japanese

Gojira

After going through the lecture slides, I downloaded Gojira and watched it on a Sydney to Wollongong train trip. In some ways, watching a black and white Japanese foreign film while on an Australian train provided great juxtaposition for cultural awareness. I was sitting in a carriage with fellow Australians, some in suits, some in jeans and converse, some very drunkenly slurring Aussie slang while others shielded their children’s post day care ears from such colourful language. And here I sat watching a film where even the monsters were treated with respect.

As a first generation migrant, to whom English is technically a second language, I have grown up loving foreign films. I grew up in house where children did not often watch TV. If we were watching TV it was a SBS (SBS before 8.30pm ehm ehm) family movie night – popcorn, home made Bengali and Arab sweets, world music soundtracks and subtitles. As a child I had the joy of watching and reading artsy, indie and documentarian Bengali films. As I got a little older, we would go to foreign film festivals. I moved out of home at 17 but like many familial attributes, the love for foreign film moved with me.

Growing up as a person of brown colouring in a multicultural, yet very white part of Sydney, my exposure to Western film was channelled through friends birthday parties and movies watched in school – limited to essentially The Goonies and The Rabbit Proof Fence. It wasn’t until I was in my later years of high school that I turned to Western Film for entertainment – cue The Godfather, Fight Club and Batman (I have two older brothers). Whether I was watching a eastern or western film, I was raised to question what it is the content is telling us to value, what it wants us to question and in turn, what really was the purpose of making it.

For these reasons, when I noted that Gojira the film was produced in 1954, I understood that it was a comment to the Atomic Age. I have always valued the simplicity and creativity of old film techniques. In one of the scenes in Gojira, we hear the singing of children as the camera pans the destruction of the city after Gojira’s first attack. The slow camera movement creates an emotional allusion to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  At first the footsteps of the monster seem to be an expected film sound effect, but upon closer reflection, (as someone who has been trapped in a war zone) each step sounds like a bomb – a sound that unfortunately, would be familiar the films post WW2 audience.

How I make sense of the film is framed by by cultural, social and educational conscious and subconscious knowledge. For me the content was telling us to value peace, it wants us to question political tensions and the abuse of power. The purpose of any film is to some extent entertain, but Gojira is a reminder of what has happened and what can reoccur if we do not learn from our historical mistakes.

ゴジラ

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This week I watched Ishirō Honda’s 1954 Godzilla. It was the first time I’d actually seen the film in its entirety, and I must admit I was a little disappointed with myself for not having watched it sooner. Anyway, here’s my reflection on Godzilla and the characteristics that make up the movie in the context of my cultural background.

Japanese:

I was first introduced to Japanese movies when I was probably about 10, when my Dad showed me My neighbour Totoro, and my love for Japanese film and television really took off from there. I’ve watched a lot of Japanese movies, I will admit that most of them where animated, but even then the amount of live action movies I’ve seen is still probably more than the average person. Battle Royal will continue to be one of my guilty pleasure movies for years to come. So when I was watching Godzilla I felt familiar with what I was seeing, from a cultural/social perspective.

Black and white/from the 50s:

As you’ll probably figure out reading this, I watch a lot of movies, so watching a movie in black and white wasn’t anything new to me. Some of my favourite movies (Seven Samurai, It’s a wonderful life, The Elephant man) are in black and white. My love of black and white movies probably stems from my Dad showing me a bunch of old horror movies, like The thing from another world, Invasion of the body snatchers, Nosferatu, etc. That’s part of the reason I was disappointed I hadn’t already seen it.

It is important to remember when Godzilla was made, 1954 is only nine years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and for the people watching the film at that time the destruction that this monster created by nuclear test bombing it must have been horrific to see. It’s easy for me to see the link between the nuclear bomb and Godzilla, but I’m sure it had nowhere near the impact it would have had on the Japanese audience at the time.

Subtitles:

You can probably guess already that I was fine with the subtitles, along with the Japanese movies that I’ve seen, I also really like kung-fu movies from China and Korea, and many European movies, and with the amount of anime I watch (#subsoverdubs) I’m pretty sure I watch something with subtitles every week.

Kaiju movie:

We’ve finally gotten there, my favourite thing about Godzilla is it’s a Kaiju movie, and not only a Kaiju movie but one of the first. I’ve seen quite a few of the 90s Godzilla remakes as well as a bunch of other original franchises, my favourite being The Host (2003). Something I noticed though is that a lot of the Godzilla remakes tend to get into the destruction faster than the 1954 Godzilla, and have maybe a little less suspense. Also the relationship to Godzilla the monster has changed since 1954, in a lot of the movies now Godzilla is seen as the protector of Japan/Earth rather than just a monster.

