Category Archives for: Anthropology


30 November 2016

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Fuck Japan

Fuck Japan.

That’s all I got.

Fuck Japan.

Perhaps the reason I never thought to talk to others when I lived in suburban America, anyone nearby, as I did during much of my 20s [and perhaps childhood], is because I simply wasn’t interested in the others. Japan [Japanese culture] has altered my behavior to not be interested in other people. As I [just earlier] peered through the express train’s window as it was rushing me toward the airport, perhaps the first time I’ve taken an express transport whilst having time, I didn’t care what is inside those buildings, those giant apartment complexes, the curtained shops, or traditionally-achitected homes.

Fuck ’em.

And here’s why

And here’s why:

Japanese culture has these characteristics: exclusive, unwelcoming, stingy (mentality, monetarily, and urban design), unhospitable (no hospitality), extremely organized (/obessissively), cold (temperature and feeling), robotic (rule-based automoton behavior), unwilling and no desire to learn (beyond what was learned to survive in an individuals tiny social unit), ie (家, socially seperated into tiny social units, nepotism), instrumentally reasoned toward survival and comfort, and overall, inhospitable (uninhabitable)… [todo: add more charactersitics]

Much of it overlaps with (rich?) suburbia. The simple, I’m surviving (living), why do / learn anything else? Why care about what other people / cultures / minds think? It’s a classic social problem: closing of the mind, habituation.

[todo: give examples to all characteristics?]

more thoughts from right now (maybe overlaps with notes)

When a society develops, it develops materially too. It industrializes, organizes, constricting creativity and freedom. It organizes what you eat (taste), see, feel, and do. Japan has narrow taste in all aspects: food, design, fashion, textures, images, and so on. When one doesn’t fit what the local culture has organized the material to, then one has to go back, to raw materials, and create it, from scratch. Cook, design anew, make. I almosted needed to, to survive it. Perhaps that’s how cultural neighborhoods form in cities: a desire to make the material world according to one’s own taste shaped by past cultures.


One may wander, how such a narrow-minded society became rich? Robots are good at making (barely creative) products, and that’s a much wanted commidity for most of the world. Well-made cars, house appliances, farming equipment. Automate work needed for survival, automate the process to make the machines, then sell it. That’s the limit of Japan’s intelligence. It never quite gets to actually creating information, ideas, new ways to live, new ways to help others. The ultimate Japanese society is the present one: it already reached it’s end.

The small social unit idea works (is successful) for the same reason a specialized machine works: it is a machine, it was made to work.


A thought from earlier today:
Japanese people are not good at playing games; Games play them. They are good at abiding rules (being obedient), but not playing (in any sort of creative sense). They work within rulesets, similar to their small social units / knowledge / life. They can “play” a calculative arcade music rhythym or card or fighting “game”, but they will fail in any one that rewards creativity.

An older recurring thought:
Japanese society is exactly the one depicted in Wall-E. It really is that dystopian. People aren’t fat, but people do go from one place to another while watching a screen in their box cars, eat CalorieMate (a “nutritious” block of food), and consume addictive substances without the bad stuff (Coke zero, Strong zero, cigarettes with devices that remove the smell?, etc.).

notes from papers and text files written during the trip

ordered from past to present:


the Fablab charter is similar to my own: of allowing the public access to tools to enable people to make [almost] anything,– but making is such a small part [subset] of doing (performing, teaching, work, etc.).
at the lab I realize the reasons I made or did anything [in the past] was for poltiical [/personal] reasons: I wanted to alter the behavior of people {not true, there were many motives: bring awareness to society, or simply just to spend time with people whilst being productive – whatever productive may be in my mind during a time and place} . Making a sign {for the no vehicles in market areas idea} was just a small part of a solution to do so. That’s all it ever is {That’s all fablabs are able to do}. It’s not an end. It’s just an enabler for making stuff {, materially}.
Outside the lab {Fablab Dazaifu}, there is one large panchinko parlor and duplicate apartment complexes. Such a boring place! Only the lab is homey. Perhaps all indoor spaces are homey. But the problem is that most are exclusive.
I should try to make something at each space, but, as I said, I need a political / personal motivation.
– {I felt that being at a space would be no use without a reason / motive. A desire to do something for society is needed, then one goes to a space to work something out, but I had zero care for Japan’s society.}
[todo: to blog]
$Fab labs, like hotels contain great people, like [censored name]. People at service for others, for the community.
But the problem of fab labs, or most spaces, like departments at a school, is that they are narrow
– {mmm, thus, every space is too narrow, not enough diversity (of minds). That seems to be a recurring problem of mine. Whatever space I go to, it is a gathering of similar interests, as opposed to a set of random people. What kind of space has that?: A household? Shared living? Co-living spaces.
in ideology / culture / mind – they tend to make the same things (was thinking of things same things all fab labs make). The goal is to invite others to participate. It’s a good start. It’s still an open, public space, like a public garage.
– {hmm, that really is all it is. Make a garage public. Host events at home. Isn’t that how the internet was created?}
Still, I can’t live here – I am not motivated / living in Japan’s society.** I need a society that I love in order to make stuff for it** (Jiufen’s Spirited Away idea, urban interventions, etc.).
– {love reciprocation idea [todo: etch this out later]}
[todo: to blog]
In Japan, people do the work, they do what’s needed to survive the longest [and to maximize comfort]; In Taiwan, people care for the ideas, talk about it, but not worry much about the age they will die {, or doing things – implementing ideas.}
[todo: to blog]
$In Japan, people [only] care for their culture, only focus on their own narrow culture’s desires; In Taiwan, they’re open to other cultures and ideas – for aboriginals and foreign cultures – , thus they develop more unevenly, but accordingly for / to each culture – thus it is free, open.

Japan is singular. There is only Japanese culture; Everything else is “other”, rejected.

Laws exist. Social pressures are strong. It is difficult, unlawful, unfaithful, un-family-like to go against the grain.

