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Ultimate Wasabi Guide ★ ONLY in JAPAN 究極のワサビ #28 - YouTube
"Let's travel to a valley in the Japanese alps in Nagano to get some organically grown wasabi from the farm! Just how is wasabi grown?
Daio Wasabi Farm is one of Japan's largest and is a great place to find out – and try wasabi cuisine!

There are few produce directly associated with Japan.
Wasabi is one of the most widely known and the flavor is found more and more in snacks because of it's spicy kick.
It's also used in sushi, mixed in the soy sauce.

There is a big different between the processed wasabi found in some restaurants and the fresh kind which is traditionally ground on a shark skin grater and collected. The color and smell. The texture and taste.

Why does fresh wasabi cost so much?
It takes between 12 to 18 month to grow one and there is no telling what size it will be when pulled from the ground.
The wasabi needs to be in the shade and have constant fresh water. The minerals from the melted snows of the Japanese alps surrounding Daio Wasabi Farm are perfect to make the worlds most delicious wasabi.

What else can you do at the wasabi farm?
You can hike around the beautiful area and also grab a bite to eat in the food plaza. They have:
Wasabi beer
Wasabi ice cream
Wasabi burger
Wasabi don
Wasabi juice
Wasabi wine
Wasabi leaf salad
Wasabi croquet
and yes ... just plain wasabi!
This is wasabi heaven!

Daio Wasabi Farm
URL: http://www.daiowasabi.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

This show has been created and produced by John Daub ジョン・ドーブ. He's been living and working in Japan for over 17 years and regularly reports on a TV show for Japan's International Channel."
wasabi  2015  japan  farming  agriculture  food 
yesterday by robertogreco
The Truth About Wasabi - YouTube
"Have you ever eaten wasabi?

If you answered “yes” to that question, you are likely mistaken. Most sushi eaters—even in Japan—are actually being served a mixture of ground horseradish and green food coloring splashed with a hint of Chinese mustard. Worldwide, experts believe that this imposter combination masquerades as wasabi about 99% of the time.

The reason boils down to supply and demand. Authentic wasabi, known as Wasabia japonica, is the most expensive crop to grow in the world. The temperamental semiaquatic herb, native to the mountain streams of central Japan, is notoriously difficult to cultivate. Once planted, it takes several years to harvest; even then, it doesn’t germinate unless conditions are perfect. Grated wasabi root loses its flavor within 15 minutes.

The Japanese have grown wasabi for more than four centuries. 75-year old Shigeo Iida, the eighth-generation owner of his family’s wasabi farm in Japan, takes pride in his tradition, which is profiled in Edwin Lee’s short documentary "Wasabia Japonica," co-produced by Japan Curator. “Real wasabi, like the ones we grow, has a unique, fragrant taste that first hits the nose,” Iida says in the film. “The sweetness comes next, followed finally by spiciness.” Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/585172/wasabi-fake/ "
wasabi  film  documentary  farming  japan  2019  agriculture  food 
yesterday by robertogreco
Yong Zhao "What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education" - YouTube
"Proponents of standardized testing and privatization in education have sought to prove their effectiveness in improving education with an abundance of evidence. These efforts, however, can have dangerous side effects, causing long-lasting damage to children, teachers, and schools. Yong Zhao, Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas, will argue that education interventions are like medical products: They can have serious, sometimes detrimental, side effects while also providing cures. Using standardized testing and privatization as examples, Zhao, author of the internationally bestselling Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, will talk about his new book on why and how pursuing a narrow set of short-term outcomes causes irreparable harm in education."
yongzhao  2018  schools  schooling  pisa  education  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  china  us  history  testscores  children  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  sideeffects  privatization  tims  math  reading  confidence  assessment  economics  depression  diversity  entrepreneurship  japan  creativity  korea  vietnam  homogenization  intolerance  prosperity  tolerance  filtering  sorting  humans  meritocracy  effort  inheritance  numeracy  literacy  achievementgap  kindergarten  nclb  rttt  policy  data  homogeneity  selectivity  charterschools  centralization  decentralization  local  control  inequity  curriculum  autonomy  learning  memorization  directinstruction  instruction  poverty  outcomes  tfa  teachforamerica  finland  singapore  miltonfriedman  vouchers  resilience  growthmindset  motivation  psychology  research  positivepsychology  caroldweck  intrinsicmotivation  choice  neoliberalism  high-stakestesting 
18 days ago by robertogreco
An Essay by Miho Nonaka | Kenyon Review Online
[So good. There's really no good way to quote this one, so here are just a few sections.]

"Heavenly Worm

Mrs. Itō, our fourth-grade teacher, drew a new kanji character on the board: 蚕. “Worm from heaven,” she announced, “as you can see.” Heaven splits open like a curtain (天) and inside it dwells the worm (虫). For each student, she took out five worms from her basket and put them in a small paper box to take home. Having just hatched from their eggs, these worms were still covered in little black hairs. That’s why at this stage they are called kego (hairy baby), Mrs. Itō told us. To feed these dark babies, julienne your mulberry leaves first."



"Platinum Boy, 2006

After decades of research, Japanese silkworm breeders discovered a reliable method of hatching exclusively male silkworms. Female silkworms eat more, sleep more, take up more space, and are measurably less efficient in transforming mulberry leaves into silk. The verdict was clear: female silkworms are inferior for silk production.

Silk spinners and kimono weavers are unanimous in their praise of male silk: their thread is consistently finer, sturdier, glossier, whiter, and their cocoons are easier to harvest when boiled.

The birth site of Platinum Boy is literally black and white. When you look at a piece of paper where silkworm eggs are laid, white eggs are the empty shells from which male larvae have already hatched. They will thrive on the diet of tender mulberry shoot which, combined with their spit, will eventually turn into raw silk, translucent like frosted glass. The dark eggs contain female larvae that will never hatch and only keep darkening."



"Ten Thousand Leaves I

Compiled in the mideighth century, Man’yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) is the oldest Japanese anthology: more than forty-five hundred poems in twenty books. In the sweltering heat of the attic, I wasn’t looking for any particular motif when I happened on poem No. 2495, composed by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, a low rank courtier and one of the “Saints of Japanese Poetry”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
how can I see my love
who lives secluded at home?

Poem No. 2991 is almost the same poem by another poet, simply tagged “unknown”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
sadness clouds my heart
when I cannot see her

The motif of a silk cocoon as the inaccessible, lyrical interior goes back to the dawn of Japanese poetics. The cocoon encases the image of the beloved, the poet’s longing that keeps building inside, and in my poem it holds the mother as a mythical seamstress, stitching blue in each wrist of her unborn daughter."



"職人 I

I used to blame my grandmother on my father’s side, who was described to me as fierce, frantic, funny, a destructive visionary and unsuccessful business entrepreneur during the critical times of the Second World War. When I felt defeated by the radical pull of my own emotion, I would attach them to the face of the woman I had never met in person, only in a fading picture where she stands next to my young father without glasses, still a student with surprisingly gentle eyes.

My father recently told me during one of our late-night international calls from Tokyo: “Your grandfathers were both shokunin (craftsman), remember? It’s in your DNA, too.” His father had come from a large family of silk farmers. After he left home, adopting the newly introduced Singer sewing machines, he began manufacturing Japanese cloven-toed socks, the traditional kind that used to be hand-sewn, and during the war, he took the assignment to sew parachutes for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. While he worked under dimmed light, my young father put up his primitive drawing of warplanes on the wall, covered in fine grains of sand."



"Small Things

They say (I love the convenience, but who are “they”?) that attention to detail is a characteristic of the Japanese. I am drawn to small things: tadpoles, silica beads, star sands in a vial, a notebook the size of a thumbnail, fish scales, a nativity scene inside half a walnut shell. I am terribly myopic like my father, and I like things that are near. Large things loom over and terrify: airports, Costco, churches in Texas, the Tokyo Skytree, Mount Rushmore (those granite faces I once believed had surfaced in response to the historic atomic bombing), and that elusive word “global.”"



"Komako

It didn’t occur to me until I tried translating a few passages from Snow Country that the young geisha’s name Komako (駒子) means Pony Child. What inspired the author Kawabata to portray his heroine as a woman of equine grace? We don’t know her family name. On the other hand, we don’t know the first name of Shimamura, who is referred to only by his last name.

I imagine if your family name is a gate to the house, your first name must be its interior. In the days when the first book of Man’yōshū was composed, asking a maiden’s first name was synonymous with proposing to her. Knowing it meant possessing the person.

Komako’s body is translucent like a silkworm, and an unearthly room encloses her fruitless passion like a white cocoon. While writing Snow Country, Kawabata says he distanced himself from Shimamura, who serves merely as a foil to Komako. “As an author, I entered deep inside the character of Komako, but casually turned my back to Shimamura,” he writes in the afterward. “Especially in terms of emotion—Komako’s sadness is nothing other than my own sadness. . . .” And so it is; his heart has become subsumed into her heart."



"Body

I find it impossible to talk about the body (mine and everyone else’s) without sounding embarrassed or oddly distant. I don’t mean to self-deprecate, but it has been almost too fashionable, too charged a topic for me to feel safe around. (A cowardly thing to say—the truth is, no one is safe.)

I won’t pretend my body is a plain blockhouse, or a slab of flesh aching with desire or lack thereof. Who could have taught me to stay at home in my own body all the while I traveled from one country to another, turning from the spontaneous, if careless, music of my mother tongue to the cautious economy of English, reaching out, in the hope of actually reaching and being reached?

For the subjects most critical to me, I find no teachers. Perhaps there is not enough demand? I believe I am badly behind everyone and that I missed an opportunity to ask questions long ago. People my age in this country sound fluent in the body, discussing it with just the right amount of sarcasm and laughter without revealing much, like they have been on intimate terms with it since they learned to speak. I suppose I should have listened to the body harder, without ulterior motives."
mihononaka  silk  essays  canon  howwewrite  2017  silkworms  multispecies  japan  japanese  language  gender  via:ayjay  poetry  writing  fabric  textiles  srg  glvo  insects  history  cocoons  craft  translation  languages  childhood  change  materials  process  form  details  weaving  texture  morethanhuman  shinto  bodies  body  small  slow 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Sayaka Murata - Wikipedia
[See also Convenience Store Woman:
https://groveatlantic.com/book/convenience-store-woman/
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/sayaka-murata-eerie-convenience-store-woman-is-a-love-story-between-a-misfit-and-a-store
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/23/books/review-convenience-store-woman-sayaka-murata.html ]

"Sayaka Murata (村田沙耶香 Murata Sayaka) is a Japanese writer. She has won the Gunzo Prize for New Writers, the Mishima Yukio Prize, the Noma Literary New Face Prize, and the Akutagawa Prize.

Biography
Murata was born in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture, Japan in 1979. As a child she often read science fiction and mystery novels borrowed from her brother and mother, and her mother bought her a word processor after she attempted to write a novel by hand in the fourth grade of elementary school.[1] After Murata completed middle school in Inzai, her family moved to Tokyo, where she graduated from Kashiwa High School (attached to Nishogakusha University) and attended Tamagawa University.[2]

Kashiwa High School
Her first novel, Jyunyū (Breastfeeding), won the 2003 Gunzo Prize for New Writers.[3] In 2013 she won the Mishima Yukio Prize for Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (Of Bones, Of Body Heat, of Whitening City).[4] In 2016 her 10th novel, Konbini ningen (Convenience Store People), won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize,[5] and she was named one of Vogue Japan's Women of the Year.[6] Konbini ningen has sold over 600,000 copies in Japan, and in 2018 it became her first book to be translated into English, under the title Convenience Store Woman.[7]

Throughout her writing career Murata has worked part-time as a convenience store clerk in Tokyo.[8]

Writing style
Murata's writing explores the different consequences of nonconformity in society for men and women, particularly with regard to gender roles, parenthood, and sex.[9] Many of the themes and character backstories in her writing come from her daily observations as a part-time convenience store worker.[8] Societal acceptance of sexlessness in various forms, including asexuality, involuntary celibacy, and voluntary celibacy, especially within marriage, recurs as a theme in several of her works, such as the novels Shōmetsu sekai (Dwindling World) and Konbini ningen (Convenience Store Person), and the short story "A Clean Marriage."[10][11] Murata is also known for her frank depictions of adolescent sexuality in work such as Gin iro no uta (Silver Song)[12] and Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no (Of Bones, of Body Heat, of Whitening City).[13]"
srg  japan  japanese  sayakamurata  howwewrite  conveniencestores  tokyo  asexuality  celibacy  marriage  gender  sexuality  nonconformity  parenthood  genderroles 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Between Two Languages: An Interview with Yoko Tawada
"Among the finest of Tawada’s works are short stories about adapting to new cultures, both physically and linguistically. The daughter of a nonfiction translator and academic bookseller, Tawada learned to read in over five languages; she speaks English, but doesn’t write it. “I feel in between two languages, and that’s big enough,” she told me. Her stories often turn on feeling outside the culture, as an immigrant, as a citizen witnessing great national change, or even as a tourist."



"I look like a person who cannot think when I wake up, because I’m still quite between the sleep and the dream and the waking, and that’s the best time for business."



"Being multilingual is tricky. I feel more as though I am between two languages, and that feels like enough. To study that in-between space has given me so much poetry. I don’t feel like one of those international people who juggles many tongues."
yokotawada  language  languages  bilingualism  2018  interviews  japan  japanese  howwewrite  dreams  sleep  liminality  betweenness  littoralzone  liminalspaces  multilingualism  dualism  srg 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Hafu | the mixed-race experience in Japan
"Synopsis

With an ever increasing movement of people between places in this transnational age, there is a mounting number of mixed-race people in Japan, some visible others not. “Hafu” is the unfolding journey of discovery into the intricacies of mixed-race Japanese and their multicultural experience in modern day Japan. The film follows the lives of five “hafus”–the Japanese term for people who are half-Japanese–as they explore what it means to be multiracial and multicultural in a nation that once proudly proclaimed itself as the mono-ethnic nation. For some of these hafus Japan is the only home they know, for some living in Japan is an entirely new experience, and others are caught somewhere between two different worlds.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, one in forty-nine babies born in Japan today are born into families with one non-Japanese parent. This newly emerging minority in Japan is under-documented and under-explored in both literature and media. The feature-length HD documentary film, “Hafu – the mixed-race experience in Japan” seeks to open this increasingly important dialogue. The film explores race, diversity, multiculturalism, nationality, and identity within the mixed-race community of Japan. And through this exploration, it seeks to answer the following questions: What does it mean to be hafu?; What does it mean to be Japanese?; and ultimately, What does all of this mean for Japan?

Narrated by the hafus themselves, along with candid interviews and cinéma vérité footage, the viewer is guided through a myriad of hafu experiences that are influenced by upbringing, family relationships, education, and even physical appearance. As the film interweaves five unique life stories, audiences discover the depth and diversity of hafu personal identities."

[See also:

"Project Hafu
🎌A community for the rare and wonderful Japanese hafu 💖🇯🇵"
https://www.instagram.com/projecthafu/

"Hāfu2Hāfu
Worldwide 📸 project about #hāfu, or mixed 🇯🇵 identity.
Everybody has one identity related question for you.
All 📸 by @tetsuromiyazaki"
https://www.instagram.com/hafu2hafu/

Hāfu2Hāfu
https://hafu2hafu.org/

"Hāfu2Hāfu is a unique project photographing hāfu (mixed roots people with one Japanese parent) from every country in the world and sharing their most significant questions about identity, sense of belonging or growing up with two different cultures.

Every portrayed hāfu was asked:

“What is the one question you would like to ask other half Japanese?”
Hāfu2Hāfu wants to give hāfu, inside and outside of Japan a voice, bring them closer together and create more understanding for their identity issues by facilitating (online) dialogues with their peers, families, friends, classmates and colleagues.

In order to present a complete image of being hāfu, Hāfu2Hāfu will try to document portraits and questions of hāfu of different ages, genders, places of residence and of all 192 combinations of nationalities with Japanese (there are 193 sovereign countries)."

"A mission to capture the full range of half-Japanese experience — in 192 photos"
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/10/08/issues/mission-capture-full-range-half-japanese-experience-192-photos/ ]
afu  japan  japanese  ethnicity  identity  srg  instagram  photography  mixed-race  film  documentary 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Why Is Japan Still So Attached to Paper? - The New York Times
"Because of the sheer accumulated weight of its past, and the velocity of its rush into the future, Japan offers these contradictions and anxieties of modernity in particular abundance. Japan was geographically isolated for centuries, so the time between the country’s opening — thanks to the gunboat diplomacy of American warships’ arrival in 1853 — and the postwar miracle of reconstruction produced a linear and especially propulsive narrative of an agrarian society becoming one defined by urban futurism. The contrast (and conflict) between ancient and modern is the primary tension in Japan’s modern literary and filmic traditions: rural families experiencing the shock of the city in Yasujiro Ozu’s films of the ’40s and ’50s, or Noh drama in the novels of the Showa-era writer Fumiko Enchi. Everything, from the perfervidness of the country’s electronic manufacturing, the proliferation of its pop culture, the aggressiveness of its building booms — even as a three-decade-long economic decline strips these characteristics of their sheen — seems to serve as a reminder that throughout the postwar era, Japan was a byword for the future.

All of these forces — the past, the present, the future — can be crystallized in one persisting Japanese tradition: the longevity and depth of its papermaking. Perhaps chief among the historical foundations of Japan is that it is a country of artisans, so much so that the national government stipulates requirements for an object to be classified as a “traditional Japanese craft.” The first of these requirements is that an object must be practical enough for regular use, which helps explain the continuing relevance of paper, or washi (which translates as “Japanese paper”). In our digital age, we tend to forget just how practical and versatile the material actually is, and many of its modern uses can be traced directly back to Japan, where the art of handmade washi began with the arrival of Buddhist monks to the islands from Korea in the seventh century.

