It makes sense if you think about it, since sports teams have a lot of similarities to military troops. Counts: army groups, groups of troops, sports team levels, baseball team levels, etc. If you're attending or planning to attend school in Japan, you'll hear this one a lot. This counter is used to count residential houses or apartment units. Counts: houses, homes, houses for sale, houses for rent, houses to be constructed, apartment units, etc. Counts: clauses of an article, clauses of a legal document, articles of a constitution, articles of a legal document, sections of a chapter, paragraphs of a chapter, terms of a math equation, etc.
Inexplicably, it's also a unit for canvas sizes. Counts: room numbers, train numbers, magazine volume numbers, magazine issue numbers, home run numbers, canvas sizes, etc. When a rice cooker or recipe calls for "a cup of rice," it might be asking for one of these instead of a standard "cup. Fuji trail by car. Counts: utterances, having a word with someone, crying out, calling out, sounds, noises, words, etc. It's mostly used in older titles and for idioms. For one or two words, use the wago counting method. For three, either is fine.
Four and above should be kango. Counts: words you say, greeting words, instruction words, messages of condolences, memorial words, oaths, notes, short messages, postscripts, catchphrases, mottos, etc. It's also used to count the number of classes, lessons, or lectures you have in college or university. Use wago for one and two, kango for three and above. To specify if it's the first, second, etc. Strips of fish ready to be sliced into sashimi or sushi are counted using this counter.
The same goes for the strips of fish, on display at restaurants, that haven't yet been sliced into bite-sized pieces. Counts: strips or blocks of fish, rows of a stadium, rows of a concert hall, rows of an auditorium, etc. Counts: stabs, stings, thrusts, pierces, pricks, bites, something s on a skewer.
Use wago for counting one and two, either wago or kango for three, and kango for four and above. Counts: pea shells, pea pods, pea hulls, peanuts with shells, shelled foods, etc. As a counter, it counts the same things. This includes events, affairs, occurrences, and incidents. Counts: order of events, order of affairs, order of occurrences, order of incidents, etc. Counts: scrolls, rolled sheets, hanging scrolls, yarn rolls, axis, the favorite horse. This counter counts dimensions: 2D, 3D, 4D, etc. In this context, you'll use the kango counting scheme.
It's also used to count the batters or base-runners in a baseball game. In gymnastics, for example, each category that uses an apparatus such as a pommel horse, rings, etc. Counts: sports competition events, apparatus rotations gymnastics , categorized lines insurance , lines, items, descriptions, etc. It's usually translated as "double-," "triple-," etc.
Counts: overlapping things, jubako stacking boxes, overlapping layers, repetitive actions, multistoried pagodas, lines, meanings, life, lock, wrapping, payment, eye vision, chin, nationalities, checks as in double-check , etc. We call them anniversaries! Am I genius or what? Only take the recommended dose!
Why are degrees of relation so important? It's how the police count when they do a background check on you for say that job you really wanted. This word means a diagram, illustration figure , chart, or graph, and counts them when they appear in writing. One and two are read using wago, three can be wago or kango, and the rest are kango. This counter is usually written in hiragana or katakana, but you'll see them all used eventually, since it's a pretty common counter.
Counts: straight roads, rays of hope, streaks of sweat, streaks of tears, kimono belts, kimono sashes, straight ropes, straight lights from beacons, straight lights from signal fires, streaks of clouds, smoke plumes, arrows, spears, clear streams, wrinkles, creases, cracks, scratches, hair, loose hair, etc. This is used to count specific printings or pressings of printed materials, including novels, encyclopedias, and the like. Counts: big ships, battleships, vessels, one folding screen, arrows archaic , birds archaic , fish archaic , etc. This word means and is used to count passages, sections, paragraphs, and clauses.
Counts: passages, sections, paragraphs, verses, clauses, musical passages, periods sports , etc. Counts: views, theories, tumors, explanations, opinions, differing opinions, differing views, etc. This kanji means "selection" or "choice," and it's used to count things that are selected, picked, or chosen.
This kanji is used to count bowls of food and pairs of chopsticks. Counts: chopsticks as utensils , bowls of rice, bowls of meat, wood that's not yet processed into lumber, etc. This is an ordinal number suffix used to count rules. This is an ordinal number suffix for vehicle and bicycle gears used to express, for example, shifting into fourth gear.
It's used to count sets of items with two or more matching pieces. The wago readings are used for one through three, and four can be wago as well, but it's usually kango. Counts: chopsticks, futon sets, bedding sets, suits, tea sets, utensil sets, biwa Japanese lutes , etc. This is used to count hits in baseball that actually hit the ball , strokes in golf, and swings in tennis and table tennis.
Counts: hits in baseball, golf strokes, tennis swings, table tennis swings, punches, hits, etc. This is used to count corps, units, parties, troops, and so on. Groups of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts that go on expeditions are all included in this counter's uses. Counts: troops, corps, units, parties, expedition teams, medical corps, hospital units, etc. This counter is used for generations of about thirty years , decades, lifetimes, eras, reigns, and so on.
It's also used to count how many decades old a person is. Counts: titles, problems, questions, separate rakugo stories. This counter is for barrels and kegs. The wago reading is used for one and two, though two can be kango as well. Is it true that there are always five beer kegs at the Tofugu office? This is used to count bullets. Counts: orchestras, travelers, students, fellowships, troops, theatrical troupes, acting troupes, etc. Counts: steps, stages, phases, plans, negotiations, processes, procedures, productions, levels, etc.
