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I thought this would be the right thread to talk about Japanese things, that aren't necessarily related to their entertainment industry.
Let's start with a very funny video
I feel so bad for the poor Japanese citizens of foreign descent. It's almost Nineteen Eighty Four, the way they're unacknowledged.
Wow, Ken Tanaka is brilliant. I just spent the afternoon on Youtube watching his videos. I esp. liked his "White Samurai" series.
One of the protag's in my novel is a Brazilian Japanese, so I kinda need to learn more about them...
Oh, hey, that is a great thread! (and a great video!) I like Japanese Culture overall, but pretty much everything I know about them I learned about their entertainment so, uh, I can't contribute much. Still, I shaw enjoy this thread!
I can contribute a little about Brazilian Japanese, though! Maybe. I assume you mean Brazilian people of Japanese descent? In that case, the Op video is quite relevant. Most are much more Brazilian than they are Japense. They rarely speak Japanese and act following the Brazilian customs, rather than the Japanese ones. From what I've heard, this is often a problem when they try to their "country of origins" as they have trouble fitting in, even when they speak the language.
If you mean Japanese born of Brazilian descent, then I can't help much. I believe most Brazilian living in Japan are actually of Japanese descent themselves, so they may not look much different from other Japanese.
Yes, I was referring to those living in Brazil, of Japanese extraction. It didnt occur to me until you mentioned it that there must also be people living in Japan of Brazilian extraction. Many of whom are descended from people living Brazil of Japanese extraction? My, this could get confusing...
There is actually plenty people living in Japan of Brazilian extradition, the vast majority of which are of Japanese descent. We even got a special name for them: Dekasegi/dekasseguinote the first spelling is the original Japanese, while the second is in Portuguese.
@Marquis: Could you say more about your character?
It's an action/adventure spy type novel, and she's one half of a Lovely Angels team. I wanted her to have grown up in an orphanage in Brazil. The point was to give me the opportunity to explore Japanese culture from the perspective of someone who is almost, but not quite, an insider, but the research on that is proving more challenging than I thought. I may have to adjust her background.
So I've been reading up on Kabuki, and things started making sense.
It all started with this Tumblr post, which situates the original Kamen Rider in its cultural context:
This has led me to read up en the other classical Kabuki roles. It feels almost like Commedia dell'Arte. I'll get back to you on those later.
edited 24th May '14 6:37:16 AM by TheHandle
Your Tumblr link instead links to a TV Tropes forum page.
edited 24th May '14 6:35:52 AM by PotatoesRock
Most Wonderful Sound...
This Kabuki Glossary can be a good start.
FLASHY! STRIKE A POSE!
The central point of all Japanese culture is the "Wa", or the sensibility of harmony, togetherness, and orderliness. Almost every aspect of Japanese culture is built around that, starting with language.
Japanese language is extremely polite and contextualized for specific person-to-person interaction. This is different from English, where much of the language is the same, regardless of who says it to whom. But in Japanese, what you say, the way you say it, and if it should be said at all, all depend on independent relationships.
Also important in how language relates to the "Wa" is how Japanese handles foreign words or "borrowed" words, as well as names. Japanese words include ones they've made themselves, ones they've borrowed from China, and ones they've borrowed from other languages. The first two are usually written in Kanji, and if the word originated in China, the pronunciation is usually changed to something uniquely Japanese. The final of the three is written in katakana and is a direct transliteration of the original word/name.
Again, this sort of thing reflects the Japanese emphasis of "Wa" and how it relates both to nationalism and a form of "Japanese pride". If you're a foreigner, your name will always be transliterated and pronounced through katakana. Further, it's considered weird and inappropriate for an obvious foreigner to take a Japanese name and/or write their own name in kanji. So if you're not Japanese, there are inherent cultural barriers to prevent you from being fully accepted as Japanese, and if you're born Japanese, there are inherent cultural barriers to absorb you into the culture.
edited 28th May '14 6:59:35 AM by NihonjinronGakusei
Sounds oddly similar to the concept of cosmetics
Pythagoras is said to have been the first to apply this word to "the universe," perhaps originally meaning "the starry firmament," but later it was extended to the whole physical world, including the earth. For specific reference to "the world of people," the classical phrase was he oikoumene (ge) "the inhabited (earth)." Septuagint uses both kosmos and oikoumene. Kosmos also was used in Christian religious writing with a sense of "worldly life, this world (as opposed to the afterlife)," but the more frequent word for this was aion, literally "lifetime, age."
