The Religious Concept of the Word MOTTAINAI

Recently, the Japanese word MOTTAINAI has been paid attention by foreign countries.  This is because the word can be useful to emphasize the importance of reusing resources and prevention of environment.  We can’t translate this word completely in English, but I dare to say it means that we should be careful about the things which are still too good or useful to be wasted or thrown away.

In my childhood, my family and people around me always told me that I shouldn’t forget feelings of thanks.  For example, I should eat every last grain of rice in the bowl, thinking that all the people related to a food.  Even in a drop of water, the Japanese believe in spirits of nature and many deities.  Some Japanese think God dwells in various kinds of things.  Then I would like to refer to the Japanese faith in eight million deities.  Eight million means an infinite number in Japan.  We Japanese have been taught gods exist for everything.

While foreigners are interested in the word MOTTAINAI, the Japanese seem to gradually make little of it these days.  The Japanese tend to waste more things than the old days.  Indeed, the problem of disposing waste materials has become serious in Japan.  Recycling resources such as plastics, empty cans and bottles are widely collected at many places in Japan.  Practicing recycle is very important, but furthermore, we should bear the real meanings of the word MOTTAINAI.  It means we must be more attached to everything around us, because all the things have each spirit of their own in Japanese traditional believes.

by Sakiko   Maruyama

Japanese Religion

It is said that Japanese people are irreligious. Actually, 70 percent of Japanese are so. There is no religious role except the time of ceremonial occasions in Japan. For example, a funeral is by a Buddhism formula, a marriage ceremony is held at a church and paying our first visits of the year in a shrine. There are some reasons for this. I’ll divide it into four points and explain these.

First, Japan is island country and not invaded or occupied from the old days. So, Japanese race could live without depending on some religion.

“The irreligion” of Westerners is a way of thinking that is almost “atheism”, but the Japanese “irreligion” has a plan that “it is natural religion”. Since ancient times, it was thought that God dwelled in all things in the universe in Japan. This is called “YAOYOROZUNOKAMI”. They do not oppose to each other, and in other words, it is polytheism. This is very different from monotheistic such as Christianity and Islam.

Third, Japanese policy is also its cause. In the Meiji era, the government wanted to assume Buddhism a state religion but the other religions was powerful in the world. Because of this, the government did not ignore these and could not decide a state religion. As a result of this, the government did not take a religious line clearly.

Finally, in the other side, the case which was done by the religious body was happened in the past. Aum Shinrikyo scattered sarin which is nerve gas on a subway, and a large quantity of victims came out. Therefore the image of religion became to be extremely bad.

I think that the Japanese religious idea is good, though it is often criticized by other country’s people. However, this expresses Japanese generosity and splendid sensitivity that people are careful and thank to everything. I think that Japanese people should maintain this Japanese irreligion stance as an identity.

 by Ayaka Hori

Men -> Women!?

During October, I was watching a TV show called “Shin-Jyoushiki” which means new common sense in Japanese. And they were talking about how the Japanese Men are acting and wanting to look like as women. For example, some men started putting on makeup and wearing skirts. And some men do plastic surgery to change their eyes and lips like an idol. These acts of wanting to be like women by the men are increasing in Japan and some Japanese sociologist said that in the future, all men will be like women.

On the other hand, there are men who starting to talk at a high tone of voice like women. Why do they do this? Especially men who have a job through the phone service, wants to talk in a high tone because it sounds nicer towards the customer than thick and low. There is even a school that teaches such voice called “Ryousei-rui” which is the term when men talks in a women’s voice of tone.

Such things are done by men, especially men working for customer service, because they think that their looks and sound of manliness will scare off female customers. Having a deep voice might scare customers over the phone, so men try to speak at a nicer tone for service. And the looks of a man is changing by changing their eyes by making it wider, so it won’t look like he is glaring at the opponent.

Like such examples, Japanese men are falling off from the gender norm. In the past, men acting like women were not normal. However, such norm is changing slightly every time and changing in how people act. I still cannot believe that Japan is changing into such country, but I’m sure that not all people will become like it. For sure, I will not be one of them, because I have no way in adapting to such idea. I’m fine looking at men becoming like women, because it will not have an effect on me. However, I’m worried about women that how they would feel about this, because I have an image that most women would want to love a man who is manly more than women like men. Anyways, if there are any others updates on this topic, I would like to search on it and let people know about it.

