#Japan

Bebop Box

In first approaching this autoethnographic task, the four of us had grouped together in order to determine what would be our field site. Travelling to Asia, was out of the question, and we had all experienced Asian food to a similar extent as well. What we did however determine was that we had all held differing experiences in regards to Japanese anime, ranging from the extensive, to almost nothing at all. Although this determined our media format, the plethora of anime in existence made the selection of a single series extremely difficult. However, the one that continuously entered the conversation was Cowboy Bebop.

As influenced by Ellis’ definition of autoethnography as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis et al, 2011), we decided to present our project in a gogglebox-esque format, combing clips of the show and our recorded reactions. This provided real time responses to each of the four viewers as they happened, allowing direct comparison of responses and both a visual and verbal account of individual epiphanies.

The selection of Cowboy Bebop was quite interesting in itself as we had never seen the series screened in Australia. The show is not available on Netflix, and due to its creation in the late 1990s, no advertisements are currently being used. Access then became somewhat of an issue, resulting in us borrowing a physical DVD set of the series. However, the quality of the DVD itself became very questionable after cutting on halfway through the first session. A quick search on YouTube provided us with the first three episodes in full, with English dubs and high definition. This forced us to question how these episodes were getting past the stringent copyright laws on YouTube, questioning whether the age of the series was a factor, or did the series just slip through the cracks. YouTube’s community guidelines rules specifically state that you cannot “use content in your videos that someone else owns the copyright to, such as music tracks, snippets of copyrighted programs, or videos made by other users, without necessary authorizations” (YouTube, 2016). Each of these three episodes was taken from a different channel, each demonstrating blatant copy write infringement. YouTube even flagged our video when attempting to upload! Further research into Anime message boards and forums provided no conclusive answer the problem, with some users stating that their posting of videos were taken down almost immediately, while others list channels hosting over 500 clips of Anime, to which they don’t own the rights.

The word-of-mouth recommendations of Cowboy Bebop by numerous individuals (both our age and older) and thus, representative of its cult following. Furthermore, research into this cult found over 46,000 subscribers to the Cowboy Bebop sub-reddit, a rating of 9/10 on IMBD, and two differing ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for the movie, 64% critics from critics and 90% from the audience. It was this cult following that led us to the conclusion that the series must be quite long such as other cult anime series like One Piece. However, we soon determined that this was wrong with the series holding only one season, and one movie. This furthermore made us question, why Cowboy Bebop had such a popular following in both Western Countries and Japan.

A particular element of the episodes that puzzled us was the music soundtrack that accompanied fight scenes as well as the theme song that played at the introduction of each episode.  Jazz has its origins in New Orleans, so it was surprising to see it use in a Japanese film.  Despite this, the music in Cowboy Bebop was composed by Yoko Kanno with The Seatbelts, a blues and jazz band.  These composers wrote the iconic Cowboy Bebop opening song titled Tank which has been embedded below if you wish to listen to it.

Interesting, the Cowboy Bebop sub -reddit has many positive comments about the inclusion of original music, supporting the ideal that the original sound track in the series is a key factor for its popularity.  Maybe the utilisation of jazz music was a way to attract audiences from more Westernised backgrounds.

Importantly, director of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe was so impressed with Kanno’s score that he was inspired to go back and re-write scenes.  Each scene essentially had its own unique score and song.

Charlotte found the use of the jazz music quite odd, as having grown up playing Jazz music herself, her interpretation of where jazz music fits in in terms of interpretation, art and self expression was not in line with the use of jazz in Cowboy Bebop.  However all four of us noted that the theme music was similar to what we had heard in more Westernised films such as Mission Impossible and James Bond which also have orchestral music in some of there scenes.

All in all, the experience of anime was different for all four of us.  Perhaps this was due to the contextual knowledge we already had about elements of the series, including how much anime we had previously consumed.  Because of this, not all of us enjoyed the episodes as much as we thought, because we had pre-conceived ideas as to what it was about.  Cowboys fighting people.  I guess we were all wrong!

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1

King Of Chair

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Abbey, John, Kate & Naomi autoethnographic investigation of the Japanese gameshow ‘King Of Chair’


As evident by a sheer number of articles and videos on the Internet, Westernised countries have interpreted Japanese game shows as “crazy” and “weird”. This is commonly due to the audience recognising the producer forcing the contestants to do strange things for the benefit of the audience. Before first-hand participating in watching a Japanese game show many of us would have agreed that this stereotype is an accurate depiction of Japanese culture.