Since then, washi has been used as stationery, as canvas and as art itself through the rise of origami, which was invented almost simultaneously with washi — but these practices, which remain popular, overshadow just how deeply entrenched paper is in Japanese history. Some 700 years before the Gutenberg Bible, the Japanese were hand-printing Buddhist texts on paper. Before printed periodicals began to appear in Europe in the 17th century as predecessors of the modern newspaper, Japan was printing yomiuri (literally “to read and sell”), handbills that were sold in major urban centers. (Today, Japan maintains the largest circulation of print newspapers in the world, and the second largest per capita.) Paper was the dominant characteristic of Japanese aesthetics, appearing everywhere from domestic rooms to funerals. Paper lanterns were burned at religious ceremonies. Clothing was made from it. It became a popular building material. The shoji screens that were ubiquitous in the Edo period, which spanned the 17th to the late 19th centuries, reflected an appreciation for mood and tactility and, with their lunar opacity, contributed to the clean, mollified serenity that later so attracted Modernist architects like Le Corbusier to traditional Japanese architecture. Even a form of facial tissues, the kind you sneeze into when you have a cold, were used by the Japanese for centuries. Paper has a long history all over the world, but it is to Japan something like what wine is to the French — a national obsession and point of pride. It remains, despite every innovation since, the central material of Japanese culture."



"THE GREAT PARADOX of Japan’s paper culture is that the country was also one of the earliest producers of global technology, particularly with the founding in 1946 of Sony (originally called the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corp.), a company that could reasonably claim the mantle as one of the original tech supergiants. Having once been a papermaking innovator, the country also became the site of other crucial advancements. The first consumer tape recorders and transistor radios emerged here in the 1950s, and in 1966, the Sony Building in Ginza, Tokyo’s old business district, further transformed the look of the modern city by becoming the first example of “media architecture,” with a facade that displayed video images, a development for screens that was perhaps inevitable in a country that pioneered this technology back when it was still analog.

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In a bit of irony, the first cellular network is also Japanese, introduced in 1979 by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone. This may have helped sound the long, slow demise of print throughout the world, but in a country where the roots of paper are so deep, today the material is still everywhere, even when it isn’t. As in many places in the world, passengers on the subway system scroll continuously on their phones. But the country’s low-tech traditions have not been casually discarded. The same spirit that continues to cultivate beautiful washi also seems of a piece with the strange persistence of meikyoku kissaten, the “masterpiece cafes” where people sit and listen to recordings of classical music on old phonographs. Much like the more famous and trafficked vinyl bars — hole-in-the-wall haunts catering to audiophiles, hundreds of which speckle the streets and back alleys of Tokyo — they reflect a reverence toward a medium and not just the product produced via that medium.

In an age of sharply escalating computerization and digitization of everything into an intangible ether, it can be hard to remember that paper, too, is just another medium, something that acts as a transmitter for something written or typed in the past. Or better, it’s too easy to imagine that replacing paper with digital screens is just moving from one medium to another. Digitization has produced a change not just in what we see and feel but in what we control. The world of new media — of what the left-wing theorist Jodi Dean calls “communicative capitalism” — is standardized in a way that not even the most fantastical efficiency expert could have dreamed. If thousands of families could once make their own paper, it is now only a few monopoly companies that create virtually all the media through which we transmit communication today, and virtually all of it is being data mined in a way that letters never could be. The fetish for media like washi is nostalgic on one account, cleareyed on another: The paper bears an imprint, of the maker and eventually of the user, in a way no digital object ever can. For this reason, those pale, fringed sheets retain a measure of the time, and the sense of self, we are always losing as we rush heedlessly into the future."
japan  paper  history  materials  materiality  craft  artisans  process 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Why Japanese houses have such limited lifespans - Nobody’s home
"EVERY 20 years in the eastern coastal Japanese city of Ise, the shrine, one of the country’s most venerated, is knocked down and rebuilt. The ritual is believed to refresh spiritual bonds between the people and the gods. Demolishing houses has no such lofty objective. Yet in Japan they have a similarly short life expectancy.

According to Nomura, a brokerage, the value of the average Japanese house depreciates to zero in 22 years. (It is calculated separately from the land, which is more likely to hold its value.) Most are knocked down and rebuilt. Sales of new homes far outstrip those of used ones, which usually change hands in the expectation that they will be demolished and replaced. In America and Europe second-hand houses accounted for 90% of sales and new-builds for 10% in 2017. In Japan the proportions are the other way around.

The reasons for Japanese houses’ rapid loss of value lie partly in tradition. In many countries people buy when they pair off, when they move to a bigger place after they have children or when they downsize on retirement. Japanese people have tended to see out all life’s stages in the same dwelling, a custom they attribute to their history as a farming nation, when they had to stay put. As a result, they never got used to second-hand homes.

The frequency of earthquakes also plays a part. Large tremors tend to be followed by tougher building regulations. Many people want to live in a home built to the most recent standards. History also helped to form habits. During the second world war dozens of cities, including Tokyo, had been flattened by American bombs. The population then was growing fast. Quantity was valued over quality. Big prefab manufacturers, such as Daiwa House, survive to this day, bringing out new models every year that, as with cars, people aspire to upgrade to.

One careless owner
In a vicious cycle, houses are expected to depreciate and are therefore not maintained, so second-hand homes are often dingy and depressing. Japanese people also shun wake-ari bukken, buildings “stigmatised” because, say, a former resident committed suicide there or a cult resides nearby. “In Japan, the words old and charming do not go together,” says Noriko Kagami, an estate agent (who tore down a house she bought herself).

Unsurprisingly, given the speed at which the value of houses falls to nothing, banks are more willing to offer loans for new places. Government policy, long aimed at resolving a housing shortage, further skews housebuyers’ incentives. It is not tax-efficient to improve a house, says Daisuke Fukushima of Nomura, since property taxes are based on value. Someone who buys a new-build must pay 0.4% of its value to register ownership. Registering a change of ownership costs 2%.

Construction and home-fitting companies benefit from this speedy housing cycle. But in the longer term is it wasteful. Chie Nozawa of Toyo University compares it to slash-and-burn farming. “We are not building wealth,” says Yasuhiko Nakajo, who leads the property department at Meikai University.

When the number of mouths to feed is growing, slash-and-burn at least makes short-term sense. But Japan’s throwaway housing culture, shaped by a once-urgent need to house growing numbers, makes no sense now that the population is shrinking. The country currently has an estimated 10m abandoned homes, a number that is expected to rise above 20m by 2033.

That is a problem for entire neighbourhoods: a derelict lot drags down the value of nearby houses. It also complicates the transfer of wealth from the big post-war generation. A house that is worth nothing cannot be sold to pay for an assisted-living apartment or a place in a nursing home, or handed on as an inheritance.

The government has, belatedly, started to rethink its policies. It set itself the target of doubling the number of used-housing sales in 2020 compared with ten years earlier, and is strengthening a home-surveying system introduced in 2013. From next month estate agents will have to give prospective buyers more information, including disclosing the results of any inspection. Much still remains unclear, though, including how long the results of a survey will remain valid, and whether the seller will be liable for defects that were not disclosed during the sale.

The government is also considering reducing the taxes associated with buying a home if it is currently vacant. Some regions are offering incentives to buyers of abandoned homes, including financial aid and lower taxes.

Banks are becoming a little more forthcoming with loans for second-hand housing. Some housing companies are starting to offer renovation and refurbishment services. When Motoazabu Hills, a posh building of rented apartments in central Tokyo, recently changed hands, the new owner decided to gut and redo the interiors rather than knock the whole thing down. AERA, a magazine, recently published a guide to buying property that will retain its value. Among its tips was to buy in an area that is home to lots of women in their 20s and 30s (ie, of childbearing age).

All this is having some success. In the cities a larger share of people now rent than own places, and move more often. “We are entering a stage where people are starting to see a used home as an option,” says Mr Nakajo. In 2017 a record 37,329 second-hand flats were sold in Tokyo, a 31% increase on ten years earlier. Yet until what Mr Nakajo dubs the “20-year-mentality” changes, the preference for shiny and new will remain."
japan  housing  depreciation  economics  2018  policy  construction  taxes 
november 2018 by robertogreco
LTWP | Tokyo and the Mini-Map
[also here: https://github.com/ltwp/ltwp/blob/master/writing/tokyo_mini_map.md
https://tinyletter.com/gnamma/letters/gnamma-6-a-breather-tokyo-and-the-mini-map ]

"I went to Japan for the first time recently with my friend Nathan, after a decade of mounting interest credit to a boyhood of manga, Miyazaki, and Nintendo. Much of what we enjoyed was just walking around.

Tokyo in particular was dazzling in its balance of vastness and minute detail. Its differences from LA, the large city that I know best, are acute. I had been warned by friends that finding things in Japan, no less Tokyo, required patience, as there is no over-arching city structure, streets are rarely named, Google Maps spotty, and directions given completely relative. (Google Maps did prove immensely useful for getting within a ballpark.) Meanwhile, Los Angeles, while not completely a modernist’s dream, is mostly grids and scaffolded by well-labeled arteries. I regularly wish Google Maps could give me directions in the just-precise-enough way that Angelinos do: “take the 105 to the 110 North and get off at Figueroa… go up a bit, past the school, then it’ll be on your right.” In LA, these major roads provide a fairly immutable reference grid for the city. Tokyo residents must have their own techniques for finding things to the necessary fidelity of their city.

I picked up Fumihiko Maki’s City with a Hidden Past at Tsutaya Books in Daikanyama and ate it up as Tokyo revealed itself. The book has some history on land use and the growth patterns that shaped Edo-Tokyo. Knowing just a bit about land use, expansion, and topography make a city richer and more legible.

Modern Tokyo addressing can get you within a block of what you’re looking for; sub-block specificity, including which door on which floor of which unmarked apartment building, still requires tenacity. (Kudos to the Japanese Post.) In chapter 5, the author notes that the denser the neighborhood, the more the street gets used as personal space, and more “neighborliness” is often exhibited. (Note this was written before super-dense high-rises existed.) The denser the neighborhood, too, the harder to locate things tucked away. We found that, when seeking something nearby, people were excited to help and occasionally went to lengths to help us locate it.

[image]

Maki’s book discusses the crucial distinction between street as ground versus street as figure across urban and architectural scales. Central Tokyo feels very much the former. Details of careful homesteading fill your visual space while tiny, unlabeled streets function as just a vessel. In Los Angeles, it’s the opposite—the grand, charactered avenues and freeways navigate a sea of monotone housing. (The Hollywood and East side hills don’t quite fit this paradigm, though.)

[image]

Maki’s book discusses the crucial distinction between street as ground versus street as figure across urban and architectural scales. Central Tokyo feels very much the former. Details of careful homesteading fill your visual space while tiny, unlabeled streets function as just a vessel. In Los Angeles, it’s the opposite—the grand, charactered avenues and freeways navigate a sea of monotone housing. (The Hollywood and East side hills don’t quite fit this paradigm, though.)

[image]

Chapter 3, on the Japanese sense of place and microtopology, notes that the orienting landmarks of Tokyo are hills, shrines, department stores, convenience stores, and perhaps historic sites. I started to collect the mini-maps I found across our Japan trip, as reference ephemera to see what things were chosen as orientation markers, and how large a scale was deemed necessary to make a place findable again. Schools, Museums, and recognizable chain brands are indeed frequent, as are the through lines of train tracks and rivers. Hills have largely been folded into placenames proper. Streets and buildings bounce between foreground and background in the maps, and in some the streets are actually labeled. Not all have North pointed up. There is a lot of variety, but nearly all are tightly cropped. Some mini-maps even expect that their location be found virtually only by a visual of the local urban topology. Directions become completely relative: dependent on your ability to find a landmark, know which way is North, and remember where you got off the train.

[image]

Nearly anyone who has played videogames, and the vast swath of the wealthy world that has used GIS navigation software, is accustomed to using a mini-map for local or superlocal orientation and contextual construction. The crucial decisions of what’s included in the map depend on expected audience, common references, and necessary fidelity: the same decisions we make giving directions in any city.

Peter Turchi, in Maps of the Imagination, writes about prototypical use of the digital mini-map:
A common premise of [video] games is that they show the player only a very limited portion of physical ‘space’ at any one time. The key to success is […] to find your way through the [landscape], which is revealed only in fragments, creating mystery and suspense.

Navigating a city isn’t a video game (though Pokémon Go and Geocaching challenge that). However, getting around a new city—especially one without legible large-scale structure—can feel like exploring the unknown as one moves between points of comprehension (intersections, plazas, landmarks).

From the ground, every city exposes itself in pieces, and the urbanite’s mental map accumulates with time and observation. Now that I am back in Southern California, my mental map of Tokyo is but a patchwork of mini-maps, subway lines, and locally understood spaces—all quickly stagnating until the dynamic replenishment of future conversations, more maps, and, hopefully, another trip.

— Lukas
3 August 2018"
srg  tokyo  japan  maps  2018  mapping  losangeles  lukaswinklerprins 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Ama - The Pearl Diving Mermaids of Japan (Warning: Nudity) - Gakuranman
"One of the lesser-known but fascinating parts of Japanese culture is that of the Ama pearl divers. Ama (海女 in Japanese), literally means ‘woman of the sea’ and is recorded as early as 750 in the oldest Japanese anthology of poetry, the Man’yoshu. These women specialised in freediving some 30 feet down into cold water wearing nothing more than a loincloth. Utilising special techniques to hold their breath for up to 2 minutes at a time, they would work for up to 4 hours a day in order to gather abalone, seaweed and other shellfish."

[See also: https://jezebel.com/the-disappearing-ama-japans-tough-topless-free-divin-1679290183 ]

[Tangentially related:
https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/culture-of-jeju-haenyeo-women-divers-01068
https://roadsandkingdoms.com/2017/the-female-free-divers-of-jeju/
https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/world/asia/hardy-divers-in-korea-strait-sea-women-are-dwindling.html ]
japan  ama  photography  diving  seaweed  shellfish  pearls  oceans 
october 2018 by robertogreco
elisehunchuck [Elise Misao Hunchuck]
[via: https://twitter.com/lowlowtide/status/1052233654074654720

"what a rare pleasure, listening 2 @elisehunchuck presenting her research on an incomplete atlas of stones: ‘Trangressions & Regressions’ @tudelft #ULWeek2018

“stones help us understand how the earth moves”—@elisehunchuck"]

"Elise Hunchuck (b. Toronto) is a Berlin based researcher and designer with degrees in landscape architecture, philosophy, and geography whose work focuses on bringing together fieldwork and design through collaborative practices of observation, care, and coordination. Facilitating multidisciplinary exchanges between teaching and representational methods as a way to further develop landscape-oriented research methodologies at multiple scales, her research develops cartographic, photographic, and text-based practices to explore and communicate the agency of disasters through the continual configuring and reconfiguring of infrastructures of risk, including memorials, monuments, and coastal defense structures.

A University Olmsted Scholar, Elise was recently a finalist for the 2017 Maeder-York Landscape Fellowship at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Cambridge, US) and a research fellow with the Landscape Architecture Foundation (Washington DC, US). Her writing has appeared in The Funambulist and her research has been featured on BLDGBLOG. She has taught representational history and methods in the graduate architecture, landscape, and urban design departments at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto (Toronto, CA) and has been an invited critic in the undergraduate and graduate programs at the architecture, landscape, and urban design departments at the Daniels Faculty and the School of Architecture at Waterloo.

Elise is also a member of the editorial board of Scapegoat Journal: Architecture / Landscape / Political Economy.

For general enquiries, commissions, or collaborations, please contact directly via email at elisehunchuck [at] gmail [dot] com."

[See also:

"An Incomplete Atlas of Stones"
https://elisehunchuck.com/2015-2017-An-Incomplete-Atlas-of-Stones
https://cargocollective.com/elisehunchuck/An-Incomplete-Atlas-of-Stones-1
https://www.daniels.utoronto.ca/news/2018/02/21/elise-hunchuck-mla-2016-presents-incomplete-atlas-stones-aa-london
https://thefunambulist.net/articles/incomplete-atlas-stones-cartography-tsunami-stones-japanese-shoreline-elise-misao-hunchuck
https://thefunambulist.net/contributors/elise-hunchuck

"Warnings Along the Inundation Line"
http://www.bldgblog.com/2017/06/warnings-along-the-inundation-line/

"Century Old Warnings Against Tsunamis Dot Japan's Coastline"
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/century-old-warnings-against-tsunamis-dot-japans-coastline-180956448/

"How Century Old Tsunami Stones Saved Lives in the Tohoku Earthquake of 2011"
https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidbressan/2018/03/11/how-century-old-tsunami-stones-saved-lives-in-the-tohoku-earthquake-of-2011/#18355a8244fd

https://www.daniels.utoronto.ca/news/2017/06/28/bldgblog-features-incomplete-atlas-stones-elise-hunchuck-mla-2016

https://issuu.com/danielsfacultyuoft/docs/2016.04.11_-_2016_winter_thesis_rev ]
elisehunchuck  landscape  multispecies  morethanhuman  japan  iceland  tsunamis  design  fieldwork  srg  multidisciplinary  teaching  place  time  memory  disasters  risk  memorials  monuments  coasts  oceans  maps  mapping  photography  canon  scale  observation  care  caring  coordination  markers 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Everyday life in bygone days in Tokyo, 1966 昭和東京 - YouTube
"A German camera crew filmed this record of family life in Tokyo 45 years ago. The children go off to school and father works in the factory. It was the start of the industrial boom in the so-called Showa time. Labour was still cheap. TV sets were hand soldered. Many parts were still manufactured in small home industries. Finally the family gathers again in their tiny homes. Futons behind the wall doors. A time Japanese are still nostalgic about."
japan  tokyo  srg  1966  video 
october 2018 by robertogreco
What It Would Take to Set American Kids Free | The New Yorker
"My trip coincided with the publication of “The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!” in the Times Magazine, a masterful bit of parental trolling whose comment section reached a symbolic two thousand and sixteen entries before it was closed. The dozens of adventure playgrounds in Tokyo offer, as a public amenity, what Mike Lanza (the “anti-helicopter parent” in question) says he created in his private Menlo Park, California, back yard: a challenging and unscheduled place for physical play that is largely free of parental supervision. Lanza is far from alone in believing that American children have a play problem. Take a look at Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog, which is peppered with reports of cops and child-protective services being called when parents leave their kids to play unsupervised. Lanza’s own book, “Playborhood,” describes the kids-can’t-play problem as both a social one and a spatial one. Without broader community support, such back-yard attempts at free play like his are doomed to become exercises in vanity. Look at them on the roof! My kids are more resilient than yours!