 

by Cody Ueda

How to Act Like a Princess

What makes royals different from their subjects? What makes them stand out, admired and respected? Well, one obvious answer would be that they are monarchs and have some power over their people but if we were to add some sociological understanding to it, it would come down to one concept, cultural capital. Cultural capital is, “a concept associated with Bourdieu, for whom cultural capital acts as a social relation within a system of exchange that includes the accumulated cultural knowledge that confers power and status” (The Sage dictionary of cultural studies, 2004) or it can simply be defined as forms of knowledge, skills, education, and advantages that a person has, which give them a higher status in society. Therefore, the difference between royals and their subjects can be seen by the way they were brought up and educated.

 

While Professor Moorehead was explaining this concept in class, I could not help but remember a movie I had watched a couple of years back called The Princess Diaries, a comedy produced in 2001 that shows a perfect example of cultural capital. In this movie, we are introduced to a very young Anne Hathaway who plays Mia Thermopolis, a fifteen year old teenager who discovers that she is the heir to the throne of Genovia after her father dies in a car crush. Her grandmother Clarisse Renaldi played by Julie Andrews hopes to introduce her to the Genovian government at the upcoming State Dinner but before that, Mia has to undergo ‘princess lessons’. she is taught how to sit, dine, talk, walk, dance and dress. Well, couldn’t she do all these things before she discovered that she was a princess?  That is where cultural capital comes in. Mia had always been getting basic education at school and no one had ever tried to teach her how to conduct herself in public. Fortunately for her, when she becomes a princess, all this changes. She is taught how to act and behave like a royal contradicting all the other teachings she has been getting from her middle class school and home. From this movie, it is clear to see the difference between social classes of people. The upper and middle classes of people are brought up and educated in different ways and that is why people in the upper class succeed more than those in the middle class. They have more cultural capital since they are taught a lot of things that are relevant in society and this may not be the case with middle class people.

Reference:

Barker, C (2004). The Sage dictionary of cultural studies. London: Sage Publications Limited

 

by Allan Kastiro

Homosexuality

 Have you ever watched “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila”? When I first watched this TV program, I was very surprised because this is a reality television features on a bisexual dating show in which 16 straight men and 16 lesbian women compete each other for Tila’s affection (Tila Tequila are bisexual American model and television personality). I have never watched this kind of TV shows featured on sexual orientation such as bisexual and homosexual in Japan. And, this program made me think “Americans are quite tolerant to individual’s sexual orientation” But, it seems that not entirely correct.

“A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila” were very popular even the continue seasons were produced. On the other hand, this TV program led a heated discussion to America by Conservative Christians. Because homosexuality is prohibited in the Bible, Conservative Christian groups which make much of the Bible complained about Tila’s TV program.

Even though some Conservative Christian groups oppose homosexuality, on the other hand, same sex marriage was legalized in New York in June 2011, and New York became the largest state where gay and lesbian couples are able to wed. Also, some states have already legalized same sex or domestic partnership system. Moreover, many famous people like Lady Gaga, Anne Hathaway, Adam Lambert, and the President Obama declared how significant homosexual people are treated as equal as heterosexual people.

‘A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila’ became so popular that 2nd season was produced.  On the other hand, there were also people opposed homosexuality or bisexuality in America.  These TV program and laws reveal that Americans are care about sexual fluidity or homosexuality whether pro or anti.

References

Retrieved from Starpulse.com (http://www.starpulse.com/news/Danielle_Turchiano/2008/06/04/is_this_really_our_reality_nominees_for_)

 

by Mayumi Kurosawa

Homosexual Marriages and How People Treated Homosexuality

Recently, homosexual marriages seems to be okay since being homosexuality no longer seems to be the strangest phenomenon in our society. And even in some countries and regions, homosexual marriages are allowed in the local laws. But how many of us can say that they can accept people around them being homosexual and even being homosexually married? Because so far as I know, there are still people who cannot accept that behavior since it is against our common gender norms. So, let’s have a look at how people treat those who got homosexual marriages and what do people think about them.

There is one famous example of homosexual marriage. Every single person who has watched “The Big Bang Theory” surely knows who Sheldon is. And those who like Sheldon should have known the actor who plays the role of Sheldon. Yes, he is Jim Parsons. And he is a homosexual. And it was reported that he proposed to his boyfriend after he got the Amy Award on 10th of September, 2010. And they planned to have there marriage in Massachusetts where homosexual marriage is allowed. As most people like to watch “The Big Bang Theory” and like Jim’s performance in that TV series, it seems there is nothing strange to accept the truth that Jim has a different choice on sexual orientation. And the audience still likes him even though he is a gay. Moreover, some of the female audience sighed that they lose the chance to marry Jim Parsons. So, homosexual marriage and homosexuality seems to be more acceptable nowadays than past time.