Generally speaking Westernised game shows consist of contestants testing their knowledge, skill and ability with rewards being prizes of currency and various objects, and whilst this is true in Japanese game shows, they often add a comedic element to the shows, whilst still focusing on the ability of the contestants as they undertake various tasks that are usually painful or painfully funny for the audience.

Game shows were first broadcasted in Japan in the 1950s before becoming well-known as strange, off-the-wall, and at times a bit brutal, but always hilarious and entertaining.”

‘King of Chairs’ was first broadcasted in July 2010 on the TBS network. Its motif is a twist on the classical children’s game, musical chairs. In each episode, ten comedians/idols are released into a large environment where 1000 chairs are scattered and hidden throughout with the King of Chair logo. Out of these, there is only 3 winning chairs, with dozens of traps and surprises that are difficult to avoid as the contestants can only find out if the chair is a winner by sitting on it for 3 seconds. If the sensor on the chair sets off a winning bell, they win one of three spots in the episode’s finale.

The similarities of the Australian children’s game ‘musical chairs’ are present as players compete over chairs. However, it differentiates itself from this as it commonly takes place at parities where players compete for a decreasing number of chairs, with losers in successive rounds being those unable to find a chair to sit on when the music stops.

From what can only be described as a strange remake of the children’s game ‘musical chairs’, King of Chair seemed like a good place to start our groups authethnographical research of a Japanese game show. We started off by watching the video together and recording our initial reactions through a range of social media platforms. With the typical stereotype of Japanese game shows being strange and weird and consisting of the contestants doing odd things for the audiences benefits, we didn’t know what to expect! Yet to our surprise, this show was rather tame, it was only weird because none of us fully understood what was going on.

We were able to pick up the main theme of the show, several people competing for winning chairs and having strange and scary things happening to them as a result of sitting on an incorrect chair. The theme of the show was an easy one and little interpretation was needed to understand what was going on, further making it a good choice for us to watch. This has helped to open our view and perceptions into asian game show culture and prove that not all games are gross, weird and strange.

At the beginning of ‘King of Chairs’ we noticed the girl wearing a sailor costume and automatically began comparing it to a previous cultural experience of encountering Japanese anime at a young age stating, “Sailor Moon – is that you?” and “I like the dress ups. One is wearing rafting gear and the other is Sailor Moon”. However, when further researching into this contestants of the game all appear in uniform. The men are required to wear a school-like uniform or blazer and the women are required to wear sailor-like attire of a blazer, with a helmet. When we look at this from the perspective of Australian culture, we are able to recognise that many game shows do not have a dress code and contestant tend to dress more for comfort.

The main thing that really stood out to us through this collaborative autoethnographic investigation was the large part language plays in one’s comprehension of what is going on in one’s environment. Without dubs or subs, it was really tricky to get the gist of exactly what was going on. It took the entire 45 minute episode for the group to really get a grasp on what exactly it was we were watching, which was really interesting. I We also thought that the use of dubs and subs could further change the way we interpret the show, in a negative way. These translations are never quite perfect, so having this added into the show, would have changed our experience immensely.

For example after watching the show, we took to Reddit and found out what people were saying around the King of Chair. We found out that the participants in the show were actually celebrities in Japan, comedians in , models, actorJapans etc.. So because we missed all of what the participants were actually saying I am sure we all missed a large portion of the humour behind the show. The trap chairs were funny for us to watch visually, however we really missed out on a significant element to the show due to not knowing Japanese.

Another general comment in regards to the autoethnographic process, is that I noticed how critical we  was were when we are looking at something with fresh eyes. Perhaps the autoethnographic process just makes you notice something that is always happening naturally, but we did  I am automatically comparing it to something else, like an experience I have already had within the context of my culture.  Perhaps that was the autoethnographic process shining through??

I was having a good experience on a gameshow called “The King of Chair”. Other group mates were having different experiences because of subs or dubs. The video does not have any English subs which is challenging for them, and also provides a different environment within a language barrier. I personally study Japanese now so I partly understand the structure and the flow of the game, which I have a different experience from the gameshow.

