my monkied brain (katekat1010) wrote,
my monkied brain

OMG - an update two days in a row!

For my like three loyal readers (I adore you BJ, and you too Mish, and ... umm... I think mom might be out there somewhere!) I've managed to take a couple of minutes this evening on the 4th - the birthday of a nation that I'm not currently in. I'm nostalgic about it though, in a kind of "aww, isn't it sweet? where are the fireworks" kind of way. The funniest thing is that we can actually buy way more fireworks here than we can in Austin.

Today we were promised test scores by our sensei, but we have not received them. Sadly. Or perhaps not.

In celebration of the fact that it was Tuesday we went to Akihabara, the electronics district and I made my very first "oo, i have to get that when I'm in Japan" purchase! I bought an anime of Ursila K. LeGuinn's Earthsea trilogy (well, the first book anyway) called Geddo. I haven't watched it yet because I don't have the correct software/hardware config, but I do have the movie in my possession and it may end up being part of my research about the translation of fantasy/scifi from the west into japan and back, so hey, YAY for me!

Still on the list is an anime that's titled "The Golden Laws" in English - I did a paper on it, but couldn't actually find the film, and since it's done by a cult that's fairly low profile now, I may still have some trouble. But the hunt for stuff has finally begun!

We also found a manga shop filled with manga as far as the eye could see - and most of the male customers wandering around the separate porny section. Gu-san, the guy who went with Megan and I, offered to buy our porn for us if we were uncomfortable about the whole thing, but we both agreed we'd rather look for porn at our leisure and buy it ourselves. We also found a shop selling Nintendo DS - I might actually buy one because they're cheaper than the pocket electronic dictionaries that everyone has and they come with a kanji program that's just as extensive. And then I can buy the brain game exercise programs too! No, I'm not a terribly good gamer kid, why do you ask?

So it's turning into 1:30 am here, and I should be off to dreamland and then up in the morning for another kanji quiz tomorrow. Our professor seems to have taken our complaints about the workload to heart because we actually got it done in 3 hours tonight instead of 4 or 5. Horray!

I keep forgetting to mention that we did have another guest speaker yesterday who managed to reduce some of the most complex concepts in Japanese culture to a couple of sentences while trying to make a distinction between Modernization and Westernization. But, at the same time, this was the first guest speaker that had something to say that was remotely intellectual, and really her point was a good one, it was just presented in a very Japanese way.

I've been warned at some point or another by some professor out there that Japanese intellectual traditions are not the same as the Western ones. Most of the academic reading that I've done, though, even when written by native Japanese, is written by people who are brought up in the Western methodological tradition. And one of the criticisms leveled at the presentation yesterday was that it was circular, didn't really seem to say much, and didn't get to the point very well. And I was brought up short because I shared those frustrations, but then remembered that the whole cartesian logic thing isn't what's constantly privileged in Japanese academia. Oh, sure, they're affected by Western traditions, but at the same time...

At the same time it was perfectly legitimate for our guest speaker to begin with her resistance to her own topic. She was speaking about the tension between Modern and Traditional Japan and she had a problem with the notion that there IS tension between the two. She went on to talk about family structures, where you learn social standards at the feet of your parents, and then discussed some of those structures - honne/tatemae, uchi/soto, and the whole ie-system. But in an hour? All she could do was gloss over concepts that, to the uninitiate, are either mystifying or not well defined. And then she showed us pictoral examples of the Modern and the Traditional together in Japan - modern Sumo rings that have replicas of the Ise shrine above the contest (and also the actions of the sumo wrestlers are priestly, and their clothes imitate temple hangings). She talked about new years traditions - flashing a picture of two laughing girls wearing kimonos and carrying Dolce & Gabanna purses. And she talked about how some small villages are actually considering changing their local festival dates - moving the date of the celebration from the one that's been celebrated for 600/700 years to the weekend so that it's more convenient for the young men who need to carry the shrines through the village to return from the larger cities. All of these are fantastic examples of something - I'm not 100% sure I agree with her that there isn't a tension between the modern and the traditional, but it's an interesting idea.

The most valuable thing I got out of it was her 3 second discussion at the end of the difference between modernization and westernization - in the Japanese mind there is a way to separate the two, although to the american mind so often the two are inextricably linked. IN this case I don't think there's anything wrong with a little separation, although the issue is never as clear cut as it seems.

And with that I bid you all goodnight, sweet dreams, and hopefully be checking in tomorrow!
Tags: summer japanese

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