*A Beginner’s Guide to Japan*

“My colleague spends two hours a day making herself up,” my wife says, on her way to the department store where she works.

“She wants everyone to look at her?”

“No.  She wants everyone not to.”

That is from the new Pico Iyer book, pleasing throughout.  Here is an FT interview with Ayer about the book, and more.  Don’t forget:

Anime is the natural expression of an animist world.


'Anime is the natural expression of an animist world.'

Anime is simply how the Japanese say animation. But I won't forget yet another truly amusing example of what makes MR so much fun to read.

'anime (n.)

c. 1985, Japanese for "animation," a word that seems to have arisen in Japan in the 1970s, apparently based on French animé "animated, lively, roused," from the same Latin source as English animate (adj.). Probably taken into Japanese from a phrase such as dessin animé "cartoon," literally "animated design," with the adjective abstracted or mistaken, due to its position, as a noun.

Manga (q.v.) is Japanese for "comic book, graphic novel," but anime largely are based on manga and until 1970s, anime were known in Japan as manga eiga or "TV manga." The two terms are somewhat confused in English.' https://www.etymonline.com/word/anime

It has come to mean also a style of animation. I play Final Fantasy and it is def of the anime style.

See, that is one of the real challenges here. Of course anime is a distinctive style of animation, which is distinctive to Japan. I assumed that everyone already knew that, so there was absolutely no reason to even write something like 'how the Japanese say animation, and how it is used by others to describe a distinctive style of Japanese animation that is easily recognizable.'


This is wrong on so many levels. Anime comes from abbreviating the full katakana word “animation”/“animēshon” — it has nothing to do with the French dessin animé (which in turn means “animated drawing”, not “animated design”). This is a very common transformation in Japanese — same as Pokémon/Pocket Monsters.

In any case the etymology is not important. In the English language, which Tyler is using, “anime” means specifically Japanese style animations and connotes the very distinctive subculture that is their corollary.

This link agrees with you, but I didn't bother to post it - 'Origin - 1980s Japanese, shortened from animēshon, based on English animation.' https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/anime

What an animation style is supposed to do with a natural expression of animism is the real point when noting that the word comes from the 1980s, though the style is a couple of decades older than that.

'means specifically Japanese style animations'

Would you care to enlighten us how something like Speed Racer, Battleship Yamato, or Akhira have anything to do with an animist world, and is not merely a distinctive style of animation? Or was that point too easy to forget?

Pretty sure it was meant to be a pun. Kind of like: "don't forget, history is inherently misogynistic: 'his story.'"

And Hayao Miyazaki is one of the world's great filmmakers. All of his films are worth watching. Spirited Away, My Friend Totoro, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, and The Wind Rises are my Favorites.

totoro and kikos were the only two great films we found to show our kids that werent violent, disney contrived, or cheesy

5 cm Per Second is a masterpiece.

Definitely not for young kids (nothing inappropriate), but if you have an hour to kill with the spouse, or your kids are teens/older check it out.

It’s only 65 minutes.

It is like 0.12 mile?

5cm per second is how cucks roll.

Go home Thiago, you’re drunk.

I am not Mr. Ribeiro, and I have never drunk alcohol.

Youre not as think as you drunk I am


Eu sou corno! CORNO!

Stop lying, communist garbage.

Have you watched: "Whisper of the heart" and its sequel "The cat returns", (has japanese rendition of John Denver's: Country Roads) ,
"Howls moving castle", my neighbor the Yamada's, and that one with the magical raccoons that can stretch their scroutms out to form parachutes and have other magical, properties to fulfill plot requirements to stop the evil industrialists from destroying their forest.

those are all good for young kids, if they are mature enough for Totoro.

Arriety still kinda sucks though. And who knows what was going through his head with Ponyo and Howl's? No Third Act is a recurrent problem with the guy.

The man is good, but he has his limits. Pixar are better at story and pacing, and arguably better at character work too.

Guys...it's a bunch of cartoons. You're like 20 somethings who claim 80s tv and 90s video games are 'art.'

This is the #HotTake of the entire thread, here. Pack your bags guys, Crag has it all figured out. Only his extensive collection of fine porcelain teacups qualifies as art.

They rebuilt their society to modern heights and that's after getting nuked twice. Brazil never faced such a disadvantage but they steal, rape, murder, and pillage each other like its Genghis Khan.

Not at all!!