To me, the rules of the game is quite tricky and different from the original game. Those contestants, who are mixed with comedians, idols, actors/actresses, and even athletes, are chasing for what they called “real chair” to win the game out of 1000 chairs. It just blown my mind that how creative Japanese people are and how they make the show become intense and exciting by using different items or shenanigans to trick players, and using pop-out Japanese wording to show the excitement or anger when players do not find the real chair.

Somehow, I found some of the players were overreacting. I don’t know if they did that purposely or for humour, when they fell down from a fake chair, they just kept yelled “Itai,itai, itai”, which means it hurts. The facial expression of different players are different. Seems like comedians were trying to be “Funny”, even they know the chair is shenanigan, they just sit down and get tricked. The characters of Japanese people are quite obvious, such idols need to be like an “idol”, pretty, lovely image, while actor and actress try to gain more fame by being brave in the show. The industry of tv show in Japan seems to be “Funny or Brave to win”.

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.

 

Fight Like a Girl

It took me a long time to understand how to begin an autoethnographic study. The term itself is not hard to grapple but it is difficult to wrap your head around once you’ve spent almost four years at University taking yourself out of the equation and supplementing it with work from other people who are far more intelligent that you.

But after a lot of looking around, Hoppes (2014, p.64) summarised it perfectly, “autoethnographers’ methods vary, but generally include discussion, reflection, note-taking, emotional recall, and identification of categories and themes yielding a narrative that affords both the inside view of a research participant and the outside view of a researcher”.

 

Autoethnographic research is also somewhat of a Pandora’s box. It takes you on a journey way, way, way to the right so you are immersed in a different culture. But then spins you around and around and expects you to run all the way back in the opposite direction so you can tell people of your journey.

But as Hall (Chang 2008, p.34) eloquently suggests, the key to studying another culture is to not to simply understand a foreign culture but to better understand our own or to be better equipped.

This is particularly accurate for me as I am exploring tones of feminism through the text Sailor Moon. Initially I was annoyed that there was loud, huge sign that said, “here is the feminist part, ding ding ding”! On reflection, I feel quite stupid because there is absolutely none of that in my own culture so why would I expect if from another?

The genre that Sailor Moon falls under is Shoujo which often addresses a “girl’s first love, and the innocent excitement and sometimes painful drama that comes with it. It also deals with friendship and personal development” (Lai, 2015). Conversely, Lai (2015) says that another genre targeted towards female audiences is josei which uncovers what it means to be an adult, what it means to be a woman and with it a sense of maturity and readiness for adulthood.

This was interesting as I did not know that there were so many levels and areas of manga and anime. So maybe I am placing too much ‘pressure’ on Sailor Moon to be a feminist text much like you would not expect the Saddle Club to be teaching girls about what it means to be a woman.

Despite all this, Newsom (2004, p.58) does make a point regarding the Sailor Scouts who are powerful and feminine characters as well as their power being dependent on femininity. Femininity is a literal requirement of being a Sailor Scout.

Sailor Scouts also represent a planet and this is believed to be refelctive of their personality and behaviour.

  • Sailor Moon/Usagi Tsukino  – she is extremely protective of her friends and the Moon is supposed to be the ‘Queen of Astrology’ and represents our emotions, moods and thoughts.
  • Sailor Mercury/Ami – Mercury represents communication and is often associated with intellect. Ami  is possibly the most intelligent girl of the whole group and often berates the group for not doing their homework
  • Sailor Mars/Rei Hino – Mars is passion. It also represents assertiveness and action and can have aggressive urges. Rei is the hot-tempered, aggressive chacrter who ofen finds herself in the midst of an argument
  •  Sailor Jupiter/ Makoto Kino – Jupiter revolves around expansiveness. They desire new experiences and getting to the top. Makoto is independent and after her parents died while she was young, she’s been taking care of herself and others.
  • Sailor Venus/ Minako Aino – Love & pleasure is the name of the game for Venus. The most important theme about Venus is harmony in interpersonal relationships. Minako is the stereotypical pre-teenager who is often dreaming about finding love.

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The winning combination of these girls enables a stronger connection with the characters as you are able to identify yourself with at least one of them. Similar to the Spice Girls who were also riding the wave of Girl Power in early 2000s. Everyone knew if they were Sporty, Baby, Posh, Scary or Ginger.

