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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Peeping Hitarus

Mixed bathing is a distinctive feature of Japan. It has a history of at least 1,300 years. It's outrageous that some mindless people are destroying this tradition. -


Haven't you ever wondered what changes entrenched social norms into outdated, even taboo ones?

That is what seems to be happening in Japan, with the torpid decline of the custom of kon-yoku, mixed hotspring baths (called onsen, generally).

For over a thousand years, as Tadanori Matsuda of the Japan Hot Spring Research Institute, said, men and women bathed together naked without any qualms.

The Japanese attitude was that it was a time to relax, get clean, and latterly, to socialise without prudishness.

-- Although it is deeply taboo in Japanese society, then and now, to show a certain hirsute region of the human body --

But since the 1990's, something has changed.

It can't be explained away by recent scandals which have surrounded the onsen, such as fraudulent claims of purifying qualities to their natural spring waters, when it was found they were merely heating up tap water.

Nor can it be dismissed as fallout from a recommendation from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 1991, which asked resorts to avoid mixing men, women and children over the age of 10, together, in onsen.

It's impossible that suddenly an activity which was innocuous, is now seen as wholly lecherous. There's something else afoot here.

Such guys, he says, see mixed bathing as nothing more than an opportunity to gawk at naked women.

"Some will position themselves facing the exit of the women's changing room and some will sit in the bath all day, carrying water bottles so they don't dehydrate," Matsuda says
.




That's male desperation:

The traditional outlet for a man who feels unable to deal with women on an interpersonal level, and merely gawps at them from afar, as objects.

And I'm very sad to say, that I think it's because of the rise of the otaku culture.

Otaku is the word given to mostly male gamers, and computer geeks, who spend countless hours paying games online, as well as reading manga, and watching anime.

With its overemphasis on online porn, and lack of personal contact, this is not just a Japanese phenomenon, but in a very formal, ritualistic society where social barriers are greater than in the West, it simply encourages it more.

That's right. They're Japanese nerds.

It is this growth of the otaku, which has been threatening to take over a whole youth culture since the 1970s, which might go a long away to explain the sad demise of a previously unthinkingly natural custom.

As certain Western cultures transform themselves or continue their custom of co-ed toilets, like in France, other even more ancient Eastern cultures seem to be losing what makes them truly unique.

All one can say is, watch out Finland.

6 Comments:

  • Victoria,

    I don't know enough about Japan to comment intelligently on the culture. My perception has been that Japan is at the same time both more ordered/controlled (culture of politeness) and more libertine (kinky anime stuff, really weird sex toys, etc.). If true, I wonder how that might play into these dynamics - a growing number of socially awkward men in a culture that titilates but discourages openness?

    Mainly, though, I just wanted to say that I had one of those moments when you glace at a phrase and think it's something other than what it really is.

    I thought the title was "Peeping Hiatus" - perhaps a soul-baring post on your taking a break from leering at others in public baths?

    By Blogger Pastor_Jeff, at Tue Nov 08, 11:08:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Hey Pastor Jeff. :)

    I don't know enough about Japan to comment intelligently on the culture.

    Nor I, believe me.

    But I have spent some time there, when I did my gap year in Tokyo as an ESOL instructor at a fancy-schmanzy business language school.

    I perceived a lot of similarities between British culture and Japanese culture, but other than that, I can't expound.

    My perception has been that Japan is at the same time both more ordered/controlled (culture of politeness) and more libertine (kinky anime stuff, really weird sex toys, etc.).

    Especially about the kinkiness, yes. :)

    Japanese men seem to have a cruel, sadistic sexual taste, which because of inbuilt social mores, never breaks out into outright physical violence.

    If true, I wonder how that might play into these dynamics - a growing number of socially awkward men in a culture that titilates but discourages openness?

    Precisely!

    A lot of Americans believe that if it's a cartoon, it's meant for kids.

    (I recall an American friend who never allowed her 5 year-old to watch the Simpsons, because she was upset it was too raunchy)

    That's not how it goes around the world, though. The Anime, manga, video games the Japanese produce have a strong erotic, even homoerotic subtext.

    It's a culture that is lived internally, rather than externally, now, with the death of Kabuki, No, and other outward artistic manisfestations.

    Mainly, though, I just wanted to say that I had one of those moments when you glace at a phrase and think it's something other than what it really is.

    I thought the title was "Peeping Hiatus" - perhaps a soul-baring post on your taking a break from leering at others in public baths


    Actually. :)

    I did once go to an onsen, you know, just to say I had been.

    They are run by the prefecture as well as available in the tonier hotels, so I decided to err on the side of caution, and go to a big hotel to try them out.

    Mistake.

    Dude, that place was full of leering WESTERNERS, never mind Japanese!, and no way was I going to be their little English geisha giving them free peek-a-boos.

    I retreated, shaken, but untouched.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Nov 09, 12:31:00 am GMT-5  

  • I retreated, shaken, but untouched.

    Is that like shaken, but unstirred?

    I also for a second thought it was a peepeing hiatus! What's a hitarus?

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Wed Nov 09, 12:55:00 am GMT-5  

  • Is that like shaken, but unstirred?

    Vaya. Que casualidad! Tenemos la visita del Señor Aguirre. Que pasa, USA? ;)

    I also for a second thought it was a peepeing hiatus! What's a hitarus?

    I see I might have to change the title!

    Hitaru is a common-enough male name in Japan.

    Peeping Tom = Peeping Hitaru.

    Mind you, I could've gone for Peeping Takeshi, which is another more common name in Japan, but if one adds just one little 't' at the end of THAT, it would be quite a different kind of post. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Nov 09, 01:02:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria, I find it interesting that you write on this, because I was just discussing with friends about how repressive and omniprescent American Fanboy culture is. The fanboys seem to feel that they are some repressed minority, when in a lot of crucial ways, they've taken over large amounts of popular culture. (like the majority of green lit movies!) Yet they still persist on a selfpiteousness that belies their actual impact, as if they don't want to own up to it, to the responsibility of it...

    Too many elements in too many cultures encourage men to stay 14 years old, and, even worse, to be proud of that.

    By Blogger Ron, at Wed Nov 09, 02:09:00 am GMT-5  

  • Thanks for the explanation. I always enjoyed watching "Que Pasa USA?" as I think it was very well done! I also enjoyed "I Love Lucy" as I could relate to that show also!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Wed Nov 09, 09:27:00 am GMT-5  

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