This is used to count paragraphs and stages of tasks. Wouldn't it be better to separate this paragraph in two? This counter is used for six different categories of things. The most common of these is tofu, but there are so many, we wrote an entire article about them! Counts: tofu, koyadofu, ganmodoki, hanpen, konnyaku, tuna, orders of ramen, orders of soba, lively actions, games, matches, kitchen knives, scissors, etc.
This counter is used to count four different categories of things. The most common are kitchen knives and guns, so make sure to remember those. Counts: kitchen knives, carving knives, axes, saws, chisels, scissors, ice axes, sickles, files, wrenches, nail clippers, spears, lances, oars, spades, hoes, guns, pistols, rifles, guitars, shamisen, violins, palanquins, portable shrines, rickshaws, ink sticks, candles, abacuses, etc.
Counts: stilts, pairs of hanging scrolls, earrings, pairs of flower offerings, pairs of rice balls, etc. It's usually translated to "handfuls" in English. The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are normally in kango. Paper money bills "wrapped" in envelopes also count. One or two wrapped things will be counted with the wago readings, then the rest will use kango. Counts: wrapped gifts, wrapped sweets, envelopes of money, individual packages, etc. This is used to count sets of papers connected together. This includes small booklets of coupons, pages with multiple discount tickets, or meal vouchers that come attached to one another.
One or two sets will be counted with the wago readings, three can be either, then the rest use kango. Counts: sets of coupons, sets of discount tickets, sets of meal vouchers, sets of stamps, etc. This is a Japanese unit of land size. In English, these units are usually left untranslated, and referred to as just "tsubo. This word means "pot," "jar," or "vase," but it refers to a specific type of Japanese jar. This counter is only used to count these traditionally-shaped containers, so its usage is falling out of favor, but it's still used in museums and older texts.
The wago readings are used for one or two pots, three can be either, and the rest are kango. Counts: tsubo jars of sea urchin, tsubo jars of umeboshi, tsubo vases full of flowers, tsubo jars, tsubo pots, etc. This is used to count pinches of something. It's written in hiragana without the kanji fairly often. The wago readings are used for one and two pinches, but the rest are kango.
Counts: pinches of salt, pinches of spices, pinches of katsuobushi , pinches of sesame seeds, etc. Counts: martial arts techniques, shogi moves, hands in card games , sumo techniques, means, ways, tricks, traditional dance moves, groups, people in charge, etc. You count drops or drips of liquid with this one. Anything from drops of sweat to drips in an IV. This is used to count shops, restaurants, and branches or chains of companies. Counts: shops, stores, restaurants, diners, cafes, branches, chains, store locations, etc.
Like the previous counter, this is used to count shops, restaurants, and branches or chains of companies. This is a unit of measurement that is about Counts: electric lights, gas lamps, street lamps or lights, lighthouse lights, mercury lamps, lightbulbs, heaters, etc.
Counts: pitches, bowls, casts in fishing , javelin throws, shot put throws, discus throws, etc. This is used to count steals of bases in baseball. This kanji is used to count towers, especially in writing. It's also used to count buildings that humans do not live in, like garages, detached storehouses, and sheds. Counts: buildings, houses, tenements, warehouses, factories, garages, storehouses, outhouses, huts, sheds, etc. This is used for hot springs and hot spring resorts.
This is an ordinal number suffix for orders, classes, and grades. Counts: prize numbers, places in a race, engineer ranks, officer ranks, train carriage classes, passenger classes, star magnitudes, etc. Counts: chapels, temples, shrines, halls, lecture halls, auditoriums, assembly halls, churches, cathedrals, etc. This is used to count ways, methods, and procedures.
One, two, and three ways can be read with wago or kango, but four and up are kango. Counts: phone card credit or usage amounts, TV card credit or usage amounts, strengths of prescriptions, angle degrees, temperature in degrees. This word means nabe pot , and it's used to count the pots themselves and the dishes served in them.
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One and two nabe are read with wago, and the rest are kango. This kanji means "man," but it's used to count sons. This word means "grip" or "handle," and it's used to count handfuls of various things. One and two handfuls are read with wago, and the rest are kango, but it's very rare to see people use it for three or more handfuls these days anyway.
You only have two hands, after all. It's also used to count air raids, as well as groups flocking to a location, like a protest or demonstration. Counts: waves, tsunamis, ripples, radio waves, radio signals, air raids, student demonstrations, mass demonstrations, protests, crowds, etc. Counts: factions, denominations, groups, literature groups, schools of poets, political parties, Buddhist sects, etc.
This kanji means "twice," "double," or "a number of times," and it's used to count multiples of something. Counts: multiples of a particular thing, sizes, numbers, competition ratios, magnifications, etc. This word means "to clap" your hands, so it's used to count beats and time in music, as well as mora similar to a syllable in English, but not quite the same. The wago readings are used for one and two, but the rest are kango. Together these kanji literally mean "horse body," so this is used to count lengths of horse bodies from nose to tail.
Specific, but useful for horse racing. This kanji means "belly," and it's used to count things that live inside bellies. This includes sacks of raw fish and clutches ie. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either, and kango are used for the rest. Counts: sacks of roe, sacks of soft roe milt , sea urchin, clutches of crocodile eggs, etc. This word means "needle," and it's used to count stitches especially surgical stitches. The rest are kango, though.
This includes tents, mosquito nets, and stage curtains. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either, and the rest are kango. Counts: tents, stage curtains, banners, mosquito nets, paper lanterns, instrument strings, bowstrings, bows, tent-style pavilions or gazebos, traditional Japanese umbrellas, bamboo screens, etc. This is the standard paper size in Japan, so this is a really useful counter to learn.