Taiwan doesn’t care much for culture, other than langauge and ideas (including knowing their own social history). Thus, Taiwan is more ideal, but in reality may not seem so; Japan seems ideal, especially statistically, but in reality is dystopian.
– {It’s as if Japan designed their society and actually abide the design. There is no human element, no natural feelings to disrupt it.}
but comfort and long survival come at a cost of material commodities. Japan accumulates capital to build the most comfortable, convenient place. Taiwan does not care much for comfort – they care for just living on by doing whatever they’ve become habituated to do – craft, cook, all is okay to live such a lifestyle, even if it does not improve survival or comfort.
– {The cost of material commodities being human labor and the destruction of nature; It’s the difference between living in a shed in Taiwan and a fully-equiped apartment in a high rise in Japan.}
– {Though Taiwan doesn’t care much for comfort of the body, they’ve somehow created the most comforting, hospitable culture.}

2, 11/3/16

Japan is super-developed. Almost no nature {to be found}. Farms, well-planned, land intensely used. The world has been dominated. They win. Really get that Takahata theme felt. It seems (appears) that the mountains may sitill have natural areas {Maybe. Or maybe those trees were planted too.}. The farming villages next to mountains are beautiful {in a rustic aesthetic sense}, but completely planned out like Sim City. Capital is planned for. Efficient capital and work. No life. No experience.

Japan, well, Kyushu’s largest festival (Karatse Kunchi [Nagasaki Kunchi too?]) provides the only lively feeling in Japan. Steets closed, kids wander large areas and play. A ton of vendors sell food at stalls. Expensive now, but a glimpse of the past, less developed times – a diferent lifestyle, similar to present Taiwan, or other Southeast Asian markets. {Teenagers and men alike get drunk, equally unable to hold their liquor; A glimpse of the repressed hedonism.}

[todo: worded / recalled differently – X]
Japan’s society is ordered like ants; Taiwan’s allows freedom? Taiwanese people appear to be hippies compared to Japanese people!

Japan planned their economy and followed it obediently. | It worked for commodities (products) for the moment (period of time) in the past, but now, they lack the creativity to excel, which only exists with good, diverse, dense places and a culture that interacts and plays.

Japanese peoples’ bodies move robotically, following straight-forward structure and routine, but what about their minds? They act according to material – capital-rational, but their minds escape through childish images of characters, manga, anime, and digital worlds. It’s a utopia for the body – isn’t that the ideal? Keep the bodies comfortable, through convenience!; But minds keep working, don’t they? They act culturally-economically {group consensus or for capital), not making decisions creatively, or finding different ways to live, rather, following old ideas, and making them a concrete reality.

Taiwan communicates well, but Japan works well – obediently, robotically.

Japan’s work ethic is that of a lone tinkerer, working on ever smaller parts. Their society full of cogs / boxes, a larger one working on smaller ones.

split with Atsushi at Kagoshima harbor

Sleep / nap. feels for [censored name] still linger. Human contact? Atsushi [todo: check name] split, allows me to think beyond destined-travel. This country is too cold to do anything, or feel like doing it. Long daydream of being president, conversation with Jon Stewart, life as president, morals, social development, etc., stars freely go in and out, as do friends.

I need her [ambiguous her]… I just want to live.

Ideas over the past few days:

Sensory deprivation caused by cold and loss of sight via sleeping bag over head inside a tent beneath dreary weather.
– Also leads to depression, oversleep, etc. Just to maintain homeostasis.
– Less sun power to enhance sight.

$ Daydreams as conversation imagined – example: president / Jon Stewart day dream, wedding speeches, etc…. media-oriented, written-oriented can be generalized to sign-oriented – using signs as basis of rational decision-making. Look at nutrition facts, not the food (CaloriMate, coffee, cola zero, cigarettes, alcohol zero, etc.). Look at hitchhiker’s sign, not (not understanding) the thumb. Look at maps, not reality. Look at the phone, not reality. Design on canvases, not {on} reality.
Japan designed an efficient society devoid of life.
$ – The material of Japan is designed / developed. So it feels ideal / others ways of life are impossible; though it is just of the mind.
[next idea / argument]
Japanese culture is rational through signs, therefore:
$ * It rationalizes toward capitalism, survival, and comfort (when under capitalism).
$ * Money-actions are not creative: it is not creative to buy something, there is an infinite amount of things to do {/ one can do}, and it all starts with communication ({ideas, talking, }games, play too!).

Japan makes me feel capitalistic-rational, ad opposed to communicative-creative, free-rational (of Taiwan).
Creativity (communication, education, ideas, information, etc.) pays. Commodities (form, manufacture) really is old money.

Japan is stuck in the 80s / 90s in development, material, social, fashion, ethic, culture, politics, etc.
– They wear business suits without reason, uniforms, work without reason, all old ideas, no thought, only manufacture.

Japan is completely developed. Farms mechanized. People fit to property.

$ Property fixed, deemed (/ pedestaled) by culture [cool argument]; Leads to a fixed society in time and space.
– {Because the culture is so private and exclusive, those with property seem keep and / or gain wealth even more easily: coin laundries, restaurants, hotels, etc. There are probably too many laws and policies for people to start their own businesses to compete, and, furthermore, is probably not even thought of due to cultural reasoning. Since all material on the property is designed by some collective consensus, there is little change to the material world. No gentrification, but no creativity for capitalism either. Just creating capital for survival, not experiences.}

$ Although Taiwan is less developed materially, social organizations [maybe not needed?], healthcare, etc., it is more developed in the mind. It skipped commodity-capital-rational that post-war Japan and Korea had, instead, it relies on service (time spent together: tourism), information, education – because social development is more important than material organization.

Japan’s (culture) repression crosses to sex (porn), drugs (cigarettes and coffee), and probably hard drugs and prostitution. These are used out of addiction / need, not fun / social as in America. They are used to replace social activity – to ease the mind, perhaps to artificially move some brain cells (inhibitors, etc.).

Fukuokan women spent time and money on beauty. Beautiful {in appearance} through daily work. {Ugly in ethical make-up.}

Only [censored name], [censored name], and maybe [censored name] seem normal {to me}.

Mostly mothers with children hitched? me a ride. They care. Have time. Not super work-oriented. Move at the speed of life. In time with life. They care for those that feel cold as they do their children. They are human [something here?], unlike their cold male counter-parts. The male drivers know nothing apart from their specific jobs, barely able to drive, and completely unaware of their surroundings, no care for proximal society {, or even other people}.

Perhaps all of socio-cultural Japan occurs though the internet via written language – jobs, sex, talk, etc. Nothing is physical-oral. And I am only looking at and listening to the physical-oral reality, not caring for written language, therefore it may be impossible for me to understand their mind, decision-making, thought, ideology, education, etc.
– {I was unwilling to read. That’s too boring. Too unsocial.}

Manga / drawing as a way of communicating, because they live so much less, that they must use {simplified} images to convey {a} reality instead of words. They are out of tune with reality [reverses an old thought].

[$ todo: give up rural?]
Creativity / Osaka maybe the way out of this decades old society [/ culture].