The overprogrammed, oversterilized, overprotected lives of (some of) America’s youth are the result of a nexus of changes to work life, home life, and street life that have made bringing up babies into a series of consumer choices, from unsubsidized day care forward. It is the public realm—where the Tokyo playgrounds operate—that needs to change for American children to have unstructured afternoons and weekends, for them to bike and walk between school and the playground, to see packs of kids get together without endless chains of parental texts. Kawasaki City, where Kodomo Yume Park is located, created its own Ordinance on the Rights of the Child, in 2001, which includes an article promising to make “secure and comfortable places for children.”

But independence requires infrastructure. Hanegi Playpark was founded in 1975 by Kenichi Omura, a landscape architect, and his wife Shoko Omura, an English teacher. They translated the key book on adventure play into Japanese and then travelled to Europe to meet with the woman who was their prime mover from the nineteen-fifties on: Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen had seen the first such “junk playground” in Emdrup, outside Copenhagen, where it became a refuge for youth then under German occupation. She spent subsequent decades as a “propagandist for children’s play.” In Tokyo, a low crime rate and a society accustomed to community ownership of public space has created, around Hanegi and approximately thirteen other such parks, a city where there is more room for innocent error.

The road to Kodomo Yume Park (which means “children’s dream”) was narrow and winding, and there was no sidewalk for much of the way. And yet it was safe, because the tiny cars knew to look for pedestrians and cyclists, and drove at slower speeds. There were people in the houses and stores along the route, and few of the buildings were more than three or four stories tall, offering “eyes on the street” as well as adults who might be appealed to for help. The neighborhood, like the adventure playground, operated as a safety net, ready in case of trouble but not often deployed. A mother who was camped out at Yume Park with five children, the youngest a three-month-old, told me a story—hilarious for her—that would have been a nightmare for me. Her two-year-old, who had observed his five-year-old brother being sent to the corner to buy bread, decided he could do the same, and turned up at the shop with an empty wallet. I looked around at the protected bike lanes, the publicly funded playground workers, and the houses where people are home in the afternoon. Do I wish that my kids—who are five and nine**—**could roll on their own from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep at 5 p.m., muddy, damp, and full of play? I do, but then I think of the Saturdays dominated by sports schedules, the windswept winter playgrounds, the kids hit by cars in crosswalks, with the light. It isn’t the idea of my kids holding a hammer or saw that scares me but the idea of trying to make community alone.

At the adventure playgrounds, the kids build the equipment they need under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not to interfere. I’ve read the diary of the first play worker, John Bertelsen, who ran the adventure playground that Lady Allen visited at Emdrup. His account of the day-to-day in 1943 sounds quite similar to what I observed in 2016.
At 10:45 am today the playground opened . . . We began by moving all the building material in the open shed. Bricks, boards, fireposts and cement pillars were moved to the left alongside the entrance, where building and digging started right away. The work was done by children aged 4 to 17. It went on at full speed and all the workers were in high spirits; dust, sweat, warning shouts and a few scratches all created just the right atmosphere. The children’s play- and work-ground had opened, and they knew how to take full advantage of it.

The do-it-yourself rule is, to a certain extent, self-limiting, as towers built with simple tools are shorter than those ordered from catalogues. I saw plenty of children up on roofs—the rule was, if you can climb up without a ladder, relying on your own strength and ingenuity, it’s O.K. In a documentary on The Land, a Welsh adventure playground, a play worker describes the difference between risk and hazard: a risk you take on knowingly; a hazard is unexpected, like a nail sticking out of a board. The play workers are there to remove hazards and leave the risks.

Journalism about adventure play tends to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of social activities, for parents and children, occur. “Risky play” is a way for children to test their own limits, and because the parks are embedded in residential communities they can do so at their own pace. Hitoshi Shimamura, who runs the organization Tokyo Play, told me that he has sessions to teach parents to use the tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience. Kids also need time to ease into the freedom and figure out which activity most appeals to them. If adventure play were to become permanent in New York, it would do better as a permanent fixture in a neighborhood than as a weekend destination. At a temporary adventure playground set up by Play:Ground on Governors Island this summer, a sign on the fence read, “Your children are fine without advice and suggestions,” though legally, children under six had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The “adventure” can be with water, with tools, with real fire, or just with pretend kitchen equipment, allowing the parks to appeal to a broad array of children, and over a longer period of time. What this means, in practice, is a range of activity during days, weeks, or even years. In the morning, adventure playgrounds become settings for an urban version of a forest preschool, where small children learn the basics of getting along outdoors. In the afternoon, they become a place for older kids to let off steam between school and homework; many communities in Tokyo play a public chime at five in the afternoon—a mass call that is it time to go home. On the weekends, Yume Park might ring with the hammers of children, but for teen-agers there are other options: a recording studio with padded walls; a wooden shed piled with bike parts for the taking; a quiet, shaded place for conversation. Bertelsen wrote in his diary,
Occasionally, complaints have been made that the playground does not possess a smart enough appearance, and that children cannot possibly be happy playing about in such a jumble. To this I should only like to say that, at times, the children can shape and mould [sic] the playground in such a way that it is a monument to their efforts and a source of aesthetic pleasure to the adult eye; at other times it can appear, to the adult eye, like a pigsty. However, children’s play is not what the adults see, but what the child himself experiences.

One of my favorite moments in Tokyo occurred late one afternoon at a smaller adventure playground, Komazawa Harappa, a long sliver of space in a tight residential neighborhood, masked from the street by a simple hedge. Three kids fanned the flames in a fire pit; a baby padded about a dirty pool dressed in a diaper; two small boys, hammering on a house, had remembered to take their shoes off on the porch. But not everyone felt the need to be busy. Two teen-age girls had climbed up on the roof of the play workers’ house, via a self-built platform of poles and planks, and seemed deep in conversation. Suddenly, they began to sing, their clear voices ringing out over the open space."
alexandralange  children  unschooling  deschooling  community  2016  infrastructure  parks  playgrounds  adventureplaygrounds  risk  risktaking  hazards  japan  parenting  openstudioproject  messiness  johnbertelsen  kenishiomura  ladyallen  emdrup  copenhagen  tokyo  kodomoyumepark  srg  urban  urbanism  play  lenoreskenazy  hanegiplaypark  tools  dirt  order  rules  mikelanza  supervision  safety  independence  us  shokoomura  diy  risklyplay  lcproject  tcsnmt  sfsh 
september 2018 by robertogreco
The Equality Trust | Working to improve the quality of life in the UK by reducing economic inequality
[See also:
(book) "The Spirit Level"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_Level_(book)
The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better[1] is a book by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett,[2] published in 2009 by Allen Lane. The book is published in the US by Bloomsbury Press (December, 2009) with the new sub-title: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.[3] It was then published in a paperback second edition (United Kingdom) in November 2010 by Penguin Books with the subtitle, Why Equality is Better for Everyone.[4]

The book argues that there are "pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption".[5] It claims that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal countries, whether rich or poor.[1] The book contains graphs that are available online.[6]

In 2010, the authors published responses to questions about their analysis on the Equality Trust website.[7] As of September 2012, the book had sold more than 150,000 copies in English.[8] It is available in 23 foreign editions.

"The Spirit Level authors: why society is more unequal than ever"
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/09/society-unequal-the-spirit-level

[follow-up book] "The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Wellbeing"
https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/188607/the-inner-level/
Why is the incidence of mental illness in the UK twice that in Germany? Why are Americans three times more likely than the Dutch to develop gambling problems? Why is child well-being so much worse in New Zealand than Japan? As this groundbreaking study demonstrates, the answer to all these hinges on inequality.

In The Spirit Level Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett put inequality at the centre of public debate by showing conclusively that less-equal societies fare worse than more equal ones across everything from education to life expectancy. The Inner Level now explains how inequality affects us individually, how it alters how we think, feel and behave. It sets out the overwhelming evidence that material inequalities have powerful psychological effects: when the gap between rich and poor increases, so does the tendency to define and value ourselves and others in terms of superiority and inferiority. A deep well of data and analysis is drawn upon to empirically show, for example, that low social status is associated with elevated levels of stress, and how rates of anxiety and depression are intimately related to the inequality which makes that status paramount.

Wilkinson and Pickett describe how these responses to hierarchies evolved, and why the impacts of inequality on us are so severe. In doing so, they challenge the conception that humans are innately competitive and self-interested. They undermine, too, the idea that inequality is the product of 'natural' differences in individual ability. This book sheds new light on many of the most urgent problems facing societies today, but it is not just an index of our ills. It demonstrates that societies based on fundamental equalities, sharing and reciprocity generate much higher levels of well-being, and lays out the path towards them.

"Does inequality cause suicide, drug abuse and mental illness?"
https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2018/06/14/does-inequality-cause-suicide-drug-abuse-and-mental-illness

"“The Inner Level” seeks to push that debate forward, by linking inequality to a crisis of mental health. This time the authors’ argument focuses on status anxiety: stress related to fears about individuals’ places in social hierarchies. Anxiety declines as incomes rise, they show, but is higher at all levels in more unequal countries—to the extent that the richest 10% of people in high-inequality countries are more socially anxious than all but the bottom 10% in low-inequality countries. Anxiety contributes to a variety of mental-health problems, including depression, narcissism and schizophrenia—rates of which are alarming in the West, the authors say, and rise with inequality.

Manifestations of mental illness, such as self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse and problem gambling, all seem to get worse with income dispersion, too. Such relationships seem to apply within countries as well as between them. Damaging drug use is higher in more unequal neighbourhoods of New York City, in more unequal American states and in more unequal countries. The authors emphasise that it is a person’s relative position rather than absolute income that matters most. A study of 30,000 Britons found that an individual’s place in the income hierarchy predicted the incidence of mental stress more accurately than absolute income did. And in America, relative income is more closely linked to depression than absolute income. It is not enough to lift all boats, their work suggests, if the poshest vessels are always buoyed up more than the humblest.

The fact that relative status matters so much is a result of human beings’ intrinsically social nature, Ms Pickett and Mr Wilkinson argue. Group interaction and co-operation have been an essential component of humanity’s evolutionary success; indeed, the authors say, its social nature helped drive the growth of human brains. Across primates, they write, the size of the neocortex—a part of the brain responsible for higher-level cognitive functions—varies with the typical group size of a species. Living in complex social groups is hard cognitive work. Survival requires an understanding of roles within the social hierarchy, and intuition of what others are thinking. Thus people are necessarily sensitive to their status within groups, and to social developments that threaten it.

Such hierarchies are found in all human societies. But as inequality rises, differences in status become harder to ignore. There is more to be gained or lost by moving from one rung on the ladder to another. And however much some maintain that disparities in pay-cheques do not correspond to differences in human worth, such well-meaning pieties feel hollow when high-rollers earn hundreds or thousands of times what ordinary folk take home. Money cannot buy everything, but it can buy most things. The steeper the income gradient, the less secure everyone becomes, in both their self-respect and their sense of the community’s esteem.

And so people compensate. They take pills, to steel their nerves or dull the pain. Some cut themselves. Some adopt a more submissive posture, avoiding contact with others. Yet such withdrawal can feed on itself, depriving recluses of the social interaction that is important to mental health, undermining relationships and careers and contributing to economic hardship.

Others respond in the opposite way, by behaving more aggressively and egotistically. Studies of narcissistic tendencies showed a steep increase between 1982 and 2006, the authors report; 30% more Americans displayed narcissistic characteristics at the end of the period than at the beginning. Scrutiny of successive American cohorts found a progressive rise in those listing wealth and fame as important goals (above fulfilment and community). Over time, more people cited money as the main motivation for attending college (rather than intellectual enrichment).

Domineering responses to anxiety are associated with loss of empathy and delusions of grandeur. Thus highly successful people often display narcissistic or even psychopathic behaviour. In surveys, the rich are generally less empathetic and more likely to think they deserve special treatment than others. Modern capitalism, the authors suggest, selects for assertiveness, for a lack of sentimentality in business and comfort in sacking underlings, and for showy displays of economic strength. From the top to the bottom of the income spectrum, people use conspicuous consumption and other means of enhancing their image to project status.

The least secure are often the most likely to exaggerate their qualities. For example, countries with lower average life-expectancy tend to do better on measures of self-reported health; 54% of Japanese say they are in good health compared with 80% of Americans, though the Japanese live five years longer on average. Whereas 70% of Swedes consider themselves to be above-average drivers, 90% of Americans do. Such figures cast declamations of America’s greatness, and the politicians who make them, in a new light."

"The Inner Level review – how more equal societies reduce stress and improve wellbeing"
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/20/the-inner-level-review ]

[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/BmquJ7Ngvme/ ]
equality  inequality  society  trust  anxiety  well-being  stress  mentalhealth  uk  economics  community  socialmobility  class  education  drugs  drugabuse  health  violence  illness  consumption  hierarchy  horizontality  mentalillness  status  self-harm  gambling  depression  narcissism  schizophrenia  relativity  excess  cooperation  egotism  selfishness  empathy  dunning–krugereffect  greatness  politics  lifeexpectancy  japan  sweden  us  driving  capitalism  latecapitalism  fame  fulfillment  money  motivation  colleges  universities  exceptionalism  assertiveness  aggressiveness  richardwilkinson  katepickett  growth  erichfromm 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Kitsune - Wikipedia
"Kitsune (狐, キツネ, IPA: [kitsɯne] (About this sound listen)) is the Japanese word for the fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing paranormal abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Foxes and humans lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make sacrifices to them as to a deity.

Conversely foxes were often seen as "witch animals", especially during the superstitious Edo period (1603–1867), and were goblins who could not be trusted (similar to some badgers and cats).[1]"
foxes  japan  sestracat  myth  myths  mythology  shinto  trickster  folklore  cats  badgers  shapeshifting  companionship  multispecies  morethanhuman  inari  kami  spirits 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Inari Ōkami - Wikipedia
"Inari Ōkami (稲荷大神, also Oinari) is the Japanese kami of foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami of Shinto. In earlier Japan, Inari was also the patron of swordsmiths and merchants. Represented as male, female, or androgynous, Inari is sometimes seen as a collective of three or five individual kami. Inari appears to have been worshipped since the founding of a shrine at Inari Mountain in 711 AD, although some scholars believe that worship started in the late 5th century.

By the 16th century Inari had become the patron of blacksmiths and the protector of warriors, and worship of Inari spread across Japan in the Edo period. Inari is a popular figure in both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs in Japan. More than one-third (32,000) of the Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to Inari. Modern corporations, such as cosmetic company Shiseido, continue to revere Inari as a patron kami, with shrines atop their corporate headquarters.[1]

Inari's foxes, or kitsune, are pure white and act as their messengers."
japan  foxes  kitsune  japanese  shinto  srg 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Kodomo No Kuni. | Present&Correct
"A children’s picture magazine published in Japan 1922-44. We just found a site with a full archive, over 9000 images. [http://www.kodomo.go.jp/gallery/search/index_e.html ]"
children  illustrarion  japan  japanese  srg 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Haibun - Wikipedia
"Haibun (俳文, literally, haikai writings) is a prosimetric literary form originating in Japan, combining prose and haiku. The range of haibun is broad and frequently includes autobiography, diary, essay, prose poem,[1] short story and travel journal.

History
The term "haibun" was first used by the 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō, in a letter to his disciple Kyorai in 1690.[2] Bashō was a prominent early writer of haibun, then a new genre combining classical prototypes, Chinese prose genres and vernacular subject matter and language.[2] He wrote some haibun as travel accounts during his various journeys, the most famous of which is Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Interior).

Bashō's shorter haibun include compositions devoted to travel and others focusing on character sketches, landscape scenes, anecdotal vignettes and occasional writings written to honor a specific patron or event. His Hut of the Phantom Dwelling can be classified as an essay while, in Saga Nikki (Saga Diary), he documents his day-to-day activities with his disciples on a summer retreat.

Traditional haibun typically took the form of a short description of a place, person or object, or a diary of a journey or other series of events in the poet's life.[3] Haibun continued to be written by later haikai poets such as Yosa Buson,[4] Kobayashi Issa[5] and Masaoka Shiki.[3]

In English
Haibun is no longer confined to Japan, and has established itself as a genre in world literature[6][7] which has gained momentum in recent years.[8]

James Merrill's "Prose of Departure", from The Inner Room (1988), is an earlier example.

The first contest for English-language haibun took place in 1996,[9] organized by poet and editor Michael Dylan Welch, and judged by Tom Lynch and Cor van den Heuvel. Anita Virgil won first prize, and David Cobb won second prize. The contest resulted in the publication of Wedge of Light (Press Here) in 1999. As credited by Welch,[10] the first anthology of English-language haibun was Bruce Ross's Journey to the Interior: American Versions of Haibun (Tuttle), published in 1998.[11][non-primary source needed]

Jim Kacian and Bruce Ross edited the inaugural number of the annual anthology American Haibun & Haiga (Red Moon Press) in 1999; that series, which continues to this day, changed its name to Contemporary Haibun in 2003 and sponsored the parallel creation in 2005 of Contemporary Haibun Online, a quarterly journal that added Welsh haibun author Ken Jones to the founding editorial team of Kacian and Ross.

Characteristics
A haibun may record a scene, or a special moment, in a highly descriptive and objective manner or may occupy a wholly fictional or dream-like space.[citation needed] The accompanying haiku may have a direct or subtle relationship with the prose and encompass or hint at the gist of what is recorded in the prose sections.

Several distinct schools of English haibun have been described,[12] including Reportage narrative mode such as Robert Wilson's Vietnam Ruminations, Haibunic prose, and the Templum effect.