It truly is a coming of age piece that exemplifies what it means to have friends and that they will have your back no matter what. The only other observation that I have recently made was the fact that the evil woman Queen Beryl is wonderfully evil and has the greatest cackle ever. I was apprehensive when I saw that many of the female characters who are evil tend to have submissive males, as I thought it really could go into the realm of misandry. But it has not from the little that I have observed thus far.

Overall, this show is all about amplifying the ‘girls only club’, the power of friendship, kicking some evil butt and all whilst looking fab-u-lous in those outfits, heels and with hair always on pointe – yes, that was supposed to be sarcasm. I still loathe it.

Chang, H, (2008), ‘Autoethnography as a Method’, Eastern University,  http://www.academia.edu/1244871/Autoethnography_as_method

Cooper-Chen, A, (1999), “An Animated Imbalance: Japan’s Television Heroines in Asia,” International Communications Gazette, vol.61, no.3, pp.293-310

Ferris, A, (2014), ‘Why Sailor Moon Is One of the Greatest Feminist Stories Ever’, The Absolute Mag, accessed 19 September, http://theabsolutemag.com/26731/longreads/why-sailor-moon-is-one-of-the-greatest-feminist-stories-ever/

Hoppes, S (2014), ‘Autoethnography: Inquiry Into Identity’, New Directions fro Higher Education, vol. 2014, no. 166, pp. 63 – 179

Lai, A, (2015), ‘Looking at female characters in Anime and Manga’, The Mary Sue, http://www.themarysue.com/female-characters-anime/

Newsom, V.A., (2004), ‘Young Females as Super Heroes: Super Heroines in the Animated Sailor Moon’, Femspec, vol.5, no.2, p.57 – 81

Revisiting Japanese Game Shows

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Using autoethnographic methods to reflect on my initial experience with Honmadekka will allow me to understand Japanese cultural experience. By drawing from, and expanding on my personal experience I will uncover common cultural assumptions and how they affect our understanding.

“the world of Japanese game shows is best known as a technicolored whirlwind of half-naked bodies, sadomasochistic physical challenges, and the occasional whimsical bunny rabbit head. In short, any reasonable person would assume they couldn’t be real.” (Huffington Post)

Game shows first begun when television broadcasting in Japan started in 1950.To begin with, these game shows were ‘tame’, but became more complex as time went on.

Takeshi’s Castle (launched 1986) was the first Japanese game show to receive global syndication. This show’s contestants were regular people (unlike the celebrities that compete in most other Japanese game shows), and the show was produced to look like contestants were forced into…

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Japan: Can You Or Can You Not? Revisited

The experiences of social conventions vary immensely across the globe. From Andrei Mamor: Social Conventions, conventional rules have an arbitrary nature. This means that we should be able to determine an alternative rule to achieve the same purpose, and if the conventional rules are not followed within the community they lose their specific purpose. But why do people follow conventional rules? It is tied to the fact that others follow it too, and therefore it becomes a recognisable expression that indicates a specific purpose. For example, in Australia consider the convention of saying “hello” when we answer the phone, the same response reflects the manifest feature as an expression that enables the caller to recognise that someone has answered.

What I didn’t realise, is just how different these are translated across cultures, this was seen in my first YouTube encounter in ‘Japan: Can You Not?’ where I began to question the many facets of Japanese life. By revisiting the social conventions examined in the post it is clear, as stated on Inside Japanese Tours, “there are many social conventions in Japan that westerners might find it hard to understand, but that is the nature of different cultures and is part of the fun of being in a country like Japan.”

As has been alluded to for much of this ethnographic study, Japanese social conventions have affirmed to be extremely complicated for someone who has not grown up in the culture, or is a foreign visitor. As stated on Inside Japanese Tours how, “Japanese people grow up picking up the subtleties of the unique culture as they progress through life, respecting both the invisible and varied societal rules.” It comes to one question, how can a communities social conventions be developed to a point whereby other communities and visitors are able to recognise them?

For the purpose of this study, this discussion will examine the Japanese social climate comparing it to that of Australia where possible. With the general lack of conclusive and comparative data, all statements made are based on my ethnographic scope.

In 2013 it was recorded that the population of Japan was 127.3 million, being strikingly homogenous, with ethnic Japanese accounting for around 98.5%. Parts of the country are known for having distinctive, colourful local dialects, however the whole country essentially speaks the same language. Traditional Japanese society and culture stress the values of harmony, consensus decision-making and social conformity.