Japan is only good as industrial machines – to manufacture / design a working product for comfort, longevity – traits [end goals] of Japanese society.

[The end for now. Look for farms. Then go to Osaka.]

at gas station waiting for hitch to Kumamoto

People who have time, and/or are more human pick me up: elderly (retired?), women (old and young. I feel the young ones often appear to look at my face to see if I am a female), young people (though maybe less have cars, using public transport instead). People who have cars are the suburban capitalists.
$ Suburban capitalists destroy the world without awareness (knowing). They were born into via place, time (, nearby culture), in capitalistic country, accumulate capital, waste the world in the process. The countries with wealth organized themselves to be better at gaining capital, but missed on human values (including value for nature).

To wait is to waste life. Suburban capitalists wait, city-goers create {keep creating}.

Japanese cars are shaped like Japanese houses, and the Japanese social structure: boxes, of various sizes, compounded together.

\[$\] Tools for anti-alienation (/ altering human-values / altering human behavior)
$$$ – tool / app for mothers to list / sell cooked food (servings left, cost, ingredients cost, etc.), unused ingredients, minimize food waste, increase human interaction, remove organized food (chain restaurants, {industrialized food products at super markets}, etc.).

By developing, Japan has organized their country to a few food items: ramen, sushi, fried food, etc. It over-uses those ingredients, because capitalism and property has created chain restaurants, super-market industrialized products, vending machines. Developing countries have a better food industry because the ingredients (raw food) has not been industrialized / organized. That explains my love for vegetable markets in Chinatowns {in American cities, Southeast Asia}, and Taiwan: you eat the raw food – no work in-between necessary. Food should not be organized. Eat what your country you live in grows.

another session, perhaps at the coin laundry store near the park

Sleepy, after afternoon nap, woke up at 5pm, feeling it a waste to hitchhike at night, missing the scenic beauty of Japan, but, perhaps worth it for the random experience. Cities and highways are boring anyway: repetitive suburbs, yet, I must see for myself – never know. Perhaps need to travel via Google Maps more. Maybe needed a day’s rest after that long bike ride. Fuck it. Let’s go. Nothing to do here, or at least it feels… Hmmm… can at least hitch out of Kyushu, perhaps Yamaguchi.

travel tips:
Kid’s playgrounds are attached to neighborhood parks and usually have bathrooms. 24-hour coin laundry shops can be found nearby, providing warmth, and maybe even an electrical socket or television.

Only with a bicycle (that I stole for a day) was I able to reach farms, land, non-concrete, with shrines and traditional, old houses that emanated an Yilan feel, cheap / fresh vegetables and ingredients too! {Finally a livable place.}

Hitching local roads at night (11pm–3am, until 8am) was near impossible, {perhaps especially} as a male, dark, non-Japanese. SAs / PAs vary from large sleepy truck stops to a tiny strip mall where few vehicles stop at, trapping hitchhikers on a highway island.

There is no interaction that occurs outside, aside form parks / playgrounds – that is all the “nature” people get in this super-developed world.

The mountains of Japan seem untouched, beautiful nature. Perhaps it is the best place to live?

The rural areas too are developed, unlike Taiwan’s tiny farms, there are large apartment complexes nearby, large greenhouses and farmland bunched together so that people cannot walk through, blocking human interaction / access to nature [for efficiency,] via urban planning. Farms need walkways (dirt!) through them.

Japan is the death of society / Societal death. Society has lots it’s life and exchanging it for longevity, comfort, convenience, health, safety.

It requires non-decision-making {non-thinking} robots to live in Japan (and the suburbs).

All real Japanese films take place at the house because nothing occurs outside of it. Miyazaki and Takohata are the saviors of this drab society, mindlessly destroying itself {yet, their own lives contradict the ones they depict in their films – they are not living on farms, they are sitting in studios in Tokyo etching out more animated films. At least, Miyazaki is.} Keichi shows the drab suburban reality best, with actual modernity as its setting – pachinko parlors, supermarkets, road, and only media {ex. history of trams} as a savior [escape] from it.

[probably written after glancing at a few manga books:]
Manga is still terrible. Narrow. More narrow than Hollywood films… I decided that in 6th grade {thinking of anime on Toonami on Cartoon Network}.

[todo: perhaps written twice]
A nurse said there is no need to learn English. It shows how insular Japanese culture is, and how uncaring for other societies and minds they are. | They are the American suburbs. | They were born into it, organized their lives {and their surroundings} according to it, and know nothing outside of it. A nurse! Does the nurse not care for how nurses act in other societies? Read their biographies?

80s / 90’s fashion in Japan in 2016 is funny. Levis jeans. High heels. Striped shirts. lol. Back to school sale?

– [break]

Maybe Japanese culture is OCD (about organization, cleanliness, health, etc.); It can’t handle disorder, nature, it must conquer it. Taiwan can handle messiness, more broader information via reality – they process information in the present; Japan relies on past, planned information – schedules, {designs}, etc.

Many lonely pangs. Dreams of any girl I’ve met recently – gold digging, gigalo, lots of sex. Japan is socially repressed, so I feel (socially and sexually) repressed too. Manga are probably the daydream and wet dreams of the society.

Lots of thoughts on food industry – and how it affects everything – farms, distribution, transport to supermarket, $ limited organization of food to fit culture, etc. It is vastly better to not organize food into meals – that’s a cultural problem.

I mentioned concrete. “Concrete jungle” should be applied to Japan and South Korea, perhaps moreso than tiny Hong Kong, because these jungles are much larger…

… the ’burbs have taken over all land. Earthquakes and vlocanic eruptions fight through concrete, but the car and road system is constantly repaired ot maintain order {human order, homeostasis of human order}. Here, it is easy to see the nature vs artificial themes of Miyazaki and Takahata films.

Perhaps the society communicated digitally, a digital social world. Nothing much occurs in reality; – How boring! Perhaps they create JRPGs to escape the boring reality of suburbia. They generate in-game capital as opposed to real capital. They don’t understand that they could live in a different way, as they live it through JRPGs / MMORPGs.


I want to fuck and get money, like an animal, several times. Gold-dig. Just be a house-husband. That’s all. Take care of her, {her} body and mind, to allow her to efficiently do her work. Surely I can just use some kind of dating site for this? Or try living in a city. Osaka? Taipei? New York?

– [mini-break]
Japan’s social structure (ie) creates a very voyeuristic culture. They peer from within their cars, houses, {to the outside}, and into other’s cars, houses. | They don’t interact verbally, instead, they just look, judge, from appearance, and continue their programmed routine; making them shallow, as they don’t judge by mind.