This is used to count the spots, speckles, and even dappled light on an animal's fur, especially in written Japanese. It's read with the wago readings until three, and the rest are kango, but you'll usually only hear it counting up to three nights, so it's unlikely you'll need to know any more than that. This is an ordinal number suffix for turns, orders, or ranks. It's also used for units of yarn, thread size, and thread count, which are less common use cases. Counts: turns, sports players' turns, performances, thread count, yarn, thread, etc. This is used to count fish, and crustaceans with fins or tails.
Fish that are fishing targets or that have been caught and are for sale at the market are counted by fishermen and fish store employees with this counter. Fish for sale at pet stores are also counted this way, but usually by the seller, not the buyer. This means "writing brush," and it's used to count signatures, messages, books, writing brush strokes, and calligraphy.
It's also used to count registered divisions of land, but that's a legal use case you won't see often. Counts: signatures, messages, books, writing brush strokes, calligraphy, calligraphy strokes, plots of land, divisions of land, etc. This is used to count straw bags or sacks for rice. This is used to count glass bottles, glass jars, flagons, decanters, phials, and vials. The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are read with kango. Counts: glass bottles, glass jars, thermoses, phials, vials, decanters, flagons, etc. This word is used to count items, types of products, varieties of dishes, meals, and types or numbers of ingredients.
The reading is entirely dependent on the context, so try to pay close attention when using these two counters. Counts: items, varieties of dishes, numbers of ingredients, types of products, meals, exhibits, etc. It's a unit of body temperature one-tenth or one degree , one percent of a bank rate or interest rate, a traditional Japanese unit of length of about 0. Counts: degrees of a flower blossoming, body temperature, bank rates, interest rates, etc.
This is used to count parts or groups of something that's been divided up into smaller units, and copies or sets of books and documents. Counts: copies of books, magazines, documents , company divisions and departments, parts of a play, daytime vs nighttime performances of a play, parts of a report, musical groups, books in a series, plays in a series, etc. Counts: sealed envelopes of official letters, sealed envelopes of paper money, sealed wills, etc. This is used to count doses of medicine, poison, or drugs. Rest, which is good for you, can also be counted with it.
And sips or bowls of tea, which can be medicinal, as well as puffs of cigarettes, which can be bad for you, are also counted with it. Counts: sips of tea, doses, bowls of matcha, puffs or tokes of a cigarette, rest, etc. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either wago or kango, and the rest are all read with kango. Counts: grape bunches, tufts of feathers, curtain fringes, sweater fringes, wisteria flower bunches, banana bunches, orange or tangerine segments, etc.
This is used to count bamboo joints, tree knots, parts of poems, melodies of traditional songs, etc. Counts: bamboo joints, tree knots, melodies of traditional songs, stages of life, seasons, quarter tuna strips, katsuobushi, etc. This word means "writing brush," "painting brush," or "Japanese calligraphy brush," and it's used to count strokes in a painting or in calligraphy. It's also used to count the action of putting ink or paint on a brush. This word is used to count boats and food in boat-shaped serving dishes. Sashimi on those fancy wooden boats at sushi restaurants can be counted with this!
Counts: sword swings, golf swings, bat swings, sprinkles of spice, drizzles of sauce, tail wags, shakes of a cocktail, shakes of a bottle or can, etc. This one's used to count the smallest units of words in a sentence that still make sense. That being said, Japan slid into the number one spot by a slim margin, with 53 percent enjoying the freedom of movement provided by sitting next to the aisle.
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Nevertheless, Japan was the only country above 50 percent, followed by Singapore with 47 percent and America with 40 percent. India proved to be one of the most aisle-hating countries, with only 14 percent opting for this position. Percentage of respondents who would choose an aisle seat in an airplane. One reason why Japan leans towards aisle-seating may have to do with another question posed by Expedia: When you want to get up, do you wake up your neighbor and get them to move?
Percentage of respondents who would wake a sleeping neighbor and ask them to move. Hong Kong fliers were shown to be the most upfront, with 60 percent saying the best course of action would be to wake your neighbor and ask them to move. When faced with this situation, the preferred method of Japanese passengers is to attempt to climb past with their back facing the sleeper.
Interestingly enough, passing with the front facing the sleeper is much less common, with only 19 percent opting to give a view of the groin over the butt. Percentage of respondents who would negotiate with strangers to sit near family and friends. Japanese fliers are also one of the least likely, by far, to ask other people to move so they can sit closer to their friends and family. Only six percent said they would be willing to negotiate a seat exchange with strangers, 10 percent lower than the next lowest in the top ten, Hong Kong. The aesthetic or technological manipulation of na- ture has a spiritual dimension; intervention by human hands can be seen to enable the ideal or potential of life to be more fully realized.
Examples in- clude the traditional art of bonsai, in which trees, extracted from nature, are carefully pruned to grow into a longer-living and more perfected version of the original, and virtual beaches today that, enclosed within a dome, artifi- cially reproduce and outperform the natural outdoors. It is this crossover quality of polymorphous perversity and techno- animism that more than anything is seen to capture, and serves to identify, such play fare as distinctly Japanese. Making Kitty-chan part American gave this character greater appeal to Japanese and perhaps global con- sumers.