ゴジラ – Exploring Japan Through Film

I am a little behind the pack on this one, but here it is nonetheless – my reaction to watching the classic Japanese film Godzilla in class, whilst live-tweeting the experience.  The tricky thing about writing last is that all the most profound and insightful discoveries have already been stated by others, so I’ll be using my tweets to guide my response.

Godzilla, or ゴジラ as it is written in Japan, is one of the most iconic 海珠 (kaiju, or monster) films of all time.  I’ll admit that despite this, I’ve never seen the original, only the Hollywood remake featuring Bryan Cranston.  I have also never watched a black and white film outside of high school English studies – damn you, To Kill A Mockingbird!

I don’t know why I’m so surprised, to be completely honest.  As a white, atheist Australian woman with no direct links to anything across the sea, any culture I experience is new and foreign to me.  Perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to the Japanese culture, history and lifestyle – it is incredible to experience as an outsider.

I am very open to the idea of being absorbed in Japanese culture as it gives me a window of insight into the cultural nuances of Japan.  I love the works of Studio Ghibli, and I adored the J-drama series 花ざかりの君たちへ (Hanazakari no kimitachi e) when it was first shown to me by my Japanese teacher.  I tried to draw comparisons between the J-drama and Godzilla at first, before realising that they are completely different insights – it’s like trying to compare The Notebook to Transformers.

My early thoughts when watching Godzilla commented on the plot and acting, which I likened to Home and Away in its dramatics.  However, it wasn’t long before I began to notice the subtle details, such as the choice to keep non-diegetic movie scarce, and the number of women in the film.

As the film progressed, I found myself less distracted by the yelling-acting and the dated special effects, and began to appreciate the film’s nuances.  One scene in particular, with a mother comforting her two children in the moments before death that they would see their father in heaven soon, made me tear up more than it had a right to.  I didn’t realise how invested I was in the film until this point.

Once I appreciated the film and its story beyond its goofy effects, I discovered the underlying symbolism of Godzilla as the aftereffect of the nuclear bomb’s dropping on Hiroshima.  Once I understood this (around the same time as the rest of the class), the film takes on a whole new layer and depth of meaning.

I only shared one quote during my live-tweeting session, and it was the following:   “If we keep doing nuclear testing, it’s possible another Godzilla will appear, somewhere in the world”.  It’s a devastating moment in the film, where the film is trying to drive home their anti-nuclear and anti-war message.  To me, it sounds like a plea, the film asking the audience to understand the crushing realities of war.  I felt a little foolish for joking around at the beginning when the reality is that the film, for its time, must have been revolutionary.

Re-discovering the Japanese Traditional Craft of Origami: An Autoethnographic Experience

For my individual research project I have decided to examine and essentially learn how to create origami, which is a traditional Asian form of arts and crafts.  I will document my process through either wordpress or storyboard with the inclusion of images and videos.

As Ellis outlines, autoethnography involves the interpretation of a text which is often influenced by our own personal experiences and understanding. It is this understanding which then influences our interpretation of a text, which may often been obscured or bias depending on that understanding. Utilising this definition and understanding of autoethnography, I spent today looking through my old primary school books to locate any Japanese related materials and came across this gem:

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Learning origami in prep (2000)

At the young age of 6 in prep class in Victoria, I was introduced to Japan, more specifically the creative art of origami. I remember enjoying origami at school, especially creating the dog. Perhaps this is because it is one of the easiest figures to create.

Interestingly, when I asked mum where all my other Japanese books were she simply replied:

“you hated Japanese. When I asked you if you wanted me to keep your Japanese books you said no, chuck them out I won’t ever need them”.

What a stupid mistake that was… But this has puzzled me as I distinctly remember being fascinated by the traditional, thin, silky doubled sided blossom covered sheets that were so delicate and pretty. Ironically though I found my Term 4 report card from Prep, and low and behold I had received Highly Commendable’s (as that was the scoring system in Victoria at the time…weird hey?) for every subject except LOTE (which stands for Languages Other Than English – yes I did have to google this because I couldn’t figure it out myself!)

