I feel that Japan is heralded as one of the countries with the most interesting and at the same time strangest cultures. A word that I feel a lot of people use to describe Japan, Japanese people, or the Japanese language is "cute."
So many famous cute icons are from Japan-Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Domo-kun, etc. One thing I noticed was that some missing facial feature seems to be the key to cuteness...except for the eyes, because, well, a creature without eyes is probably a demon...
Notice Hello Kitty, who lacks a mouth:
Doraemon, who lacks ears.
And Domo-kun, who lacks a nose:
There's something a little off about removing a facial feature to make something "cute" though, as is easily shown by the rather disturbing site, http://noselesscelebs.tumblr.com/ .
Part of what inspired me to write about this pervasive culture of cuteness is my host mother's household (as I have mentioned ad nauseum, is completely pink, down to even the toilet paper!) and the strange juxtaposition with her (Teenage Mutant Ninja!) turtles, who could hardly be considered "cute." Leo-chan (aka. Leonardo aka. the largest of the turtles) has earned the fear of Eunbi, Rewon, and Colby, who visited on Saturday. The following is a series of pictures of Colby's attempt to feed Leo-chan and a close call with his almost escaping!
Colby, Rewon, and Eunbi with my host mom.
In relation to the cuteness again, we have my host mother's chopstick holders, which are Pooh Bears with differing expressions.
On Tuesday, Somin and I hit up Ginza, which is virtually the 5th Avenue of Tokyo, albeit much emptier. A great find was what I think was a necklace that cost more than four years of tuition + board at Yale. Talk about a purchase!
Read the following price and weep:
22,155,000 yen = $280,327 dollars T_T
And back to the thread of cuteness--we also visited a Teddy Bear museum/shop, where a lot of the teddy bears were adorable...
But there were a few that were quite bizarre...
Why would you have a bear holding a bear's head???
Putting your baby's face on a teddy bear...?
I could see this being vaguely cute...
Just before we left for home, we noticed an interesting looking shop that sold ice cream. We could tell there was something special about it from the way it was being advertised, but we didn't know what お酢 was. Seeing the alcohol radical, we assumed that maybe it was alcoholic ice cream, especially since the place served beer too. After some pondering, Somin looked it up and we found out it was vinegar. Why would anyone want vinegar in ice cream or drinks??? We then thought to ourselves, well, it can't be in Ginza of all places and have customers inside if it's not good. So we tried it out. What we were trying was probably the new fro-yo direction. It basically tasted like a variant of fro-yo and was rather good! Interesting concept. Where else would you find such strange niche interests but in a big city like Tokyo?!
Somin's black currant vinegar ice cream on the left and my "roseheap" (?) vinegar drink with soymilk. They both packed quite the tang!
The shop's impressive collection of vinegar--which we thought was wine from the outside.
And the handles over the counter totally looked like beer handles in a bar!
On a side note--I also met up with Miyuki, another student who I studied with at Sogang! We had delicious tantanmen 坦々面 and proceeded to catch up in a cafe. She described the feeling of meeting in another country and speaking in another as iwakan 違和感, a feeling of being out of place. I think that about captured the feeling of talking to someone completely in a language that you've never used with them before! I wonder if this is how kids who are unable to speak one or both of their parents' languages feel when they end up switching later on.
Midterm tomorrow, until next time!