In , Sanrio of- ficially announced that Kitty now had a last name White , making this most profitable and popular of Japanese playtoys a mouthless cat with the name Kitty White McGray In such a property, the line between authenticity and inauthenticity col- lapses. For it is not Japan in some literal or material sense that is captured and transmitted in the new global craze of Japanese cool, but rather a partic- ular style. And it is as trademark and producer of this distinctive style that Japan has acquired new notoriety in the global marketplace of popular cul- ture today.
Cute profits: fantasy toys and global sales. Indeed, we live in an era in which the imag- ination plays an increasingly important role in the global economy and is ever more embedded within, and a stimulus for, commodification. By craft- ing playware that not only appeals to the needs and desires of postindustrial kids but also tethers the latter to a New Age capitalist imagination, Japan is emerging as a toy maker and toy marketer of millennial times. But joined to these and spurring the capitalist imagination that Nakazawa intuits but leaves unexamined in his own work is a third quality I call the addictive frenzy fed by Japanese toys.
As imaginary playscapes that polymorphously change form and perversely go on forever, they incite a consumer appetite to play more and more, and to buy more and more of the merchandise sold in the marketplace. Popu- lated by hordes of creatures polymorphously perverse in the shapes, powers, and identities they assume a common feature of Japanese play properties, including Urutoraman, Digiman, Yu-Gi-Oh!
It is such a mind-set that is both retained and reinvented in the postmodern playcraft Japanese creators are producing today, as Nakazawa sees it. But, as I would add here, the loss of cultural tra- ditions is not merely an effect of postindustrialization but is actively pro- duced and shaped by it as well. Claiming a solitarism in Japanese today feeds the interests and products of an industry trying to sell companionship as a means to suture over this supposed lack.
Plugging into and feeding the world of the unconscious for kids, they also tend to come packaged in a portable form that makes access to its fantasy making both constant and personal. Children can carry a tamagotchi or Game Boy every- where, making of it a fantasy world that travels with its user. Like the Walk- man, these electronic game systems are technological machines that trans- port the user via sound waves, play waves, or visual waves to an alternative space of his or her own choosing.
As a subset within cultural technology, no- madic technology has proliferated in the postindustrial world. It is also a field in which Japan has been a leading force, in both production and con- sumption as in consumer styles and trends. And, ironically or not , the form this takes—a commodity that is bought and sold in the marketplace—is highly addictive.
Not only are these play creations pro- moted with all the savvy of the most current marketing strategies where what is au courant is the very latest—and most changeable—in fashion style , but the very logic of fantasy itself is one of endless possibility. Players become addicted to the rush of transformation, and this itself feeds a capitalist imag- ination, one dressed in commodities of limitless play and possibility.
In this way, playing with a Japanese fantasy good both replicates and repro- duces the very conditions of postindustrial capitalism fragmentation, speed, flux, flexibility , with its effects on subjectivity anxiety, atomism, and alienation. Yet there is another side to this frenzied addiction.
As I was told often by children, parents, marketers, child experts, and scholars of play in the course of fieldwork for this project, the sensation that is also produced in the course of immersion in a Japanese playscape like Sailor Moon or tamagotchi is one of titillation, mastery, and abundance. There is an array of separate and endlessly proliferating parts swords, skirts, eyeglasses, tulips, pots, big lips into which entities are disassembled but also reassembled in a plethora of ways.
In a sense, modernity itself is phantasmagoric; it cease- lessly generates that which is a la mode by consciously imagining dif- ference from things past. His Arcades Project de- picted an urban metropolis at the dawn of modernity transformed simulta- neously by both the drudgery of industrialization and the enchantments of a burgeoning consumer culture Buck-Morss Technology, particu- larly in moments of radical change and transformation, becomes entangled in the mythology of a previous age. Mythology did not disappear in this age of technology but, rather, became rooted within technology itself.
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Benjamin observed this effect in the way that industry and technology were presented as if they were new gods, capable alone of producing peace, progress, and happiness. While such mystification drew people into a system of industrial capitalism that also exploited, isolated, and alienated them, Benjamin unlike Marx or Adorno, his constant critic thought there was, or could be, something redemptive in the capacity shown here to hold on to the imagination.
Yet film and photography offer a means of recouping this doubly lost quality: of mimicking the fragmentation, for example, of bodies and space brought on by new labor regimes by showing it in slow motion, close-up vi- sual detail on the screen. In such ways, technical reproduction can give back to humanity that capacity for experience that technical production threatens to take away Benjamin ; Buck-Morss Benjamin, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, aimed to tap into the fantasy energy encapsulated in commodities and new technolo- gies, transforming what it said and did for people from mere enchantment to political and metaphysical illumination.
Borrowing from Benjamin, my own objective in this book is to treat Japanese play goods as dialectical fairy scenes: to analyze their power to enchant, stimulate, and soothe the imaginations of players but to also dis- sect how such fantasies come embedded in—and help reproduce or alter— relations of capitalism, cultural geopolitics, and techno-communication. But, like Benjamin, I also see the imagination as a tool situated within the machinery of, in this case, mobile commodities that cir- culate the globe in a flow of merchandise, New Age technology, and cultural power.
As for the politics of these capitalistic playtoys, this is an issue that, quite frankly, I have struggled with ever since embarking upon this project. In the end, is there anything redemptive for kids here as Benjamin saw in the new technologies of consumerism a century ago? Or are these toys so deeply en- tangled in circuits of commodities that the imaginative play they evoke is always, and inevitably, channeled to desires and relations of consumption? Over the years, I have gone back and forth on my own position.