So perhaps I wasn’t very good at the subject as a whole and only liked creating dog figured origami! Regardless I still got this certificate for excellence in Japanese (go me):

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Japanese certificate (2000)

Moving on from my childhood experience of Japanese and origami, the first hurdle that I had to overcome with this project was locating traditional Japanese origami sheets. There was an abundance of online stores that you could buy from, but by the time my order would arrive it would be the Friday that our second blog task is due! So I started to search for physical stores. As I had limited knowledge of Japanese or Asian style shops that might have origami supplies, I really struggled to find anything. I spent a lot of time on Google searching, as well as asking friends if they knew of any stores that sell origami. I eventually came across two stores that were located in the city. One called Daiso Japan and another called Kinokuniya. As I work in the city during some weekdays it wasn’t too much hassle getting between the two shops. Daiso Japan was a lot like the Dollar King or Reject Shop that you have at your local Westfield, but everything was in Japanese. I struggled massively to figure out what each aisle contained stock wise but eventually found some Japanese paper and an origami book. I found it odd that the staff were mainly Asian except for the person at the checkout who was a middle aged white male.

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Daiso Japan purchases

Then I went to Kinokuniya and I could not believe how large their Asian section was. I was literally in Asian book heaven! I was also really pleased and slightly surprised that most of the origami books had the traditional Japanese characters alongside English translation in a step by step setting. I immediately ignored the books that were only in Japanese, because I knew my limited understanding of their language would only hinder my experience of origami. $80 later spent on three more origami books and more origami paper and I was set.

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More origami! Thanks to Kinokuniya

When I got home I was so excited to try out my new potential hobby. I wanted to focus on the crane as I have a disjointed memory of watching the movie ‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes’ when I was younger in which the main character Sadako created 1000 cranes while she was in hospital suffering from leukaemia.

I took pictures of my 3 attempts at the traditional figure ‘the crane’:

I have to admit, my first reaction to creating origami was simple: frustration. I really didn’t think it would be that hard to fold and manoeuvre the paper into the shape that looked so perfect in my origami book. Regardless, on my third attempt I mastered it. However many thoughts were rushing through my mind:

  • Who created the concept of origami?
  • Why is the character ‘the crane’ so important?
  • What does ‘the crane’ signify?
  • Do people do this for a living?
  • Why do a lot of the sheets of origami paper have flowers on it?
  • What is the importance of the sparkly gold and silver details on some of the sheets?
  • Why are some of the sheets so thin?
  • How long would you need to practice origami in order to be able to do it quite well?
  • Why do some sheets of origami paper only have one side of colour and pattern while others seem to be doubled sided?

Looking at what I will be doing in my next blog, I will be using my personal understanding and experiences from when I was younger and the questions I have formed around origami to achieve a wider cultural, political and/or social understanding of the Japanese art.  As Jones (2013) outlines, I will research and challenge my own assumptions and perhaps uncover why I formed such perceptions in the first place.  I would not be surprised if time, which is often associated with autoenthography, will also have an impact on my assumptions and reflection.

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References

Ellis, C, Adam, T & Bochner, A 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, art. 1, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>.

Jones, H, Adam, T & Ellis, C 2013, ‘Handbook of autoethnography’, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA, pg. 10.

Tell me something I don’t know

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The final part in this three-part experiment is researching Hatoful Boyfriend. I’ll tell you some basics. It’s a dating sim/visual novel based on an alternate reality where birds are sentient. The protagonist is the only human at St Pigeonational’s trying to navigate her way through a bumbling best friend, pompous transfer student, narcoleptic maths teacher and extremely shy freshman among a whole host of other crazy birds.

First problem when it came to researching this further: what’s the difference between a visual novel and a dating sim?

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What’s the big reveal?

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I recently played throughHatoful Boyfriend for the first time. It was completely not what I expected but first I need to explain my decision to engage with this particular aspect of digital Asia. I first found an interest in let’s playing visual novels after a friend showed me PressHeartToContinue and I could not stop laughing at all the funny voices she made. Needless to say my voice does not compare. Please see her fabulousness below.

Dodger conveys her experience of visual novels in an entertaining and compelling manner, something that compelled me enough to try a visual novel for myself.

Back to expectations. So, my channel, GameWreck, is all about me being incredibly shit at games for other people’s entertainment. Generally, I stumble about running around in circles until I literally bump into the thing I need to pick up all by accident.

Apparently visual novels don’t work…

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Horror – Showing you what you weren’t meant to see

What are we meant to see?… This is a question in horror that continues to interest me. Reality I think is based on continuity and I feel that Japanese horror in particular is good at analysing specific elements that we use to build our perceived reality, and then systematically tests them and asks why do we give these elements the right to build our perception of truth.