Cosmos is in fact an excellent example of Wa, as far as I can tell.
As for in-built national exclusivism, I remember an anecdote about a half-japanese woman who went on to work with Japanese people. Soon, she'd been asked not talk to them in her perfectly fluent Japanese, because she looked too foreign and it made her coworkers freak out whenever she talked like that, because she isn't expected to.
Another thing that's worthy of mention is the domination of samurai-dominated uptown Tokyo, where all the big Zaibatsus and office workers are, over pretty much the entire nation, to the point that their dialect is considered the standard, and even the fisherman-descended downtown Tokyo dialect is patronizingly looked down upon as "poor, but honest". Don't get me started on The Idiot from Osaka or other, more remote regions.
MORE KABUKI. Here's an Action scene. Take note, Pro Wrestling fans! This is true Kayfabe: our young righteous angry hero can fling enemies away without even getting close to touching range. YOOOO!
edited 28th May '14 7:26:56 AM by TheHandle
That's just...baffling. If a person knows how to speak fluently, why should said person's origins/nationality even matter?
Then again, I do wonder if there's a fear of the foreign, unless it specifically appeals in some way or another to Japanese people and culture. I seem to find it in terms of some music performances in Japan by non-Japanese artists.
Japanese liked Spinal Tap though
edited 28th May '14 5:54:20 PM by Achaemenid
While I obviously can't speak for anyone else and I don't doubt people's experiences, because that's kind of a dickish thing to do, I must say that my experiences in Japan seem to be very different from a lot of the stereotypes often presented. During an entire year of living there, I had the experience of my Japanese not being accepted all of once. Which was at the post office, where I was trying to ask about something, not in particularly great though not horrible Japanese (been there for about 3 months at the time) and made a few mistakes, after which the person ran of to find someone who could speak English. The problem was that that person was probably worse at English than I was at Japanese, so it didn't help much. Other than that, I never had that problem. I did experience people in shops asking me mechanical questions in Japanese and being surprised when I answered in Japanese though :p
In fact it was my experience that Japanese people were much, much happier speaking with me as soon as they found out I could speak Japanese, because then they didn't have to embarrass themselves by speaking English (they are often very self-conscious about their English). This is both when I could communicate in Japanese, but it was bad (I.E: a few months after moving there) and when my Japanese had gotten pretty good (I.E: the last few months I lived there). In fact, most people seemed sort of impressed that I had learned the language, in a positive way. That could be a little annoying in itself though, as though they expect foreigners not to be able to learn it or as though Japanese is particularly hard. But again, their surprise was more positive than negative.
Maybe it also has something to do with where in Japan you go? I lived in a somewhat smaller town in Fukuoka prefecture. It may be that smaller towns are generally better to live in as a foreigner (I know one other person who lived in a different smallish town in Nagano prefecture, and she had good experiences with the local community as well). Though that may seem a little weird, one might think that a big town like Tokyo where there are more foreigners, the people would be more used to them and therefore less prone to isolationism. But then again, the fact that there are more foreigners could also mean that there are more tensions between foreigners and native Japanese people.
This by the way is of course all from the perspective of a white northern European and not at all indicative of what it's like for a Korean living in Japan for example, which is an entirely different (and more serious) can of worms. But I think it's relevant when it comes to "not-japanese looking" people speaking Japanese.
What you describe is actually pretty typical. Many Westerners who live in Japan have remarked (both positively and negatively) about how the Japanese are always impressed by how well they knew Japanese. In one blog I've read, a man said that while at first he found it encouraging and friendly, after a while, he felt like a child being praised for learning to potty by himself. The latter response is also something I've seen many foreigners say.
Likewise, you are also correct in that the Japanese have a different set of "rules" depending on if you are obviously foreign, and if you look East Asian. If you are the former, they don't expect you to conform to their ways fully, and may express surprise, curiosity or confusion at your attempts to try. As I said, an ingrained way of noticing this is the practice of using names in kanji or kana. If you're foreign, you will always do the latter.
