Roland Kelts has written a new article on Adbusters called “The Soul of Japan.” Kelts discusses the nature of Japanese popular culture, and connects some intriguing dots: Japan, being conquered by the USA, then officially occupied, followed up by years of US forces being present throughout Japan, has made Japan have a “little brother” complex, not allowing social maturation. He quotes Murakami Ryu, Murakami Haruki, and Murakami Takashi – the three big famous Murakamis (unrelated) with good effect.

Specifically pointed is Murakami Takashi’s point that because Japan lost the war, was completely firebombed, and twice atom bombed, then lost the divine status of the emperor; moreover, in a Confucian context: they lost their national father, they began to express their loss and underlying discontent in subcultural media, like manga, anime, and the like.

picture-1Another good article by Kelts at speaks to the Japanese aesthetic of negative space, links Hello Kitty’s 17 lines to the success of minimalism, then talks to the attitudes surrounding garbage disposal and recycling, and how keeping the streets and planet clean fit into that matrix.

Japanese attitudes on trash have changed in the past 15 or so years. In 1994, we were burning almost all of our trash in the back-yard behind my small homestay family’s house in Gunma-ken. By 1997, it still had not caught on, but by 2000, recycling bins were popping up everywhere.

Funny thing is, anything you throw out, Japanese can tell how you live. If I threw out a pair of red boxer shorts, people would see them in the transparent bags that are used for showing which trash is which.

Growing up in NYC, we had red garbage cans for commingled recyclables by the late ’80’s with “curbside recycling.” It was fun and new, and always cool to think about the help to the environment. Sad thing was when you forgot, if a garbage cop found something in your regular trash, you’d get a ticket. The law took away our joy…and then when we learned that most of it wound up in a landfill anyway, we were sadly disillusioned. Still, the red trash cans were cool. Those who got them from the city later, had blue cans with white lids…they just weren’t as cool.