Contemporary practice of haibun composition in English is continually evolving.[13][citation needed] Generally, a haibun consists of one or more paragraphs of prose written in a concise, imagistic haikai style, and one or more haiku. However, there may be considerable variation of form, as described by editor and practitioner Jeffrey Woodward.[14]

Modern English-language haibun writers (aka, practitioners) include Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross, Mark Nowak, Nobuyuki Yuasa,[15] Lynne Reese,[16] Peter Butler,[17] and David Cobb, founder of the British Haiku Society in 1990 and author of Spring Journey to the Saxon Shore, a 5,000-word haibun which has been considered seminal for the English form of kikōbun (i.e., travel diary).[18]"

[via: "So I've been experimenting with writing haibun lately, and as a lifelong diarist (who's recently slacked in a major way but is now jumping back into it!) this form is opening things way up for me. Shoutout to Bashō."
https://twitter.com/gumbo_amando/status/1017249109416267776 ]
japan  japanese  journals  journaling  srg  haibun  poetry  prose  haiku  writing  diaries  essays  autobiography  bashō  classideas 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Why, in China and Japan, a copy is just as good as an original | Aeon Essays
"In the West, when monuments are restored, old traces are often particularly highlighted. Original elements are treated like relics. The Far East is not familiar with this cult of the original. It has developed a completely different technique of preservation that might be more effective than conservation or restoration. This takes place through continual reproduction. This technique completely abolishes the difference between original and replica. We might also say that originals preserve themselves through copies. Nature provides the model. The organism also renews itself through continual cell-replacement. After a certain period of time, the organism is a replica of itself. The old cells are simply replaced by new cell material. In this case, the question of an original does not arise. The old dies off and is replaced by the new. Identity and renewal are not mutually exclusive. In a culture where continual reproduction represents a technique for conservation and preservation, replicas are anything but mere copies."
china  japan  copying  originality  evolution  copies  culture  2018  byung-chulhan  history  museums  cloning  korea  southkorea  buddhism  christianity  life  death 
june 2018 by robertogreco
The world is poorly designed. But copying nature helps. - YouTube
"Japan’s Shinkansen doesn’t look like your typical train. With its long and pointed nose, it can reach top speeds up to 150–200 miles per hour.

It didn’t always look like this. Earlier models were rounder and louder, often suffering from the phenomenon of "tunnel boom," where deafening compressed air would rush out of a tunnel after a train rushed in. But a moment of inspiration from engineer and birdwatcher Eiji Nakatsu led the system to be redesigned based on the aerodynamics of three species of birds.

Nakatsu’s case is a fascinating example of biomimicry, the design movement pioneered by biologist and writer Janine Benyus. She's a co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit encouraging creators to discover how big challenges in design, engineering, and sustainability have often already been solved through 3.8 billion years of evolution on earth. We just have to go out and find them."
biomimicry  design  classideas  janinebenyus  biology  nature  trains  shinkansen  japan  birds  sustainability  biomimetics  form  process  plants  animals  2017  circulareconomy  ecosystems  systemsthinking  upcycling  cities  urban  urbanism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Cumulative culture in nonhumans: overlooked findings from Japanese monkeys? | SpringerLink
"Daniel P. Schofield, William C. McGrew, Akiko Takahashi, Satoshi Hirata"



"Cumulative culture, generally known as the increasing complexity or efficiency of cultural behaviors additively transmitted over successive generations, has been emphasized as a hallmark of human evolution. Recently, reviews of candidates for cumulative culture in nonhuman species have claimed that only humans have cumulative culture. Here, we aim to scrutinize this claim, using current criteria for cumulative culture to re-evaluate overlooked qualitative but longitudinal data from a nonhuman primate, the Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata). We review over 60 years of Japanese ethnography of Koshima monkeys, which indicate that food-washing behaviors (e.g., of sweet potato tubers and wheat grains) seem to have increased in complexity and efficiency over time. Our reassessment of the Koshima ethnography is preliminary and nonquantitative, but it raises the possibility that cumulative culture, at least in a simple form, occurs spontaneously and adaptively in other primates and nonhumans in nature."

[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bdja9w0nBdm/ ]
multispecies  morethanhuman  animals  ethnography  macques  japan  food  foodprocessing  traditions  culture  cumulativeculture  anthropology  2017  behavior 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Your Name - Wikipedia
"Your Name (Japanese: 君の名は。 Hepburn: Kimi no Na wa.) is a 2016 Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai and produced by CoMix Wave Films. The film was produced by Noritaka Kawaguchi and Genki Kawamura, with music composed by Radwimps. Your Name tells the story of a high school girl in rural Japan and a high school boy in Tokyo who swap bodies. The film stars the voices of Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, and Etsuko Ichihara. Shinkai's novel of the same name was published a month before the film's premiere.

Your Name was distributed by Toho, it premiered at the Anime Expo 2016 convention in Los Angeles, California on 3 July 2016, and in Japan on 26 August 2016. It received widespread acclaim from critics, who praised the film for its animation and emotional impact, and was also a major commercial success, becoming the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, the 7th-highest-grossing traditionally animated film, the highest-grossing anime and Japanese alike film and the 5th-highest-grossing non-English film worldwide[note 1], with a total gross of more than $355 million. The film won the 49th Sitges Film Festival, 2016 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, and 71st Mainichi Film Awards for Best Animated Feature Film, as well as receiving a nomination for the 40th Japan Academy Prize for the Best Animation of the Year. A live-action remake is currently in the works."
anime  towatch  japan  film  animation  via:robinsloan  makotoshinkai  srg 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Vox Borders - YouTube - YouTube
"Reporting from six borders around the world, Emmy-nominated journalist Johnny Harris investigates the human stories behind the lines on a map in a new series for Vox.com

The six-part documentary series airs Tuesdays starting October 17th.

For additional content, travel dispatches, and more visit http://www.vox.com/borders "

[VOX BORDERS S1 • E1
Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WvKeYuwifc

VOX BORDERS S1 • E2
It's time to draw borders on the Arctic Ocean
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wx_2SVm9Jgo

VOX BORDERS S1 • E3
Inside North Korea's bubble in Japan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBfyIQbxXPs

VOX BORDERS S1 • E4
How the US outsourced border security to Mexico
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xbt0ACMbiA

VOX BORDERS S1 • E5
Building a border at 4,600 meters
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECch2g1_6PQ

VOX BORDERS S1 • E6
Europe’s most fortified border is in Africa
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY_Yiu2U2Ts ]
borders  haiti  dominicanrepublic  arctic  arcticocean  japan  northkorea  korea  mexico  us  centralamerica  border  2017  spain  morocco  china  nepal  españa 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Touch of Madness - Pacific Standard
"So Jones grew alarmed when, soon after starting at DePaul in the fall of 2007, at age 27, she began having trouble retaining things she had just read. She also struggled to memorize the new characters she was learning in her advanced Chinese class. She had experienced milder versions of these cognitive and memory blips a couple times before, most recently as she’d finished her undergraduate studies earlier that year. These new mental glitches were worse. She would study and draw the new logograms one night, then come up short when she tried to draw them again the next morning.

These failures felt vaguely neurological. As if her synapses had clogged. She initially blamed them on the sleepless, near-manic excitement of finally being where she wanted to be. She had wished for exactly this, serious philosophy and nothing but, for half her life. Now her mind seemed to be failing. Words started to look strange. She began experiencing "inarticulable atmospheric changes," as she put it—not hallucinations, really, but alterations of temporality, spatiality, depth perception, kinesthetics. Shimmerings in reality's fabric. Sidewalks would feel soft and porous. Audio and visual input would fall out of sync, creating a lag between the movement of a speaker's lips and the words' arrival at Jones' ears. Something was off.

"You look at your hand," as she described it to me later, holding hers up and examining it front and back, "and it looks the same as always. But it's not. It's yours—but it's not. Nothing has changed"—she let her hand drop to her knee—"yet it's different. And that's what gets you. There's nothing to notice; but you can't help but notice."

Another time she found herself staring at the stone wall of a building on campus and realizing that the wall's thick stone possessed two contradictory states. She recognized that the wall was immovable and that, if she punched it, she'd break her hand. Yet she also perceived that the stone was merely a constellation of atomic particles so tenuously bound that, if she blew on it, it would come apart. She experienced this viscerally. She felt the emptiness within the stone.

Initially she found these anomalies less threatening than weird. But as they intensified, the gap between what she was perceiving and what she could understand rationally generated an unbearable cognitive dissonance. How could something feel so wrong but she couldn't say what? She had read up the wazoo about perception, phenomenology, subjectivity, consciousness. She of all people should be able to articulate what she was experiencing. Yet she could not. "Language had betrayed me," she says. "There was nothing you could point to and say, 'This looks different about the world.' There were no terms. I had no fucking idea."

Too much space was opening within and around and below her. She worried she was going mad. She had seen what madness looked like from the outside. When Jones was in her teens, one of her close relatives, an adult she'd always seen frequently, and whom we'll call Alex for privacy reasons, had in early middle age fallen into a state of almost relentless schizophrenia. It transformed Alex from a warm, caring, and open person who was fully engaged with the world into somebody who was isolated from it—somebody who seemed remote, behaved in confusing and alarming ways, and periodically required hospitalization. Jones now started to worry this might be happening to her."



"Reading philosophy helped Jones think. It helped order the disorderly. Yet later, in college, she lit up when she discovered the writers who laid the philosophical foundation for late 20-century critical psychiatry and madness studies: Michel Foucault, for instance, who wrote about how Western culture, by medicalizing madness, brands the mad as strangers to human nature. Foucault described both the process and the alienating effect of this exclusion-by-definition, or "othering," as it soon came to be known, and how the mad were cut out and cast away, flung into pits of despair and confusion, leaving ghosts of their presence behind.

To Jones, philosophy, not medicine, best explained the reverberations from the madness that had touched her family: the disappearance of the ex-husband; the alienation of Alex, who at times seemed "there but not there," unreachable. Jones today describes the madness in and around her family as a koan, a puzzle that teaches by its resistance to solution, and which forces upon her the question of how to speak for those who may not be able to speak for themselves.

Jones has since made a larger version of this question—of how we think of and treat the mad, and why in the West we usually shunt them aside—her life's work. Most of this work radiates from a single idea: Culture shapes the experience, expression, and outcome of madness. The idea is not that culture makes one mad. It's that culture profoundly influences every aspect about how madness develops and expresses itself, from its onset to its full-blown state, from how the afflicted experience it to how others respond to it, whether it destroys you or leaves you whole.

This idea is not original to Jones. It rose from the observation, first made at least a century ago and well-documented now, that Western cultures tend to send the afflicted into a downward spiral rarely seen in less modernized cultures. Schizophrenia actually has a poorer prognosis for people in the West than for those in less urbanized, non-Eurocentric societies. When the director of the World Health Organization's mental-health unit, Shekhar Saxena, was asked last year where he'd prefer to be if he were diagnosed with schizophrenia, he said for big cities he'd prefer a city in Ethiopia or Sri Lanka, like Colombo or Addis Ababa, rather than New York or London, because in the former he could expect to be seen as a productive if eccentric citizen rather than a reject and an outcast.

Over the past 25 years or so, the study of culture's effect on schizophrenia has received increasing attention from philosophers, historians, psychiatrists, anthropologists, and epidemiologists, and it is now edging into the mainstream. In the past five years, Nev Jones has made herself one of this view's most forceful proponents and one of the most effective advocates for changing how Western culture and psychiatry respond to people with psychosis. While still a graduate student at DePaul she founded three different groups to help students with psychosis continue their studies. After graduating in 2014, she expanded her reach first into the highest halls of academe, as a scholar at Stanford University, and then into policy, working with state and private agencies in California and elsewhere on programs for people with psychosis, and with federal agencies to produce toolkits for universities, students, and families about dealing with psychosis emerging during college or graduate study. Now in a new position as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida, she continues to examine—and ask the rest of us to see—how culture shapes madness.

In the United States, the culture's initial reaction to a person's first psychotic episode, embedded most officially in a medical system that sees psychosis and schizophrenia as essentially biological, tends to cut the person off instantly from friends, social networks, work, and their sense of identity. This harm can be greatly reduced, however, when a person's first care comes from the kind of comprehensive, early intervention programs, or EIPs, that Jones works on. These programs emphasize truly early intervention, rather than the usual months-long lag between first symptoms and any help; high, sustained levels of social, educational, and vocational support; and building on the person's experience, ambitions, and strengths to keep them as functional and engaged as possible. Compared to treatment as usual, EIPs lead to markedly better outcomes across the board, create more independence, and seem to create far less trauma for patients and their family and social circles."



"Once his eye was caught, Kraepelin started seeing culture's effects everywhere. In his native Germany, for instance, schizophrenic Saxons were more likely to kill themselves than were Bavarians, who were, in turn, more apt to do violence to others. In a 1925 trip to North America, Kraepelin found that Native Americans with schizophrenia, like Indonesians, didn't build in their heads the elaborate delusional worlds that schizophrenic Europeans did, and hallucinated less.

Kraepelin died in 1926, before he could publish a scholarly version of those findings. Late in his life, he embraced some widely held but horrific ideas about scientific racism and eugenics. Yet he had clearly seen that culture exerted a powerful, even fundamental, effect on the intensity, nature, and duration of symptoms in schizophrenia, and in bipolar disorder and depression. He urged psychiatrists to explore just how culture created such changes.

Even today, few in medicine have heeded this call. Anthropologists, on the other hand, have answered it vigorously over the last couple of decades. To a cultural anthropologist, culture includes the things most of us would expect—movies, music, literature, law, tools, technologies, institutions, and traditions. It also includes a society's predominant ideas, values, stories, interpretations, beliefs, symbols, and framings—everything from how we should dress, greet one another, and prepare and eat food, to what it means to be insane. Madness, in other words, is just one more thing about which a culture constructs and applies ideas that guide thought and behavior.

But what connects these layers of culture to something so seemingly internal as a person's state of mind? The biocultural anthropologist Daniel Lende says that it helps here to think of culture as a series of concentric circles surrounding each of us. For simplicity's sake, let's keep it to two circles around a core, with each circle … [more]
2017  daviddobbs  mentalhealth  psychology  health  culture  madness  nevjones  japan  ethiopia  colombo  addisababa  schizophrenia  society  srilanka  shekharsaxena  philosophy  perception  treatment  medicine  psychosis  media  academia  anthropology  daniellende  pauleugenbleuler  emilkraepelin  danielpaulschreber  edwadsapir  relationships  therapy  tinachanter  namitagoswami  irenehurford  richardnoll  ethanwatters  wolfgangjilek  wolfgangpfeiffer  stigma  banishment  hallucinations  really  but  alterations  of  temporality  time  spatiality  depthperception  kinesthetics  memory  memories  reality  phenomenology  subjectivity  consciousness  donaldwinnicott  alienation  kinship  isolation  tanyaluhrmann 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Cap and Trade – The New Inquiry
"Q: Is that why the book is largely set in a forest? So much of the writing about capitalism is located in factories, fields, or counting houses. What can forests help us understand about capitalism?

A: Not all forests are just groups of trees. Much of the book takes place in the industrial forests of the Pacific Northwest. It was a center of industrial timber in the mid-20th century and is still considered an industrial forest today. Managed forests have become an important model for the industrial plantation. The sugar cane plantation of the New World was the early model for industrialization. Now when you look up the word plantation, tree plantations come up first. For me, writing about forests is a way of getting at industrial discipline.

Of course, the original New World colonial plantation haunts capitalism to this day. It is on the slave plantation that Europeans learn to create assets through the joint disciplining of people and crops. They also invented techniques to shield investors from the environmental and social consequences of the investments that they were making, often over long distances. The mid-20th century managed forest in the U.S. was a model for the intensive crop production of a forest. Weeds were removed through spraying, and the technical monocrop features of the forest were really exaggerated, even in national forests.

Q: In your essay “Gens” you make this statement of purpose along with your co-authors: “Instead of capitalism a priori, as an already determining structure, logic, and trajectory, we ask how its social relations are generated out of divergent life projects.” How did you come to this way of thinking about capitalism?

A: I came to it in part through feminist political economy. In the late 20th century, feminist political economy started asking questions about labor that weren’t getting asked, like why there were women factory workers and why certain industries preferentially hired women, or even certain kinds of women. In order to explain that, one simply couldn’t ignore complicated historical trajectories—colonialism, racism, and the way the state interacted with the family—and the way these histories intertwined to create a particular moment in capitalism. Those basic opening questions turned into fertile theoretical ground for feminist scholarship. Rather than starting from a monolithic structure of capitalism and asking about its effects, feminist scholarship asked how a set of histories congealed together to create a particular kind of economic moment.

Q: Matsutake mushrooms are very small. The mushroom trade is very small. But you convincingly argue that small does not mean unimportant. Scale is an important theme in the book. What can mushrooms help us understand about capitalism and scale?

A: We are seduced by our computers today. Computers have such an easy time making something bigger or smaller on a screen without appearing to distort its characteristics at all. It makes us think that this is how reality works. When reality does actually function this way, it is a whole lot of work to make it scale up and scale down. And it never works perfectly. The plantation chases that ideal. Its goal is to scale up or scale down without changing the manner of production at all. But doing that is an enormous amount of work, and the work is often violent.

Mushrooms turn out to be a good way to think about contradictory and interrupting scales, both in terms of political economy and ecology. In the supply chain, there’s not the same emphasis on maintaining production standards across scale. Instead, there are techniques for translating mushrooms produced in different local realities and scales into a single, uniform commodity. And these techniques never succeed completely. Ecologically, if you don’t have certain small disturbances between particular organisms, you wouldn’t have the effect of the forest at all."

Q: The book flips the geography of the supply chain we are most used to hearing about. The flexible labor is in rural America, and the buyers are overseas, in Japan. Is this a new historical period, economically speaking? How do you situate this in the context of the broader 20th century global economy?

A: I argue that there was a moment in the late 20th century when a particular model of Japanese supply chain became so powerful, it kicked over a big change in the way supply chains worked globally. Production was no longer the organizing force, which had been the case in the U.S. corporate supply chain, the predominant form before that. These changes disentangled the relationships between nation-states and powerful sourcing corporations. This disentanglement allows the rural northwestern U.S.to resemble the global south in certain ways as a sourcing area for global supply chains. But the matsutake supply chain is an unusual case. If you want to find U.S. companies sourcing from other parts of the world, that’s still the dominant form of supply chain.