If you're East Asian, however, you follow a different set of rules. The Japanese prefer to size up the people they meet and put them into a "box" as soon as possible. Once again, this is reflected in language; the moment they figure out what box you should be placed into, they will conform to the proper grammar procedures and honorifics. If you are non-Japanese Asian, they will place you into the "not Japanese" box extremely fast, and unlike being westerner, they will not find it cute.
Well, it's not like it takes long for someone to express that they are impressed by your Japanese and it's not like the same people will continuously do it, after they've done it once. So I guess I don't really see it as that big of a deal. Finding it unnecessarily condescending seems more like a personal reaction to it, after all whenever you meet a new person, that person can't know that you've been told a 100 times before. It's the same way that I got pretty tired of explaining why I specifically came to Japan, it's not that the question is asked with malice the 100'th time, it's just that you're tired of having the same conversation. But it's not really the fault of the person you are talking with, if you don't know them already.
Again, I understand the reaction, as I said I could find it a little annoying, I just think it's somewhat unfounded to ascribe condescension to the person expressing the surprise. Regardless my main point was that Japanese people in general seemed to me to prefer conversing in Japanese (not to ignore me, because " a foreigner is speaking MY language, this is unnatural!", which is what some people suggest to be a usual reaction). In fact, this was to the point that I would probably hate living as a foreigner in Japan for any greater length of time without speaking the language, as it could easily lead to isolation from the local population.
edited 29th May '14 8:47:07 AM by mathias
There's the reverse problem in Scandinavia: they all speak excellent English and will switch to it automatically with foreigners... which makes it very hard to learn by practising. And if you don't properly speak Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, or Finnish, respectively, you'll have a lot of trouble fitting in and making friends.
What's with Japan and its (almost unhealthy) obsession with swords in its subculture? Yes, it looks fancy. Yes, it allows more dramatic action scenes, but I think I've seen one too many scenes where swordsman easily beating ones wielding spears and even guns (even when they had plenty of distance between them). Yes, I know there are exceptions if you know where to look for, but the rule seems to outweight the exceptions.
What, do they think guns and other non-sword melee weapons are dishonorable or something?
Swords (particularly katanas) are a part of their culture, which was even carried on to the WWII era even when katanas were not allowed to be used publicly. It's a part of their bushido code, even when katanas aren't widely used anymore due to the Sword and Firearms Control Law.
As for the empathy towards small arms, you can thank the same law made by Ieyasu IIRC so that the lower class won't have second thoughts of using tanegashimas in a revolt, which at the time was introduced by Portuguese traders.
From what I heard, the pilots carried their swords into their plane...even when they had to reduce the weights as much as possible (most planes had too little armor that later in war, most were simply shredded by American planes).
And then there are banzai attacks. Sure, it worked against Chinese, but I'm not sure if this really happened, but allegedly one American soldier even grabbed an attacking Japanese soldier's sword, stole it (at the cost of injuring his hands) and killed him with it.
When swords appear in pre-WWII historical fiction, I have no problem with it; swords were indeed a major weapon, after all.
But for God's sake, they don't have a place in modern fights (outside of very specific contexts, that is).
Its actually very recently developed. Samurai culture, including near worship of sword is developed in peaceful Tokugawa era. Samurai previously use bow and arrow in ancient times.
its probably because its use as status symbol, it marked you as Samurai during peaceful era when peasant is disarmed. Its become like Gucci or Rolex, something to be aspired to, not actually to be used.
one of popular decision of Japanese military before wwii, is they giving army enlisted sword/knife, even cook or driver, its make them popular to lower/middle class.
It's also worth noting that Japan has a very unique history of warfare. War is a pattern of culture and counterculture, since it's based on winning. The style of warfare greatly depends upon what's working and what isn't, also determined by a desperation to win. The Japanese didn't have that. Japan had very little contact with the outside world and, thus, did not think of battle the same way as the rest of the world. Their wars were typically Japanese versus Japanese and did not carry threat of utter annihilation, genocide, or slavery as a war between two alien nations does. Thus, they could more easily create "gentlemans' rules" that were subconsciously followed.
When outsiders (like the Chinese, Koreans, Mongols, and Americans) brought their "advanced" tactics to Japan, they responded like anyone who's used house rules for a game they take pride in: they romanticized and glorified their ways as being right.
edited 11th Jun '14 7:26:44 AM by NihonJinronGakusei
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