Shocked, on the one hand, at the commercialism embedded in these perpetually spread- ing, morphing, and growing playscapes, I am struck, on the other, by the in- tensity and profusion of attachments children make to and through these virtual worlds. As it has evolved, then, my current view on the subject is that, while grafted on to and actively inciting a commercialism of runaway and possibly new pro- portions, these playtoys also speak to children in powerful ways that schol- ars—and adults in general, so often clueless about the imaginary worlds their youth inhabit—must, in my opinion, better understand.
More than anything, these toys engage in a continual breakdown and recombination of multiple bodies, powers, and parts. This is the logic of play that not only reproduces a lived world of flux, fragmentation, and mobility but also gives kids the opportu- nity to both mimic and reweave such particle-ization. This, too, then, is a form of mimetic play where youth explore the world by cre- atively replaying it—by duplicating breakdown with potentially destruc- tive, even violent, implications but also by producing connections.
It is in the latter I see the seeds of a dialectical fairy scene: the potential for postin- dustrial play technologies to give back to youth that capacity for experience that late-stage capitalism threatens to take away. This constitutes one bookend to the postwar period. Both these times have been marked and marred by up- heaval at home; they have also been characterized by a flush in fantasy pro- duction whose reception overseas has been vitally important to Japan.
Given my subject—the globalized flow of Japanese character goods into the U. How does one do ethnography without the false comfort of imagined local boundaries? Certainly, in my own case, the object of study here—toys that travel in a global marketplace and project fantasies of endless morphing and reconstruction—is unwieldy, mobile, and multiedged.
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Here it is critical to approach a subject not only through a body of literature and analytic guidelines but also by gain- ing understanding into its lived and discursive nature—how it is actually experienced, conceptualized, and talked about in the field. The latter applies particularly well to popular culture, in my opinion: a field that is most often studied through cultural studies, with its proclivity for textual analysis, the- oretical acrobatics, and what has sometimes been characterized as drive-by ethnography.
What a grounded ethnographic study can add to this is exam- ining a popular phenomenon more from the perspective of those living it: a terrain—involving emotions, desires, bodily sensations, otherworldly spir- its—that not only is messy itself but often muddies the categories of a more academy-directed approach. My own project is deeply concerned with matters of the imagination. I am looking at toys that feed and construct the imagination in particular ways that are shaped by the global, millennial, and capitalistic nature of their current traffic.
I call my book Millennial Monsters because monsters, both literal and figurative, fig- ure so prominently here: border crossers with identities culled from a mon- strous blend of the familiar and unfamiliar—normal teenagers who morph into cyborgian superheroes, electronic icons that assemble into virtual pets. By definition, monsters live between two worlds and threaten to collapse or break down the mediating border.
Consider Peter in North Carolina. He plays Yu-Gi-Oh! To understand how this imaginary world makes sense to fans like Peter and how the fantasy shifts in different contexts and for different actors in the play scene is my ethnographic objective here. This is a daunting challenge nonetheless, considering that I am neither a child nor an adoring fan of these properties.
So, I have immersed myself in the play culture—watching countless movies and cartoons, reading guide- books and comics, and endlessly playing electronic games—but also em- ployed other strategies such as observing children as they play, interviewing parents and marketers ethnographers themselves about the appeal of par- ticular toys, and studying new waves of merchandise at toy stores and toy shows.
Interested as well in the production, marketing, and ideological and historical circulation of these toys as their logic of fantasy, I have adopted a multiperspectival approach for studying my subject, itself not only mobile but also multifaceted. Conducting multisited fieldwork both in the United States, during summers and spring breaks starting in , and in Japan, for short stints and a full year in — , I utilized a range of methodolog- ical techniques. My research plan was more flexible than religious in the techniques used to study each wave of toy merchandise.
This was for reasons both of serendipity different op- portunities and contacts presented themselves in each case and of pur- posely trying to mix up and vary the strategies employed. In the end, I have examined the toys in my study from multiple angles: as commodities in an ever-cascading empire of addictive consumerism using theories of political economy and global capitalism , as signs of cul- tural power as expressed in local discourses in Japan , as fantasies that elicit pleasure and intimacy according to players and marketers , and as symp- toms of postindustrial youth culture marked by techno-animism, nomadic subjectivity, and anxiety read through the lens of behavioral trends and so- cioeconomic conditions.
This range of perspective has added complexity if not always clarity to my subject matter; contradictions and tensions abound here in how toy culture is articulated by different voices and positions. But my aim in being multiperspectival is not so much to present an array of viewpoints that, treated as neutral and transparent, add up to a social fact as to understand the logic by which these complicated objects circulate in a marketplace of soft power and fantasy capital. Thus, I take it as a given that each position has its own bias that comes ensconced in its own interpretive framework.
Marketers of toys are looking to sell their product no matter how eloquently they speak of its redemptive or imaginative potential for kids. And fans are so enamored they rarely can see the hook with which these products also feed an addiction to consume. Ultimately, Millennial Monsters is about not any static object but interlocking relation- ships: between global capitalism and Japanese capitalism, fantasies and com- modities, techno-animism and polymorphous commercialism, Japan and the United States.
So, with methodology behind us, on to flows of toys and goods, curren- cies of culture and money, and trades in fantasies and powers. It was a fiercely hot day in the heart of summer. Bombs had burned everything and all that remained of Japan was scorched land. Particularly hard hit were the cities.
Tokyo was reduced to burnt fields and, in the midst of this, sat the toy industry. By the time of its surrender, the country lay, literally and figuratively, in ruins. American air raids, running relent- lessly in the last fourteen months of war, rendered huge civilian losses sev- enty thousand alone in the attack on Tokyo in March and vast urban destruction half the country, concentrated in urban cities and small adjacent cities: 40 percent of Tokyo, 58 percent of Yokohama, 56 percent of Kobe, 38 percent of Osaka.