Q: The book seems hopeful.

A: I’ve been accused both ways.

Q: Well, it has “End of the World” in the main title, and “the Possibilities of Life” in the subtitle.

A: That’s true. We don’t have a choice except to muddle by. So that’s the hopeful part. We have to figure out what we’ve got and what we can do with it. To me, this is practical hopefulness. It is a hard line to pull off. The subtitle is not actually about hope in a traditional Christian sense of redemption. At this particular historical moment, I don’t think that makes much sense. There are plenty of people who want to use a set of philosophies or technologies to get us out of the soup. That’s tough. On the other hand, there’s just getting stuck in a big bundle of apocalyptic thinking.

The book asks us to pay attention to the imperfect situation in which we live, to recognize both the handholds and the pitfalls. Perhaps looking at this particular mushroom lends hopefulness. I’ve since realized I don’t have to go that direction. Lately I’ve been giving papers on killer fungi, the kind of fungi that grow unintentionally out of the plantation system. These fungi and other pests and diseases represent the plantation system gone wild in ways that negatively affect humans, plants, or animals. Fungus can be terrible too."
scale  scalability  capitalism  sustainability  annalowenhaupttsing  anthropology  anthropocene  2016  themushroomattheendoftheworld  growth  plantations  geography  supplychains  japan  us  forests  trees  mushrooms  nature  multispecies  labor  morethanhuman  annatsing 
october 2017 by robertogreco
7 summers later, weeds engulf Fukushima’s abandoned areas:The Asahi Shimbun
"Tetsuro Takehana, an Asahi Shimbun photographer who lived in Fukushima Prefecture for 10 years in his childhood, takes photos of the desolate areas designated as "difficult-to-return zones.” The film was taken in late July. (Video taken by Tetsuro Takehana and Shigetaka Kodama)

The startling effects of the passage of time come into sharp focus in aerial images taken of Fukushima’s "difficult-to-return zones” in the seventh summer since the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

The bird’s-eye view pictures were captured in abandoned areas near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture.

The disaster unfolded after the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake spawned a tsunami that devastated coastal areas of the Tohoku region, including Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The Okuma outlet of Plant-4, a large shopping mall located 3 kilometers away from the nuclear plant along National Route No. 6, had been bustling with visitors before the disaster.

Today, weeds grow from the cracks of the asphalt-surfaced mall parking lot, slowly creeping through the expanse of space.

One striking image shows the exterior of the TEPCO-owned condominium building, which housed its employees in Futaba, is becoming covered with rampant weeds that have reached the second floor.

Another photo shows cars that cannot be recovered are partially buried, appearing as if they are sinking into a sea of green.

(This article was written by Tetsuro Takehana and Shigetaka Kodama.)"
japan  fukushima  nature  2017  theworldwithoutus  classideas  tetsurotakehana  photography  video 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Hello World: Explore the Tech World Outside Silicon Valley With Ashlee Vance
"Hello World invites the viewer to come on a journey. It's a journey that stretches across the globe to find the inventors, scientists and technologists shaping our future. Each episode explores a different country and uncovers the ways in which the local culture and surroundings have influenced their approach to technology. Join journalist and best-selling author Ashlee Vance on a quest to find the freshest, weirdest tech creations and the beautiful freaks behind them.

Episode 1: New Zealand
New Zealand’s freaky AI babies, robot exoskeletons, and a virtual you.

Episode 2: Sweden
We explore Sweden's magical treehouses, faceswapping robots, and enjoy fika with Spotify’s Daniel Ek.

Episode 3: Israel
Learn how the constant threat of war has shaped Israel's tech industry.

Episode 4: Iceland
Iceland's punishing terrain inspires cutting-edge tech.

Episode 5: Mojave Desert
America's most passionate and daring inventors have built an engineering paradise in the middle of nowhere.

Episode 6: Australia
Bio-hackers, Internet playboys, and underwater drones have ignited Australia’s long-dormant tech industry.

Episode 7: England
Once a computing pioneer, England has struggled to remain relevant in tech. Now, a revival appears to be on the way.

Episode 8: Japan
Japan's obsessive robot inventors are creating the future.

Episode 9: Russia
Grab yourself a vodka and witness the bizarre spectacle that is Russian technology.

Episode 10: Chile
Searching for the origins of the universe in the Earth’s driest desert."
technology  video  chile  russia  japan  england  australia  mojavedesert  iceland  israel  sweden  newzealand  ashleevance 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Y-Fi
"Experience Loading Animations / Screens in wifi speeds around the world. This website was inspired by this conversation I had on twitter. I was home (Nigeria) for a bit before I started work and was annoyed at how long I had to look at loading animations. I wondered how long people wanted to wait around the world screaming.

Notes / How this works

• Data about wifi speeds is from: Akamai's State of the Internet / Connectivity Report.

• I chose countries based on what suprised me and to get diversity across speeds.

• To get most data about loading times, I used a combination of Firefox DevTools and the Network Panel on Chrome DevTools. For Gmail I used this article on Gmail's Storage Quota.

• The wifi speeds and sizes of resources are hard-coded in so you can see them and the rest of the code at the repo.

• Any other questions / thoughts? Hit me up on twitter!"

[via: https://twitter.com/YellzHeard/status/890990574827851777 via @senongo]
omayeliarenyeka  internet  webdev  webdesign  wifi  broadband  nigeria  loading  speed  diversity  accessibility  paraguay  egypt  namibia  iran  morocco  peru  argentina  india  southafrica  saudiarabia  mexico  china  chile  greece  ue  france  australia  russia  kenya  israel  thailand  uk  us  taiwan  japan  singapore  hongkong  noray  southkorea 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Craig Mod en Instagram: “Today a shop worker spoke to me in Japanese from behind and I had the distinct sensation of being not myself. They spoke with a confidence…”
"Today a shop worker spoke to me in Japanese from behind and I had the distinct sensation of being not myself. They spoke with a confidence that rarely presents itself to you as a non-Japanese. They spoke Japanese as if they knew me and knew I would understand. The out of body feeling was a momentary blip, a spliced-in frame of me as no longer the other. I knew it wasn’t true — I knew I was still the me always and forever not looking the part. Regardless, it was nice to luxuriate in mutual deception if just for a moment."
japan  bilingualism  craigmod  cv  japanese  dualism  language  acceptance  infiltration  deception 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Nick Kapur on Twitter: "One terrifying aspect of climate change is the millenarianism that will certainly arise when the masses finally realize what's happening. 1/"
"One terrifying aspect of climate change is the millenarianism that will certainly arise when the masses finally realize what's happening. 1/

When people become convinced they have no more future, they become capable of almost anything. Witness the case of 19th century Japan. 2/

In 1860s, amid social and economic collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, peasant protestors stopped demanding specific tax relief policies. 3/

Instead the demanded of wealthy elites merely that they "fix the whole world" (yonaoshi). 4/

When this impossible demand inevitably went unmet, they went on wild rampages, destroying the shops of wealthy merchants. 5/

In central Japan, farmers dropped their farmwork in the middle of the harvest season, and joined drunken mobs dancing from town to town. 6/

The dancing processions took on the aspect of a carnival, with drunken revelers wearing silly costumes or forgoing clothes entirely. 7/ [image]

They would smash their way into the homes of rich townfolk and demand food and liquor, destroying the house if they didn't get it. 8/

All the while, they chanted "ee ja nai kai, ee ja nai ka," perhaps best translated as "Who cares?" or more grimly, "Nothing matters." 9/

Pundits often say rich elites will be spared the worst of a climate apocalypse, but this is wrong. They will be first against the wall. 10/

If rich people were smart, they would be taxing themselves to the bone to stop climate change. 11/"
climatechange  nickkapur  2017  japan  history  tokugawashogunate  revolt  class  yonaoshi  rebellion  inequality  wealth  millenarianism  protest 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Different languages: How cultures around the world draw shapes differently — Quartz
"How do you draw a circle? We analyzed 100,000 drawings to show how culture shapes our instincts"



"Did you start at the top or bottom? Clockwise or counterclockwise? New data show that the way you draw a circle holds clues about where you come from.

In November, Google released an online game called Quick, Draw!, in which users have 20 seconds to draw prompts like “camel” and “washing machine.” It’s fun, but the game’s real aim is to use those sketches to teach algorithms how humans draw. By May this year, the game had collected 50 million unique drawings.

We used the public database from Quick, Draw! to compare how people draw basic shapes around the world. Our analysis suggests that the way you draw a simple circle is linked to geography and cultural upbringing, deep-rooted in hundreds of years of written language, and significant in developmental psychology and trends in education today.

Circles, a universal form

Revered by the ancient Greeks, essential to Islamic art, and venerated in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, circles are a universal shape. No matter where you begin, there are really only two ways to draw a circle, a single stroke heading clockwise, or a single stroke heading counterclockwise.

Google’s dataset contains 119,000 unique circles drawn by people in 148 countries, and includes coordinates for the path traced by each player’s finger (or mouse). Applying some simple geometry to data from the 66 countries that submitted over 100 circles, we identified the circle-drawing directions favored by different nations.

Americans tend to draw circles counterclockwise. Of nearly 50,000 circles drawn in the US, 86% were drawn this way. People in Japan, on the other hand, tend to draw circles in the opposite direction. Of 800 circles drawn in Japan, 80% went clockwise. Here’s a random sample of 100 circles people drew in each country:

[image]

British, Czech, Australian, and Finnish circles were drawn in the same direction, with the same consistency, as American ones. Some countries are even more regular—around 90% of French, German, and Filipino drawers submitted circles drawn counterclockwise. In Vietnam, a full 95% were drawn this way.

[image]

Most of the world, it seems, draws circles counterclockwise, with just two exceptions from our dataset: Taiwan and Japan."



"There are countless ways that we subtly, unconsciously carry our cultures with us: the way we draw, count on our fingers, and imitate real-world sounds, to name a few. That’s the delight at the heart of this massive dataset. To test our theories, we approached colleagues, friends, and family who write in Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese, and, feeling a bit silly, asked them to draw circles. They gladly jumped in, wondering what their fingers would do, and eager to feel part of something larger.

But there’s still plenty we don’t know. Interest in shape-drawing seems to have gone out of style in psychology. With one exception, all of the research we found on cultural shape-drawing and the torque test was from before 1997. Increasingly, people around the world communicate by typing and tapping, but while the art of handwriting might someday get lost all together, perhaps we’re already forming a whole new crop of keyboard-led cultural differences."
us  japan  japanese  srg  circles  classideas  2017  culture  taiwan  chinese  scripts 
june 2017 by robertogreco
“Blue” for Go? Exploring Japanese Colors | Nippon.com
"Shifting Color Meanings

“Blue” traffic lights come as a shock to many students of Japanese. If one learns that midori is “green” and ao is “blue,” it is surprising to find that the clearly green traffic lights at Japanese intersections are described as aoshingō. This demonstrates that even common words may not have simple translations. Japanese traffic lights are not actually blue; they are ao, a word that usually means “blue” but can also mean “green.”

Ao, one of the oldest color words in Japanese, was once much broader in application. In several still common words, it denotes the vivid green of fresh vegetation, as in early summer. Examples include aoba (fresh foliage), aona (leafy green vegetables), aomame (green soybeans or peas), and even the prefectural name Aomori, which according to one explanation originally referred to the green juniper bushes covering a small hill in what is now the prefectural capital. The word ao has also been used historically for a broad range of colors tending toward other shades, including black, white, and gray.

The shifting meanings of the past can be fascinating, if potentially confusing. In the earliest records of the Japanese language, ao and aka (now red) were indicators of brightness. While kuro (black) denoted darkness and shiro (white) light, ao was used for darker and aka for brighter shades in between. Just as kuro and kurai (dark) share the same etymological root, aka is related to akarui (bright).

Long after much of this early linguistic uncertainty had settled down, the use of ao to mean “green” persisted into the age of traffic lights. Japan’s first electric traffic light was installed in Hibiya, Tokyo, in 1930. It was imported from the United States and featured the three standard colors. The original legislation actually designated the “go” color as midori, but the Japanese public insisted on calling it ao and the naming stuck. In 1947 aoshingō was written into Japanese law as the official name of the “go” signal.

A Colorful Tradition

English influences colors as it shapes other parts of the Japanese language. It might seem unlikely that burū (blue) and gurīn (green) could ever replace ao and midori, even though the katakana terms are now often heard. Yet orenji (orange) is arguably more used than the traditional daidai, which takes its name from a similar citrus fruit. Pinku (pink) is also firmly entrenched in the language, and more common than its loose synonym momo (peach).

The Japanese color shu (vermilion) is sometimes described simply as “red” or occasionally “orange,” the lack of precision reflecting its lesser importance in the English-speaking world. In Japan, though, as in other parts of East Asia, it is deeply rooted in the culture. It is the color of torii gates at Shintō shrines, the shuniku inkpads paired with personal seals, and the ink used by calligraphy teachers when annotating students’ work. It is also a common color for lacquerware.

Shu is one color to catch the Western visitor’s eye, but Japan has many more traditional hues. Murasaki (purple) was long the color of clothes worn by the ruling class. In the Heian period (794–1185), the pale purple of fuji (wisteria) became prominent, in part through association with the powerful Fujiwara clan. Author Sei Shōnagon repeatedly praises the flower in her classic Heian collection The Pillow Book, as when she includes “long, richly colored clusters of wisteria blossom hanging from a pine tree” in her list of “splendid things.”

The Heian aristocracy’s keen interest in color is epitomized in the jūni hitoe ensemble worn by ladies of the court. The name literally means “12 layers,” but the number was not fixed and could reach as high as 20. The colors were visible at the sleeves and hems, where progressively shorter layers overlapped, and matching them aesthetically was a fine art. There were complex rules about what colors were suitable for each layer based on the season, the occasion, and the wearer.

A contemporary equivalent to the rule-makers of the past may perhaps be the organization that runs the Shikisai Kentei, a popular test of color knowledge. By creating multiple choice questions for budding designers and artists in a range of fields, it acts as a force for standardization. This includes quizzing test-takers on exact shades for traditional colors as defined by the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee.

Standardization makes life easier, but the pleasures of language lie in its idiosyncrasies. Although it may seem odd to native-English learners that traffic lights are “blue,” accepting this encourages a new viewpoint on the world. Each new point of knowledge about a different culture represents a small step along the road to a broader perspective.

[with image]

A Palette of Traditional Japanese Colors

beni (crimson) moegi (yellowish green)
momo (peach) hanada (light blue)
shu (vermilion) ai (indigo)
daidai (orange) ruri (lapis lazuli)
yamabuki (kerria) fuji (wisteria)
uguisu (bush warbler) nezumi (mouse)

Note: This table displays shades defined by the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee. Historically the colors may have varied widely, especially when named after dyes, where the process can greatly affect the final color. They may also vary on different monitors. Not all have common English names."
srg  japanese  japan  color  blue  green  meaning  significance  symbols  words  language  names  change 
june 2017 by robertogreco
The Company Uniforms of Fashion Designer Naoki Takizawa | Spoon & Tamago
"When the luxurious Train Suite Shiki-Shima launched earlier this month people ogled at its sumptuous bar car, first-class dining room and lounge car with its large windows and couches. But when it comes to the service industry, one design detail that often gets overlooked are the staff uniforms. But this is expected. After all, it’s not a fashion show. The customers are meant to be at the center stage while the staff quietly orchestrate. But behind many great experiences are the people that make them happen. And behind many successful uniforms in Japan is fashion designer Naoki Takizawa.

Takizwa got his start at Issey Miyake in 1982. After climbing the ranks, he became creative director from 1993 to 2006, during which time he was responsible for producing Steve Jobs’ iconic black turtleneck. In 2010 he spent a year at the helm of Helmut Lang and then joined Uniqlo in 2011 as Design Director.

But there’s an interesting anecdote about Jobs’ black turtle neck that also speaks to Takizawa’s design philosophy about company uniforms. And it also helps explain why corporate uniforms are more common in Japan. In his biography, Steve Jobs talks about going to Japan in the 80s and visiting a Sony factory. Here is the actual quote from his biography:
On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signatures styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.

Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple, Jobs recalled, “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”

In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”

Takizawa maintained his own separate design office, where he’s created company uniforms for museums, restaurants, hospitals and, his latest, train car attendants. For Train Suite Shiki-Shima he created all the staff uniforms from train conductor and engineer with Summer and Winter variations for each (a total of over 20 different uniforms). The uniforms were inspired by the Tohoku region of Japan where the train will traverse, but each is also the result of studying the different movement patterns required for each job. Lacquered buttons from Miyagi prefecture and kumihimo braided cords from Aomori finish off the outfits.

But when it comes down to it, “the most important things is that the working staff feel comfortable,” said Takizawa. Functionality informs the shape; the design follows."
uniforms  via:tealtan  japan  history  2017  isseymiyake  stevejobs  akiomorita  clothing  clothes 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Running Free in Germany’s Outdoor Preschools - The New York Times
"Robin Hood Waldkindergarten, which opened in 2005, is one of more than 1,500 waldkitas, or “forest kindergartens,” in Germany; Berlin alone has about 20. Most have opened in the last 15 years and are usually located in the city’s parks, with a bare-bones structure serving as a sort of home base, but others, like Robin Hood, rely on public transportation to shuttle their charges daily out into the wilderness, where they spend most of the day, regardless of weather. Toys, typically disparaged at waldkitas, are replaced by the imaginative use of sticks, rocks and leaves. A 2003 Ph.D. dissertation by Peter Häfner at Heidelberg University showed that graduates of German forest kindergartens had a “clear advantage” over the graduates of regular kindergartens, performing better in cognitive and physical ability, as well as in creativity and social development.

The American journalist Richard Louv, who coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods,” is cited often by Robin Hood staff, as is “Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature,” by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown. (“Savage Park,” by Amy Fusselman, is another book that chronicles uninhibited play and was inspired by a visit to an adventure playground in Tokyo.) The pedagogical philosophy of waldkitas, which privileges outdoor play and hands-on environmental learning, comes originally from Scandinavia, but, as one teacher put it to me, “they don’t make a big fuss about it like they do here.” The trend’s non-Teutonic origins are somewhat surprising: There might be nothing “more German” than a state-funded preschool based primarily in a forest.

