Japanese Architecture

Almost 15 weeks have passed since I started my second semester of second year in university doing BCM320 (Digital Asia), a subject which is based on autoethnography. Although I would certainly say my understanding of the topic is significantly better than it was before I started, I believe there is a lot more that I need to learn before I can consider myself at all proficient at it. With that being said I tried my hand at autoethnography, specifically researching Japanese architecture, for my major assignment in the subject. I have always been fascinated with architecture and it was something I had planned to do in university back in my high school days, until the reality of my complete lack of ability in the area came crashing down on me. The video, although 13 minutes long, is quite brief on each topic because after getting started I realised how much there was that needed to be talked about in order to get the full image on architecture and development in Japan and after cutting out almost half of my total material I was still only able to get it down to its current size. The topics in the video below include; regulations on development in Japan, the Japanese aesthetic (not only in architecture but also in general) and some information on the use of traditional and modern Japanese architecture and the influence of Western themes in Japanese homes.

Apologies in advance for the terrible video quality, the camera decided to focus on the paintings behind me rather than me…

References

edX. (2018). Modern Japanese Architecture: From Meiji Restoration to Today. [online] Available at: https://www.edx.org/course/modern-japanese-architecture-meiji-tokyotechx-arch101x-0 [Accessed Oct. 2018].

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. [online] Qualitative-research.net. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 2018].

Essley, J. (n.d.). Japan Houses – A Look at Current and Traditional Japanese Homes. [online] House Design Coffee. Available at: https://www.house-design-coffee.com/japan-houses.html.

Lombardi, L. (2013). Japanese Architecture: What Makes It Different?. [online] Tofugu. Available at: https://www.tofugu.com/japan/japanese-architecture/.

Townsend, A. (2013). Understanding Japanese Building Law | AlaTown. [online] Alatown.com. Available at: http://www.alatown.com/japanese-building-law/.

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Analysing a Post About Analysing a Topic Which will be Analysed by my University Teacher

In Part 1 of my Digital artefact I spoke about how I planned to research Japanese architecture and what, if anything, makes it unique. A topic which I chose partly because architecture has always been something that fascinates me, and partly because I needed to get started on my University assignment.

The purpose of this blog post is to look at what I can, with my cultural background, bring to the table while researching the topic and also talk about other things such as the exact approach I am going to take to the research.

I am about as British Australian as you can get, my mum’s great grandmother came to Australia from Britain when she was in her 30’s and on my dad’s side his great, great, great, great grandfather was a soldier on the First Fleet (that makes me 8th generation first fleet for anyone like me who doesn’t want to use their brain to work it out). At first I thought this would create issues when trying to research another culture since I am so unaware about pretty much everything, but it turned out to be the complete opposite. Since I know absolutely nothing, it makes my own experience doing the research so much more interesting (there is better phrasing for this but I spent 5 min trying to replace the word interesting and came up with nothing). Growing up everything I consumed came from a Western country like America, the UK and of course Australia so when I started a subject in university subject called Digital Asia I had quite a few unintentionally comical reactions to certain things like: “Damn, how to people enjoy watching this?” or “People eat these? and it is a snack? Yeah pull the other one.”

In my Digital Artefact (DA) I am hoping to identify trends in Japanese architecture with the hope of finding out whether the architecture in the country is one of the factors helping to shape the culture, or whether it is the culture that shapes the architecture. Since I haven’t really started on the work for it yet it is difficult to say much about whether I have learned much or experienced anything yet but as I sit here writing this I find myself getting strangely excited to start researching (in the lying in bed before you go to sleep thinking about changing your life the next day only to not do anything the next day sort of way).

I hope to use a layered accounts approach to autoethnography for this project. I layered accounts approach is often used to show how “data collection and analysis proceed simultaneously” (Charmaz, 1983) and puts a lot of focus on the procedural nature of research (Ellis, 2011). There are two main reasons I want to use this approach, the first and more immediately obvious is that assignments have time restrains placed on them, so completing tasks as I go will help me to make better use of the time that I have. The second major reason is because I plan to use certain sub-categories in the research such as residential/public architecture and location based architecture meaning that I will need to analyse the data as I proceed with the project.

 

References

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. [online] Qualitative-research.net. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095.

Japanese Architecture

Being told to pick an aspect of Asian culture that you like to use as a subject for autoethnographic research for a university assignment is like trying to work out how to spell the name of that weird cream the doctor recommended for that rash (don’t ask). In other words you can’t work it out, you inevitably try a bunch of different spellings at the pharmacy until you finally get it right which is essentially what happened with my topic selection. After about two hours of awful ideas and an unnecessary amount of cursing to myself I finally gave up and decided to look through some of the older stuff in the furthest back parts of my draws and there I found it. In primary school we had to write what we saw ourselves doing in 10 years, back then I had wanted to be an architect and so I went ahead and decided looking at modern Japanese architecture should be the topic for my Digital Artefact.

I always liked the concept of being an architect because my young mind pictured it as something that would be fun, it may be, I guess I’ll ever know. Unfortunately this dream fell apart during high school when I chose an elective subject on graphic design that showed me just how bad my drawing abilities actually were, so bad in fact, that the teacher recommended I drop the subject. Naturally I did the one thing any reasonable person would do and continued the subject in spite of him until I got a different teacher and dropped it.