I wash myself with a rag on a stick.

It is not true.

What is interesting is the degree of conformity.

If there is a hint of rain, all the men, dressed alike, march with their umbrellas.

The nail that stands up

Gets pounded down.

"It's like those little cars in the circus, you know? This tiny red car comes out, hardly big enough for a midget, and it putters around, and suddenly its doors open and out come a thousand clowns, whooping and hollering and raising hell."

Maybe Asians should go to Japan if America is so bad. I am sure Koreans and Chinese don't mind the raping, looting, slaving and mass murder anymore. I am sick and tired of people trying to bleed America dry and taking advantage of our kindness and generosity.

"raping, looting, slaving and mass murder"

For a minute, I thought you were talking about Brazil.

No, I was talking about Japan's regime.

Yeah...people using umbrellas in the rain isn't a great example of conformity. Also nobody gets nailed down if they don't have an umbrella, unless you count getting wet.

But it is one of the self-fulfilling myths to describe the Japanese as group-oriented or conformist or otherwise lacking individuality. It is a great way to maintain order and ensure greater compliance by constantly emphasizing that nobody else is breaking the rules. This deserves much greater scrutiny as a directed feedback cycle rather than a static quality.

It was a 10% chance, and it was pointed out to me by another Japanese person I was with, who was also carrying an umbrella. He also pointed out that it was very important to show up for work well before the starting time.

"It is a great way to maintain order and ensure greater compliance by constantly emphasizing that nobody else is breaking the rules."

See, I think Scandinavia when I read that. Read "The Unit" by Ninni Holmqvist for a great example (and if you like your futuristic dystopias to have more self-reflective suffering in silence instead of teenagers fighting the power).

Bill, your views on Japan are stuck in the 80s like Trump's.

I've been there in the 2000's. And, there was only a 10% chance of rain.

And, I've worked with Japanese businesses by email on distribution and other matters.

There's truth in the stereotype but by no means does it apply to everybody. These are the same debates foreigners in Japan have for the last 100 years and they're so boring.

You cannot tell me walking through Tokyo that you don't witness a degree of uniformity that feels almost religious. (All the salary men wearing suits for example is what my acquaintance noticed when we were there this spring). That doesn't mean there are no rebels who buck the trend. If you took one of those people and raised them from birth in the US they might not feel obligated to wear a suit everyday, but in Japan they do. And if you don't believe there's repurcussions for rebelling against societal norms in Japan you're either clueless or refusing to see what's in front of your face.

This happens to a certain degree in every country in the world but it's taken to another level in Japan.

everything done since Speed Racer is derivative

I've read two of your blog posts - one on travel to India and this.

I am enjoying this book by Pico Iyer tremendously. His writing is gentle, precise. I have never been to Japan, but he brings it alive with really deep observations. I am stunned by how incredibly different Japan appears from the two countries I have lived in - India and the U.S. It feels like the exact opposite of India, and the exact opposite of the U.S, which are also simultaneously the exact opposite of each other :).

All of his books on Japan are fantastic. You're description of his writing as "gentle and precise" is spot on.

There is and has always been an incredible about of nonsense written about how different Japan is, both by Japanese themselves and foreigners. There are differences, but they don't have much if anything to do with "Japan". Why would anyone expect everyone everywhere to be exactly the same? I haven't read Pico's new book but I will re-read his earlier book before making more specific comments. My impression is that writers try to emphasize differences because that's what readers want to read. And that a place seems more different when you are quickly transiting through it rather than when you are paying taxes. Paul Theroux's books are good examples of this as well: entertaining, but superficial. Strangeness is interesting, familiarity is not so much.

Amateur Youtube videos on Japan by both Japanese and foreigners are more honest than the take by professional journalists, novelists, or travel writers.

But they're not nearly as interesting that's the problem. It's the differences that make travel interesting. That's the whole point! If everywhere is basically the same why bother going there?!

Yes, of course japanese are regular people like anyone else in the world. They fall in love, have careers, families, enjoy a baseball game... But why would I want to read about that? There are differences as well, and that's what's interesting.

Alan Booth's The Roads to Sata still my favourite book about Japan.

Ah, YouTube affords endless insights into Japan, of various kinds. Perhaps my favorite is from 2009 and gives us a performance by the Nakagurose Elementary School performing at the Hiroshima Band Festival. Notice that the band is mostly girls and that they play very well indeed.


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