Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Neighborhood Narratives Tokyo

Neighborhood Narratives Tokyo

“As the single finger bends the branch, so the social hand inclines the individual.”
Donald Richie

We have been discussing the writings of Donald Richie, a highly respected film critic, and keen observer on Japan. His book, Lateral Views, is comprised of short chapters that examine a variety of social and cultural coding. We are presently discussing the following chapters:

Japan: A Description
Japanese Shapes
Walking in Tokyo
Signs and Symbols

The first reading examines how the Japanese transpose nature from a raw source to a modified acceptable version. Where in the west, advertisers exploit the “rawness” of nature to sell products, the Japanese alter this rawness to create a kind of product: nature itself. This reforming of nature most likely plays an important part in how space is restricted and restructured to accommodate this cultural necessity.

IN THE BEGINNING......................

Since this class relies upon anthropological and documentary tactics, I wanted students to decide for themselves how to approach their projects. Here are some questions I posed for consideration. This will also help readers to understand how students have focused their projects.

Neighborhood Narratives
Questions for Discussion

Note: In your answers please reflect upon the reading. The reading will help you to gain some focus on the questions. However, I am really looking for your own opinions and ideas.

What do you think your role in this class is? Think in both broad and narrow terms. Here are some points to help:

Become involved in the subject’s life, or distance yourself from subject?

Express the subject’s point-of-view, or synthesize the subject’s voice in your own words?

Contextualize—integrate various external aspects of art such as culture, history, personal psychology of artist, etc.—or look only at what is observed when evaluating and presenting a subject?

Broaden the number and types of source material to include a variety of input, or minimalism the source material and focus on a few inputs?

With regards to your projects, you might want to consider some alternative approaches:

A highly subjective interpretation, or reduce subjectivity to the bare minimum?

Broad observations about the subject with regards to the physical landscape of the city, or highly focused observations that deal with the immediate contacts of the subject within his or her environment?
Dear Readers, Welcome!

Neighborhood Narratives attempts to equip young minds with the opportunity to survey their own psychological landscapes while understanding the landscapes of others. A video camera, a mobile phone, a flash audio recorder and, most importantly, an open mind to what surrounds us are all tools for geo-psychological mining. We study Tokyo and Japanese culture, it's complexities, mysteries and slight-of-hand; and by knowing another culture we step closer to gaining self-awareness of our identities.
Not that everything we do is serious academic exploration. Sometimes it’s just talking with a sushi chef or hanging out near a busy escalator. But if you’re a local, you will have the opportunity to question what is taken for granted. If you're a visitor to Japan, you will embark on the journey of a 1000 steps, and encounter one contradiction after another. For either the local or visitor, nothing is sacred in this journey, and nothing is to be taken for granted. You bring only yourself to the place you encounter.
Please enjoy the pages, and feel free to comment.
Ron Carr