– [mini-break]
I thought by coming to Japan, I would get to experience a culture that acts more upon reality, physicality. I got it. I just didn’t know that that kind of non-verbal-language-orientation would be so cold. I thought that much could be communicated through reality, actions. But they don’t {even} act! Perhaps, it is because I am not acitng. I need to be aggressive, or at least, just less passive then them. I need to {my normal} outgoing talkative {self}. But I don’t speak their language, nor care much for it. Hmm… I just have to be with them, next to them. No need for intense philosophical conversation, or travel questions. But they’re so {fucking} boring! At least, outside they are. Maybe inside, they are like [censored name] {act differently with people outside and within social relations}…Yeah, I just need to get active again, somehow, despite how being broke excludes me from most places. I need active people. I haven’t met a person similar to an active Taiwanese, or foreign traveler yet. Japan is so dead.

– [TV break]

Japanese people spend their life indoors, and by habit, have made the world feeel merely concrete to indoor places

internet readings

some random reading via Google, all read after the trip. Nothing deep or lengthy.

highlights from internet readings

some thing by Columbia


The fact that Japanese fathers in contemporary urban households spend so much time at work, and the company demands on them are so great, means that they often really have very little time or energy to spend with their children, and so not only does the responsibility for raising children, overseeing the education, fall onto the mothers, but fathers themselves are absent, removed, from the children’s lives.
– true. Only the mothers seemed human, and therefore picked me up as I hitchhiked.

One of the really interesting paradoxes about Japanese education is that you have a very rigorous, very intense educational system up to getting into college, and these very difficult entrance exams. And once students get into college, oftentimes people joke that college is the four-year vacation in a long and hard educational life. Once you’ve made it into college, you’ve made it to wherever you’re going to get educationally.
– true for Taiwan too, and probably much of Asia. It seems to be the problem of entering an exclusive social group. It’s ugly; They’re ugly.

Another important aspect of the way in which social relationships are structured in sort of the day-to-day interactions of people in Japan, is a strong consciousness of in-group versus outside-the-group boundaries. And this gets expressed in all kinds of settings.

Students are very conscious of the school they go to and the class within the school that they’re part of, and that forms sort of a shell, a social shell, that people who are within the shell are expected to interact with one another rather informally and rather intensely, and interact with people outside that shell, or outside that boundary, in a more formal, more distant, perhaps more hierarchical way.

So at schools, in families, there’s a clear distinction between who’s a member of a family and who’s not; in communities, there are clear distinctions between people who belong to the community and people who are outsiders; in companies, a very clear sense of division; in political parties; even in ethnic relations, relationships for example between Japanese and Koreans who live in Japan, the sense of insider versus outsider status.

It’s very difficult to say exactly why Japanese social relations take the form they do. Why are social relations hierarchical, or why is there a strong emphasis on in-group versus outside-the-group interactions? You couldn’t necessarily come up with an historical reason for this, but certainly there are parallels to other sets of social institutions. If you look at the traditional family structure, for example, the so-called ie, as it’s known in Japanese, it is a kind of a family, a kind of a kinship organization which puts a great premium on understanding hierarchy and rank, that every member of a traditional family stands in a very complicated set of relationships with every other member, but they can all be ranked in some kind of a hierarchical form.

So, for example, the eldest son occupies a social role that is quite distinct from a second or a third or a fourth son. The eldest daughter occupies a rank and position that is quite distinct from younger daughters. Certainly fathers and mothers occupy different ranks from their children and so forth. So, it’s a very hierarchically structured social unit, and some people would argue that that’s sort of a template for understanding why hierarchy is such an important part of Japanese social relationships.

In another sense, the fact that the traditional Japanese family system puts this great emphasis on defining sharply the boundaries between people who are members of the extended family and people who are going to have to leave — that is to say people who are going to become non-members in the future — is a social template for this emphasis on in-group, inside-the-boundary membership versus relationships outside or across a boundary to people who are not part of that social group.

Consensus is a well known part of Japanese social relationships. It seems, to an outsider at least, as if everything in Japan is decided by this sense of harmony and this sense that everybody has to agree. And there are all kinds of trivial examples that you can come up with, like if you watch a group of Japanese businessmen sitting down for lunch, it’s likely that everybody around the table will order more or less the same dish, and people point to that and say: “A-ha! this is a harmonious society; everything has to be equal.”

And indeed, Japanese talk a lot about how to preserve this sense of equality. One of the ways in which they do this is by making sure that any decision that affects a group as a whole is at least going to be circulated around and discussed amongst all its members. So indeed, Japanese organizations do often appear to have a much higher degree of consensus about policies, about aims, about aspirations, than would be true in an equivalent American group.

On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that Japanese inherently agree with one another, or that there isn’t conflict in society, but rather that conflict is managed within the group, and conflict is negotiated against other demands of personal interaction, personal social relationships. And eventually the goal is to, through conflict and through very carefully managed conflict, to come up with some kind of unified position that everybody can agree with.

from Wikipedia article for Nihonjinron:

Japanese social structures consistently remould human associations in terms of an archaic family or household model (家 ie?) characterized by vertical relations (縦社会 tate-shakai?), clan (氏 uji?), and (foster-)parent-child patterns (親分・子分 oyabun, kobun?). As a result, the individual (個人 kojin?) cannot properly exist, since groupism (集団主義 shūdan-shugi?) will always prevail.

further reading:

Social Concepts in Japan powerpoint by Keio, maybe for new foriegn students

book review of Japanese Society by Chie Nakane

It is advantageous for a man to remain in the group in which he starts his career and move up step by step in the course of time. It is very difficult for him to move from one group to another, because he can rarely succeed in breaking any of the vertical links already established between individuals in the other group.

Japanese organizations regularly suffer from what they call “sectionalism”

There are no successful functional groups built on a coalition or federation of subgroups.

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Anthropology, Area, Art, Determinism and Free Will, Epistemology, Ethics, Experience, Experience, Humanities, Japan, Metaphysics, Personal, Philosophy, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Rationalism, Rationality, Social Philosophy, Thoughts, Travel

A Japanese Ideal

09 September 2016

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!]

from thoughts

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.

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Area, Art, Essays, Film Reviews, Films, Humanities, Literature, Philosophy, Social Philosophy

Time and Space in Anthropology

19 December 2015

[todo: kind of messy, but I think I got out the main ideas: comp lit / phil, the impossibility of mirror of reality, emphasis on time instead of space, should look at past pictures that I took to understand the world {mmmm, this is a good idea that I didn’t mention. Should look at pictures to remember one’s personal past as opposed to reading history one hasn’t experienced, or even experiencing more things. There’s much to understand from past experiences.}, should live in a city, or, take a scooter around.]