The common Japanese saying and guideline of social behaviour comes from the saying

“the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” (Global Sherpa).

On the other hand in 2013 Australia’s population was recorded at 23.13 million with white Australians consisting of 92% of the population, and therefore are associated with high linguistic affiliation and having a dominant language of English with little multi-lingualism. Australian’s are often perceived as casual, easy going and familiar with the ideology of egalitarianism. (Sources: Every Culture, Convict Creations).

When examining this, the social differences between the two nations become apparent. With these figures, it translates that there are major cultural and language barriers that exist across cultures making translation of social conventions difficult.

By examining etiquette in Japan: Can You Not?’, I discovered many social conventions that westernized countries would more than likely be unfamiliar with. Firstly, I stated “Don’t get emotional: But I’m just generally an emotional person”, but reflecting on it maybe this is due to my upbringing around high emotions with everyone around my outwardly expressing negativity – did it become apart of my nature and habits? Bridges To Japan recognises the Japanese culture to consider open expression of emotion, especially negative ones, to be immature and indicative of lack of self-control.

Secondly, I stated my immediate thoughts in response to the YouTube video on restaurant etiquette, questioning why they can’t customize food orders, but when further researching I discovered the extend of restaurant etiquette in Japan. This came from Convict Conventions where stated that Japanese etiquette is reasonably relaxed aside from refraining from actions that have death associations. These include sticking chopstick up right in rice (this is how rice may be presented to deceased ancestors in the obon festival) or even passing food using chopsticks. In Australia however, etiquette varies according to the nature of the restaurant, but generally taboo to use hands on anything except chips and bread.

Another element of the YouTube video that stood out for me was the use of phones in public places in Japan in specific buses and trains. I questioned this after noticing just how many people in Australia rely on their phones on public transport, however after researching I found that in Japan talking on the phone while riding on a bus or train is frowned upon, and Go Japan Go states that “messages asking passengers not to make calls and to switch their phones to silent mode (“manner mode” in Japanese) are played frequently.” Quora explains the two reasons to this, one being that Japanese people use their time spent on the train to “rest and recharge”, and secondly that Japanese people are mortally afraid of causing trouble to others, so everything they do is done with careful consideration of its possible impact on people around them. Quora depicts the Western world consisting of people who generally feel less inhibition to outwardly express themselves resulting in less proactive empathy than self-interest, and therefore phones are more tolerated.

With Japan proving to having a unique cultural with a very strict code of etiquette, as stated in the Smart Traveller guide by the Australian Government it is important when travelling to be aware of any local differences, and as appropriate, take similar precautions to those you would take in Australia. Being in an unfamiliar location without your typical support mechanisms always create additional challenges.

To conclude, the nature of social climates and their values can be easily misinterpreted cross-culturally, with social etiquette playing a large role within society. The sheer amount of individuals and their cultural differences, upbringing and values constitute, and give each community their own form and adaption of social and cultural etiquette. For travellers or individuals raised outside the culture this can create extreme difficulties when interacting and participating in Japanese culture.

Reflecting on my Autoethnographic experience: Traditional Japanese Origami

The one thing that I have to mention first off is a mistake a made in my previous post of which I am attributing to my lack of knowledge and understanding of the Japanese art origami.  After starting my research, I quickly became aware and slightly devastated to learn that the figures that I created and documented in my first post were in fact dove’s, not crane’s.  There is a distinct difference in the final product of each figure, as well as the process of creating a crane being a lot more complex than that of a dove.

 

Regardless of this mistake, I have continued to research into the assumptions I made in my first post.

The exact origin of origami has often been debated due to the fact that paper degrades quickly leaving no trace as to where origami originated from and who first invented it. It has been said that paper was first invented in China by Cai Lun (also written as Ts’ai Lun) in 105 AD, whilst archaeologist evidence suggests that paper was invented even earlier than this. Paper was then brought to Japan by Buddhist monks in the sixth century AD.

Interestingly, in relation to my curiosity about the importance of the ‘crane’, I found out that the oldest known document written about origami surfaced in 1797 and was called the Senbazuru Orikata, which translates to ‘How to Fold One Thousand Cranes’. In Japan, the crane is a mystical creature and is believed to live for a thousand years. Culturally speaking, in Japan, China and Korea, the crane represents good fortune and longevity. Perhaps this not only answers my query about why the crane is so important but it also provides a reason why in the movie ‘Sadako and a Thousand Paper Cranes’ the main character Sadako tries to make a thousand origami cranes. Maybe this is because she is hoping that she will overcome her leukaemia and therefore prolong her life.

