What are your thoughts about the Japanese youth culture?/ About otaku culture in Japan

The following is my essay that I wrote as an assignment for an English school AEON:

Topic: What are your thoughts about the Japanese youth culture?
Style: Formal

Regarding the Japanese youth culture, the most important buzzword to describe it might be “otaku”. The Japanese word “otaku” is usually translated into English as “geek” or “nerd”. It is often alleged, however, each of them does not exactly reflect the true meaning of the original Japanese jargon.
The word “otaku” appeared first in some print media in the early 1980’s. It was almost the same time when many sub cultures became viral, especially comics and animations. Otaku, in the first place, was used to describe young people who are too enthusiastic about comics or animations. The original meaning of otaku in Japanese is a vocative expression of second person. The word is used for those who often try to talk to others starting with ”hey, otaku”.
Comics were popular even before World War II and the first TV animation started in Japan in 1963. After the tremendous success of an animation movie Space Battleship Yamato in 1977, the number of young fans of comics and animation skyrocketed and both genres became big industries. The word otaku appeared around this time.
At the first stage, the expression contained a rather negative connotation as they have interests only in virtual things and do not have much contact with the real world. This negative image was exacerbated when the Tsutomu Miyazaki incident happed in 1988 and in 1989. The criminal was 26 – 27 years old at that time and killed four female children aged from 4 to 7. By the investigation of the Japanese police, it was revealed that he was holding more than 5,000 video tapes of animation or drama. Most people related the image of otaku to him.
The image of otaku was gradually improved during the 1990’s and in some case the expression was used to describe somebody who has some sophisticated knowledge for something. The areas of interest did not stay only at comics or animation, but they spread to many genres such as computer, train, military, movie, Sci-Fi novels, camera, audio, and almost all sub cultures.
Currently, it is argued that otaku culture in Japan declined a lot while the Japanese government is bubbling over promoting otaku culture to foreign countries with a disgraceful copy “cool Japan”. (Who dares to say “I’m cool!”?) The main reason might be bad economical status of the younger generation.

ワーグナーのタンホイザーの話の矛盾点

昨日の新国立劇場でのタンホイザー公演は非常に良かったですが、その感想は別途アップします。
公演中に思っていたのは、ワーグナーが作ったお話の矛盾点です。このオペラの中に「ヴァルトブルク城の歌合戦」というのが出てきて、これは史的事実で、またヴァルター・フォン・デア・フォーゲルヴァイデという、ドイツの吟遊詩人(ミンネゼンガー)でもっとも有名な詩人がこの歌合戦に参加したのも事実です。
問題は、フォーゲルヴァイデの立ち位置で、オペラではハインリヒ(タンホイザー)が肉体的愛(エロス)を精神的愛(アガペー)よりも上にしたのに対し、フォーゲルヴァイデは精神的な愛を最上位とする詩人としてハインリッヒを非難する側として登場します。これは、ワーグナーのフェイク歴史といってしまえばそれまでですが、事実とはまるで逆です。フォーゲルヴァイデこそ、ハインリヒと同じ肉体的愛を訴えた詩人でした。
フォーゲルヴァイデの代表的な詩は、ドイツ人ならおそらく誰でも知っている「ウンダー・デア・リンデン(菩提樹の樹の下で)」です。この詩の内容は、どこにでもいる庶民の若い娘が、彼との性愛の楽しみ(菩提樹の樹の下で彼とエッチした)を歌っているものです。ついでに言うと、この詩の中に「彼と1000回もキスしたの」というのが出てきます。これは、明らかに古代ローマの詩人カトゥルスの有名な詩(「カルミナ」第5)のもじり(本歌取り)です。このカトゥルスの詩は、愛人レスビア(当時の高級娼婦だったと言われています)に対するある種の赤裸々な愛を歌ったもので、これも精神的な愛より肉体的愛の要素が強いものです。当時のミンネザングと呼ばれた吟遊詩人の詩は、「高いミンネ」(hohe Minne)と呼ばれた、高貴な婦人への献身的な愛(ミンネは「愛」の意味です)を歌うものが主流でした。それに対して、フォーゲルヴァイデは「低いミンネ (niedere Minne)」というものを提唱し、貴婦人ではなく庶民の娘を登場させ、精神的な愛ではなく、直接的な性愛の喜びを歌っています。
つまり、タンホイザーにおけるハインリヒの主張はほとんどそのままフォーゲルヴァイデの主張であり、それがハインリヒの反対派に回っているのはきわめて変だということです。

