The individual research project practices autoethnography by allowing us to document personal experiences of a particular culture, different to my own and brings further research to allow social, cultural and political understandings of the experience. You can say that I’ve basically cheated and went ahead before this semester started by already incorporating myself into a cultural experience.
Earlier, during the break between semester one and two, my friends and I went for a month’s holiday in Japan and South Korea. I vlogged, recorded and took pictures of my whole journey. Coming back to Uni and going through the DIGC330 course, I realised that everything I recorded, everything I did and experienced in Japan and Korea could be used as an advantage for this individual research project. So, as Chris said, I’m basically cheating- but in a good way!
For my individual project, I’ve decided to draw upon my experience in Japan (not Korea, because it was my second time there), travelling through Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto within a week for the first time. This includes cultural experiences through historical sites and landmarks across the country, social encounters with Japanese citizens as well as indulging the gourmet food. In doing so, I plan to incorporate all the images and video recordings I’ve captured through not only my camera but also personalised Snapchat stories – and using all this footage to form a sort of journal – like story. Combining photos of landscapes, mouth- watering food shots, cultural sites and cities that I’ve taken myself; I intend to personalise my individual artefact and reflect on my autoethnographic experience.
The platform I’ve decided to use is Instagram. I thought this would be most suitable in uploading images and short videos quickly and easy without having the need to heavily edit. The platform allows hashtags to help people navigate my images as well as GPS location tagging. Having the option of adding a description for the image or video enables reflection with each individual experience. Overall, Instagram would be beneficial as a visual journal of my encounter in Japan and its culture.
A few raw observations from my experience:
- Sushi preparation and whole etiquette was very different with either set menus or a la carte with options with or without wasabi on the actual sushi rather than on the side. Soy sauce is usually not needed and seafood was very delicate and melted in your mouth
- Gave you a small wet towel to wipe your hands before you eat as well as serviettes if needed
- Tea was usually accompanied with meals at sushi restaurants or miso soup
- Convenience store has full meals available- not just average sandwiches but bento sets and noodle meals as well as microwaves to reheat and hot water for instant noodles
- Restaurants are small; some with only even 8 seats while watching food get made in front of you. It was very intimate and allows communication with the chef
- Cities like Tokyo and Osaka were much quieter during the day than expected- not many people walking around the streets but rather busier at night
- Lots of natural scenic views and historical sites- such as shrines, temples, rivers, bridges and forests
- Lots of English on street signs and restaurant menus- or they had images to choose
- Subway system was very confusing with various transportation cards for different rail companies and subway tickets were small like a coupon and had no English- it was confusing figuring out what ticket we needed for each destination
- People are very welcoming, friendly and bright and always went out of their way to help. I noticed people would offer to take a photo for us when we were taking ‘selfies’ or video blogging.
- Although there was lots of English around the street and on signs but the people didn’t know English very well- evident language barrier
- When ordering food they had either vending machines where you choose your meal then received a ticket to give to staff or they had English menus with images.
- Lots of souvenir shops at shrines and temples had ‘good luck’ charms for different aspects of life such as money, relationships, health, family and safety.
- Restaurants displayed menu items through shop windows at the front with waxed figures that resembled the exact meal. Presentation was very bright, colourful, neat and to high standards
- Seafood was very cheap compared to Australia however, fruit was very expensive- an apple cost around $5AUD at a convenience store.
- Lots of places opened quite late- at around 10-11am and closed late also; thus attracting nightlife
- Alcohol was allowed to be consumed in public- In Kyoto people gathered at night beside the water bank and drank alcohol, ate and enjoyed live music.
- Arcades had sticker photo booths that were very westernised and edited photos to have bigger eyes and whiter faces with bright lighting and funny edits. Beauty products, hair tools and costumes were available to be used for people to take photos which were surprising. Gamers were fast paced, devoted and very competitive
- Temples and shrines had wooden panels that can be purchased and written on with wishes, then hung and showcased.
- Very little pollution on streets and public bins were very difficult to come across; noticed a lot of people taking their own rubbish home to dispose.
- At temples and shrines, I noticed lots of people wearing traditional kimonos and was dressed up with appropriate attire- including wooden shoes.
- Cars were mostly petite and cubed with lots of older models. There wasn’t a lot of traffic and I noticed lots of people on bikes and using public transport than cars.
- When eating we were worried about leaving leftover food when we couldn’t finish the meal as it could be rude.
- Whenever we entered a restaurant, staff would welcome and bow. Bowing was very common whenever entering or leaving an establishment
You can follow my instagram account @linhdoesjapan_ for all the images and experiences of Japan!