Further to this, the crane has developed a worldwide symbol of children’s desire for peace, however this concept has developed over time in conjunction with the traditional meaning of good fortune and longevity.

The meaning behind the crane then led me to consider if there was a meaning behind the floral prints on origami paper. I was able to determine that the two most prominent flowers, at least in the origami paper that I bought, are the cherry blossom and the Japanese lotus flower. Cherry blossoms are actually Japan’s national flowers, (I feel like I did know this) whilst the Japanese lotus has lots of different meanings depending on the colour, although generally involves the concept of rebirth.


Research then led me to the film Sadako and a Thousand Paper Cranes to try and revisit and understand the meaning behind the film. It turns out the film is based on a true story in which a young child called Sadako developed leukaemia as a result of being exposed to radiation as a baby during the atomic bomb of Hiroshima in 1945. The tradition was that if you created one thousand cranes and made a wish after each one was completed, then your wish would come true. Although there are conflicting stories that she either died having made 644 cranes or completed the one thousand cranes and then later died at the age of 12 from cancer is also debated. I personally want to believe that my recollection is of the second choice.

sadako.jpeg

Sadako memorial piece in Peace Park Seattle which is always draped in paper cranes.

Sadako actually wished for world peace instead of her own health and I can’t help but notice a clear link with the text of my first blog task, Gojira, which also had an underlying message surrounding the negative effects of war, atomic bombs and further nuclear testing.

This concept has really challenged me to consider my naive reaction to the frustrations of origami making. While yes it might be difficult for a beginner to grasp the difficult folds, twists and creases of an origami sheet, it is important to stop and look at the whole picture and see why origami has such a powerful cultural resonance with Asian countries. Whilst I was also pondering the importance of the crane and its traditional meaning in an Asian setting, I stumbled across this wonderful quote by Yoshizawa Akira, who has been acknowledged for his creative origami, which I think really explains the beauty of origami:

You can fold a simple quadrilateral paper into any shape as you want. I wished to fold the laws of nature, the dignity of life, and the expression of affection into my work…Folding life is difficult, because life is a shape or an appearance caught in a moment, and we need to feel the whole of natural life to fold one moment”.

Hence through my research I have discovered that origami paper itself is an intricate story of Japanese culture, with importance given to colour, floral patterns and design. I also learnt that the gold of origami paper represent love and loyalty whilst silver represents elegance. Clearly I had no idea of the traditional meaning behind the different elements on origami sheets, although I did and still do appreciate the beauty of each individual sheet of paper. Not only this but the importance of each shape or figure that can be created with the paper no doubt has an underlying cultural significance in an Asian setting that I was not aware of. Perhaps this is because my cultural experience has been hindered by lack of understanding and limited access to Japanese in general. Thus I am quite happy to conclude that my autoethnographic encounter coupled with research has allowed me to address my assumptions whilst also answering some unanswered questions presented to me in my first blog on origami.

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References

Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 2016, history.com, viewed 14 September 2016, <http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/bombing-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki>.

Cherry Blossom Meaning 2016, enki village, viewed 15 September 2016, <http://www.enkivillage.com/cherry-blossom-meaning.html>.

Echo, A 2016, Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes, image, Emaze, viewed 15 September <https://www.emaze.com/@ACLQIFLW/Sadako-and-the-1,000>.

Goldstein-Gidoni, O 2005, ‘The Production and Consumption of ‘Japanese Culture’ in the Global Cultural Market’, Journal of Consumer Culture, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 155-179.

History of Origami 2016, Origami Resource Centre, viewed 14 September 2016, <http://www.origami-resource-center.com/history-of-origami.html>.

History of Origami 2016, Origami Instructions, viewed 14 September 2016, <http://www.origami-instructions.com/history-of-origami.html>.

Meaning of The Origami Crane 2012, JCCC Origami Crane Project, viewed 15 September 2016, <http://www.jccc.on.ca/origami-cranes/pdf/meaning_of_the_origami_crane.pdf>.

Origami 2016, Japan Zone, viewed 14 September 2016, <https://www.japan-zone.com/culture/origami.shtml>.

