Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gender: Group Separation in Schools

The concept of gender in Japanese schools is very interesting. Particularly I've noticed that during events like assemblies, morning meetings, and even in most classes there is a separation between genders. In the first picture, you can see that in the classroom there are sets of two columns, one all boys, the other all girls. I can only imagine that this is to keep them more separated from their own gender peer groups, hopefully keeping their concentration more on learning and less on chatting during class. Outside of class, you can easily notice students in their peer groups, especially when arriving and departing school. Oftentimes students will walk along the road in pairs or groups of 3 or 4, but all the same gender, with occasional exceptions. I've also noticed this phenomenon at Iwate University. Although there are more exceptions, I would be comfortable saying that often students are with a group of their own gender. However, when eating there is a difference between college and middle school groupings. Middle school lunch is within the classroom, and so the desk organization stands. At Iwate University, lunch is eaten in a separate cafeteria building, where students of all genders intermingle, though there are still a lot of single gender groups.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Globalization: Influx and invitation of foreign culture

One part of globalization is the importation of foreign culture. You can see cultural symbols from all over the world in Japan, but particularly in the realms of familiar characters and langauges.

This is a poster that I found while wandering in a Kyoto subway station. It’s a sign for lost children, but it features a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine, a character from a British children’s show about trains. Here it has relevance, as this is the subway, but Thomas is from a different culture. Here his imagery has been adapted into the Japanese context of subways and trains, something that the two cultures share a liking of. This cross-cultural exchange is a striking example of globalization.

This picture was taken at the Hiroshima Station shinkansen tracks. The explanations of the reserved and non-reserved cars as well as the romanization of easy to read kana lettering is an effort to make it easier for tourists to travel to and from here. You can now see roman letters in many places where normally kana would suffice. This inclusion of both Western and Japanese writing shows the trend of opening Japan up to the world, inviting foreign cultures and people to come. You can even see roman letters in areas with fewer foreigners, such as Iwate Prefecture.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Religion: A Sightseeing Thing?

Religion in Japan is a very interesting concept. The various Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines go way back in history, and have a lot of culture value instilled in them. However, oftentimes, especially with the more famous temples, they become tourist attractions. The first picture is of the interior of Itsukushima Shrine, the site of the famous big red torii in the water. The island itself is sacred, and yet now there are all sorts of people walking around every which way, taking pictures and posing with the temples. I am of course guilty of this as well, but the point is that the shrine has become a very touristy place. You can buy various charms and such from stores inside the shrine itself.

The second picture was taken in front of Zenkoji, a famous Buddhist temple in Nagano. It is very famous, and there were many visitors when we came to see it. You can see in the picture the traditional buildings in the back contrasted with the touristy souvenir booths on the left. Many of the more famous religious sites in Japan are like this, particularly Kinkakuji. The tourism is not necessarily a bad thing, as it brings people to these sites where they can hopefully learn something of their religious and cultural significance.