Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pop Culture: ケタイとマンガ


Cellphones (ketai) are now regularly used by people all around the world. But in Japan, they've become a cultural item. Lots of stuff about cellphones just has to do with decoration. People hook charms on to their cellphones, and there are innumerable different kinds. The one on my cellphone is a hanafuda card with a bell. Other people have more sparkly charms, or ones that make noise, or several on one phone! The phone design itself is pop culture as well. One thing I noticed is that cellphones have decorative light patterns that serve little to no purpose other than to be cool, and let you know with some extra pizzaz that a text message just arrived. Simpler models just blink a light, much like most American cellphones. However, most of the fancier ones do more than that. My host mother's phone blinks a snowflake pattern, one of the ALTs has one that flashes several colors like crazy, and I've seen many more.


In Japan, manga is everywhere. Comic culture in the US is normally more of a cult or younger kids thing. However, in Japan, most everybody reads it. You can see kids reading it at home, businessmen reading it on the train, and it is everywhere in stores. There are all different genres to appeal to the various types of people, as opposed to US comics, which are mostly targeted at a particular audience. While I don't read it often, due to my lack of kanji skill, most Japanese people that I know from Earlham as well as people I've met during SICE have read at least one manga series.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

People: Uniformity & Diversity


This picture was taken at a local middle school in Morioka. In Japan, starting from middle school, most schools require students to wear uniforms. Although everyone in the picture seen here is in gym clothes, there are also separate uniforms for girls and boys when outside of the gym. Several reasons exist for this uniform requirement; it can help the students concentrate on their studies and less on fashion (makeup is also not allowed), it presents a unified image to the public, etc. There are several situations in which there is a measure of uniformity in Japan. School is one, work, particularly office jobs, is another such situation. However, despite this unifying image, there are still several differences between students/workers. Just because everyone has the same clothing doesn't necessarily mean their personalities are all similar.


This picture was taken during the Obon festival in mid-August. A lot of people came to watch from the riverbank. In this picture, you can note that people are wearing various different types of clothing. When outside of the workplace/school, peoples' differences come out in not only personalities and faces, but in clothing. There are various colors, styles, and personalities expressed here in this picture. It is interesting to note how kids particularly dress outside of school, as during the day they don't have much of a choice.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Neighborhood: Defined by Transportation


This is a picture of Iwate-iioka station looking northward towards downtown Morioka. While not all neighborhoods are centralized around train stations, they are definitely a defining feature. You know what stop you live by, what times trains run to and from that stop, and especially when the last train is, in case you stay out late with friends. Facebook in Japan even has an option to put your train station at the top of your page, right next to where you go to school! Many students from Tsushida minami and surrounding neighborhoods bike to Iwate-iioka every day to take the train to school.


This is a picture of one of the main bicycle parking areas at Iwate University. A lot of students and the population of the city in general use their bikes to get around during the day, and visit around the neighborhood. When you own a bike in Japan, in combination with the train, you can get almost anywhere, you don’t even need a car! There are many roads that are bicycle friendly, including large clearly marked bicycle lanes (picture to come), as well as separate paths for pedestrians and bicycles (on bigger roads). You can often see Japanese of all ages riding their bikes around the neighborhood from day to day.