I’ve been moving around since I received a bicycle at age 4, and since at least then it seems, compared to others, I’ve always emphasized space over time. Contrary to me, people who write books don’t seem to travel much (probably reading and writing so much) and emphasize time, looking back in history. As a person who enjoys traveling and doesn’t enjoy reading, I’ve tended to disregard writers, many of whom maybe be classified as academics, and time.

As travel is more natural to me, so is comparing societies and the areas they exist in.

Academics seem to tend to look at societies historically, to gain ideas that worked in the past and reuse them for the future, or see compare the trajectories of societies in the past, but isn’t it easier to simply walk around one’s own country — from rural to urban, variously sized settlements, ethnic enclaves, and perhaps, to neighboring countries — to not just gain ideas, but a better understanding of the world?

One of the simplest and greatest learning experiences is simply going to the most developed city one can. One will immediately experience good urban planning, good neighborhoods, good creative and innovative environments, and good communities.

The next great experience is to travel from a good creative area to nature, experiencing all of the steps in the development of societies in-between — the entire spectrum of urban development. Though, I wouldn’t say the spectrum of human development. This experience is especially useful in a society under a capitalistic system, because capitalistic cities are so corrupt, and better values can be found outside of it, often, just outside of it.

What next? Travel more societies? Live in one of the past societies? [todo]

I always feel that one is able to have infinite experiences with the many societies that exist right now, at this time. Instead of looking at history, one could simply find some aboriginal tribes. Even just outside of the cities in Virginia, USA, where I’m from, one can probably find people living on a similar standard to aboriginals. The difference here is only the import of manufactured products, though, it’s quite difficult to evade global capitalism even in the most remote regions.

Hmm, I guess what I was getting at is that reading histories of societies cannot replace experience in contemporary societies, for the same reasons a book cannot replace an experience — it’s not holistic; It’s missing the ecology.

There is no way to mirror reality into the medium, though, film comes close. So reading histories will always be missing much information. The mind cannot form the precision that reality offers from media.

[todo: was trying to get to the point where the mind thinks with recent audio-visual experiences best, because the detail of it only constrained by the mind]

It seems higher order academic disciplines compare academic disciplines and hopefully by now more modern medias, titling it “comparative [subject]”, i.e. comparative literature, comparative history, etc. This discipline also seems to somehow overlap with my favorite direction: critical theory. The people who compare medias sometimes find light in their comparisons of societies at different times in history, i.e. Foucault’s findings of how institutions have developed over time.

That’s not how I think, and maybe, it’s not natural to think that way. I think about my personal experiences in societies, travel or living. How do the suburbs in Virginia compare to the city of San Francisco, San Francisco to New York, New York to other cities in the world, Singapore to Hong Kong, the culture of Korea to Japan, the culture of Taiwan to Nepal, the culture of Taiwan aborigines to the culture of Zomia, Taipei to Japan, the other cities in Taiwan to other huge cities, the slums in India to the Myanmar refugee camps in Thailand, the railway and railway towns of Asia, and so on. I just don’t think any amount of media can overcome the natural tendency to compare real experiences to real experiences. Certainly not in reading. Film has a chance, but it would have to be done in the form of lengthy documentaries.

So here again, I grind against academia and their use of a mirror of reality, as opposed to reality, to excavate knowledge and ideas. History is one way to compare societies, but it should be far less privileged than travel. I’d conjecture that academia’s tradition of privileging classics and privileging writing a medium has lead to academia privileging time over space. It’s true that global capitalism is eating away at all culture, but it hasn’t come to the point where one must look to the past through mediums for insight. The insight is in existing societies, in reality, and always will be, well, until the world loses to global capitalism.

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Experience, Humanities, Media, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Social Science, Social Philosophy, Thoughts, Travel

Space, Time, and People

11 July 2015

Just a thought that’s been rumbling in my head as I look for a space in Taipei to use as a public space, written the day after  reading an article about a public space in New York City posted by a friendly chef.

The people in a space contribute to the social decisions of a group. Social groups: neighborhood friends, family, classes, organizations, companies, hostels, towns, cities; outcome depends on the people in it.

Win found like-minded people on the internet because the Internet contains the a great portion of the world. Win physically gathered people in a city, just as he did in the Internet, with a space. A space is the equivalent of an Internet message board. It’s a place where communication is made for a group of people.

Many personalities need a social group to progress in a certain direction. Without it, they continue in a viscous cycle, creating ideas, but not actualizing them.

Space and people create experience. The awareness of the space and the awareness of people’s actions (communication) is the experience.

The change of space and people creates new experiences.

Experiences are what give people knowledge and social relations (feelings, memories).

Therefore a good method of learning is a constant change in space and people.

The intensity of an experience does not have any factors, it is quite random.

To create something (not consume, or copy) requires time to think (or talk). To think, time is needed in a space, perhaps without much action. A relaxed social space; downtime.

People create naturally. Forcing people in a space and guiding them to create is artifical. These guidances work (school, art, jams, events), and are often needed for many personalities to work, mimicing a deadline, a restriction in social time, but it is not required; work has no time limit.

All that is needed are people and time in the same space. This is how any lengthy work is accomplished. Though, work is not judged by its scale. This is also how several works by a person, or a social group is accomplished. This is a virtuous cycle.

To gather people in to the same space is the first step of creating an experience. To do this several times is the formation of a community.

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Design, Human Geography, Social Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

Clean Societies

22 November 2014

>>9/3/13 in Busan
Koreans and probably Japanese favor clean, cute places, and at temples they remove the authenticity of it, transforming it into something they enjoy, instead of appreciating the original beauty of it.

Their neat and organized characteristics of cafes continue on to temples. The past has disappeared not solely because of the recent influx of money, but because of their culture. They destroyed their past. Too clean for it.

I believe these thoughts came to me when I went to Busan, then a hostel, then we drove together to a temple. Driving to a temple itself was already hypocritical. It’s always odd to see tradition in a developed society, but here it seemed the contrast was even higher.

It was odd to go to Japan and Korea and not be able to get the feeling of being transported to an ancient civilization. Both repaired or even rebuilt their temples to fit the wants of current society, perhaps for tourism.

I’m told Juju island is basically a tourist attraction now.

Japanese people have gardening down to an art. That is exemplary of shaping nature to human wants.

Do these societies not appreciate the sublimity of nature? The rustic? The past?

