients like whale and river eel are common on the Japanese version, something that I never plan to eat in my whole life.  But these foods are common and not unusual for people from the Japanese culture, which is the same concept for Australian cooking shows. We tend to use basic proteins like chicken, beef and pork and incorporate vegetables which are considered unusual. This is the basis of each challenge.

Iron chef has a lack of dramatisation through music, and utilises the ambient sounds well. This makes the show more enjoyable because the dramatic sound effects constantly playing over in the show can be annoying over time. I really enjoyed how you could hear what the chefs were doing, particularly when they were cutting things and you could actually hear it without some obnoxious squelching sound interrupting it. This is a major difference to the Australian and American shows. The sound effects are used to build unnecessary drama and create tense moments when they aren’t even needed.

Overall, Iron Chef has provided a large comparison to western television shows, which showcases the rare aspects which we aren’t commonly exposed to. For example, the crazy key ingredients are something i’ve never thought about eating, yet this is a common practice in the Japanese culture. The costumes are outlandish in the show, as well as the unrelated backstory, and is an interesting way to provide something interesting. However, this is considered to be something ‘normal’ and sometimes traditional. The differences between the shows and from what i’m used to is vast, however i’m excited to continue exploring the Japanese culture, whether it be through television, food or music.

 

 

 

Stand Up Comedy in Japan

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I was at a bit of a loss when deciding on a topic for my digital artefact. We were asked to try not to look at anything we were familiar with, and for me that ruled out a lot of the ideas that had come to my mind for my topic. I’m not saying I’m an expert in Asian culture or anything, far from it. I’ve just dipped my toe into more aspects of Asian culture than the average Joe. What was I going to look at then? My first idea was to look at Japanese cooking shows, I like cooking so why not. One night though, while watching a Hannibal Buress stand up special, I had an epiphany. Why don’t I look at Japanese stand-up comedy?

So I did.

 

I guess I’ll start by letting you know that I love stand up. I’ve been watching stand up since before I should have been watching stand up. The first time I can remember watching stand up is when I was about eleven or twelve, and I was watching Billy Connolly on a VHS tape that we had at home. I thought he was hysterical, and from there my love for stand-up has only gotten stronger. Now at twenty one, I probably watch five or six stand up specials a week. It is safe to say that I have watched a lot of different stand up, but never stand up from Japan.

So, it was time to find some Japanese stand up, and not really knowing where to go, I went to my old faithful Youtube. Something I quickly realised when looking through the search results, is that I had a picture of what ‘Japanese stand up’ would look like in my head, and I didn’t see it, nor could I find it. I don’t know where the image I had in my head came from, but what I expected to see was that Japanese stand up was just, the stand-up that I’m used to, but with Japanese comedians performing in Japanese, to a Japanese audience. What I found was a whole different range of stuff, so let’s look at some of it.

One of the things I saw a lot of was Japanese comedians performing stand up in English to either, a majority foreign audience in Japan, or Japanese comedians performing overseas, mostly in America. I was the most familiar with this type of routine. It followed the same formula I was used to, and besides a few little things like the use of a clip board in a routine, it was the same style of comedy that most of us would be familiar with. I didn’t feel like I was seeing ‘actual’ Japanese stand up watching these. They were admittedly funny shows, but it felt like the stand-ups I watched were just copying what they had seen other foreign comedians do.

The other type of act that made up the majority of the videos I watched was the double act. My experience with double acts in stand up is definitely not as extensive as with single performer acts, and I think I’d be right in saying the reason for this is that there just not as popular in our culture. There are certainly some great comedy duo’s in stand up, I mean even in Australia we have the likes of The Umbilical Brothers, Lano and Woodley, Sammy J and Randy, there all amazing acts. I just think there are less double acts than there are singles, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Japan, at least from what I’ve seen.

The acts and how I watched them were all different as well. There’s one duo named Gamarjobat which seem to have done both in Japan and internationally. I’m just assuming this because a lot of their videos show them performing on different television shows from around the world. Gamarjobat remind me of The Umbilical Brothers in their routines. They don’t use their voices as much, for speech or noises, but the use of props and their bodies is very similar. The other acts were a little more foreign (please excuse the pun) to me. They did use some techniques I’d seen before like one guy playing the straight man and the other the zany/stupid/different character. Most of the double acts also seemed to use slapstick in their routines. Watching these acts, I felt like I was getting something different to what I was used to, and I think it was because I could see the audience was Japanese, it also helped that some of the acts were in Japanese, which was interesting when some of them didn’t include subtitles.

It was an interesting experience watching and then writing about Japanese stand up, reading over I feel a little slack saying one didn’t feel authentic, who am I to say that? Hopefully doing some research on the topic will help me understand a few things.

Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 2.

Over the past decade, manga, along with other quintessential elements of Japanese pop culture, have had a souring increase in popularity within the western world. Reflecting back on my own upbringing, what once was considered a niche source of entertainment for very few children, is now being used for discussion on pervasive social issues, as well as within academic research. This overwhelming increase in recognition and application has led to a wider interest in Japanese culture through the apt appropriation of these cultural materials as a source of poignant socio-cultural information. Manga has always presented itself as something that I am curious about, but I lacked both the urgency and connection to the medium to pursue this curiosity further.