The movie Uzumaki or in english, Spiral, tells the story of a town possessed by spirals, yes that’s right, a symbol that has a malevolent intention for a whole town. The spiral is meant to symbolise a vortex whose sole purpose is to consume whoever gets too close. It consumes people in a way an obsession consumes someone, they start to see spirals in everything, in the way that if it’s possible to see a spiral in something they will find it, eventually those that are affected by the spiral curse will find a way for their body to also become a spiral. This often involves mutilating the body or grotesque mutations.

Lovecraftian horror wekipedia defines as ‘a sub-genre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (and in some cases, unknowable) over gore or other elements of shock, though these may still be present.[1] It is named after American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937).’

And one of its themes is described as

  • Preoccupation with viscerate texture. The horror features of Lovecraft’s stories tend to involve semi-gelatinous substances, such as slime, as opposed to standard horror elements such as blood, bones, or corpses.

The students in Uzumaki in their pursuit of things that are shaped like a spiral actual begin to turn into snails, which is safe to say pretty disturbing.

I find it interesting that cold and slimy and the body are big aspects for initiating fear, perhaps this is something to with us being mammals and our preference for dry soft warm things, then horror tests this idea through what we like to define as conducive to our rational state. As an example I think about what it would be like to have thousands of slugs all over me, and the idea is positively sickening.

The Spiral movie or Uzumaki was created from a manga series, Wikipedia gives two ways of referring to  manga, one Japanese and one English. Manga in Japanese refers to all cartoons, comics and animation. In English it refers to specifically Japanese comics. An art form that originated in the early 19th century it is highly regarded as an entertaining and an informative staple of Japanese culture.

I continuously get excited thinking about how rich and colourfully documented Japan’s history is, they have so many diverse intersections of human development. The last movie I looked at showed thousand year old samurai battles and was riddled with supernatural experiences, including intervening ghosts that can take body parts. This movie Uzumaki (Spiral) again has supernatural conflicts at its base, however, the general unknown force of a curse I feel is an even more abstract way of developing a horrifying idea, and then specifically using the authority that symbols have to test what we use to structure our beliefs.

Curses particularly are present throughout a lot of the Japanese horror movies I’ve come across. This belief that some unknown evil force outside of being controlled or predicted will determine your future is not something I ever considered as a real possibility. My theory behind this is that because my understanding is built upon scientific results, the fact that it doesn’t involve tangible results for its existence, I then experience difficulty in believe it. Although what I perceive as my reality is constantly being shaped by things that I have not yet learnt how to measure or understand, for example computer technology, so in this way perhaps in order for me to understand the supernatural world I would have to adjust my perception to a gauge that was comfortable with using the tools that are needed for measuring it, that is a deep understanding of how the supernatural world works, and belief that it does exist, one of which I am yet to have any experience with beyond movies, which are somehow able to suspend my belief, so if a movie can manipulate my reality, it stands to reason that unknown supernatural force perhaps could also do this. I don’t know, sounds strange but I think the unknown force of movies and technology could lead me to perhaps wanting to have more of an understanding of the supernatural, I wonder how I would frame my understanding if I believed both in science and the supernatural.

Harajuku “White” Girls

This week in DIGC, when deciding on selecting a different element of Japanese fashion and the way that it is displayed on the app, Instagram I came across a phenomenon which I never even knew was so popular (especially on Instagram). During this course, I have focused a lot on the way that Western societies and culture have influenced Japanese fashion however I did not realise how strong the impact that Japanese fashion was on Western societies and its fashion. When I was looking around on Instagram for some ideas for my autoethnography, I find many young girls dressed in bright colours, pastel pinks and resembling that of Japanese girls however would be of Western descent and coming from countries of Western culture such as America, Australia and Sweden. This got me really thinking about the different ways that the Japanese fashion culture influences Western culture in both minimal and massive ways. To maximise my analysis and evaluation on the topic this week, I have taken questions from this week’s Prezi slide to assist my evaluation.

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As I have briefly mentioned above in my first paragraph, I did not intentionally go out and decide on the topic of Japanese influence, and actually stumbled across it in the way that I was researching Japanese culture and fashion for my autoethnography.

 

What were my first reactions and feelings at the time, how did they change?

When first encountering this aspect, I simply typed into the search bar “Japanese fashion” and was so surprised to see that the third image across the page was a young Swedish girl, Rin, in two straight pony tails, and about 11 hairclips and scrunchies in her hair. The image had also been done by some sort of anime application as there was hearts, flowers and diamontes spread across the image.

