To set the tone of this series of articles straight away: the Japanese culture does not exist. Despite many ‘scientific’ attempts, all under the banner of nihonjinron, to describe and prove the uniqueness of Japanese culture and its people, there is no unique Japanese essence, passed on from time immemorial, that units each and every Japanese subject. The idea that there is something like such essence is no more than a fiction, an imaginary narrative construction. By categorizing the Japanese essence as a narrative construction, we imply that there is a constructing force behind this fiction, this nihonjinron.
In this first article, we want to introduce nihonjinron in general terms. In future articles we aim to get a deeper understanding of this nihonjinron, to explain the aspects of construction, and to underline the fictionality of any nationalism.
Each person has their own way of travelling. For some nature is important, for others culture is most important. Some organize their trips around regional dishes. And some like a mixture of all those things together to create a balance that satisfy their needs.
Nevertheless, the greater part of the people who travel to Japan are only interested in the two following aspects: traditional culture and Japanese cuisine – a third aspect that is gaining popularity is popular culture. In other words, traveling to Japan is quite often culture and historic based (with an important focus on aestheticism): one wants to see temples, shrines, castles, gardens, … etc. .
This article is written as a critical response to an article written by Shinshi Okajima for Tokyo Girls’ update. His article, in our opinion, provides an unsatisfactory explanation of the phenomenon of gradols/グラドル [gravure idols] for male subjects. By misrepresenting the use of fabric in the world of gravure/グラビア, he fails in our opinion to underline the essential dimension that drives the appeal of Gradols for male subjects.
Can Nagoya really be considered “the most boring city in Japan”, as Philip Brasor ( 2016/10/08) puts it, or is this general thought about Nagoya making the city bleaker than it really is? We are convinced that the latter is the case. In our view, if your focus is either on regional cuisine, Japanese Tokugawa history or on (the history of) Japanese industry and technology, then Nagoya is a great place to visit.
What concerns history, Aichi prefecture is the birth region of important historical characters like Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536/37-1598), Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) and Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616). For everyone who wants to know more about Japanese history, places as Nagoya castle – enter at own risk, because the building could collapse in a strong earthquake – and the Tokugawa Art museum are a must see. More spiritual souls can calm their souls by visiting the Atsuta shrine, one of the three imperial shrines Japan offers. And car and technology enthusiasts will surely enjoy the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.
But the most pleasing about Nagoya is knowing that after a hard day of using public transport, sightseeing and learning, one can feast on the many delicious dishes (like Misokatsu, Tebasaki and Unagidon) Nagoya offers. But instead of focusing on restaurants serving the traditional Nagoya dishes, I’ll introduce the meat restaurant Redrock.
One might wonder what the concrete situation was that revealed the value of the Japanese aesthetics to me. It all happened on a rather quiet evening in Dotonbori street, while I was waiting for my friend. In this moment of waiting, this moment of inhaling (with various senses) the atmosphere of Osaka, I happened to observe a quick and tiny gesture of a woman. While she was looking at the counter, her head slightly bend, she let one of her fingers rest for a moment at the edge of her underlip.
This short article is written as a sort of response to, or even better, as a sort of thanks for the two-day Japanese event that was held in Bruges. This event made me realize once again – the first time was in Osaka, the value of the Japanese aesthetic categories, but only if they’re read subjective – as there is no objectivity when it comes to aesthetics as it is discourse that conditions aesthetics.