kawaii

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.

Japanese Treats direct from the Gong

This assessment has taken a few turns, from ordering a Kawaii Box to changing my mind and instead going for Tokyo Treats. I then realised the package would arrive too late from Japan so I would have to think of something else. So the assessment changed again into collecting a basket full of sweet food from the local Asian Grocer. I have finally been able to kick on with my autoethnographic research, so I hope you enjoy my videos. The first video outlines the scope of my project and the second is me opening and trying all sorts of treats including, chips, chocolate, candy and drinks collected from Wan Long Supermarket Wollongong. I tried to stick to only purchasing primarily Japanese treats.

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“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act” (Ellis et al. 2011).


Though there are many ways to comprehend autoethnographic research, I have come to understand the research method as a form of self reflection. Through this research method, I get to consider my own cultural bias that may be forming my opinion. Having never been to Japan, or tried any of the items in this research project, it was very much taste testing and forming an opinion as an outsider.

The autoethnographic research method will form my investigation around my perspectives on Japanese sweets, imported to Australia and purchased locally here in Wollongong. Never having tried any of these products, it is very much a fresh perspective. However how will my Australian cultural context effect my opinion on things like taste, packaging or branding? These questions are exactly what I will analyse in my next post later this week.

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

My Experience of Dark Water “Honogurai mizu no soko kara”

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Last Friday I was invited to go and experience my friends’ new home theatre room. Armed with a six-pack of James Boags, an armful of Thai food and my bright yellow fox onesie, I was ready for a long night of thrilling theatre. 
Descending the stairs to their once creepy basement, now beautifully carpeted theatre room, the group was presented with our choice of films for the evening.
Amongst our selection was; ‘Hansel and Gretel and the 420 witch’, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘Dark Water’.
Being aware of the potential for Japanese horror to mentally scar us, we opted to watch Dark Water first and then sooth ourselves with the other two movies afterwards.

Settling down into the dark theatre room, I began to devour a healthy serving of fried rice with chicken & cashews as my friend proceeded to put the movie onto the big screen. Beginning to feel the flow of alcohol, we joked and carried on throughout the beginning of the film, trying to keep up with the introductions of the characters and the general basis for the story

In brief, the movie follows a mother and her young daughter who have recently moved into an old apartment block after the breakup of their family. The apartment has problems with water leaking from the ceiling (Dark water), and the mother starts seeing a ghostly figure of a small girl around the apartment. As the story unfolds we began to learn that this ghost child used to live in the apartment block and had gone through a very similar situation to the real child, facing the possibility of being neglected and forgotten during her parents’ divorce.

As it turns out, this ghost child was referred to as ‘Kawaii’ throughout the movie. I assume that was her actual name, but as slightly inebriated children of the internet generation we could not stop making jokes about how cute ‘Kawaii’ was in all of the jump scares and ‘frightening’ scenes of the film. While these scenes were definitely well directed and horrifying, as a group we laughed our way through the terror, yelling at the screen and enthusiastically enjoying the film.

Interestingly our collective understanding (or Misunderstanding) of the Japanese term ‘Kawaii’ shaped our experience of the film, regardless of how insignificant its use seemed to the overall story.
As I understand it, the term ‘Kawaii’ means adorable or cute and has been attributed to a section of Japanese popular culture that embody these qualities. In the context of this film, it seemed odd to name the ghostly apparition that was depicted as threatening and horrifying, after a term that was used to describe things that were cute and innocent.
Looking back at the ending of the film and the motivations given for the ghostly girl, the name Kawaii seems slightly more apt to the character and was probably a conscious decision by the film makers.

-Nathan Smith

GROUP WORK: Beauty or the Beast?

Group Members

Amy Hutchesson
Renee Stewart
Gemma Jamison

As a group, we have decided to research the culture of beauty and obsession with image throughout Asia, specifically concerning image-related subcultures throughout Japan, Korea and China e.g. harajuku, kawaii, aegyo cultures. We intend to research this culture primarily through platforms such as Tumblr, Instagram and blogs.


The reason why we have chosen this topic is because we all have a fascination with this field. Image is an interesting and vast topic and everyone in the world is involved with it. It is the way in which we choose to present ourselves to the world and can dictate and change so much of our lives.
With our studies of Asia, this topic seemed appropriate as image and beauty is such a large part of these cultures.

 

Week 2: Kawaii and Cute

I first stumbled across J-Pop through a friend from China. I enjoy music, both listening and exploring the online communities dedicated to finding new artists and sounds possibly a little too much and was fascinated by a new wave of producers from the UK who were making infectious hyper-real pop music, a collective called PC Music and an anonymous artist named SOPHIE. I was playing him some of this music (available to listen to below) when he told me that it sounded like J-Pop, more specifically a genre (I think!) called kawaii.

This prompted me to explore J-Pop, which I had never heard before and it struck me how similar the music sounded to this “new” wave of British producers. In my searching I stumbled across this article which highlighted the fact that there was an acknowledged connection between the producers and kawaii going so far as the producer’s labeling the genre of music that they were creating “cute” which is the rough English translation of kawaii. This connection echoes the renaming of Pokémon in America as mentioned in the lecture today, attempts at westernising the content. I feel as though there is more than just a simple translation from kawaii to cute as the primary reason that I was not too suspicious of the music was the fact that I could source more local inspirations for the music, as mentioned in the article. More investigation is needed but another primary aspect that may differentiate the music further from J-Pop is the fact that for the music with no lyrics, and even some with, there is no “drop” in the tracks, which leave you with an opportunity to enjoy them in any situation and accentuating the ambiguity in their creation.

A potential topic for further discussion that comes to mind is similar to that had by the YouTube clip we watched in the lecture discussing J-RPG’s, if the game is made by other people than in Japan is it still a J-RPG or is it simply a genre? On immediate reflection to me it seems as if this issue is different because those original J-RPG games seem to be the primary source of inspiration for the new wave of “J-RPG” games. This is in comparison to as discussed previously a music genre that initially seemed to simply derive from producers around them. The question then is however did the cross pollination of musical ideas happen at an earlier point for the transition to be so seamless?