A Japanese Ideal
Perhaps thought of after watching Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light.
There is an ideal of an idyllic, rustic lifestyle shared in many of my favorite animated films from Japan (Wolf Children Ame and Yuki, Memories Drip-drop, and My Neighbor Totoro [todo: want to re-watch and review]. Perhaps resembling an actual arable area in Japan.
[todo: haven’t even started to write about this!]
To todo: pay bills!
Continued thought for blog posts about the ideal lifestyle:
Into the Forest of Firefly Lights harks memories, of childhood and the ideal of romance. It’s simple, short, and sweet, much like the experience of watching many great short films (La Maison un Petites), but at 45 minutes, a bit more impact than those instant Pixar character development sequences through memory (Up).
One thought provoked was whether this is based on an actual relationship. Of having problems in relationships due to time, loss, or even age difference. It seems in Japan (and much of Asia), there isn’t much free-time, except during those childhood summers, when there’s no school and the family takes a trip into the countryside. It’s here freedom, love, imagination, sparks. And perhaps, there was a relationship during those summers. People do tend to work and forget about those important things: love and family. It’s only when we have a break that we focus on it. All of my relationships have been during the summer too, because I focus on work (personal or wage labour) during the other seasons. I am normally focused on work. So, for me, it brings about some good romantic memories, time spent after summer school, time spent in the park. Innocent, romance.
The second thought it provoked is of the ideal Japanese lifestyle as glorified by many of my favorite animated films.
Though the film didn’t depict it as the other films have (moving to the countryside [from an urban area], building a home, farming), somewhere in that childhood freedom in nature, there it still exists.
During my time in Lanyu (蘭嶼), I wanted to experience and live in that culture: free-diving, fishing, spear-gun fishing, cooking, farming, vending, making things (commodities) from materials. It’s primitive, especially when compared to my philosophic or new-media making past. It’s natural science, as opposed to the infinitely more complex social philosophy. It’s a material-oriented life, as opposed to an idea, information-oriented one (link to material vs information).
It’s what we experience as children: learning what materials do, making things out of them. Less care for social development. **Just taking everything in and acting upon it.
Isn’t that culture? To simply act within a time and space?**
There, whilst experiencing 蘭嶼, memories of JRPGs such as Harvest Moon, MMORPGs such as Ragnarok Online, one mysterious one I can’t remember the name of (link to forums of most recent RO game), World of Warcraft, and the infinite other RPGs I played when I was young came. I acted the same way as I did in those games: I went out alone, learned the environment, researched the best methods, and did things: practice swimming by snorkeling, catch crabs and cook and eat them (a rather haunting experience as they are so cute), catch fish via fishing and cook and eat them, research local flora and animals and make commodities out of them, sell things through vending on the street market.
It’s all quite the dream. It’s all a game. **Each culture can be seen as a game.** People act according to their institutionalized cultured and habits: capitalism, passed-down behaviors, love, desire for social development, desire for wisdom. In the game of Lanyu, during the summer people capitalize through tourism (tour guides, snorkel and diving guides, accommodation, food vending), stocking money for the winter, or continue working by finding a job on Formosa (the main island of Taiwan). Catching and eating sea creatures is in their culture, from their past. The knowledge of the environment only known to those living there, and slowly disappearing due to social development of the children, and the lack of passing down of traditional ways of living from the elderly.
It’s all seemingly primitive compared to the Information Age, which involves tech-related occupations, computer programming; even the Industrial Age is very modern compared Lanyu. Sure there’s manufactured rice now that is imported, and some tools from supermarkets from the town closest to the port, but not much is to be seen from the developed world.
[continue later, getting off track]
Quote from post-film thoughts of Into the Firefly Forest:
> The film is slow, dreamy, like Totoro. It has its magic. It’s predictable, yet I was happy to watch it, and it made me happy, optimistic.
> For the simple things. Memories. Good times. Summers. Natural joy. Picnics. Talking. Sharing. Time.
> I think of all those memories I created in Taiwan, and elsewhere. A happier place. Instead of my cultural theory, I take in the youthful joy. Of the Chinese class, of her, of my trip in Asia, of New York, of the fatkids, of College Park, of my youth. So many memories. It’s beautiful to think about.
> I’ve been so focused lately that I’ve recently stopped thinking. This free-thinking is what makes me happy. Ignore reality, and be happy.
The literal name of the film of Only Yesterday is Omiede Poro Poro, (todo: check name) roughly memories trickling down, with poro poro being a sound-action of something dripping. Poro Poro! With the cute partially rolled r phonetic. And that’s a core argument for living in Taiwan as opposed to New York (todo: link to post): that living in Taiwan creates more experiences, more memories. I’ve only lived in Taiwan for a small fraction of my life, yet as I think of my life, much of the memories were formed there. So many adventures, friendly people, thoughts. When I watch the memories of these films, my own memories of Taiwan, an island not dissimilar to Japan, are invoked. All those people, places, things I’ve done. When I stop, perhaps on a transportation, just as in the film (and many other films from Ghibli), the those memories rush back, or rather, they kind of trickle down, and I desire them.
I want to go back, live them again. I contact the people. I tell them I am really cherished those times. It’s s childish thing to do, yet, so human. During my recent heartbreak I took a ride a scooter from 宜蘭 through 台東 to 台南 and back toward 蘭嶼. Those memories came. I wrote to everyone I thought I may have loved during past time. I wrote it during the phase of break-up whee one seeks comfort. It was pathetic, yet affirming.
I love Taiwan. I love the experiences I’ve had here. I love the people here.
And so I desire to be here. I desire to join another hostel, be a part of the experiences that go in to living in one. I desire to live in Lanyu, farm and fish and vend. I desire to move to a farming area and build a home as was done in Wolf Children. But none can be done alone.
And all of this contradicts my Western mind. My Western part desires to organize people on Lanyu to increase safety, health, and engineering. It desires a better education. Yet, it desires freedom, and enjoys the freedom the kids on Lanyu have. One feels a connection there. Those children are free, unlike Taiwan. They run around town, swim, hang out with strangers.
Can both be had? Can one be rational and free? West and East?
This contradiction is an everlasting conflict.
Why catch a single fish with rudimentary methods when there are huge high-tech boats with nets that catch hundreds? Why farm when there are huge farm fields looked over with industrial tractors and large machines? Why not just eat cheap cereals and skip to the information and ideas? One doesn’t have to fight for survival in the Information Age. Cereals are cheap, air conditioning or even simple fans exist. Why go backward in social development? We should be designing and philosophizing.
Why? Experience and memories. Nothing more.
The West focuses on the material reality. Design. The East focuses on experiences. In the West, the portfolio matters most. In the East, you must provide a biography. It’s not about what you make, it’s what you have experienced. The experience of making is just a small part.
So what stops me from experiencing? My Western past. I often think in terms of social development. Increases the development of wisdom. Figuring out cities. Figuring out cultures. Social philosophy, urban planning, all of it.
What’s the point of creating yet another hostel? I should be pushing art with games for education, films with documentary and philosophical content, putting new knowledge into ever more accessible mediums. I should be in India de-slumming. I should be in an emergency care platoon. I should be doing a lot.
Yet, I feel so stable, so normal, when I am on my own, doing my own things: fishing, making games, making things on my own. Not caring for the world’s problems. It’s taken me many years to get this feeling again. To forget about [ignore] politics is so difficult, when it affects everything.