Once clicking on this image, I found that the caption was actually that of lyrics by famous Korean band, 2NE1 famous in Japan who I discussed last week. My initial feeling toward this was that I actually felt quite surprised. I always kind of knew that Western culture had an influence on Japanese fashion however I did not really look at it from the other way around. After I had a little look on “Rin’s” instagram, I went back to the general search on Japanese fashion and was actually surprised on how massive this influence actually was. In analysing this, I am also reminded of famous American singer, Gwen Stefani and the way that Japanese fashion, especially the Harajuku style has had such an influence on her style not only in the way she dresses herself however also on the products and collections that she has including the “Harajuku collection.

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What did I learn from this experience?

After this analysis, and what I could actually call an epiphany, I actually questioned the reasons why I have never really noticed this before. Is this part of my culture, the way that I seem to have completely dismissed the influence of other cultures in my own life and culture however am very aware of Western culture influencing other culture? I am really looking forward to unpacking this more as it is amazing how I have never really thought about it before even though it seems like a massive part of my life and our society.

 

Hmmm What do you think? I really want to unpack this further and will continue this research in my next blog!

How do I sign up?

 Mixi is the most popular social media website used in Japan. Interested in social media I stumbled upon this page. My first impressions on this website that it wasn’t very culturally friendly as all of the writing was written in Japanese.

It has a completely different vibe to Facebook (which would be the #1 western social networking site) as it there is a lot going on. There are many flashing images of Asian women or other random Japanese content which personally doesn’t really make any sense to be on a social networking website. Although on the other hand I have no idea what is being written around it – so who knows maybe it has some sort of meaningful connection.

Although completely different to Facebook I assumed that the two blank boxes were the ‘log in’ tool. I attempted to create an account – keeping in mind I am Japanese illiterate so it was really a guessing game.

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After starring at the Japanese writing for a solid 5 minutes I had no idea what to do. I thought that there had to be a way for me to change it to English. After changing browsers I found that google chrome has the ability to change the language. Now that I’m able to read what is happening I realise that there is actually no way for me to sign up…

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Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make an account and I was confused as to why not. It didn’t give you a ‘sign up’ option which interested me. I started to do a little research into the site ‘Mixi’ and apparently one needs to be invited by an existing member in order to have an account.

Therefore I can’t access this website unless I can hunt down a Japanese individual to shoot me a friend request. Unlike Facebook ,”Mixi’s site design and navigation are extremely intuitive. Your homepage displays a selection of your friends, a list of their latest blog posts and photos and the latest news from your communities.” (Top 6 social networking sites)

– Nicole

Japanese Fashion on Instagram

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I’m just going to put it out there now and say that I am an avid Instagram user. Usually I cannot go a day without accessing my Instagram account and actually have serious withdrawals when I can not access Instagram throughout the day especially when I am at university as for some reason, my phone at university seems to block the app. (Not happy Jan) While scrolling down my newsfeed on Instagram I am always bombarded with the strange, eccentric and quite amazing street fashion of Japan and always find myself in complete awe of the interesting styles and prints that the light haired Japanese men and women are wearing.

When accessing Japanese fashion on Instagram, I actually found it very easy to find a “tag” that was completely “taken over” by colourful Japanese fashion. Once I had Instagram opened on my phone, I firstly had a quick look at the “Explore” section in the app and as this section often is based on my previous searches, which included fashion and shopping, I was actually quite surprised to find an image of two young Asian men dressed in a smart looking grey suit, a black cap, horn rimmed glasses, a large brown handbag and drinking coffee and all I thought was “Yes, well that was easy.” After finding this I searched a little further into Japanese fashion on Instagram by searching the tags, I decided to be quite obvious and typed in the following searches, #japanesefashion, #japanfashion, #japanesestreetfashion resulting in over 145,647 posts. Quite amazing really for my first initial thought.

Stepping back and analyzing this account, I believe that the key principles from this encounter that might be useful for others to know is the use of hashtags and being on top of the hashtags in order to find relevant Japanese fashion. I think that hashtags are a very important aspect of researching this topic as it conveys to me the accessibility of Japanese fashion online and the ease of access that I could easily found.

In thinking about the “holes” in my general understanding of Japanese fashion, I believe that my understanding of this fashion would be very generalized as my whole understanding is based on the ideas and beliefs of what I have only seen online as well as my own beliefs and thoughts. These would include the idea that Japanese fashion is often very colourful, and very different to the clothing and fashion that we see in Australia and to be completely honest I don’t think I would be that out there to be able to strut my stuff in some typical Japanese fashion. I am looking forward to learning more about the ins and outs of Japanese fashion and actually will mainly be focusing on women’s fashion if this is possible and accessible.

I think that it is important for people not to just generalize Japanese fashion and to always be on top of research rather than just making assumptions.