Lotus Flower Wallpaper 2016, image, pcwallart.com, viewed 15 September 2016, <http://pcwallart.com/lotus-flower-wallpaper-3.html>.

Sadako Sasaki 2016, image, Activity Village, viewed 14 September 2016, <http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/sadako-sasaki>.

Williams, R 2006, The Invention of Paper, Institute of Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech, viewed 13 September 2016, <http://ipst.gatech.edu/amp/collection/museum_invention_paper.htm>.

Wallpaper HD 2016, image, Schone Wallpaper, viewed 15 September 2016, <http://www.schonewallpaper.de/wallpaper-hd/page/8>.

 

 

Ip Man and then we cut some シェイプ. Does emerging Japanese techno reflects the intellectual culture?

The film Ip Man, which follows the narrative of the Wing Chun Grandmaster Yip Man, opened the perspective to how current hostility between Japan and China has been a result of various historical occurrences, especially during the Second World War.  Personal interpretation of the Japanese portrayal throughout the film led to the understanding of significant partisanship throughout. Believing that the producers failed to illustrate the contrasting Japanese political environment and the role of the Japanese troops as primary antagonists. Whereas the Chinese individuals were portrayed under a ‘positive light’ throughout – it is important to note that these protagonists within the narrative are civilians. Given the thick historical attributes during that period in not only Chinese-Japanese history, but also internationally, I observed that Ip Man ultimately lapsed in its capacity to fully immerse the audience (me) into the experience. Not because of the language barrier, but due to the noted writing bias.

Retrospective thought on Ip Man is that it follows a standardised narrative structure to accommodate for a mass audience. In that the Japanese served as the primary antagonists, in addition to the history, as constructs for a profitable narrative.
Beyond Ip Man and preceding class texts,  I have decided to research into the consumption of electronic dance music such as house and techno in Japan. Beyond the genre that has emerged from Europe and the US, I acknowledge that Japanese dance producers have been absent on my personal music platforms. However as someone who uses music software and hardware, the house and techno products stemming from Germany are proficient throughout my library. In hindsight I expect that my perspective and consumption of these products will help in the understanding of Japanese electronic music.

My perspective of the German techno and house music is that it reflects the ideologies that have influenced Europe in the past century, as Techno has become the platform throughout western society for the shape cutting, drug centred cultural underground. I have observed that this is due to the development of techno music as a framework for the reunification of Berlin in 1989, using music to bridge the conflicting ideologies in Germany society (Bychawski, A. 2014). In my opinion the feel and emotion that is expressed throughout Berlin techno and house music stems of Germany’s dim history. Currently the foundation of my individual project will illustrate as to how cultural history impacts modern music.

Due to art stemming from conflict and ideologies of history, I aim to understand through personal experience of European electronic music, how Japanese techno reflects its own history and philosophy and whether the Japanese scene shares similar associations with drug use and dance music. Kyoka (Luebs, E. 2016) argues this stating that “the performer is seen as presenting their intellect.”  I assume that this philosophy is relative to the attitudes and history of Japanese society. Ikeya, N. Ishikawa, H. (2001) argues that the belief and admiration for knowledge is due to the strict regulatory systems that were prominent prior to the Meiji Era. Subsequently Japan adopted a free trade policy resulting in the scramble to catch up with Western information systems, attributing to the rapid rise in appreciation for intellect.

Here’s some journey inducing Japanese techno:

 

Reference:

Bychawski, A. (2014) The Story of How Techno Unified Post-Wall Berlin, Trump Vice, viewed 01.09.16 <https://thump.vice.com/en_uk/article/der-klang-der-familie-the-sound-of-the-family-felix-denk-interview-berlin-techno-berlin-wall-tresor-ufo&gt;

Ikeya, N. Ishikawa, H. (2001) The Japanese Intelligence Culture, Competitive Intelligence Review, Vol 12. John Wiley & Sons Inc. Viewed 03.09.16

Luebs, E. (2016) The shape-shifting landscape of Japan’s electronic underground, The Japan Times, viewed 03.09.16 <http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2016/01/03/music/shape-shifting-landscape-japans-electronic-underground/#.V9oRmpN94ch&gt;

Sunda, M (2014) Top 10: Rising Japanese Electronic Music Producers, Red Bull Music Academy, viewed 14.09.16