Germany has nearly three times as much protected land as the U.S., proportionate to the countries’ sizes, a nontrivial fact that highlights the way much of the country thinks about nature and its role in the emotional health of its citizens. “It’s terrible that kids today know all about technology but nothing about the little bird outside their window,” Peters said, gesturing out toward the woods and sounding like any number of quotable Germans, from Goethe to Beethoven to Bismarck, all of whom have rhapsodized on the psychic benefits of spending time in the forest. He continued: “In life, bad things happen — you lose your job or your partner or everyone just hates you — but you’ll always have this.”"



"THERE ARE SCATTERINGS of forest kindergartens in the U.S. as well as in the U.K. Even in Japan and South Korea, where education is famously strict, waldkitas are becoming increasingly popular. They have spread mostly through word-of-mouth among parents. And in Germany, it’s not just the wealthy — or the eccentric — who send their children. Like all other preschools in Berlin, tuition at Robin Hood is covered by the government for kids aged 2 through 6 (apart from a 100 euro per month fee because it’s a private school). New York City preschools can cost upward of $40,000 per year."
forestschools  preschool  schools  education  learning  children  germany  parenting  2017  nature  richardlouv  sfsh  amyfusselman  peterhäfner  outdoors  nyc  southkorea  japan  uk  berlin 
may 2017 by robertogreco
How Fortune Cookies Explain the Westernization of Emoji - The Atlantic
"The takeout box and the fortune cookie are perceived as emblems of Chinese culture, when they’re actually central to the American experience of it."



"“I never saw any fortune cookie in my life until I was a teenager,” said Yiying Lu, a San Francisco-based artist who was born in Shanghai. Lu encountered her first fortune cookie when she left China and moved to Sydney, Australia.

Now, the fortune cookie she designed for the Unicode Consortium will be one of dozens of new emoji that are part of a June update. Lu also created the new emoji depicting a takeout box, chopsticks, and a dumpling.

The irony, she says, is that two of the four new Chinese-themed emoji—the fortune cookie and the takeout box—are not Chinese Chinese, but instead reflect Westernized elements of Chinese culture. “It’s kind of like Häagen-Dazs,” Lu told me. “People think its Scandinavian just because of the two dots in the name, but it’s American. It’s the same thing with the takeout box. The Chinese takeout box is completely invented in the West. And the fortune cookie was invented by a Japanese person, but it was popularized in America.”

Emoji, too, were invented by a Japanese person before becoming hugely popular in the United States. For people outside of Japan, emoji were a charming and mysterious window into Japanese culture. The fact that they weren’t globally representative was part of what made emoji fascinating to people in the Western world.

Shigetaka Kurita, who designed the first emoji in 1999, never expected them to spread beyond Japan. But they did. And now they’re everywhere, thanks to the widespread adoption of the smartphone.

“The whole reason emoji are taking off the way they are is largely because of Apple, which is an American company,” said Christina Xu, an ethnographer who focuses on the social implications of technology. And although the Unicode Consortium—which standardizes how computers communicate text and agrees upon new emoji—it an international group, most of its voting members are affiliated with American companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Oracle, and IBM. “So even when it is about other cultures, it’s still about America,” Xu said.

Xu, who was born in China and grew up in the United States, says she has “mixed feelings” about the fortune cookie and takeout box emoji, and the extent to which they reflect how Westernized emoji seem to have become in the nearly two decades since Kurita’s first designs."



"“I lump the fortune cookie and takeout box into American emoji in the same way that the taco emoji is about the American experience,” she told me. “Because there is this funny sense of feeling like we somehow deserve [certain emoji]. The outrage about the lack of the taco emoji was such a Bay Area thing—like it is inconceivable to us that we could lack representation of things that are central to our specific experience.”

“I identify as Chinese and Chinese American,” she added. “And as a Chinese American, I don’t really feel like we deserve a fortune cookie. It seems so limited. There are 1.5 billion Chinese people all around the world and there are more universal signs of our shared culture than a takeout box or fortune cookies. Those things are so specific to a narrow band of the Chinese experience.”

On the other hand, she says, they’re just emoji. And the fixation with depicting ever more emoji, and ever more realistic emoji, has taken away from some of their inscrutability—which was always a core part of their appeal.

“They accumulate whatever culture gets hanged onto them, and that is the fun part,” Xu said. “So this idea that we’re going to somehow create a truly diverse emoji set, when the concept of diversity itself is so essentially American? It’s almost a disguised form of American cultural dominance. It’s going to a place where it’s overly deterministic.”

Lu, who is also known for her design of the old-school Twitter fail whale, stumbled into emoji art by accident. It all began in a conversation with Jenny 8. Lee, who runs the literary studio Plympton, about how useful a dumpling emoji would be. The pair then launched a Kickstarter campaign advocating for the dumpling with a small group of emoji enthusiasts.

The first dumpling design Lu created had heart eyes. “That one was inspired by the poop emoji because it has a really funny face and it’s just the circle of life,” Lu told me. “You eat a dumpling and it becomes poop.”

The anthropomorphized dumpling didn’t last.

Emoji food typically don’t have faces, the Unicode Consortium told her, and most foods are portrayed at a 45-degree angle.

“So I said, ‘Okay, let me do research,’” Lu said. The research involved looking at (and eating) a lot of dumplings. “But it was hard! I had to figure out how do I represent the little folds in a way that it’s still abstract enough and simple enough but iconic enough.”

Lu says the dumpling project was a way of making her own “little contribution to cross-cultural communication in the age of globalization,” and notes that she relied on others for cultural feedback in her subsequent designs. The first chopsticks she created were portrayed as crossed, which is considered impolite. Someone pointed this out to Lu on Twitter in response to the draft image. “I was born in China!” she said. “I thought I knew my root culture pretty well, but no! I was wrong.”

Lee, who is the author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, says she’s “very proud” to have played a role in bringing the dumpling, takeout box, chopsticks, and fortune cookie to the realm of emoji. (She's also working on making a documentary film about emoji.) And as a non-voting member of the Unicode Consortium’s technical committee, Lee knows first-hand how seriously the group weighs issues related to representation.

“We had this big long debate about whether zombies and vampires can take race,” she told me, referring to the forthcoming zombie and vampire emoji. Ultimately, the consortium decided that people can select different skin tones for zombies and vampires—but not for genies. “They’re just blue,” she said. “The genies are raceless.”

“The people who fight the hardest for certain emoji are usually trying to fight for representation for themselves in some way,” Lee told me. “Most linguists say emoji are not currently a language—they’re paralinguistic, the equivalent of hand gestures or voice tone. But for people who use them, it’s almost like fighting for a word that [shows] you exist. When you come up with a word to describe your population, it’s a very powerful thing.”

Powerful but also impermanent. Language changes constantly. Cultural context shifts. Back in Shanghai, Fortune Cookie stayed open longer than its initial critics predicted, but it still didn’t last. The restaurant closed abruptly last year. Its owners said at the time they’d decided to move back to America."
emoji  internet  language  representation  2017  adriennelafrance  online  christinaxu  shigetakakurita  japan  china  us  westernization  yiyinglu  jenny8lee 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Kintsugi: The Art of Broken Pieces on Vimeo
"Perhaps we might take a cue from Latin Americans, who are organising alternative visions around the indigenous concept of buen vivir, or good living. The west has its own tradition of reflection on the good life and it’s time we revive it. Robert and Edward Skidelsky take us down this road in his book How Much is Enough? where they lay out the possibility of interventions such as banning advertising, a shorter working week and a basic income, all of which would improve our lives while reducing consumption."

[via: https://onbeing.org/blog/omid-safi-illuminating-the-beauty-in-our-broken-places/ ]
kintsugi  repair  seams  scars  fixing  wabi-sabi  japan  japanese  words  beauty 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Onibi - Wikipedia
"Onibi (鬼火) is a type of atmospheric ghost light in legends of Japan. According to folklore, they are the spirits born from the corpses of humans and animals, and are also said to be resentful people that have become fire and appeared. Also, sometimes the words "will-o'-wisp" or "jack-o'-lantern" are translated into Japanese as "onibi.""
japan  spirits  folklore  fire  legends 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Natsu - travel diary on Behance
"A travel diary in Japan with some watercolor sketches on location and silver photographies.

This is a trilingual Japanese/English/French version.

"A summer in Japan with a camera and sketchbook always close at hand. The heat is overwhelming and we can hardly move. So we let ourselves go, here and there, our eyes open wide, not knowing if this is all real or if we have simply lost our way.""
japan  ateliersentô  watercolor  illustration  photography  classideas  2016 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Atelier Sentô: ONIBI
[via: https://twitter.com/RedCityNoise/status/814952354856497152 ]

"ONIBI, a comic book about the invisible spirits haunting the Japanese countryside"

[translation:

"By Cécile Brun & Olivier Pichard (Atelier Sento)

Hidden on the edge of a country trail or in the shadow of a temple, Japanese spirits, foxes, tanuki and other yokai look out for the lost traveler in hopes of playing tricks on him. Cécile and Olivier, freshly installed by the sea of ​​Japan in Niigata, buy an old device a little special supposed to print these spirits on the film. In their quest to take pictures, they portray a Japan in balance between two worlds.

Despite the modernization of the country, the Japanese still often take the ghost stories very seriously. The stories of yokai and other spirits remain very present and anchored in popular folklore." ]

[See also:
https://www.behance.net/gallery/43663113/Onibi-graphic-novel
http://www.issekinicho.fr/editions/produit/onibi/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxKy5tgjsAE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VMthfDUlrA
http://ateliersento.com/post/154816258060/an-interview-video-by-jeremy-meets-japan-a-month
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5fT-d1jEWE ]
comics  comicbooks  graphicnovels  japan  spirits  classideas  books  sfsh  onibi  folklore  cécilebrun  olivierpichard  ateliersentô 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Toryansé and the storytelling advantages of short games - Kill Screen
"Nick Preston decided to call his upcoming series of short adventure games Toryansé after the Japanese folk song of the same name. The song is traditionally sung as part of a children’s game—Warabe uta, which is very similar to the English nursery rhyme game Oranges and Lemons—but has surprisingly dark lyrics thought to relate to a period of high infant mortality in Japan’s history. But it wasn’t only the song’s background that appealed to Preston, it was also the fact that it’s often played at Japanese traffic lights to indicate when it’s safe for pedestrians to cross.

“I loved the idea of layers of story being embedded in a part of everyday life, you could use a crossing every day and not realize,” Preston told me. This idea is what will unite each of his short games; threading a path between the mysterious and the mundane. The first one, due in early 2017, is called Reel and follows an elderly woman who runs a computer repair business in a small shopping arcade. The story starts when she receives a misaddressed package and sets off to find its intended recipient. In her exploration, the woman discovers the previous life of the building that she was unaware of, despite having worked there for years.

The stories that Preston intends to release after Reel will we built of the same material. “The core idea for each story is to show a character stepping outside of their normal, everyday routine and briefly experiencing something that makes them reassess, in some small way, the environment or people around them, then returning to normality feeling a little bit better,” Preston said."

[via: https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/815010536777719808 ]

[more Nick Preston:
https://twitter.com/holyfingers
http://www.toryanse.co.uk/
http://www.holyfingers.co.uk/main/
http://artoftoryanse.tumblr.com/ ]
games  gaming  via:tealtan  videogames  everyday  mystery  mundane  toryansé  nickpreston  japan  storytelling  shortgames  shortness  atemporality  history  memory  place 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Hokusai on the App Store
"✳ The LARGEST COLLECTION of Hokusai's work EVER, over 1800 artworks from this great artist!!!!!!!!
✳ Welcome to the HD world of Japanese Art.
✳ HD collection of masterpieces of Hokusai + Interactive Biography Book + Many more other features= This App"
applications  ios  iphone  hosugai  art  japan 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Why just four seasons? Ancient Japan had 72 microseasons / Boing Boing
[twitter bot by Peter Richardson that announces them (via Max Fenton): https://twitter.com/72Seasons ]

"[image]

Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Boring. Ancient Japan had 72 microseasons each lasting about five days. They each have wonderfully evocative names like "Spring Winds Thaw the Ice" and "The Maple and Ivy Turn Yellow." We just finished “The Bear Retreats to its Den,” and this microseason 64, falling immediately after the solstice, is called "The Common Heal-All Sprouts.

[image]

Trivia: Prunella vulgaris, aka heal-all, sprouts this time of year near the ancient Japanese capital of Nara and is depicted in figure F below:

[image]

In Japanese it is called utsubogusa ("grass-quiver") and is used in traditional medicine.

There's even a nice free app available.
The 72 Seasons app brings you photographs, illustrations, haiku poems and words based on the poetic names of the seasons, each of which depicts a subtle change in the natural world throughout the year. The app updates according to the old 72 season calendar, approximately every 5 days, allowing you enjoy an ancient yet refreshingly new way to feel the year progress, unhindered by precise dates and times.

Soon you will celebrate “Dew glistens white on grass,” or “First peach blossoms,” or “Bush warblers start singing in the mountains.” Perhaps you can even create your own local observed microsseasons."

[See also: http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2016/12/12/life-in-nara-through-japans-72-microseasons/
http://hyperallergic.com/345174/reboot-with-the-ancient-japanese-calendar-of-72-microseasons/
https://itunes.apple.com/app/72-seasons/id1059622777 ]
seasons  japan  microseasons  lifeonearth  classideas  calendars  ios  applications  twitterbots  peterrichardson 
december 2016 by robertogreco
What the West Can Learn From Japan About the Cultural Value of Work - The New York Times
"A few weeks ago, in a Kyoto tempura bar, I watched a lone chef, a man in late middle age, cooking behind a counter for his 11 customers. The set menu had 15 items on it. That meant that at any given moment, he was keeping track of 165 pieces of food, each subject to slightly different timing and technique. He wrote nothing down and expended no apparent effort. It was a demonstration of total mastery. This didn’t look so much like a job as a life: His work was his whole being.

That’s a thing you notice in Japan, the deep personal investment people make in their work. The word shokunin, which has no direct translation, sums it up: It means something like “master or mastery of one’s profession,” and it captures the way Japanese workers spend every day trying to be better at what they do.

Shokunin culture can have a side that, to those of us raised on a more brutally capitalistic worldview, verges on the ridiculous. Outside the Sanjusangendo temple in Kyoto, I saw a man standing with a yellow glow stick, pointing pedestrians toward the sidewalk instead of to the parking lot nearby. Presumably, if a vehicle had come, he would have pointed it toward the lot. “That guy is basically a sign,” my son said. He was right — and this was a job you often see in Japan, often in relation to vehicular access: a person performing a job that in any other developed society is either automated away or ignored.

On another occasion, while waiting at a bus stop in the seaside city of Kobe, I found myself watching a group of five men who were drilling a hole. Or rather, one of them was; the other four were watching him. For the whole 30 minutes, that’s all they did. But they didn’t do it reluctantly, or while checking their smartphones, or gossiping, or anything. It was like a demonstration: “All other techniques for watching a guy dig a hole are incorrect. This is how you watch a guy digging a hole.”

“People whose jobs involve literally doing nothing,” an American teacher said to me after I got off the bus and described this scene. At the time, though, I was left thinking something different: that what I saw were people who had a strong feeling that their work was meaningful. For these workers, the value they attached to work wasn’t simply its economic value to them. A train conductor bows on entering and exiting a train compartment; a department-store worker does the same thing coming or going from a shop floor, whether observed or not, whether the store is heavingly busy or almost deserted. It’s clear that there are deep cultural differences at work here, not all of them benign; the reason Japanese has a word for “death from overwork” is because it needs one. You could even argue that work has too much meaning, is too freighted with consequences for individual identity, in Japan.

Among economists, Japan is a byword, a punch line, a horror story. The boom of the late ’80s and early ’90s — during which it became popular to imagine a Japan-dominated economic future, the subject of Michael Crichton’s thriller “Rising Sun,” for instance — was followed by a spectacular stock-market crash. The Nikkei share index hit a high of 38,957 on Dec. 29, 1989. Over the next two decades, it fell 82 percent. Twenty-seven years later, it is still only at less than half that 1989 value. Property values crashed along with share prices, which turned large parts of the financial system into zombie banks — meaning banks that hold so many bad assets that they are essentially broke, which means they can’t lend money and therefore cease to fulfill one of a bank’s central roles in the modern economy, which is to help keep the flow of credit moving.

The Japanese economy ground to a halt. Inflation slowed, stalled and turned to outright deflation. Add Japan’s aging and shrinking population, contracting G.D.P. and apparently unreformable politics, and you have a picture of perfect economic gloom.

It doesn’t feel like that when you visit, though. The anger apparent in so much of the developed world simply isn’t visible in Japan. A student of the culture would tell you that public displays of anger are frowned on in Japan; a demographer would point to the difficult prospects faced by young Japanese, paying for an older generation’s lavish health care and benefits that they are unlikely ever to enjoy themselves. The growth numbers would seem to imply a story about stagnation. But unemployment is almost nonexistent — at 3 percent, it’s among the lowest in the developed world. The aging of the society is visible, but so is the distinctive liveliness of the various youth cultures. I’ve been to plenty of stagnant places, and lived in one or two as well, and contemporary Japan isn’t one of them.

Why? A big part of the answer, I think, lies in the distinctive Japanese attitude toward work — or more specific, toward meaning in work.

Work is good, but meaningful work is better. I wonder whether our shiny new Western world of work — post-manufacturing, un-unionized, gig-based, insecure — offers as much sense of meaning as work once did, or as it still seems to in Japan. In Derek Walcott’s epic poem “Omeros,” a wide-ranging reimagining and mash-up of Homer’s Aegean and the contemporary Caribbean, he writes admiringly and respectfully of his protagonist, Achille, a St. Lucian fisherman. Achille is a man “who never ascended in an elevator,/who had no passport, since the horizon needs none,/never begged nor borrowed, was nobody’s waiter.” Near the end of Walcott’s long, meditative, elusive poem, that line gave me a jolt. What’s so bad about waiting tables? Is there really something so lessening, something analogous to begging or borrowing, about being a waiter?

