About a month ago, now, I endured the original Japanese film, Gojira, which made me both overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. As revealed in my previous post, I took this feeling to be love. Gojira and I had a good run, but our honeymoon phase is over. We’re breaking up. It’s best for both of us. I’m having a love affair with Japanese horror films, but I won’t talk about that now.
As the true-blue cultural outsider that I am, I noted in my last post about how different 1950’s Japanese couples were from the modern Australian couples I was used to seeing, especially in terms of the character’s lack of physical contact in the film. I figured I should give it some more background info. Australia has a Christianity-based “guilt culture”, which is ruled by internal moral standards, whereas Japan has a “shame culture”, meaning it is ruled by external moral standards. There are many potential reasons for this, including linguistic, governmental, and multicultural theories. I’ve yet to really decide if this theory promotes the idea of the ‘other’ a bit too much for my liking, but you can read more about it here if you feel so inclined.
The Japanese term for the touchy-feely behaviour I’m talking about is Icha Icha. It can mean anything from a peck on the cheek to wild sex. It’s got the same kind of ambiguity there is in English when a friend says they ‘hooked up’ with someone and you don’t really know what courteous ‘ohh’ sound you’re meant to make in response.
Basically, Japan relies on social shame and disapproving glares to make sure everyone keeps their hands to themselves. At first I thought that it was a bit like in primary school where we were all yelled at not to touch each other, and then I thought that it would make people repress their emotions and that can’t be healthy. Then I had a bit of a mini epiphany like, ‘actually, who the hell am I to decide what is or isn’t healthy??? I have no background in cultural studies or psychology. Maybe I should shut up and be a bit more accepting.’ And then I was like ‘wait, I’ve gone off topic again.’
To properly and concisely revisit my thoughts on the couple I thought was ‘weird and detached’ (a line which I didn’t really want to share online at first in fear of being pegged a racist): I’ve discovered that Japan still considers it taboo for couples to have public displays of affection, but they aren’t against hand-holding anymore, which they used to be in the 1950’s. I’ve thought about this a lot over the past week, and I’ve decided that a) this difference isn’t even a bad thing, it is just a thing, and b) maybe Australians should take note because I wanted to evaporate in a lift yesterday when a couple started making out next to me.
Here is somewhere else to look at info on couple etiquette in Japanese culture – again, it’s a bit of US, THE NORMAL ONES vs. JAPAN THE ALIENS, but with the website name being ‘Outsider Japan’, what can you really expect? It’s interesting, just be wary of the language used. This site is also very interesting with much less of an US and THEM mentality.
In my last post, I did talk about the character archetypes I noticed, but I won’t mention them here. They will appear in a later post when I talk about female representation and character archetypes in Japanese horror films. It’s going to be a shocker.
I’ll leave you with this nugget of wisdom: a bit of classic Australian ignorance can be somewhat cleared up by autoethnographic research, especially with the help of Ellis et al.