The national transportation system was crippled; a major- ity of ports and factories had been destroyed; entire industries were crushed or wiped out aircraft manufacturing, textiles, iron and steel, cement ; and little remained of investment capital. Losing their homes, millions of urban- ites fled to the countryside. Following the horror of continuous air raids came the most searing wartime event of all: the atomic bombs dropped by the United States over Hiroshima on August 6, , and, three days later, onto Nagasaki. The first country to be victimized by nuclear warfare, Japan has been forever marked by the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Burdened by tremendous losses and possessing little in the way of re- sources, infrastructure, or harvests with which to sustain its populace or commence reconstruction, Japan also faced the despair of defeat in and the erosion of national identity. The familiar was now replaced by the tremors of the unknown: a new atomic bomb, a new occupying force an unprecedented event in a country never previously occupied by a foreign army , and a new democratic constitution. Times were uneasy, yet the end of the war also meant the disassembling of the military machine that had dictated the country and subsumed national energies for more than a decade.
The areas suppressed by the war effort in- cluded the subjects that interest me most in this book—the realms of play and the imagination. Known best for the high quality, low price, and detailed design of its metallic toys, the industry was given a vital boost, interestingly enough, by the exigencies of the previous world war. Shaped by the mod- ernization taking over the country, the toy industry was filled by onetime artisans of metal ornaments for temples and shrines who, finding their skills displaced by new technology coming from Europe and the United States, had retooled their craft from religion to entertainment at the turn of the century.
For this reason, the toy district emerged in the Asakusa neighbor- hood of Tokyo, known as a repository of Japanese traditions of all sorts— major festivals, shrines, temples, and in the Tokugawa period , the pleasures of the red-light district. With the invention of the handpress machine, imported from abroad shortly after the Sino-Japanese War in , handmade toys shifted to mass production Toyama Authorized to rule, these onetime enemies policed the populace, administered the country, and remade the state—installing an American school system of 6—3—3, divesting the zaibatsu large conglomerates of family-owned corporations , and imposing democracy in a constitution in- stituting individual rights, female suffrage, separation of church and state, and a ban against rearmament except for self-defense.
At a more banal level, SCAP forces also consumed food and generated garbage. Modeling these toys after the jeeps being driven by American soldiers figure 6 , the Japanese toy industry re- cycled, both literally and figuratively, the U. The Kosuga jeep is the first recorded toy made in Japan after the war.
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Enlisting the help of local women, Kosuga in- creased production; ten thousand toy jeeps were sold between December and January, and the price was raised to thirty yen. And as rumors of his success spread to Tokyo, others were spurred to start up toy manufacturing as well Toyama American soldiers found these playthings amusing. So did officials at SCAP, who, already aware of the prewar stature of the Japanese toy indus- try, called its representatives into General Headquarters GHQ and ordered them to manufacture their ware for American children.
On August 15, precisely two years after the end of the war , SCAP officially decreed that toys could now be legally exported as commodities. Bearing this logo, more than half of all the toys pro- duced in Japan during occupation were sold overseas, mainly in the United States Kitahara As Kitahara Teruhisa has noted, the influence of export greatly shaped the early designs of postwar toys. Recycling the occupation: toy jeep made out of tin cans and modeled on American military vehi- cles. Similarly, Atomic Robot, also made from recycled tin cans, came in a package printed not only in English but also—and far more disturbingly—with an image of the blossoming mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb.
Produced under conditions of subjugation, toys nonetheless provided much-needed business for the Japanese state, and the play industry gener- ated precious revenues. It also yielded something even more basic to the needs of Japanese children at the time: food. So while Japanese toys fed the imagina- tions of kids overseas, the goods they were exchanged for fed the stomachs of schoolchildren at home. Further, once the American food had been eaten, the now-empty cans it came in were recycled to make ever more tin toys. Thus, like the school system itself, these playthings were crafted with the imprint of a distinctively foreign culture—the canned pineapple, baked beans, and sardines on the underside of tin jeeps and Atomic Robots.
Thanks, in large part, to the access and popularity it had with its principal export market, the United States, the Japanese toy industry also played a major role in rebuilding the national economy. Leading the rise of industry in the early postwar period, export revenues in the toy industry came to million yen in , more than tripled by to 1 billion yen , and reached 8 billion yen by The American marketplace was critically im- portant here, and the currency of play it enabled fed the Japanese economy and Japanese themselves in more ways than one after the war. Without doubt, this was one of its major charms.
Kobayashi By , nine years had passed since Japan surrendered to the Allies; the oc- cupation had been over for only two years. Times were still hard and, with a per capita annual income of ninety-seven dollars, people remained plagued by insecurities of the everyday—making ends meet, having enough food, and living in cramped housing. Yet, stimulated by the outbreak of the Ko- rean War in , which spurred a demand for heavy industry by the U. Basic needs were now being met, the white paper declared, and from here on out national goals were to be high levels of production and consumption Ivy Replacing the wartime agen- das of militarism and empire building were the pacifist ones of achieving material prosperity through the joint pillars of a managed society kanri shakai and technological advances.
The s would be a period of disjuncture. In the postwar period, the United States exerted a major influence in the burgeoning mass culture as well as technological culture in Japan. On a more indirect level, the fantasies and dreams of postwar Japanese were deeply aroused by im- ages of American prosperity—spread first by the presence of well-fed American GIs during occupation and, later, by the circulation of American consumer products and popular culture with its scenes of middle-class abundance projected in Hollywood movies and television shows like Father Knows Best so popular in postwar Japan.