Contrarily, compared to my experience in suburban American, they seem more appreciative of nature. Walking around parks and taking trips to the country is the norm.

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Cultural Values of Households in Asia

07 November 2014

a part of a thought after going to an uncle’s house, after coming back to my parent’s house in Virginia:

…The rich value large houses in farms, isolated from the city, in India and when they immigrate…

Cultural values differ, and this is especially apparent and interesting in Asia.

In Korea, Japan, sometimes in India, and sometimes in America (especially of young professionals), and probably much of the world, people with choice seem to value living a high-ride modern building in a city. More points for being near a body of water or close to downtown. More amenities, more points. The same logic applies to hotels.

In India, people with choice value living in a large farmhouse with several servants.

In Taiwan, a small house with a garden in a nice neighborhood is best. Not a bad ideal! The high-rises in 信義區 are a new phenomenon, perhaps influenced by the West.

In America, some dream of living in a large house in the South where the land is cheap, not too different from the hippie’s dream.

From this, it seems people with choice have a tendency to isolate themselves from the city. Are the people on the street that hideous?

What’s really frightening is when those people with certain values of households immigrate to America. Indians who lived in farmhouses move to gated communities.

Surprisingly, Chinese people do extremely well in creating their own towns on the outskirts of Western cities. No high rises. Some of the best street life that exists in America exist in Chinatowns. Well, I guess if these Chinese immigrants had money in their own country, they wouldn’t have moved here. I’ve always lived near a Chinatown, and it may be because I value these people the most.

I hope to move back to one those smaller apartments in the intellectual center of Taipei.

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Thoughts, Urban Philosophy

Happiness and Public Spaces

02 November 2014

thoughts from near the beginning of moving to Taiwan:

Everything can be done locally. The neighborhood is very important. The more traditional, the better. No commute. Just walk outside. It’s beautiful.

I feel there is an association between happiness and public spaces.

Countries with traditional markets, a kind of public place, as a rather large part of life — Taiwan, Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam*, Cambodia* [maybe Loas]), Nepal, Northeast India, Morocco*, Mexico*, seem to be happier. Most, maybe all of them have two kinds of markets: one an outdoors market of farmer’s produce and the other for shopping (or strolling) manufactured goods and eating, a simple way to satisfy pleasure.

Taiwan furthers the eating part by creative new kinds of food (in addition to new kinds of manufactured goods) which also satisfies the feeling of doing something new. Taiwan also furthers the strolling part with windowed pet stores.

And countries that have parks. Here people sit, talk, play music, have local drinks or food. Older people can be found here all day, sometimes playing board games, other times drinking and talking. It’s better than retirement homes.

In Taiwan, neighborhoods are built in ways to incorporate small parks every few blocks with assorted seats, playgrounds, and funny exercise instruments.

Nepal has large public plazas, it serves the same purpose as parks, but in a less natural way. But one cannot simply destroy those ancient beautiful plazas.

In Korea, beside the large rivers that run through major cities, and near the coasts, a kind of plaza exists, where people can buy or fish(!) seafood and eat by the water.

In Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, there is no law restricting people from drinking alcohol outside. In the college areas, there is often a popular park where kids buy drinks from a nearby convenient store and drink. Such a folly of Western law.

Convenient stores! Not really a public space, but, it has a relationship with them, more than just drinking alcohol. People buy food, cigarettes, and whatever else, sitting outside them, or at the night market, or at a park. They satisfy the more malign needs, including instant noodles. East Asia probably has the highest amount of convenient store density per area; It probably has the highest rational index.

Humans need to satisfy their desires. Having a public place is such a simple way to do so. It allows people to meet, socialize (and oh do people from these countries love to talk!), eat, and shop.

The more per area, the less likely doing something bad (materialism, drugs, prostitution, clubs, bars, etc.) to satisfy desire. Bars, and in a socially alienated way, clubs, are just public spaces commoditized. Malls are corporate night markets.

The bourgeoisie social norms of Western civilization newly found in Eastern civilization perhaps taught through media can be found in the downtown areas of large cities in the forms of clubs, high-class restaurants, and bars. It’s highly likely the people that go there are either Western in origin, or rich and took action according to media that influenced them. The public spaces weren’t enough, and they wanted more. There’s no way of stopping them from going there, they have cars to skip to there destination, ignoring all of the satisfaction found en route. Even with the traffic of the bridge between New Jersey and New York, people will still wait through traffic, park at an expensive garage, wait at a line to get into a club, pay a fee to get inside, and pay extraordinary amounts to buy a drink. Well, now this is digressing. I guess I’ll have to leave foot versus car life in another blog post, or read The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

The bourgeoisie social norms of Eastern civilization is not as bad as the West. It’s usually just eating expensive food at a restaurant for a long period of time. Karaoke instead of clubs. Having a car is a luxury.

This kinda digressed, but I just wanted to see if I could somehow associate the generally higher happiness of these countries, which I greatly felt, with public spaces.

* – not from expierience

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Essays, Literature, Social Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

Okinawana is Inhospitable

08 May 2014

Building up on past posts (Island Nations and Globalization, Taiwan and Japan: Active and Passive Lifestyles, Creativity, External Stimuli, Cities, and Suburbs) about my time in Okinawa, I feel that the inhabitants of Okinawa, in addition to living an extremely suburban lifestyle, are very cold.

There were several instances during my trip I experienced this.

On my first day, I had to find a hostel that had rooms and was cheap. I starred three on Google Maps and went to the closest one to the metro station. No one was at the desk. When one came, I talked, found out they didn’t have dormitories, then ask for other hostels, she said she doesn’t know any others. (pause). The next hostel I went to, a girl opened a door slightly, said it was full, and nearly closed it, as if it were a mean person’s house. I was able to talk into using their wifi for a moment while I called a few hostels, although she seemed quite angry. The final hostel, the one I ended up staying in, again had no one at the reception. Once he came, I was able to get a room, but that was it. No greeting, no tour of the hostel’s facilities, or anything.

During my stay at the hostel, there was never an instance where I was asked if I needed anything. When I asked about touristy things, like ferry schedules, bus numbers, snorkel locations, things to do, things to eat, they all say they don’t know. The staff eat and live at the hostel eat together, watch TV and smoke, all day, all done separately from customers.

