It always amuses me when I hear people or pundits discuss “the traditional family” as if there were such a thing. Look guys, there is no such thing as “the traditional family’ historically or anthropologically. Family structures have always been fluid arrangements that reflected social, economic, political and cultural structures under the umbrella of power arrangements, mostly in patriarchal contexts.
Case in point:
“Japan has the world’s second highest adoption rate of more than 80,000 a year but most are adult men in their 20s and 30s.
“Historically, it’s been far more common with families in the western part of Japan where merchant families tried to choose the most capable successor,” says Mariko Fujiwara, a sociologist at Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living.
If you did not have a capable son to succeed, you would try to find a more capable man to marry one of your daughters, she says.
“But the chances are, you didn’t have as capable a son as you’d want so you’d search through your network to find a more capable man to marry one of your daughters.”
“It was a very pragmatic decision for that family business to survive,” she adds.
Even today, the vast majority of Japanese companies are considered family businesses. They include household names such as car-makers Toyota and Suzuki, camera-maker Canon and soy sauce firm Kikkoman.
Suzuki is famously known to have been led by adopted sons. The current chairman and CEO Osamu Suzuki is the fourth adopted son in a row to run the company.
“Family businesses that are run by sons-in-law are much better in many cases than family businesses run by their own sons,” says Yasuaki Kinoshita who invests in Japanese companies at Nissay Asset Management.
“When I make a decision to invest in a listed company which is still owned by a family, the big negatives are corporate governance and succession.”
At Matsui Securities, its fourth president Michio Matsui was adopted into the family, but this meant ditching his own name.
“I was my parent’s oldest son so I was a bit hesitant to be adopted by another family,” he recalls. “But my biological parents said maybe it was my fate.”
Historically, however, changing names wasn’t a big deal because many simply didn’t have one.
“Only 150 years ago, people didn’t have family names unless you came from a significant social class of Samurai,” sociologist Mariko Fujiwara explains.
“And when you changed your name, it was usually because you were given a new name as an honour or as an award for something that you’d accomplished.” It became aspirational, she adds.”
- Reblogged from globalsociology
Higashimatsushima, Miyagi prefecture March 11, 2012, to mark the first anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis. Kumagai’s father Kazuyuki called his wife Yoshiko just after the March 11, 2011 earthquake to tell her to take the children to Omagari elementary school which was serving as a shelter. He was found near the shelter four days after the tsunami, Yoshiko said.
Via: REUTERS/Toru Hanai.
- Source: reuters.com
Japan gathered Sunday amid tears, prayers and a moment of silence to mark one year since an earthquake and tsunami killed thousands, and triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in a quarter century…
"A lot of lives were lost … I feel the grieving families’ pain and I cannot express my sorrow enough," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said at the ceremony…
"The Japanese people are united in working with the government to put all our might toward working on the reconstruction," Noda said this month. "The debris cleanup, the building of temporary houses and daily support for the disaster victims — we have been making steady progress on all those issues," he said.
The Pew Research Centre’s Global Attitudes Project finds that humanitarian aid has a limited effect on improving the USA’s international image around the world. For example, in 2011, 85% of the 700 Japanese people who were surveyed reported a favourable view of America versus 66% of the Japanese participants in 2010. While the Pew Centre acknowledges that various reasons might contribute to an increased positive view of the USA, it seemed that America’s humanitarian commitment had a big impact in Japan. Then again, while the Pew Centre finds that America’s overseas aid improves its image in some countries, the link between humanitarianism and public goodwill is limited.
In Indonesia, the USA’s image improved in 2005, a couple of months after it delivered aid in the Banda Aceh region after a devastating tsunami. This positive view was not as strong as it was prior to the Second Gulf War.
In Pakistan, the USA’s public image improved modestly after it delivered aid to Northern Pakistan after a major earthquake in 2005, but this public image slipped again just one year later. By 2010, public goodwill towards the USA had slipped even further, despite America pledging humanitarian assistance following the floods.
Richard Wike, Associate Director for the Pew Global Attitudes Project writes:
The lesson for disaster relief efforts is that they are more likely to have a significant effect on public attitudes in countries where there is at least a reservoir of goodwill toward the U.S. In nations such as Pakistan, where countervailing issues and deeply held suspicions drive intense anti-Americanism, enhancing America’s image through humanitarian aid may prove considerably more difficult.
Read more about the surveys here.
- Source: pewglobal.org
A common misconception about anime cartoons amongst uninitiated audiences in majority-English-speaking countries is that anime characters are drawn to look ‘White’ rather than ‘Asian’. First of all, neither of terms are factual fixed categories - they are social constructions. That is, the meaning attached to race, whether ‘White’, ‘Black’, ‘Asian’ and so on, and the groups classified under these labels, change from one society to another, depending upon culture, time and place.
In an excellent exploration of the social construction of race in popular culture, sociologist Julian Abagond shows that Japanese animators do not, in fact, draw anime characters to personify their aspiration to be ‘white’. Instead, these characters reflect the animators’ own cultural biases - which is that Japanese people are the prototype model of the ‘default human being’. Abagond writes in Sociological Images:
If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.
The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.
Americans apply this thinking to Japanese drawings. But to the Japanese the Default Human Being is Japanese! So they feel no need to make their characters “look Asian”. They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.
You see the same thing in America: After all, why do people think Marge Simpson is white? Look at her skin: it is yellow. Look at her hair: it is a blue Afro. But the Default Human Being thing is so strong that lacking other clear, stereotyped signs of being either black or Asian she defaults to white…
When you think about it there is nothing particularly white about how anime characters look:huge round eyes – no one looks like that, not even white people (even though that style of drawing eyes does go back to Betty Boop).
- yellow hair – but they also have blue hair and green hair and all the rest. Therefore hair colour is not about being true to life.
- small noses – compared to the rest of the world whites have long noses that stick out.
- white skin – but many Japanese have skin just as pale and white as most White Americans…
Some Americans, even some scholars, will argue against this view of anime. They want to think the Japanese worship America or worship whiteness and use anime to prove it. But they seem to be driven more by their own racism and nationalism than anything else.
As Abagond’s analysis shows, perceptions of race and gender influence how people ‘read’, understand and draw meaning from animation. For Japanese animators, their characters reflect their view of normality - that everyone in their creation is Japanese (or Korean or Chinese or wherever the anime is produced). Audiences that have an uncritical view of race and Whiteness presume that ‘Asian’ drawings should look ‘Asian’. Yet this term - Asian - means different things to different groups. In Japan, the category of Asian is not very meaningful. Instead, mainstream Japanese culture portrays the Japanese people as the ‘default human being’. Gender and class also affect how this default human being is imagined (usually male, affluent and lean).
Just all art forms embody the biases and taken-for-granted cultural assumptions about the world, what audiences see in anime drawings are mediated by the ethnocentrism of the animators and audiences. Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s group is superior to others. Viewers who think Japanese anime characters are trying to look ‘White’ are therefore viewing this artform through ethnocentrism.
Image of Jubei from Ninja Scroll from Jinni.