Into, and out of, this mix lurched the phenomenon that was Gojira: the first cinematic blockbuster of the postwar era, featuring a spectacle of ter- ror—a mutant prehistoric beast ravaging Tokyo with its atomic powers. Surfac- ing at Tokyo Bay, the atomic hulk now stalks the metropolis with a venge- ful fury. Thrashing his tail and growling fiercely as he discharges nuclear rays, Gojira crumples buildings and crushes people in an orgy of destruc- tion.
Starting in , Japanese cinema was birthed in the shadow of war. The events of the Russo-Japanese War in were cap- tured by both Japanese and foreign film crews and, shown as newsreels in theaters, inspired public interest in the new medium of cinema. War footage also inspired patriotism, of course, though until the s modern war stories were produced alongside other genres including jidaigeki—pe- riod pieces showcasing the spiritual fortitude and superior swordsmanship of samurai and other warriors.
Even though about half of all movie theaters had been destroyed during the war, most of the studios survived Ivy Gojira: a mythological monster for the atomic age, from Gojira Millennium. The mythological composition is crucial: how the story and characters weave an alternative world that evokes deep responses in the audience— yearning, fears, anxieties, desires.
Seeing themselves in Gojira, audiences also saw this entity as a deathly force that would destroy their country unless constrained. The ambiguity of these emotions configured the beast as well. The spectacle of Gojira was a defining moment in the postwar recovery of Japan.
Unlike the tin toys, which had a currency that directly contributed to the rebuilding of the Japanese economy after the war, this was a movie in an industry important but not critical to national finances in the s. Of more consequence was the blockbuster nature of this production and the fact that it was made, though also for export to the United States, for the en- joyment of Japanese. This was spectacular entertainment targeted at least initially to the domestic marketplace.
Overseen by producer Tanaka Tomoyuki, the screenplay was written by science fiction author Kayama Shigeru. Opening on November 3, , Gojira brought in 9. Manifestly, though, the creative impulse for Gojira came from an occurrence closer in time. On March 1, , the United States secretly detonated a fifteen- megaton hydrogen bomb times the atomic power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki near Bikini Atoll in Micronesia. Returning from Indonesia after a canceled movie deal at about the same time, Tanaka Tomoyuki was looking for a replacement film and found his inspiration in the Bikini incident.
A longtime fan of American westerns and Japanese chanbara samurai action films , Tanaka had been most deeply affected by the movie King Kong, which he had seen as a young man. Born of a nuclear episode, the monster is even stronger than an atomic weapon. With all that strength, he has the capacity to wipe out the civilization built by humans.
Audiences hugely applauded Gojira. This is because in everyday life, people have to suppress their anger, and Gojira is a substitution for this. Indeed, the movie dramatizes what Susan Sontag has called an aesthetics of destruction. Right from the beginning, viewers are bombarded with scenes of dead bodies, the rubble of fallen buildings, and the despair of Japa- nese gripped by loss, fear, and the uncertainty of a future threatened by alien intrusion.
These images of disaster are omnipresent in the film, and the portrayal of a city under attack whose population is terrorized, weak- ened, and besieged was certainly a replaying of wartime memories. The story of Gojira, however, is a retelling of the war with a twist. Rather, the aggressions in the tale rest entirely with the monster and with the nuclear fallout provoking his transformation and rage. Gojira signifies World War II as a travesty of nature brought on by the atomic blasts of the Americans.
For Japanese audiences, then, Gojira pro- vided a vehicle for reliving the terrors of the war relieved of any guilt or re- sponsibility—solely, that is, from the perspective of victim. In this sense, Gojira was a fantasy. In this sense, Gojira is symptomatically marked; he is scarred yet em- powered by a particular historical event—a nuclear blast that disturbs his home but also rewires him as an atomic cyborg.
The emotions he engenders are accordingly ambivalent, according to a number of Japanese I have spo- ken to. He is pitied for being a victim, feared for being inhumanly fierce, and envied for being technologically empowered. Since the time he first entered the circuits of the popular imag- inary in the s, then, Gojira would seem to have embodied the very essence of monstrosity—something caught between different worlds, time periods, and natures.
A monster, he symbolizes the monstrosity Japan was reduced to by war but also the transformations Japan had to undergo to sur- vive and rebuild in the postwar era. Out of the scars of war, Japan was to rebuild itself by becoming embedded, like Gojira, with new technologies that would forever alter national identity, state policies, and subjectivity. Geared now to generating consumerism rather than defending the homeland, technology was to infuse the daily lives, habits, and desires of Jap- anese as never before in the form more of washing machines and televisions than of airplanes and guns.
But it was also tied, at least in the beginning, to trauma and loss—standard in tales of cyborgs that, once they become organ- isms, are mechanically remade following an injury or death. Like Tanaka, he was deeply inspired by the movie King Kong, which when it came out in impressed Tsuburaya with its sophis- ticated special effects that contrasted with the rather crude trick photography still being used then in Japanese moviemaking. By , Tsuburaya had greatly developed his own craft, and he is still heralded as the guru of special effects, or tokusatsu, which became the name of a genre in both film and tel- evision shows in Japan.