The answer to that question for lots of people is yes. This isn’t a general human truth about workers at all times and in all cultures, because there are places where waiting and where service in general are deeply respected jobs. But it’s apparent that the new service work has many people doing things that aren’t congruent with their sense of their identity. A life is the story of a life, and that story, for many, has become one of decline and loss, of reduction in self-esteem. The tension in status between different types of work is one theme of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle” — indeed, that is essentially what his struggle is, the gap between the narrator’s sense of what he should be doing, as a writer, and what he actually does all day, as a homemaker: “Clean floors, wash clothes, make dinner, wash up, go shopping, play with the children in the play areas, bring them home, undress them, bathe them, look after them until it is bedtime, tuck them in, hang some clothes to dry, fold others, and put them away, tidy up, wipe tables, chairs and cupboards.”"
ork  labor  mearning  japan  culture  economics  2016  johnlancaster  purpose  aging  shokunin  manufacturing  anger  resentment  derekwalkcott  service 
december 2016 by robertogreco
What It Would Take to Set American Kids Free - The New Yorker
"“Play freely at your own risk,” a well-known sign at Tokyo’s oldest adventure playground, Hanegi Playpark, reads. All three elements—play, freedom, risk—are in ample evidence at Kodomo Yume Park, a newer addition to the city’s play infrastructure. There’s an open space where young kids are building a village with their own hands, and a mesa of dirt, donated by a construction company, that has been riddled with canyons and holes. I was in Japan to visit adventure playgrounds for book research, and at every playground, at some point, a child poured a bucket of water down a trench, just to see where it would flow. News articles about adventure playgrounds tend to focus on the hammers and the saws, but for many urban children simply mucking about can be a pleasurable way of spending an afternoon. I was reminded of my own younger brother, who never found a stream or puddle too small to fall into. If Hanegi Park had been down the street, he would always have known where to go looking for mud.

My trip coincided with the publication of “The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!” in the Times Magazine, a masterful bit of parental trolling whose comment section reached a symbolic two thousand and sixteen entries before it was closed. The dozens of adventure playgrounds in Tokyo offer, as a public amenity, what Mike Lanza (the “anti-helicopter parent” in question) says he created in his private Menlo Park, California, back yard: a challenging and unscheduled place for physical play that is largely free of parental supervision. Lanza is far from alone in believing that American children have a play problem. Take a look at Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog, which is peppered with reports of cops and child-protective services being called when parents leave their kids to play unsupervised. Lanza’s own book, “Playborhood,” describes the kids-can’t-play problem as both a social one and a spatial one. Without broader community support, such back-yard attempts at free play like his are doomed to become exercises in vanity. Look at them on the roof! My kids are more resilient than yours!

The overprogrammed, oversterilized, overprotected lives of (some of) America’s youth are the result of a nexus of changes to work life, home life, and street life that have made bringing up babies into a series of consumer choices, from unsubsidized day care forward. It is the public realm—where the Tokyo playgrounds operate—that needs to change for American children to have unstructured afternoons and weekends, for them to bike and walk between school and the playground, to see packs of kids get together without endless chains of parental texts. Kawasaki City, where Kodomo Yume Park is located, created its own Ordinance on the Rights of the Child, in 2001, which includes an article promising to make “secure and comfortable places for children.”

But independence requires infrastructure. Hanegi Playpark was founded in 1975 by Kenichi Omura, a landscape architect, and his wife Shoko Omura, an English teacher. They translated the key book on adventure play into Japanese and then travelled to Europe to meet with the woman who was their prime mover from the nineteen-fifties on: Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen had seen the first such “junk playground” in Emdrup, outside Copenhagen, where it became a refuge for youth then under German occupation. She spent subsequent decades as a “propagandist for children’s play.” In Tokyo, a low crime rate and a society accustomed to community ownership of public space has created, around Hanegi and approximately thirteen other such parks, a city where there is more room for innocent error.

The road to Kodomo Yume Park (which means “children’s dream”) was narrow and winding, and there was no sidewalk for much of the way. And yet it was safe, because the tiny cars knew to look for pedestrians and cyclists, and drove at slower speeds. There were people in the houses and stores along the route, and few of the buildings were more than three or four stories tall, offering “eyes on the street” as well as adults who might be appealed to for help. The neighborhood, like the adventure playground, operated as a safety net, ready in case of trouble but not often deployed. A mother who was camped out at Yume Park with five children, the youngest a three-month-old, told me a story—hilarious for her—that would have been a nightmare for me. Her two-year-old, who had observed his five-year-old brother being sent to the corner to buy bread, decided he could do the same, and turned up at the shop with an empty wallet. I looked around at the protected bike lanes, the publicly funded playground workers, and the houses where people are home in the afternoon. Do I wish that my kids—who are five and nine—could roll on their own from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep at 5 p.m., muddy, damp, and full of play? I do, but then I think of the Saturdays dominated by sports schedules, the windswept winter playgrounds, the kids hit by cars in crosswalks, with the light. It isn’t the idea of my kids holding a hammer or saw that scares me but the idea of trying to make community alone.

At the adventure playgrounds, the kids build the equipment they need under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not to interfere. I’ve read the diary of the first play worker, John Bertelsen, who ran the adventure playground that Lady Allen visited at Emdrup. His account of the day-to-day in 1943 sounds quite similar to what I observed in 2016.
At 10:45 am today the playground opened . . . We began by moving all the building material in the open shed. Bricks, boards, fireposts and cement pillars were moved to the left alongside the entrance, where building and digging started right away. The work was done by children aged 4 to 17. It went on at full speed and all the workers were in high spirits; dust, sweat, warning shouts and a few scratches all created just the right atmosphere. The children’s play- and work-ground had opened, and they knew how to take full advantage of it.

The do-it-yourself rule is, to a certain extent, self-limiting, as towers built with simple tools are shorter than those ordered from catalogues. I saw plenty of children up on roofs—the rule was, if you can climb up without a ladder, relying on your own strength and ingenuity, it’s O.K. In a documentary on The Land, a Welsh adventure playground, a play worker describes the difference between risk and hazard: a risk you take on knowingly; a hazard is unexpected, like a nail sticking out of a board. The play workers are there to remove hazards and leave the risks.

Journalism about adventure play tends to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of social activities, for parents and children, occur. “Risky play” is a way for children to test their own limits, and because the parks are embedded in residential communities they can do so at their own pace. Hitoshi Shimamura, who runs the organization Tokyo Play, told me that he has sessions to teach parents to use the tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience. Kids also need time to ease into the freedom and figure out which activity most appeals to them. If adventure play were to become permanent in New York, it would do better as a permanent fixture in a neighborhood than as a weekend destination. At a temporary adventure playground set up by Play:Ground on Governors Island this summer, a sign on the fence read, “Your children are fine without advice and suggestions,” though legally, children under six had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The “adventure” can be with water, with tools, with real fire, or just with pretend kitchen equipment, allowing the parks to appeal to a broad array of children, and over a longer period of time. What this means, in practice, is a range of activity during days, weeks, or even years. In the morning, adventure playgrounds become settings for an urban version of a forest preschool, where small children learn the basics of getting along outdoors. In the afternoon, they become a place for older kids to let off steam between school and homework; many communities in Tokyo play a public chime at five in the afternoon—a mass call that is it time to go home. On the weekends, Yume Park might ring with the hammers of children, but for teen-agers there are other options: a recording studio with padded walls; a wooden shed piled with bike parts for the taking; a quiet, shaded place for conversation. Bertelsen wrote in his diary,
Occasionally, complaints have been made that the playground does not possess a smart enough appearance, and that children cannot possibly be happy playing about in such a jumble. To this I should only like to say that, at times, the children can shape and mould [sic] the playground in such a way that it is a monument to their efforts and a source of aesthetic pleasure to the adult eye; at other times it can appear, to the adult eye, like a pigsty. However, children’s play is not what the adults see, but what the child himself experiences.

One of my favorite moments in Tokyo occurred late one afternoon at a smaller adventure playground, Komazawa Harappa, a long sliver of space in a tight residential neighborhood, masked from the street by a simple hedge. Three kids fanned the flames in a fire pit; a baby padded about a dirty pool dressed in a diaper; two small boys, hammering on a house, had remembered to take their shoes off on the porch. But not everyone felt the need to be busy. Two teen-age girls had climbed up on the roof of the play workers’ house, via a self-built platform of poles and planks, and seemed deep in conversation. Suddenly, they began to sing, their clear voices ringing out over the open space… [more]
japan  children  tokyo  parenting  alexandralange  2016  adventureplaygrounds  risk  helicopterparenting  diy  johnberthelsen  ladyallen  1943  lenoreskenazy  mikelanza  kenichiomura  shokoomura  play  playgorunds  risktaking  helicopterparents 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Dream cities: the New York that never was, the playgrounds we don't have.
"And finally: How many people sent me this article from the New York Times Magazine on "the anti-helicopter parent"? Many many, including my own father. What is he trying to tell me? It's a masterful troll, but one which, unfortunately, leaves out much historical and contemporary context on the role of playgrounds in urban life.

As it happened, the day it popped up online, I happened to be visiting one of Tokyo's dozens of adventure playgrounds, which offer all the community, risk and autonomy of Mike Lanza's Menlo Park backyard, without the misogyny, gender stereotypes and high price. At the adventure playgrounds, the kids get to make the equipment they need, under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not interfere. Rather than emphasizing only risk (though I saw plenty of children up on roofs), the adventure playgrounds are open for all kinds of play: with water, with tools, with real fire and pretend kitchen equipment. Articles on adventure play tend to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of types of social activities, for parents and children, occur. One playworker told me he had sessions for parents in how to use tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience.

For there to be a real revolution in American children's lives, leading to greater independence, it can't come down to individual consumer choices and Lanza's mom-shaming. Independence requires a whole infrastructure of changes, from protected bike lanes to publicly-funded playground workers, to eyes on the street in the afternoon to less homework. Did I wish my kids could roll, on their own, from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep when the clock chimed five, muddy, damp, full of what they played? (There are literal chimes at 5 p.m. in Tokyo.) But one sanitized backyard, in one of the wealthiest towns in America, won't make that happen. It's going to take a village, public funding, and broad cultural change."
alexandralange  parenting  adventureplaygorunds  playgrounds  publicspace  tokyo  japan  children  play  cities  mikelanza  menlopark  2016  adventureplaygrounds  learning  fear  risk  risktaking  communitycenters  lcproject  openstudioproject 
october 2016 by robertogreco
A Textile Collage | Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
"Tsugihagi was designed by Reiko Sudo (b. 1953), one of Japan’s most important contemporary textile designers. Educated at Musashino Art University, she is currently managing director of the Japanese company and store NUNO where she has been since 1984. NUNO produces textiles of extraordinary ingenuity and beauty. Sudo and the other designers at NUNO combine tradition and advanced technologies with remarkable creativity, which led them to the forefront of textile design field.

In 1996, NUNO began working with various kinds of embroidery techniques to create new effects. Tsugihagi, designed in 1997, is a delicate combination of embroidery and collage techniques made with remnants of NUNO fabrics that are laid out to cover the surface of a base fabric. The remnants are stitched down by sewing machine, and the base fabric is dissolved away leaving a lacy and net-like patchwork of different fabrics. Each piece is unique and twenty years later they continue to produce these textiles. Tsugihagi can be used as a window covering or for other interior purposes. This type of embroidery technique, in which the ground fabric is destroyed, began in the early 1880s when protein fibers like silk or wool were more than likely used because they could be dissolved by a solution of caustic soda or potash, leaving the embroidery thread of cellulose fibers like cotton or linen intact."
reikosudo  japan  textiles  glvo  cooper-hewitt  matildamcquaid  design  art  fabrics  embroidery  collage  nuno  sewing  remnants  reuse  sustainability 
september 2016 by robertogreco
No-waste Cotton Cape | Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
"Resourcefulness has been a key component of Japanese life for centuries. In design, one sees this most dramatically with materials and objects being repurposed, recycled, or reused. This nineteenth-century cloak is called Hikimawashi kappa, which literally means pull-around (hikimawashi) cape or raincoat (kappa). Capes were not common in sixteenth-century Japan. This style was modeled on the Capa overcoat, which Spanish missionaries wore in the Momoyama era (1573–1615). The raincoat would originally have been made waterproof with tohyu-gami, oil paper made from the paulownia tree, which would have been encased between the lining and the outer layer. Kappa became a more prevalent outerwear garment during the Meiji era.

This cape-like raincoat with a stand-up collar is tied around the neck by bone clasps and belted at the waist by a knotted cord. This garment is made from leftover indigo-dyed homespun cotton collected from home production or purchased from local commercial weavers. Traditionally, broken yarn of random colors was collected after weaving. They were reused to create new fabrics called zanshi-ori, zanshi meaning “vestige” or “leftover.” Cotton thread was a precious commodity during the late Edo period in rural Japan and none was wasted, regardless of how rough or worn. For instance, if the lengths of yarn were not long enough, they were simply knotted together to create a longer strand with varied shades of blue. Because of the use of highly diverse remnant threads in the weft, combined with a more regulated warp, an overall pattern of irregular striations is created. This raincoat boasts a unique woven texture with very fine dark blue warps and thick recycled cotton wefts. It also reflects a spirit of eco-friendly and sustainable textiles and the idea of constantly finding ways to repurpose materials at hand, with nothing wasted in production."
matildamcquaid  cooper-hewitt  design  japan  clothing  clothes  glvo  textiles  resourcefulness  capes  weaving  remnants  reuse  sustainability 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Can religion be based on ritual practice without belief? | Aeon Essays
"Most Japanese reject religious belief while embracing multiple forms of ritual practice. Are they religious or secular?"



"The combination of worldly concerns with religion is not unique to Japan, of course. However, the discussion above highlights several clear discrepancies between religion in Japan and the typical associations derived from Western monotheistic traditions. So does the word religion describe what we find in Japan? Yes it does, but with one important qualification: for the concept of religion to remain a useful cross-cultural category it must be shorn of its Abrahamic assumptions and understood to refer to a range of concepts and traditions that not only cluster around supernatural beliefs, but also practices, like rituals and festivals.

Some disagree with this view, such as the religious studies scholar Jason Ananda Josephson at Williams College in Massachusetts who explained to me via email that ‘the word “religion” is a fundamentally Eurocentric term that always functions, no matter how well-disguised, to describe a perceived similarity to European Christianity’. Josephson elaborated on this perspective in his well-received book The Invention of Religion in Japan (2012), which details the various negotiations and political struggles involved in deciding what constituted religion in the country during the Meiji era. He highlights that the present-day translation for ‘religion’ in Japanese – shūkyō – is a ‘Meiji neologism’ that ‘transformed the things classified under it and the things excluded from membership’, and also explains that a big problem he has with the term ‘religion’ is that ‘it has a multiplicity of incompatible meanings’.

When I raised these points in a discussion with Ian Reader, he said that although he admires Josephson’s work, he strongly disagrees with his assessment that we should ‘jettison a term in the 21st century which has developed a set of meanings in that context because of its possible mid-19th century derivation’. He also explained that in Japan ‘there is an intellectual and political tradition that accords weight to the notion of “religion” as a category… [and this] indicated clearly that [it] is not some Western structure arbitrarily imposed… by colonial-style powers’. Reader also said that while the term can be vague, he still believes that the concept serves as a ‘viable framework of discussion and interpretation for scholars that enables them to engage… with scholars studying similar issues elsewhere’. This accords with my own experiences as a cognitive anthropologist working on large inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural projects that were only possible because we utilize a shared terminology that includes a nuanced definition of religion.

Religion is not a category of human activity that is always and everywhere clearly distinguishable from other spheres of human life. And it is also true that what would be referred to as ‘religion’ varies across eras and locations. Yet this does not make the term semantically incoherent, nor is it the case that modern usage of the term must cling to usages of the past.

The grand theories of old failed because they conceived of religion as a monolithic phenomenon that evolved linearly over time. Modern approaches do not need to endorse such assumptions. Instead, as with the definitions of religion which are currently favoured in the cognitive science of religion field, it is possible to recognise that religion does not refer to any single thing but rather to a family of related concepts that serve to identify a meaningful and circumscribed field of inquiry. We have no greater cause to abandon the term religion for its inherent fuzziness than we do to abandon other broad terms, like politics or kinship. Ultimately, we must step back from such academic minutiae and return to exploring what we find in the world by putting to use our always-imperfect analytical tools."
japan  religion  secularism  tradition  philosophy  belief  2016  religiosity  buddhism  shintoism  christopherkavanagh 
september 2016 by robertogreco
ドコノコ、はじまりました。[Dokonoko]
[via: "reminder that Dokonoko is a social network for animal pics & those are better than tweets also they sent a kerchief"
https://twitter.com/RealAvocadoFact/status/772534496373637122 ]
animals  pets  japan  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  dogs  cats  animalpics  photogrphy 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Why Tokyo is the land of rising home construction but not prices - FT.com
"The city had more housing starts in 2014 than the whole of England. Can Japan’s capital offer lessons to other world cities?

It was the rapidity of what happened to the house next door that took us by surprise. We knew it was empty. Grass was steadily taking over its mossy Japanese garden; the upstairs curtains never moved. But one day a notice went up, a hydraulic excavator tore the house down, and by the end of next year it will be a block of 16 apartments instead.

Abruptly, we are living next door to a Tokyo building site. It is not fun. They work six days a week. Were this London, Paris or San Francisco, there would be howls of resident rage — petitions, dire warnings about loss of neighbourhood character, and possibly a lawsuit or two. Local elections have been lost for less.

Yet in our neighbourhood, there was not a murmur, and a conversation with Takahiko Noguchi, head of the planning section in Minato ward, explains why. “There is no legal restraint on demolishing a building,” he says. “People have the right to use their land so basically neighbouring people have no right to stop development.”

Here is a startling fact: in 2014 there were 142,417 housing starts in the city of Tokyo (population 13.3m, no empty land), more than the 83,657 housing permits issued in the state of California (population 38.7m), or the 137,010 houses started in the entire country of England (population 54.3m).

