Talk About Cultural Shock…


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The date is dying. Instead, your phone is your new girlfriend.

I don’t think I have ever been more uncomfortable in my entire life. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but upon pressing play within the first two minutes of watching this video I burst out laughing. This was an awkward, ‘I can’t believe this actually exists’ kind of reaction. I do not think  and surely hope that Americans or other cultures would pay for services like the ones observed in the video.  I had a very strong disgusted and shocked reaction to the Japanese sex industry, and I certainly cannot wrap my head around any sort of rationalization for it, even though there may be one. Despite this, I was able to recognize the fact that actions like the ones observed are a direct result of the changing image of the family. Gender roles have shifted and will continue to break down the dynamic of the classic mom, dad, two kids, labrador, and white picket fenced house.
The Japanese sex industry has commodified human emotions. Cyber girlfriends have replaced real ones, consumers can pay to snuggle, date, and pay for sex with dolls. Their society at large is removing the many human aspects and are completely separating their physical and emotional realms. The testimonies from featured women particularly disturbed me, “When I see happy couples at Christmas, I want them to die” said one Cuddle Cafe employee. Her point was downshifted off of another woman who earlier proclaimed that love fades when couples grow up and have children. Emotional attachment is not necessarily a weakness, but rather a dying trend.
I think that technology is largely at play here. It has connected individuals and has allowed them to be ‘hyper-connected’ while at the same time has caused a large riff in our classic view of a relationship. Today, people may not talk face to face as much as they interact over screens. Technology has also caused a phenomenon among our generation to commodify everything. Apps like Tinder have started to catch on in the US, but I do not think this complete emotional detachment will catch on as much as it has in Japan.

Maybe this is a personal bias, but there are clear differences in Japanese and American culture that may have caused my strong reaction. Exploring this option, I googled, “Japanese emotional detachment”. What I found was an excerpt from a book (find it here)  that talked about the psychic distance between literature found in the east and the west. Japanese poetry praises terms like ‘hininjo’ which means ‘non human’, ‘unsympathetic’, and addresses ‘detachment from human emotions’. Reading further, I found that historically Japanese aesthetic culture has praised the achieving of hininjo as an essential element of art. Only when one has achieved this, are they able to truly listen to and view art in its purest form.
What has given this movement more depth? First, across the globe, the role of women is changing. Women are not seen as only domestic figures, but are also taking charge in the work force, military, and political schemas. While this may be a cause of the changing face of the family, it goes hand in hand with the technological and capitalistic influence on commodities.

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6 thoughts on “Talk About Cultural Shock…”

  1. I’m glad you referenced the quote: “When I see happy couples at Christmas, I want them to die.” Looking beyond all the bizarre behavior in the vice video, that quote really stuck out to me as very telling about the Japanese culture. Although I worry about our culture one day resembling the Japanese’, it’s quotes like this one that remind me of just how far apart our two societies really are. I hope that our increased use of technologies within relationships is foreshadowing elements of our society changing in the future.

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  2. We should not forgot what media publication was responsible for this segment– Vice. Vice takes a skewed and sometimes comical approach to their news, but we can also consider that these establishments exists and people definitely use them in Japan. I feel like if I went to Japan, I would have no problem carrying out my love life in a similar manner than I have here.

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  3. I was telling one of my housemates about this video yesterday, and we both thought that cuddle cafe’s would never work in the U.S. However, she then raised a good point. It may be useful for older people who may have lost their spouse and who lack physical interaction with others in their old age. While I, too, am quite disturbed by this topic, I do think that she brought up a valid and useful point.

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  4. I think, “Emotional attachment is not necessarily a weakness, but rather a dying trend”, is an extremely powerful assertion. I would agree that this is very accurate. Data supports that less young adults are entering into emotional relationships, and would rather things other than a significant other first in their lives.

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  5. Kendall I found your point about changing gender roles and the effect this is having on relationships and family dynamics very interesting. I found it very interesting how emotionally unattached women were in the Vice video especially considering how women are often known to be so emotional. If emotional attachment is a dying trend what will keep any relationships that exist in tact?

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  6. In my experience, even as we see Japanese culture as reserved and socially awkward, Americans are seen similarly by people from the southern Mediterranean or other areas where there is far more openness and affection expressed openly (like in Italy, Spain, Greece).

    So, maybe they have a vice video about Tinder, about dating sites, about the $15 billion dollar sex toy industry here?

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