As discussed within my initial auto-ethnographical account, Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 1, my interactions with manga were both encountered by initial chance, and self-directed curiosity on the issue.

What’s interesting to me is the way in which constructing my narrative, for the purpose of discussing my initial interaction with manga, prompted epiphanies regarding the topic. Through following Ellis et al’s suggested narrative methodology in order to ‘bring readers into the scene – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions’ provoked an awareness of occurrences and intricacies which heavily influenced my motivation on the topic.

My first epiphany was with regard to my own privilege. Although the concept of privilege, and its function within society, is highly systemic, it is also exceedingly relative to the country in question. Japanese culture operates not only culturally different to Australia, but also socially on a lot of issues. Due to these socio-cultural biases and my lack of interaction with manga, I came to view manga as a revolutionary tool before seeing it as an entertainment medium.

The history of Japan is completely separate from what we know as the West. Its evolution regarding distinctive philosophies, socio-cultural structures and religious authority, understandably built Japan into the country it is today. Although there is no law against homosexuality within Japan, there is little discussion of LGBT issues at all. Topics and representations of homosexuality are frequently kept silent, and gay rights, including marriage, receives very little political discussion. This poses itself as a stark contrast to my own experiences within Australia, and this knowledge has prompted me to view Japanese LGBTQ+ culture as repressed and systemically discriminated against.

As evidenced within my initial account, I opened the post with an account of a marriage equality rally in which I attended. This comparison was done with clear intention and motivation, so as to reveal the glaring differences in culture, and the experiences of the respective LGBTQ+ communities to the audience. Focusing on the phenomena of ‘patterns of cultural experiences’ discussed by Ellis et al, we can witness repeated stories and happenings of similar minority groups (i.e. acts of discrimination and erasure), albeit at different points in time. This awareness promotes curiosity into the different cultural structures that facilitated the difference in evolution of this social groups acceptance. But also, because of the dual presence of queer communities in both cultures, it raises the question of how LGBTQ+ communities navigate their domineering culture through the appropriation of untraditional modes of communication.

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This epiphany highlighted, as well as indirectly structuring the way I would address the function of manga as not only a source of entertainment, but as a source of queer liberation in a culture that traditionally objects to the ‘unordinary’. This dual function is pertinent to its success as an escapist and revolutionary medium.

Manga provides audiences with a merging of visual and literary examples of Japanese culture, thus allowing manga the potential to be a rich and enduring source of cultural information (Dudley, 2012, p. 2). Emblematic of most cross-cultural texts however, manga’s ability to serve as not only a vehicle for Japanese culture, but also an important tool for social activism, depends on the way in which it is translated. Branching off Ellis’ comments regarding the ‘comparing of personal experiences with existing research’, it was evident that Japanese texts had the capability to operate in much the same way that Western socio-political inspired texts operate, an example of which being film. Traditionally, most manga sources are translated for the purposes of entertainment. Within the pages of manga, you are able to be anything  that you like- a supernatural being, super hero or a person of another gender identity. The narrative structure of manga assisted in easing my struggle with reading this text, especially regarding the lack of prior engagement I had with it.

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Within the imaginary world constructed by manga, concepts of gender and sexuality are often quite fluid, so it is no shock that many LGBTQ+ people are turning to manga for sympathetic representations of their lived experiences. Within my initial account, I referred to two manga- Wandering Son (2002) and Bokura No Hentai (2012). Although both address similar topics regarding trans* identity, their execution varying drastically. Wandering Son, due to my own perceptions regarding trans* identity, was read with intense contempt. I unfortunately could not finish the text, revealing the way in which my own cultural framework influenced the way in which I viewed the text. As opposed to viewing the story as the starting point for queer representation on an evolutionary timeline regarding the acceptance of these identities, I viewed it as highly repressive contrast to what I am accustomed to in my own cultural space. However, reading Bokura No Hentai directly after Wandering Son however heightened my affinity for the latter text, due to the fact that it aligned more consistently to the social codes that I am used to, as well as my own moral compass.

References:

Bokura no Hentai, Mangafox, viewed 3 September 2017, http://m.mangafox.me/manga/bokura_no_hentai/

Dudley, J 2012, Manga as Cross-Cultural Literature: The effects of Translation on Cultural Perceptions, viewed 9 September 2017, https://scholarship.tricolib.brynmawr.edu/bitstream/handle/10066/14759/2012DudleyJ_thesis.pdf?sequence=1

Ellis, C 2011, Autoethnography: A Review, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, viewed 10 September 2017, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Nicolov, A, 2016, How Manga is Guiding Japan’s Youth on LGBT Issues, DAZED, viewed 11 September 2017, http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32647/1/how-manga-is-guiding-japan-s-youth-on-lgbt-issues

Wandering Son, Fantagraphic, viewed 4 September 2017, http://www.fantagraphics.com/wanderingson1/

Undergoing research into Japanese hair trends

On both sides of my family lineage, I am British. Way, way, way, way back kind of British. There’s enough family trees and ancestry tracing in my family to tell you that. I’m very generic in that blue-eyes, blonde-hair Australian stereotype way, and it always felt nice to fit in with that narrative in an easy way. While I’m not a sun-kissed surfer babe, as I grew up in the country, hours away from the nearest beach, it felt like I belonged in the typical Australian backdrop.

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