Markets in everything, Japanese edition

by on June 3, 2008 at 1:45 pm in Travels | Permalink

The Otaku are at it again:

So the niches are always getting narrower. Maid cafes have been the rage for about four years now, and a true otaku
would never be satisfied to go to any old one. There must be a fetish
about the experience. Perhaps you’d like to put your head on the maid’s
lap and let her groom your ears. "Let me show you an extra-special
level of nuttiness," Lewis says. He leads me to a shop called Candy
Fruit, where a maid cafe once stood. It’s now a shop selling glasses to
two specific breeds of client: women who want glasses to wear with
their maid uniforms. And men who want to buy their glasses from a woman
in a maid’s costume wearing glasses.

The entire article is interesting.

ed bowlinger June 3, 2008 at 5:10 pm

The entire article is useless without accompanying photographs.

Yonnie June 3, 2008 at 8:23 pm

d.cous,

Having lived briefly in Tokyo, the article is a rather artistic framing of reality. It somehow doesn’t seem insane when you’re in the midst of it all.

Tyler Cowen June 4, 2008 at 3:53 am

Btw, I went there today and the article seems to be quite true.

Timothy June 4, 2008 at 1:47 pm

a glorious four-block-wide stretch–just beyond the tracks–of about 200 drinking shacks in rows of two-story buildings. Most accommodate no more than half a dozen drinkers. …

One bar caters to 1960s British music. Another to Humphrey Bogart. There’s one that celebrates pro wrestling. Jazz. French cinema. It’s bar culture by otaku…

It’s the Long Tail of Bars!

Sam June 2, 2009 at 12:24 am

Meet the mizuko. In Japanese, a mizuko is a fetus that miscarries or is aborted. Meet Jizo. Jizo is a bodhisattva, or Buddhist saint, who vows to help mizukos get another chance at life. Jizo has other duties, but in the last few decades, since the advent of abortions on a large scale in Japan, his first is the care of unborn children.
More precisely, Jizo rescues the unborn from their sad status. Without his help, they won’t be able to cross the mythical Sanzu River into the afterlife, from where they can work their way back to earth in a future incarnation. Most Jizo statues show him cradling a baby in his arms, with two others at his feet clinging to his robe.
Jizo meets the needs not only of the unborn but of their parents, especially mothers. According to journalist Peggy Orenstein, about half of Japanese women who abort go through a ritual known as mizuko kuyo, or “ritual of apology and remembrance.” So do many who miscarry. Ms. Orenstein, a pro-choice Jew, was on assignment in Japan when she miscarried, and she herself sought out Jizo to deal with the harrowing sorrow that took-her by surprise.
Like some American women, some Japanese women who abort find themselves deeply troubled by their decision. What started out as a “regrettable necessity” turns into persistent, sometimes haunting remorse. The best way to deal with their guilt is mizuko kuyo.
The ritual may be elaborate and expensive, or simple and cheap. Often, the ritual begins with the purchase or rental of a stone-carved mizuko doll. The doll, which resembles a miniature monk, is dressed up as a baby, with bonnet and bib, usually red. It is mounted in a long line of other dolls at the local cemetery or temple, with a large statue of Jizo presiding.
According to Ms. Orenstein, “A woman may light a candle and say a prayer…. She mayleave a handwritten message of apology on a wooden tablet. She may make an offering of food, drink, flowers, incense or toys. The ritual may be a one-time act or it may be repeated monthly or annually,”
The women’s prayers may be addressed to Jizo or the mizuko directly. Either way, the hope is that the mizuko will accept the would-be mother’s apology for what she, regrettably, “had to do.” Some Japanese women fear that a neglected mizuko can bring misfortune to the family it should have belonged to so the motivation behind the ceremony might not be completely altruistic.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
Jizo temples are found all over Japan.
It will interest Catholic readers to know that the Japanese do not regard a mizuko as fully human. Mizuko literally means “water child.” As Ms. Orenstein explains it, the Japanese traditionally have believed that “existence flowed into a being slowly, like liquid.” In other words, fetuses are potential persons, not full persons. Consequently, abortion in Japan is not viewed with the same gravity as in Catholicism. It is certainly not considered murder. Nevertheless, to end the life of even a potential person is no small matter for many Japanese. Thus mizuko kuyo, the ritual of apology and remembrance.
Do Catholics have anything that compares to this Buddhist ritual? Does the church need a Catholic ritual for the unborn, especially for the aborted and their would-be mothers? Do some women who abort need a public ritual where they can acknowledge their guilt or sorrow and bring healing both to themselves and their unborn baby? Would such an acknowledgement bring spiritual comfort?
The successful Project Rachel retreats already provide comfort and healing for women, especially Catholic women, who feel grief after an abortion. And there is of course the sacrament of reconciliation, certainly the logical starting point for an afflicted conscience. But the Japanese remedy puts one’s guilt on permanent public display, and In that it is unique.
Or almost so. The Oblates of St. Joseph, located In Santa Cruz, Calif., provide a ministry devoted to post-abortion and miscarriage sufferers. St. Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ father, plays the same role for Catholics that Jizo plays for Buddhists. A seated statue of Joseph holding a 6-month-old fetus is the centerpiece of the outdoor shrine located on the grounds of the order. On a low wall encircling the shrine, the names of aborted or miscarried children are inscribed on plaques. The Oblates Web site explains the symbolism: “Insofar as she [the mother] is able, she must exercise now the parental role she had denied, and for which her motherly heart aches.
“She chooses a name for her child and thereafter always refers to her child by its name…. This advances the process of spiritual healing.”
The Japanese live in one of the most secular societies In the world, yet even they experience the aftershocks of abortion. Guilt over abortion is not a “Catholic thing.” Neither are the remedies. Buddhist teaching has it that Jizo vowed out of compassion to postpone nirvana “until the hells are emptied.” Is God’s grace mediated to the Japanese through this somewhat Christ-like personality? Catholics will disagree over the question, but one thing is sure. As the pictures suggest, Jizo fulfills a widespread religious need for the Japanese unmet in any other way.

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