Luckily, there were a few people at the hostel of exception; One worker and her boyfriend were more hippie — they had a little more energy. There were also two other foreigners, and Aussie and Englishman, both with tens times more energy than any Okinawan. The Australian girl continued in her own world, and told me she didn’t understand what the people at the hostel ever did — are they workers, do they have other work, or do they just watch TV and read manga all day? She didn’t care much though; she just loves snorkeling. The English guy learned Japanese out of the country for several years, and now lives between Osaka and Kyoto. He’s somehow able to talk to us and be similarly energetic, yet act completely Japanese at other times, smoking outside, and not talking to anyone. I was able to have few meals with these four people.

During my stay in Naha in general, there was little to no interaction with everyone. Shopkeepers mechanically sell goods for their company. When I ask people on the street for directions, some point a direction, some say they don’t know, and some don’t respond at all. I don’t think it’s a language barrier problem either because many surprisingly respond in English, and if not, they understand when I say “marketto wa doko deska?”. Otherwise, the streets are quite bare, and the people just weren’t interesting enough for me to want to engage in conversation. Looking at the way others interact, I believe it’s the least social place I’ve encountered. People just don’t chat with people they don’t know. There were few people walking alongside another person. Everyone walked alone, without headphones or a cell phone. Just walking robotically toward wherever they needed to go. It’s rare to encounter any social activity outside of a house, bar, or family restaurant. This aspect is most frightening to me, and brings about the whole dystopian human robot future, with an average of two vending machines and one other kind of machine per block.

I wanted to go snorkeling. I of course had to plan everything because the staff did not know. I took a nearly empty bus full of people who clearly did not want to socialize. I arrived at a snorkel spot and only had goggles, not the snorkel. So, I asked people if I could rent or buy one. The first shop, which provides tours for snorkeling and scuba diving and had two tub full of fresh snorkels said no. Not even for two hours. The second shop also said no, because they were closing in an hour and a half. They only allowed renting, not buying (the rental price equivalent to the buying price). They also mentioned that the snorkel spot was closed — I won’t delve into to the East Asian safety culture observation. I was a little flustered, and said “This is crazy!”. To which one of the guys, who spoke English quite well, replied “This is Japan!”. I’m not sure what the meaning behind that was. It seems he acknowledged some cultural differences. Did he mean Japan is law-abiding, overly-safe, unhelpful people? How can one acknowledge their own culture’s negative characteristics and act according to it?

At the beach next to the closed cape, two tour guided groups snorkel in shallow waters in full wet suits. Oh right, no safety talk.

After snorkeling a bit, I walked back toward the main road, one of the shop workers that denied me of a snorkel stood outside, now with two others beside him, eager to chat. I gave the normal travel chat. They asked how I was going to get back. I said hitchhike, if not, the bus. They thought I was cool and also thought hitchhiking is possible. No help, but at least they displayed a hint of interest. They informed me that it was illegal to hitchhike. Thanks.

A good test of hospitality is the amount of time it takes to hitchhike. Taiwan took about 5 cars. Okinawa took 3 hours, and when I mentioned I wanted to go to Naha, the young guy nearly drove off. I had to stop him to ask him to take me however far he was going in the same direction. I spotted a bus stop and told him to stop me there. The thought taking me in the same direction or finding a bus stop did not cross his mind.

I took a bus back. This time the people were sleeping, perhaps tired from work. I didn’t have quite enough cash. I knew, but I wanted to test their hospitality further. The bus driver said it was okay. Finally. One hospitable moment.

On the way back to the hostel, I stopped by a supermarket, bought some meat (using credit card), took it to the hostel, cooked it, ate it, all alone. Alone, alongside two other people eating individual portioned food from convenient stores.

In Tokyo, I also wasn’t able to, or often, just did not want to engage in conversation with many Japanese people, probably because they all seem disinterested, in everything, including people. Perhaps this applies to all of Japan, but even more so to the suburbs of it, including Okinawa.

As a person who’s recently lived in one of social countries in Asia (Taiwan) I am perhaps more frightened. The Australian girl who was from the suburbs managed well with having fun alone, then Facebooking and blogging at night. In contrast, I’ve been dying of social outlet, hence the mass amount of writing during my stay here. In Taiwan, I didn’t write anything, because I was able to let my thoughts out by talking, socializing. I couldn’t live here. No social person could. It’s inhospitable to most, except for a few others who live a similar culture.

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Island Nations and Globalization

07 May 2014

This post along with several others including related posts, Creativity, External Stimuli, Cities, and Suburbs and Taiwan and Japan: Active and Passive Lifestyles, were all written during my 10 day visa run in Okinawa.

Okinawa, as I mentioned in past posts is a scary boring suburb. The streets are empty at all times of the day. Well, empty of pedestrians; There’s tons of cars. Even the main street in it’s largest city is empty. Lone business men dressed in high quality black sacks, black shoes, and an Hawaiian [flower patterned] shirt can be spotted in some neighborhoods with a bag from a nearby convenience store filled with individual sized food and drink. Nobody else is outside. Inside, people laze around passively consuming media on their computers and television. Instead of socializing, people stand outside and smoke. Everyone smokes.

Anyway, this post isn’t about the current status of this place, or more ranting about suburbs, rather how it came to be, or, how I imagine it came to be, because that will lead to more broad answers. How did Okinawa turn into such a boring suburb? Or is it no different from any other suburb in Japan, and therefore not worth investigating?

Looking at the Wikipedia article, it was annexed during the Meiji Restoration, then the battle of Okinawa killed 1/4th, U.S. owned it in 1945 to 1962, which explains the vintage vibe of A&Ws and Blue Seal ice cream, then returned back to Japan.

Were Okinawans, with their own culture, whom refer themselves different from mainlanders much different? Were they far less developed than the mainland? One certainly gets the feeling that these people were farmers, but development turned them into office workers. Both jobs are mechanical, requiring human machines, the only difference is technology. One starts to wonder if Jared Diamond (of Guns, Germ, and Steel) was right. The only difference between the two [farmers and office workers, or Papuans and, well, the rest of the world] is technology, not intelligence. People are cultured to use the computer. With media, especially with popular television shows and manga, language can be learned passively.

As I watch people, I feel no difference from these people and those in far less developed countries. The people at this hostel in Okinawa work, walk, talk, smoke, and sleep no different than the people I encountered Laos. The Okinawans that work at my hostel cook simple foods, read manga all day, and sleep at any time of the day. The one’s that I can visibly see working are drone office workers. The only difference between the two, it feels, is technology and money. In Okinawa, there are vending machines to replace humans, machines to count change in cash registers, machines at home to cook food, cars, a monorail, bland apartment buildings, and the normal things suburbs have.