Design, and in this case, architecture is a major contributing factor to ‘culture’. The way homes and public buildings were traditionally designed differs all over the world and plays a major part in allowing people to easily identify a culture based on the style of architecture. But, for this DA (digital artefact) I am more interested in the, as mentioned earlier, modern side of specifically Japanese architecture, look at how similar or different design today is different from many years ago and look at the (in/cool/current) stylistic choices architects in Japan make today when designing homes/public buildings.

I plan to track my research and present my experience with what I find in a series of blog posts, most likely on this site under the BCM 320 tab. I don’t feel the need to create something entirely new for this project since autoethnography is a common theme on all other posts made so far.

I hope to make each post about different major regions within Japan (not really sure yet), and hopefully by the end of the project see at least some trends between the different regions but also any potential unique styles they have. After each section of research I plan to reflect on how influential traditional Japanese architecture is on modern architecture and make a record of my interactions with learning about something new that interests me.

AKIRAの白人の印象について読む [Subbed]

Title: Read About a White Man’s Impressions of AKIRA [Read About AKIRA’s Caucasian Impression]

(and no, you will not get to see an asian man attempting to impersonate an Australian at any point in this blog post, sorry to disappoint)

I wouldn’t describe myself as a stranger to the world of anime. I got my first real taste of it way back in 2014 when somebody recommended I watch the Hellsing Ultimate OVA and from there I ended up continuing to watch anime pretty off and on until I finished high-school and functioned as one of my main tools for procrastination when it came to HSC exams. Akira is a 1988 Japanese animated film, that is considered one of the more widely known and appreciated anime’s to ever make it on DVD. It has a large following both in Japan and with Western audiences as one of the cornerstone anime that pushed anime towards having the influence it does today in Western culture. So after hearing all these great things about the show and my general knowledge when it comes to typical anime tropes I was really looking forward to watching this movie, for University at that. Sadly that excitement only lasted for around 10 minutes or so and then the movie lost my attention completely by about the 20 minute mark as I would only look up from my phone every 5 minutes or so to see who was being killed or what was being blown up now. It felt somewhat like watching a Michael Bay film at least “special effects” and fight scene wise, minus the excessive use of lens flare. With that being said I should also clarify that I don’t believe it is a bad film. It creatively looks at different themes which challenges the way you see not only Japanese culture but any culture in general. Giving a bleak outlook at the “future” (even though Akira was set in the year it was released) through the use of an incredible soundtrack, major juxtapositions between the colours and whatever is happening in the scenes and constant violent confrontations, which, at the beginning of the anime, are purely fuelled by boredom.

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Source: HCGART.com

For these reasons I believe Akira is a great example of a show that could be used in an Autoethnographic study of Japanese culture. Autoethnography is a research approach that is designed to analyse personal experience within other cultures, while taking into account your own experiences. By participating in autoethnographic research the researcher talks about their own epiphanies that occurred as a result of interacting with another culture and then analyse these experiences to give both cultural outsiders and insiders a better understanding of a culture (Ellis, 2011). Akira is a perfect study for autoethnographic research because of how it opens a window into an alternate reality of Tokyo, one which is drastically different from how I, at the very least, perceive it. And even though it may not be exactly how accurate the movie portrays Tokyo, you still have to consider the possibility that the movie is representing a mindset or a potential view of the future in Japan.

The (Almost) 64 Year old Movie – Godzilla

Autoethnography, a research practice that uses qualitative research while taking into account the researchers views, opinions and experiences. In other words it uses the researcher’s personal experience through self-experience (didn’t see that one coming…) and reflexivity to describe the research that they are conducting, usually when the research is focused on a certain aspect of a different culture. Frankly the idea behind this scares me because, as an Australian, I don’t really know how to describe my own countries culture and it’s this lack of understanding and affinity with my own country’s culture that makes me unsure about how I should be reflecting on my own experiences with others (cultures).

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Source: Google

The 1954 Gojira (Godzilla) movie marked the start of one of the most successful movie franchises in the short history of film. Having never watched any of the Godzilla movies myself it was nice to have the original as my first point of contact with the franchise but I think it was hard to fully appreciate the movie due to the fact it has now been more than 60 years since its release and a man walking around in a rubber suit crushing a model of Tokyo doesn’t quite do it for me. That being said there was still plenty of interesting moments or actions that really drove home how it wasn’t a Hollywood production and unfortunately the previous extent of my interaction with Japanese culture is anime and Pokemon games from my childhood and Asahi beer. Of course I have some knowledge of “traditional” (relative to a 19 year old) Japanese culture with things like tatami mat rooms, the Japanese culture of respect and formality and the Kaiju category of film (Big monsters doing big monster things and annoying the military and people). But even thinking of these things I’m still not sure how to put into words exactly how I would reflect on this experience. Like I mentioned it is not as if there was anything overly shocking or surprising in the movie and the themes of the movie seemed pretty clear to me with limited knowledge of Japanese culture, of course that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty that weren’t clear to me, but one thing is clear, the already apparent difference between western and Japanese culture that can be seen today is relatively small compared to the differences in culture back in the 1950’s.