下の写真は、そのヴァルトブルク城の中に飾ってある、歌合戦の絵です。(2004年にヴァルトブルク城に行っています。この城はルターが最初にドイツ語聖書を訳した場所としても有名です。)

神棚が完成


家の中に設置した簡易的な神棚ですが、あれから榊立て、神器(水やお酒を入れる容器やお米・塩を入れる皿など)、三宝、神鏡、小さなお社、しめ縄を追加して、かなり本格的な神棚になりました。家の中に神棚があると何か清浄な感じがしますし、また日々の無事を神様に感謝する習慣は良いものだと思います。

お札入れ

最近(ここ数年)、神社詣りが半分くらい趣味になってきていて、年間6~7回は行っていると思います。それで家に神棚を置こうかなと思いましたが、さすがに大げさなので、Amazonでお札入れがあったので、それを玄関の横の棚に置くことにしました。このお札入れは三種類のお札を入れるようになっていて、天照大御神と寒川神社の分は先日寒川神社にお参りした時にそこでいただいて来ました。残り一社は高校時代に奨学金をいただいていた福岡の宗像大社のにしたかったんですが、調べてみたら電話して頼んで、現金書留で代金を払うということで結構面倒でした。で他のを探したら鹿島神宮のがWebから簡単に申し込めたのでそれにしました。(代金は郵便振替)鹿島神宮の祭神の建御雷神は、地震避けの神様(大鯰を要石で抑えている)なので、丁度いいかなと思いました。
行きつけのスーパーで榊を売っていたので、取り敢えず略式ですがお供えです。一応Amazonでちゃんとした白い容器をポチっています。
(念のため。私はかなりの数の聖書のコレクションを持っています。イエス・キリストを「人生の教師」(ゲーテの表現)として尊敬していますが、旧約聖書に出てくる神様については、私はまるで信じる気になれません。私は別にまた神道イストという程のものではありませんが、自然と一体化するような神道の考え方が好きです。)

New Year’s traditions in Japan

The following is my essay that I wrote as an assignment for an English school AEON:

Topic: New Year’s traditions in Japan
Style: Casual

There were a bunch of rituals, ceremonies, and customs related to New Year’s holidays. Most of them are currently lost in many families, but there is one area where a long tradition is still vital: food. The most important special food for a new year is mochi, or rice cake. Mochi is made from a special type of rice that is stickier than the usual type. We steam that rice and put it in a stone bowl and hit it by wooden beetles for say, 10 to 15 minutes. The rice is crushed enough to become like a pudding. Then we pick some apart and make it round (the way in the western part of Japan) or cut it with a big knife (the way in the eastern part of Japan). While the form of mochi in the western part of Japan is round, it is rectangular in the eastern part. The round form was the original, but the eastern type rectangular form was introduced to cope with increased population in Edo (the former name of the Tokyo city) to save time. Since I was born in Yamaguchi prefecture that is located in the west end of Honshu island. I was surprised very much when I saw rectangular mochi in Tokyo for the first time.
There are several ways to cook and eat mochi, but the most typical and important dish to use mochi is zoni, special soup with mochi. Zoni is prerequisite for the first three days of the New Year for breakfast. I just mentioned the difference of the form of mochi, but there are tens of hundreds of ways to cook zoni. When a newly married couple, each coming from different areas in Japan, holds a New Year ceremony together for the first time, one of the most troublesome things is how to cook zoni. Each has a completely different image for zoni, and since zoni is a very special and important dish for a New Year, it may cause a lot of trouble between the couple. Not mentioning the form of mochi, there are also two ways to prepare mochi for zoni: to bake or to boil it. There are also several types of soup such as soy source based, soy bean paste (miso) based, and in some limited area they use ‘sweet’ soup using red bean paste.
When I was living in Tokushima, there was an exhibition in a local museum regarding the types of zoni in the Tokushima prefecture. Since Tokushima (Awa) was governed by Hachisuka family came from Aichi prefecture, there are some families that use rectangular mochi while round mochi is popular in Tokushima which locates in the western part of Japan. There were actually almost forty or fifty different types of zoni in the prefecture. One thing that surprised me was that there are some people living in deep mountain area who eat soba noodle instead of zoni since they cannot plant rice because of cold weather.
Now, I usually spend New Year holidays travelling. It is always interesting to try a new type of zoni in different areas.