One of my friends who are now studying in the U.S. has a gay roommate. When he told us about this news, we suddenly burst into laughter and told him to be careful in order to avoid becoming a gay after staying in the same room with a gay roommate. But we were totally wrong. He told us about his days living in the same room with a gay roommate. He said his roommate was not that bad, except sometimes his roommate took his homosexual friends into the dormitory, it makes my friend embarrassed. But anyway, my friend’s roommate is a good guy in general. Sometimes we feel strange about gay people because we simply think that they are different from us due to their sex orientation. But, homosexual people have their own social circles; they choose to be homosexuality just as naturally as we choose to be heterosexuality; Although homosexual marriages are becoming more acceptable nowadays, we could still see homosexuality being discriminated. But I think one day in the future, considering humanity, homosexuality can be treated equally by this society.

For me, I think homosexual people are the same as us. We all have our rights to choose our way of behaving, and we have nothing different except our choice in sexual orientation. So, we should respect them although we know that their sexual orientation is against our sexual norms.

 

by. Harry  Xu

Otaku?

The origin of “otaku” is from Japan. Even now there is still no exact definition of this term but it is most often equivalent to “geek” or “nerd”. Actually it is not the mainstream in the past before the “Tokyo/Saitama Serial Kidnapping Murders of Little Girls” happened. Tsutomu Miyazaki, an otaku killed 4 little girls, became known as “The Otaku Murderer” in 1989. His merciless murders fueled a strong moral panic against otaku. But actually it can relate to a fan of any particular field. It’s hard to simply define an otaku as a person staying at home all day and addicting to games and animation in China. There is a very resounding name for a special group of otaku , “tech-otaku”( “技术宅” in Chinese and means otaku with special skills)They enjoy great reputation on the internet and mainly specialize in video/audio editing, painting, and etc. Their lives showed another aspect of otaku to all of us.

Mad(マッド-), derivative MV work of ACG(animation, comic, games) materials, is a newly developing form of video. It is also a hot field for many tech-otaku. The most famous central locus of them in China is Flsnow Mad Team. Their works were widely spread and some of them even appeared in the top ranking list in Japanese video web “niconico douga”. The mad competition it holds also attracts many maders from Japan and Korea. Most members are not professional editors. The youngest member is only 16 and most of them are self-taught. But the most common point they hold is the love of ACG culture.

Being a tech-otaku is really tough and surrounding people always doubt their behaviors and trying to persuade them going out rather than study the software at home. It is true that Otaku will lose chances of social communication but on the other hand they are able to concentrate on their own interests and achieve the goals which still can be recognized by the society.  Personally I would like to divide those special tech-otakus to the group Innovators who accept goals but comes up new means. I think they should be independent of from the group hikikomori(引き篭もり in Japanese means people being isolated and have morbid mind) Sometimes, they even find new ways of their lives . For instance, a Chinese mader xiaobai927, who picked up MAD making in 2008, his third year of university, now becomes a trainee of local TV station. In fact it also surprised him because his college major is totally different.

Generally speaking, Otaku is a kind of social deviance, but simply define it as someone only relate to negative impressions is irresponsible. Not only for otaku, I think we must judge the behavior of social deviance more rationally and objectively. Constant critique can only lead us to bigger gap between the society and them. For me, I started to learn video editing after watching some mad edited by Chinese maders in the summer vacation and I want to make it as a hobby in my college life. If I’m able to keep the balance between our study and hobby, what matters whether I’m called an otaku or not?

 

Some famous MADs edited by Chinese maders

【魔法少女まどかMAD】 ETERNAL BLAZE  —By LANXUS

http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm14220000

「MAD」世界線の交点 すべてシュタインズ・ゲートの選択である   —BY N.ec鱼丸

http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm16287233

 

by  John Wang

Japanese Popular TV Shows in Which a Girl Plays a Role of a Boy

In Japan, people tend to like TV shows in which a girl plays a role of a boy.  It doesn’t mean an actress performs a boy.  From the past, an actor performs a woman in Kabuki which is one of the Japanese traditional dramas and an actress performs a man in Takarazuka Kageki which is played by women only.  Today, people tend to like the scenario itself that a girl has to pretend a boy.  Why do people like such a story?  There seem to be some reasons related to the view on gender in Japan.  I would like to mention about them.