Tokyo’s steady construction is linked to a still more startling fact. In contrast to the enormous house price booms that have distorted western cities — setting young against old, redistributing wealth to the already wealthy, and denying others the chance to move to where the good jobs are — the cost of property in Japan’s capital has hardly budged.

This is not the result of a falling population. Japan has experienced the same “return to the city” wave as other nations. In Minato ward — a desirable 20 sq km slice of central Tokyo — the population is up 66 per cent over the past 20 years, from 145,000 to 241,000, an increase of about 100,000 residents.

[Chart: Change in house prices and population]

In the 121 sq km of San Francisco, the population grew by about the same number over 20 years, from 746,000 to 865,000 — a rise of 16 per cent. Yet whereas the price of a home in San Francisco and London has increased 231 per cent and 441 per cent respectively, Minato ward has absorbed its population boom with price rises of just 45 per cent, much of which came after the Bank of Japan launched its big monetary stimulus in 2013.

In Tokyo there are no boring conversations about house prices because they have not changed much. Whether to buy or rent is not a life-changing decision. Rather, Japan delivers to its people a steadily improving standard, location and volume of house.

In many countries, urban housing is becoming one of the great social and economic issues of the age. (Would Britain have voted for Brexit if more of the population could move to London?) It is worth investigating, therefore, how Tokyo achieved this feat, the price it has paid for a steady stream of homes, and whether there are any lessons to learn.

Like most institutions in Japan, urban planning was originally based on western models. “It’s similar to the United States system,” says Junichiro Okata, professor of urban engineering at the University of Tokyo.

Cities are zoned into commercial, industrial and residential land of various types. In commercial areas you can build what you want: part of Tokyo’s trick is a blossoming of apartment towers in former industrial zones around the bay. But in low-rise residential districts, there are strict limits, and it is hard to get land rezoned.

Subject to the zoning rules, the rights of landowners are strong. In fact, Japan’s constitution declares that “the right to own or to hold property is inviolable”. A private developer cannot make you sell land; a local government cannot stop you using it. If you want to build a mock-Gothic castle faced in pink seashells, that is your business.

In the cities of coastal California, zoning rules have led to paralysis and a lack of new housing supply, as existing homeowners block new development. It was a similar story in 1980s Tokyo.

“During the 1980s Japan had a spectacular speculative house price bubble that was even worse than in London and New York during the same period, and various Japanese economists were decrying the planning and zoning systems as having been a major contributor by reducing supply,” says André Sorensen, a geography professor at the University of Toronto, who has written extensively on planning in Japan.

But, indirectly, it was the bubble that laid foundations for future housing across the centre of Tokyo, says Hiro Ichikawa, who advises developer Mori Building. When it burst, developers were left with expensively assembled office sites for which there was no longer any demand.

As bad loans to developers brought Japan’s financial system to the brink of collapse in the 1990s, the government relaxed development rules, culminating in the Urban Renaissance Law of 2002, which made it easier to rezone land. Office sites were repurposed for new housing. “To help the economy recover from the bubble, the country eased regulation on urban development,” says Ichikawa. “If it hadn’t been for the bubble, Tokyo would be in the same situation as London or San Francisco.”

Hallways and public areas were excluded from the calculated size of apartment buildings, letting them grow much higher within existing zoning, while a proposal now under debate would allow owners to rebuild bigger if they knock down blocks built to old earthquake standards.

All of this law flows from the national government, and freedom to demolish and rebuild means landowners can quickly take advantage. “The city planning law and the building law are set nationally — even small details are written in national law,” says Okata. “Local government has almost no power over development.”

“Without rebuilding we can’t protect lives [from earthquakes],” says Noguchi in Minato ward, reflecting the prevailing view in Japan that all buildings are temporary and disposable, another crucial difference between Tokyo and its western counterparts. “There are still plenty of places with old buildings where it’s possible to increase the volume.”

Constant rebuilding helps to explain why housing starts in the city are so high: the net increase in homes is lower. Like our next-door neighbours, however, a rebuild often allows an increase in density.

All of this comes at a price, not financial, but one paid in other ways. Put simply, the modern Japanese cityscape — Tokyo included — can be spectacularly ugly. There is no visual co-ordination of buildings, little open space, and “high-quality” mainly means “won’t fall down in an earthquake”.

Some of Tokyo’s older apartment buildings give industrial Siberia a dystopian run for its money. The mock-Gothic castle is no flight of fancy: visit the Emperor love hotel, which (de) faces the canal in Meguro ward. Most depressing of all are the serried, endless ranks of cheap, prefab, wooden houses in the Tokyo suburbs.

“The Japanese system is extremely laissez-faire. It really is the minimum. And it’s extremely centralised and standardised. That means it is highly flexible in responding to social and economic change,” says Okata.

“On the other hand, it’s not much good at producing outcomes suited to a particular town in a particular place. It can’t produce attractive cities like the UK or Europe.” Okata wants to hand much more power to local government.

And yet. At the level of individual buildings, if you block from your vision whatever stands next door, Tokyo fizzes with invention and beauty. It is no coincidence that the country where architects can build has produced a procession of Pritzker prize winners.

Japanese urbanism, with its “scramble” pedestrian crossings, its narrow streets, its dense population and its superb public transport is looked to as a model, certainly in Asia, and increasingly across the rest of the world as well.

Most of all, Tokyo is fair. The ugliness is shared by rich and poor alike. So is the low-cost housing. In London, or in San Francisco, all share in the beauty, but some enjoy it from the gutter; others from high above the city, in the rationed seats, closer to the stars."
japan  tokyo  sanfrancisco  london  us  uk  housing  population  property  construction  development  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  cities  california  zoning  homeownership  policy  england  economics  propertyrights  density 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Anybody want to live rent-free in a house in a Japanese beach town for two years? | RocketNews24
[images throughout]

"Non-Japanese applicants also being accepted for unique housing program from interior goods brand Mujirushi.

It’s hard to find a much classier town in Japan than Kamakura. Located on the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture, the city is most famous for its Great Buddha statue, seen in countless travel and cultural guidebooks, but that’s only the most well-known of the many historically significant sites in temple– and shrine-studded Kamakura. The close proximity of the mountains and the sea make the town a great place for nature lovers, yet it’s still less than a half-hour by train from cosmopolitan Yokohama, and even Tokyo is under 45 minutes away.

But perhaps the greatest thing about Kamakura is that, if you’re lucky enough to be chosen by interior goods company Mujirushi Ryohin (also known as Muji), you could live there for free.

Mujirushi already sells a wide variety of houseware and appliances, and in recent years it’s dabbled in housing, with its Mado no Ie, or “Window House,” residences that make the use of natural light a major design theme. The company will soon be building a new Window House (similar to the one shown in the video below) in Kamakura, and is looking for someone to live in it.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yir1xX8djb4 ]

You’ll notice we didn’t say “someone to buy” or “someone to rent” it. That’s because the selected applicant will be living in the home for free for two years. You’ll still have to pay for your own utilities and groceries, but you won’t need to give Mujirushi a single yen for use of the house itself.

While the exact floorplan is yet to be finalized, many of the other details are already set. The wood-frame detached home will be two stories tall and have at least 80 square meters (861 square feet) of total floor space. It will be located roughly 15 minutes on foot from Kamakura Station, and include a garden and parking space. Oh, and of course it comes fully furnished with understatedly stylish Mujirushi-brand furniture and appliances.

In exchange for living rent-free, the home’s occupants will be asked to participate in photo shoots, presentations, and feedback programs regarding the project. Mujirushi offers its assurances, however, that the residents’ privacy will be respected, and that no hidden cameras or other monitoring devices of that ilk will be placed in the home.

Mujirushi is also being extremely inclusive regarding who can apply for the home. Families or singles are welcome to throw their hats in the ring, as are groups of friends wanting to live together and pet owners. The company has also stated that non-Japanese applicants are also welcome, although they will need to be proficient in the Japanese language.

Applications can be made here between now and August 31, with the successful candidates moving into their Kamakura home next March."
muji  homes  japan  2016  furniture  housing  mujirushi  kamakura  kanagawa 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Adults Have Become Shorter in Many Countries - The New York Times
"Average adult heights in many countries appear to have peaked 30 to 40 years ago and have declined slightly since then, according to a new study that the authors say is based on the largest set of such data ever gathered.

They combined results from 1,472 studies in 200 countries looking at the measured — rather than self-reported or estimated — heights of about 18.6 million people born from 1896 to 1996. The study was published in eLife.

Dutchmen born before 2000 were the world’s tallest, and Guatemalan women born before 1900 were the shortest, the study found. South Korean women and Iranian men had the greatest gains in height over the last century. But Guatemalan women also grew, rising from 4 feet 7 inches to 4 feet 11 inches, on average.

Latvian women are now the world’s tallest.

Height is strongly influenced by the mother’s nourishment during pregnancy, and the child’s during infancy. Height is also linked to overall health and well-being.

Taller people tend on average to live longer and to have fewer cardiac and respiratory problems. Some studies have shown that they receive more education and are paid higher salaries.

American men reached their maximum average height in 1996, and women in 1988. Two of the study’s authors, James Bentham and Majid Ezzati, both of Imperial College, London, speculated that the decline could be because of worsening nutrition standards for poor Americans but conceded that they had not measured the effects of immigration from, for example, Central American countries with substantially shorter citizens.

Average heights in North America, Western Europe and Japan rose quickly in the 20th century, then plateaued or shrank slightly, the authors said. African and South Asians have not grown very much and, in some countries, have shrunk slightly.

Africans were taller when the colonial era ended in the 1960s. They may have lost height because of collapsing health care systems, rising population density and less dietary diversity among urbanites, the authors said."

[See also: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.13410 ]
humans  evolution  height  netherlands  latvia  2016  korea  iran  nourishment  1996  1988  1960s  health  japan  europe  us  asia  guatemala  jamesbentham  majidezzati 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Our Fairy Tales Ourselves: Storytelling From East to West | Literary Hub
"Mall Santas not withstanding, there is of course only one Santa in the west. But my son, raised on a diet of both Japanese and western children’s books, didn’t seem bothered by the discrepancy. It was simply a story. Another kind of story, set in Japan, where one thing was always turning into hundreds of things and where every animal, not to mention every food item in a refrigerator, could always talk and stories did not necessarily proceed in a standard linear fashion. Not for the first time it dawned on me: we imprint on what a story ought to be extremely early in life. Whether we know it or not, our childhood reading—fairy tales in particular—tell us what successful story structure is and is not, and what ought to feel satisfying.

I had a conversation about this with a film director in Japan one time, and he said to me that after his son was born, he had tried to read Curious George in translation. “And I thought,” said the director, “that we would never have a monkey behave like that in a Japanese children’s book. And then I realized—so this is how Americans are growing up. With Curious George.”

* * * *

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we learn our stories. In my twenties, I received a personalized rejection letter from an agent for a manuscript that will hopefully never see the light of day. The letter contained phrases like “becoming a writer takes a long time,” and “perhaps consider going to school.” She also suggested that I read The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler."



"A portion of my childhood was spent in Japan; my mother took me there every summer. While I was allotted two hours of TV a week in the United States (my parents religiously followed movie ratings, which means I still haven’t seen The Jerk), I was allowed to view as much television in Japan as I wanted, under the guise that it would help me with my language skills. And so I watched and watched. Occasionally I would see something on TV that deeply captured my imagination and love, but which sent me into such a fit of tears that my mother would literally spend hours trying to console me over the injustice of a purely tragic ending while she cursed her culture for being irresponsibly sad. For in Japan, stories could be devastatingly, irredeemably wretched. Ghosts could triumph over the living. People also had sex on TV and there were breasts! The stories—life—felt at once more fraught, but more colorful, as if the very act of being alive was more daring on Japanese television than at home. But it wasn’t a fake fraught. Innocent people suffered as a result of living in a perilous if vibrant world.

Over the past two decades, it has been interesting to watch Hong Kong action films and Japanese cartoons, or manga and anime, make their way across the ocean to find a vast audience in the west. So, too, have some novelists in translation become popular, chief among them Haruki Murakami. I think that part of what readers and audiences are responding to is a “fresh” way of experiencing a story.

Take, for example, the animated film Spirited Away, in which the young heroine, Chihiro, is suddenly separated from her parents, and finds herself in another realm, populated by gods and invisible beings, who congregate at a bathhouse. To return to her parents, Chihiro will need to work at this bathhouse, though the way home is far more circuitous than it was, say, for Dorothy trying to return to Kansas. Dorothy gets rid of two out of four witches (the evil witches are ugly, and the good ones beautiful). She also must see the Wizard.

The rules are less clear for Chihiro. While working at the bathhouse, Chihiro encounters the proprietress Yubaba, who with her large nose, oversized head and copious wrinkles seems, at first glance, to epitomize the evil ugly witch made incarnate. But as the movie progresses, it becomes less and less clear if Yubaba is in fact purely evil. When her twin sister, Zeniba shows up, the same features that made Yubaba so intimidating, appear almost grandmotherly; elderly people can, in fact, slip out of one role and into another just as Yubaba and Zeniba do. There is a kind of nimbleness, for lack of a better term, at play in many of these stories from Japan (hence the limitless forms that Santa can take in Nontan’s world) that we in the west are just beginning to experience.

About a decade ago, I stumbled across another book—a good complement to The Writer’s Journey. The Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales of Japan, by Hayao Kawai, examines Japanese fairy tales, and how so many of their ideas and themes feel at once familiar, but strange to western audiences. Kawai is often referred to as the first Japanese psychologist who trained as a Jungian analyst. But when Kawai returned to Japan from Switzerland, he realized that some of the “rules” of interpreting mythology and dreams didn’t exactly conform to Japanese culture. What was more, stories didn’t adhere to expected western concepts of structure.

Kawai addressed the idea that reality is in fact slippery, in the Yubaba-Zeniba way. He writes: “Reality consists of countless layers. Only in daily life does it appear as a unity with a single layer, which will never threaten us. However, deep layers can break through to the surface before our eyes. Fairy tales have much to tell us in this regard.” What lies behind this layer of reality? If you have any familiarity with Murakami’s work, then you know he often explores the reality behind reality; it is perhaps not a coincidence that Kawai is said to have been a great friend to Murakami. Western writers have started to adopt the Murakami/Kawai style of storytelling. Someone like David Mitchell, who lived in Japan, puts a similar twisting and turning through time and reality to use in his book Cloud Atlas.

Kawai also introduces the concept of “the aesthetic solution.” In western fairy tales, Kawai notes, stories often resolve with a conquest, or with a wedding. Examples are numerous: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, etc. But in Japanese fairy tales, Kawai says, there is rarely this kind of union. Frequently, stories resolve with “an aesthetic solution.” And by aesthetic, Kawai specifically means images from nature. As an example, he opens his book with a discussion of the fairy tale, “The Bush Warbler.”

A woodcutter is out in the woods, when he comes across a mansion he has never seen before. He encounters a beautiful woman, who invites him into her house and asks him to look after the property while she is out—if he promises not to look in any of the interior rooms. As soon as the woman leaves, the woodcutter breaks his promise. He wanders around and finds three beautiful women sweeping. They see him, and glide away “like birds.” Alone again, the woodcutter begins to steal intricate, gilded objects. At one point, he picks up a nest with three eggs. He drops the nest and the eggs break. The beautiful woman returns to the house and chastises the woodcutter for “killing her three daughters.” She transforms into a warbler, and flies away. When the woodcutter comes to, he finds himself completely alone in the woods, with none of the pilfered objects in his possession and with only a memory of beauty.

This kind of ending, says Kawai, is not uncommon in Japan. In a western fairy tale, the woodcutter might have become a prince, and ultimately married the beautiful and mysterious woman. But not so in Japan. Instead, the story is resolved by “the aesthetic solution,” in which the hero is left to contemplate his own existence against the backdrop of a beautiful image. Or maybe I am being too western here. Maybe his existence doesn’t matter. Maybe all we are left with is the beautiful image.

Kawai notes: “In Japan, especially in ancient times, aesthetic value and ethical value were inseparable. Beauty is probably the most important element in understanding Japanese culture. In fairy tales too, beauty places a great role in the construction of the stories.” In fact: “the Japanese fairy tale tells us that the world is beautiful, and that beauty is complete only if we accept the existence of death.” There are reams and reams that can be written about this single observation, but I’ll just say here that it’s a critical piece of understanding so many of the great Japanese novels, like Junichiro Tanizaki’s masterpiece, The Makioka Sisters, and Yukio Mishima’s tetralogy. It’s also something to keep in mind when you read, as you should, what I think is possibly the bravest and most important work being done right now in introducing Japanese literature to western readers: I’m talking here about Monkey Business, the literary magazine edited by Roland Kelts, and produced in partnership with A Public Space. Even if you read just these stories, you’ll get a sense of how our modern world is at once familiar, but might look and feel slightly different to people with a completely different cultural base than our own.

It’s been a while since I read The Writer’s Journey, but I doubt very much it contains “observing a beautiful image but being left with nothing” as “the Reward” for the hero’s quest. And yet, perhaps it is indeed precisely the kind of knowledge a true seeker needs to learn, and accept as she ages. Perhaps it is the bravest lesson of all.

* * * *

Some say that Hollywood stories are becoming too international, and are obliterating other concepts of what a story can and should be. If our stories reflect who we are as people, this would be a shame, because I think other insights—that beauty is an ethical value—are as interesting and valuable as all the metaphoric meanings that come with slaying a dragon. (And incidentally, if you run a low-res writing program, I have a whole syllabus I could teach at your university based on the themes in this essay).

In the forward to the third edition of The Writer’s Journey, even Vogler acknowledges that… [more]
stoytelling  us  japan  thewest  writing  fairytales  mariemutsukimockett  stories  spiritedaway  harukimurakami  hayaomiyazaki  studioghibli  film  movies  georgeluvas  josephcampbell  curiousgeorge  linear  nonlinear  culture  catsanta  yukiomishima  wwnorton  davidmitchell  christophervogler  animals  2016  linearity  beautyrolandkelts  apublicspace  junichirotanizaki  aesthetics  non-linear  alinear 
july 2016 by robertogreco
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