Category Archives: Research

New Research on 1920’s China

I have never seen this before in print or online…this is something quite rare and exciting that we’ve recently unearthed. The Concordia Historical Institute has a great collection of artifacts, photos, posters, and writings from the China missions of the LCMS from 1920’s – 1954. Here is a little video I shot of an anti-opium poster from Shanghai in, most likely, 1926. Take a look. More to come.

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Good articles on Adbusters

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 Adbusters.org 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.

Great article on “Moe” and the 2-D complex

Moeeeee
Moeeeee

Lisa Katayama, author of the Tokyomango.com blog has a terrific article on Otaku culture at NYTimes.com

Here’s an excerpt:

Nisan is part of a thriving subculture of men and women in Japan who indulge in real relationships with imaginary characters. These 2-D lovers, as they are called, are a subset of otaku culture— the obsessive fandom that has surrounded anime, manga and video games in Japan in the last decade. It’s impossible to say exactly what portion of otaku are 2-D lovers, because the distinction between the two can be blurry. Like most otaku, the majority of 2-D lovers go to work, pay rent, hang out with friends (some are even married). Unlike most otaku, though, they have real romantic feelings for their toys. The less extreme might have a hidden collection of figurines based on anime characters that they go on “dates” with during off hours. A more serious 2-D lover, like Nisan, actually believes that a lumpy pillow with a drawing of a prepubescent anime character on it is his girlfriend.

According to many who study the phenomenon, the rise of 2-D love can be attributed in part to the difficulty many young Japanese have in navigating modern romantic life. According to a government survey, more than a quarter of men and women between the ages of 30 and 34 are virgins; 50 percent of men and women in Japan do not have friends of the opposite sex. One of the biggest best sellers in the country last year was “Health and Physical Education for Over Thirty,” a six-chapter, manga-illustrated guidebook that holds the reader’s hand from the first meeting to sex to marriage.

“Phenomenon – Love in 2-D” at New York Times

I think the most interesting idea was Morinaga Takuro likening the 2-d complex to attaining Buddhahood.

“It’s enlightenment training,” Takuro Morinaga, one of Japan’s leading behavioral economists, told me. “It’s like becoming a Buddha.” According to Morinaga, every male otaku can be classified on a moe scale. “On one end, you have the normal guy, who has no interest in anime characters and only likes human women,” he explained. “The opposite end, of course, is the hard-core 2-D lover.”

I was even thinking “Aum” vs. “Moe.” I never thought that someone would liken this non-standard affected experience to a mystical experience, even tongue-in-cheek. It gave me a chuckle. Moreover, it reminds me of Baudriallard’s “Third level simulacra,” that is, a similation of a simulation. I smell a presentation topic in the works for me!