I feel the result modern Okinawa is attributed to the fact that it is an island. Islands are usually less developed since they don’t attract as many intelligent people as mainlands — a place with interconnected cities — do. I imagine all island nations face this problem. Before the advent of budget flights or ferries, there wasn’t easy access to move to an urban center.

But Okinawa has money, which is what makes it more perplexing. Did U.S. bases provide income? Did tourism? Why is the standard of living in Okinawa, a place with the highest amount of centurions (people aged over 100) in the world, so high? I feel that the latter is targeted toward less developed Okinawa. The ones that eat fish and tofu, and live the expected tropical life. Something that seems to exist only in imagination, my preconception of a tropical island. In reality, the entire island is developed, just as the entirety of Japan and Korea are. Rural areas still have convenient stores and modern facilities.

Perhaps some genetics are at play. Perhaps Okinawans are genetically diligent, non-hedonistic, stress-free, with high self-control (they invented Karate). The change in technology did not affect this, instead, they adapted. From diligent rice farmers to diligent office workers with nice cars, their attitude remain unaltered. Or perhaps those stats are for the older generation, and the next few generations will die younger.

I don’t know where this post was going. Island Nations and Globalization? I guess I just find globalization overwhelming. It never makes sense to me. And island nations that globalize are even more mind-bottling because they often retain thousands years of culture and genetics (simply because it’s surrounded by water), and then suddenly take in technology, without immigration or emigration of it’s people or other peoples.

Okinawa must not have been sudden, as people handle technology extremely well. In Laos, I’ve seen plastic landfills. What would happen if you gave a Papuan a vending machine?

Thinking about the modernization of Okinawa is probably no different than thinking about the modernization Chinese cities right now: places that received a surplus of money in a short span of time, and the natural unfolding of what people do with it, and how the people adapt. It’s non-sensical, unfair, scary, and utterly interesting.

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Taiwan and Japan: Active and Passive Lifestyles

02 May 2014

I had to leave Taiwan to renew my visa, so I came to Okinawa, and one day in, I am reminded not just why I dislike the country, but also why I love Taiwan. The difference between the two countries is that the lifestyles — the way people act in their environment — are the opposite. Taiwanese people live an active lifestyle; Japanese people live a passive lifestyle (Okinawa may not be a good test sample, but my time in Osaka and Tokyo mirror this).

I’m going to step back into the time before I left America.

At that time, I thought Japan would be a really interesting experience. In my perspective, Japan has polite ‘n’ quirky people, it’s the most developed of the East Asian countries, and of course, it probably has the most alien culture of developed countries. I wasn’t attracted to the things otakus are; I wanted to see people being as silly as they are in those whacky game shows, who often are shy but react in hilarious ways. Those playful people.

Before leaving, I thought Japan would be the apex of my trip in Asia. I started in Taiwan and I loved it. Then I decided to go through South East Asia, saving Japan for another trip.

When the time came I checked WikiTravel and planned silly fun things to do: see arcades, sleep at a capsule hotel, sleep at a manga cafe, see fashion trends in harajuku, eat at the fish market, see modern art, talk to people at modern art places, attend a game convention, etc. And although some of those things were fun, the people and environment were not. The fun ended quickly as I was unable to create many social experiences during my travels with people outside of my hostel.

In contrast to my expectations, Japan did not have anything I desired. It was the rest of Asia that I had experienced that did.

Japan’s culture is uninteresting to me because people passively consume media. Furthermore, the media they consume is narrow, and over time it becomes more narrow, to the point it becomes alien to the world. The otaku culture that I was not interested in made more sense once I saw Japan. Kids and adults alike over-consume manga, anime, computer medias, pop music, and whatever else. So much time is spent consuming that they don’t move. They spend most of their time indoors, reading, playing single player repetitive games, perhaps talking to someone next to them who is doing the same thing.

I wouldn’t want to live in a country where the most social interaction is reading next to another person. I want to actually interact with the other person, or at least consume reality — travel, food, talking.

Everything in Japan takes place either indoors or at machines. Shopping for groceries, buying snacks, ordering at a restaurant, transportation, before work, working, after-work, having fun, all the time. There’s nothing to see on the outside. There is no street culture. The most one can witness is the mass of people commuting to and from work in Tokyo’s busy areas.

There’s not enough external stimuli for me. And if I can’t socialize with the people, then there’s no other hope to fulfill my need for it. There’s nothing to see or talk to. And I don’t enjoy passively consuming, even in the company of others.

Taiwanese people, in contrast live a highly active lifestyle. They’re talking all of the time. With their friends next to them or through LINE, to the public (food and drink vendors [not machines!], service industry). Far less spend time is spent playing dull games or consuming dull media in the company of others. Perhaps they will play in a subway, but that is because none of their relations are physically around them.

They even consume a more diverse media. They watch American, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Hong Kong, and Chinese media. All somehow dubbed to Mandarin for the masses. Their English is better. They’re curious of other cultures. They want to talk to other people, which is the main motivation to learn a language. In Japan, the people seem to simply not be interested in other cultures, which probably explains their low English rate. A cram school won’t help if one isn’t actually interested in talking to people who speak the language, or another culture’s media.

Even their [Taiwan] environment is highly active. They retain the social street culture similar to poorer countries, which provides as much or even more external stimulus than a developed big city such as New York. Scooters zoom by, day markets flourish with fresh vegetables during the day, night market brings tons of people out to shop, or just to look and walk, or to a nearby mountain or park for a quick meal. Most traditional restaurants are open-air. The senses are blasted with hordes of market strollers and wafts of stinky tofu.

It is this broad-consumption of daily life that allows one to live a more social, happy, creative (socially creative at least [as opposed to creating media]), and active life.

An active life, that is, one is constantly making decisions before taking action. One thinks to call a friend, cook something, go to a park, embark an adventure, not because they were told to, but because one decided themselves to do so.

The narrow passive consumption of Japan is more akin to the suburbs. One consumes the media around them or computer (although the computer is a more interactive form of consumption). The only new stimuli is media (if they chose a new one) and the social experience with people of whom they already have a relationship with (if they even created new relationships outside the ones they were born into i.e. their family).

I would stereotype the two countries’ societies as so: Taiwan is the social island nation where the people are always friendly and happy; Japan is the dsytopian future where media and machines replaced human interaction.

I like technology, but only if it has a social aspect.

A nation of consumption caused by its culture. Koreans are more introverted, opting to use cell phones to communicate than talk, and TVs to live life rather than going out. It’s the suburban Asian nation. Media through Samsung TVs easily influenced the crowd.
9/13/13 in Busan

I would add South Korea alongside Japan.

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