First of all, the reason why people like such a drama is that they are gradually absorbed in the story.  At the beginning, they think it is too unrealistic, as a girl plays a role of a boy there.  But as the drama unfolds, the heroine behaving like a man seems to be more charming and realistic.  Secondly, the Japanese people are still bound by gender roles, but on the other hand they gradually want to go against them.  For example, a person who tries to be attractive only to the opposite sex may be disliked by the same sex.  Such a person emphasizes too much his or her gender.  So women are more attracted by the boyish heroine than women who flaunt their sex appeals.  Women are also attracted to the heroine because she becomes popular with men, although her hair is short and she always wears pants like a boy, and I agree with her brave, strong will and positive way of living too.

In conclusion, now the Japanese have a trend to think it is smart to have gap between the looks and the behaviors.  The hair styles and clothing are becoming unisex.  I think the tendency can overcome the established gender role.  This culture has a power to change this unfair social custom.

 

                  by Sakiko Maruyama

Confucianism and Gender


The picture shows the development of the Chinese character, the word “woman”. It belongs to the pictographic character which is a writing system that depicted real world objects, events or ideas. So clearly we get the image of a woman that shows her “kneeling position” which means to be obedient and docile. This is the gender role women should play since this word had originated from ancient China. The image expanded much more strongly when it had been united by Confucianism.

Confucius, as we know, was a philosopher, educator and political figure. His teaching which called Confucianism formed the basis on education and comportment of the individuals, which made their lives more ideal. He developed an ethical system, described the important principles of humanity, loyalty, morality and consideration in society. Also, he discussed how the individuals interact with others in society, especially focused on the model of “home” which for him was a microcosm of the state. He expressed the perfect range of human interaction in his word “Five Relations”; the ruler to the subject, father to son, husband to wife, the elders to the young, and the last one is between friends. These ideas not only affected the shape of the individual roles, but also fixed gender roles differently between men and women in the society. Especially, “women” had been kept staying at a disadvantage position.

The Confucian family morality which is the spiritual fetters of wifely submission and virtues imposed on Chinese women called “three obedience and four virtues”. For women at their every stage of life must “obey her father as a daughter, her husband as a wife and her sons in widowhood”. These are the “three obedience”. As for the “four virtues” are the proprieties in behavior, speech, demeanor and diligent work, of course women’s work only centers around the home because men’s work centers around outside. Also, there are more unbalanced in case of divorce. A man can divorce his wife if she doesn’t obey his parents; also if she is lecherous, jealous, has a nasty disease (even be disabled that classified as “nasty”), barren (especially not be able to bear a “son”) and she talks too much or steals. Unfortunately women don’t have the same rights to charge their husbands. It sounds strange, unfair, discriminating, but this is the gender role for women in Confucianism.

 

by Linda  (Ying-Yu Lin)

CRIMINAL MINDS (Not the tv show..!)

What is the first thing we think about when we hear, see or read about criminals in the news? You will naturally assume that they are bad people and that they deserve to go to prison and rot in there. But we forget one important issue, what turns a normal person like you and me into a criminal? What motivates criminals to act as they do even when they know they are doing something wrong and society does not approve of it? I intend to find the answer to this mystery with a little application of sociology.

Bernard ‘Bernie’ Madoff, founder of the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC was arrested in 2008 for probably the biggest financial fraud in the United States. “He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values,” Said one of his victims. (Internet article, 2009) According to his two sons, Bernie had earlier on confessed to them that his investment advisory business was ‘a giant Ponzi scheme.” Whereby he would pay investors with money paid by other investors rather than actual profits generated from the organization. All the money from his customers would go straight into his account.

In a sociological point of view, Bernie Madoffs criminal acts can be seen as deviance. According to Robert Merton’s strain theory, deviance occurs when a society does not give all its members equal ability to achieve socially accepted goals. That is, people are forced to act the way they do because the society has forced them to. Therefore, Bernie Madoff can be seen as an innovator. He accepts the goal of making money since it is a major necessity in the society, but comes up with different means and methods of acquiring it. These means are not accepted in society of course, but he is forced to come up with them simply because society has not given him a chance to get employed, get a good salary or even be able to provide himself and his family with basic necessities needed in daily life and hence, resorting to a life of crime.

 

References:

Madoff gets 150 years for fraud Retrieved from an internet article on 11/10/2011www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2009/06/29/madoff-ponzi-fraud-sentence564.html