As I was often told in doing re- search for this project, fantasy is far more valued than realism as the cre- ative aesthetic of popular entertainment in Japan. Like the character of Gojira itself, then, borders are blurred in production— between monster and human, technology and actor—that are kept more distinct in the Hollywood brand of moviemaking. This really advances the dreams of Japanese moviemaking.
That we can produce such a fine film in our country too is a real joy. But Gojira makes me proud that Japan can produce something of this quality. Approximately two to three million viewers have seen each of these productions in Japan even though, over time, the targeted audience switched to children rather than adults and the monster became more of a lovable superhero fighting to save rather than destroy the human world.
It was not only the size of the movie, of course, but also that of the mon- ster that, in a conflation of production and myth, made Gojira the epoch film that it was. Takahashi Toshio, a professor of literature and a baby boomer born in the s who had not been a fan of Gojira and its sequels as a child, developed a strong interest in a new series that started in when he was thirty- two years old. The mystery of his motives makes whatever he is both vague and ongoing: something scary but also fascinating, as much for adults as for children.
And this, as was the general as- sessment in Japan, is precisely what the U. As important to its business as serialization and franchise merchandise has been the marketing of Gojira overseas. Exporting started with the orig- inal movie when a low-budget filmmaker, Dick Kay, bought U. Kay and his colleagues including the East Coast distributor Joseph E. There has been no dearth of avid Godzilla fans in the United States, how- ever, many of whom, like Steven Spielberg, regard the film as a work of art. Yet as serious lovers of Godzilla have also pointed out, American- ization changed and devalued the original cachet these monsters had for their Japanese audiences.
From Sci-Fi Entertain- ment 5, no. Few histories of U. Yet as three American authors of recent books on the subject argue Kalat ; Ryfle ; Tsutsui , the re- tooling of these movies for U. Like the tin toys that preceded it, these Japanese exports entertained U. Despite this devaluing of a cultural product whose symbolic cachet is much higher at home, however, the Americanizing of Godzilla was the key to its globalization. It was the U. As was true of the sequels as well, plugging Gojira into the U.
Theme song for the U. At one end of the spectrum was Gojira—the mean-spirited hulk menacing Tokyo and jolting movie audiences with spectacular special effects. At the other end was Tetsuwan Atomu—a lovable boy-robot who was as gentle-hearted and reassuring a superhero as he was futuristic and scientifically advanced.
Made into an animated cartoon under the same name, it became the first serialized program on Japanese TV in as a black-and-white cartoon on Fuji Television and was exported to a number of countries overseas, including the United States. Plans for a live-action, feature-length movie produced by Disney, for example, have been percolating in the United States since , and a new cartoon series was launched in Japan in Tezuka Osamu was eighteen years old when the war ended.
A medical student at the time—a career he eventually abandoned—Tezuka was more interested in the craft of visual storytelling, specifically comic artistry and film. Experimenting with a two-hundred-page comic he created in called Shintakarajima New Treasure Island , Tezuka immediately made a name for himself with his innovative style, employing a playful use of sounds and drawing out single images or scenes across multiple frames.
In- fluenced by European cinema and the animation techniques of Walt Disney and Max Fleisher, Tezuka incorporated these into the medium of manga, a presage of the creative force with which manga would develop in postwar Japan. Unlike the film and toy industries during this period, where, particularly in the latter, production was affected by and geared toward the export mar- ketplace, manga was—and remains to this day—created almost exclusively for a domestic audience.
This genre has ancient historical roots; the earliest traces a. The first cartoonist also comes from the ranks of Buddhism—an abbot Toba, — known for his comic representation of animals Scroll of Frolicking Animals and the everyday struggle of people facing hunger Origin of Shigisan. Japanese script, done traditionally with brush and with an eye to visual beauty, lends itself to the art of cartooning, and in both there is a play with borders; writing turns to imagery, characters to car- icatures, and words to scenes.
From then until after the war, manga appeared as newspaper comic strips, serialized comics in magazines, and military propaganda. Given its plas- ticity, which can accommodate a range of audiences young and old , sub- jects from baseball to erotica , and genres that inform as well as entertain , manga was used by early postwar artists to both relive and transcend the everyday struggles Japanese people were facing.
Coupling the mundane with the fantastic has remained a characteristic of manga storytelling to the present. The popular comic strip Sazae-san, penned by Hasegawa Machiko a woman , which ran from to and spread to cartoons, comics, songs, and a live-action movie , adopted this model by portraying the everyday dramas of a character named Sazae Isono in her role as care- taker for an extended family.
Along somewhat different lines, Sanpei, the Kappa—a four-volume work published in by kami shibai paper- plays —turned—manga artist Mizuki Shigeru—recounted the fantastic ad- ventures of a boy, Sanpei, who filled his days in the mountains playing with a badger and a kappa, an imaginary creature that lives underwater Tsu- rumi In such ways, the normal and real are exaggerated, caricatur- ized, tweaked, and transformed in manga, blurring the edges between the everyday and the absurd.
In the late s, materials remained scarce in the country, and enter- tainment needed to be cheap to be affordable for most Japanese. Disrupted by the war, the large publishing companies in Tokyo had yet to regain con- trol of the field. In this moment of poverty yet promise, Tezuka joined a fledging group of artists and small-time publishers in Osaka working under conditions of limited resources but creative freedom. One of their products was a cheap comic book that, made with red ink and rough paper, sold on the streets. The streets were also where kami shibai took place: stories told through large cards painted with visual scenes and narrated by storytellers.
Between and , about ten thousand people made their living by selling candy before and after the performances, and approximately five million Japanese watched these shows daily Schodt a. Many of these kami shibai writers later turned to manga.