Archive for the preconceptions Category

Japanese Love Hotels: a cultural history

Posted in lifestyle, preconceptions with tags , , , , on August 27, 2011 by mikele

Japanese Love Hotels [the book]

I just started reading this book by Sarah Chaplin on the ‘love’ hotels in Japan, an aspect of contemporary Japanese culture often downplayed and underestimated by western tourists (“they’re just modern and fancy brothels” – a classic reaction I don’t deny having had myself). Love hotels are instead a fantastically rich anthropological phenomenon, where the fascinating mix of modern and antique which is nowadays Japan gets represented in all of its levels. Here is an excerpt from the first chapter:

It’s Sunday morning, 10:43am, and you don’t have any particular plan for the day. So here is my tip: Get yourself a folding chair, place yourself comfortably across from the entrance of one of Japan’s 30,000 love hotels, and just watch. Apart from a few surprises, your private programme should include the following: an old man accompanied by a 15-year-old girl in school uniform rushing into the hotel to make use of the reasonable 2-hour ‘rest’ rate; a middle-aged couple from outside Tokyo parking their car in the parking lot, then running the five metres to the entrance, hiding their faces like criminals; a teenage couple entering the place as if it were a McDonald’s; and, as an encore, a newly-arrived foreign woman in her forties with her luggage walks happily in, only to come out confused and ashamed three minutes later. So just by sitting around you have a perfect overview of Japanese culture right at its most interesting point.


The love hotel is characterised as a barometer of social and cultural change in Japan’s long post- war period, mirroring economic and psychological fluctuations, while challeng- ing behavioural norms and domestic identities.

Sarah Chaplin is an architect and cultural theorist, so her study focuses on aspects such as the love hotels’ urban context, their architectural form, their richly wrought interiors, their names and thematic contents, and their emerging status as a cultural industry. However throughout the book there are lots of reflections which are of interest also to non academic and non expert readers, especially the ones who’re intrigued and eager to get under the skin of japanese culture.


Male geishas are the new fashion

Posted in preconceptions with tags , , , on April 1, 2010 by mikele

Geishas are a thing of the past: in modern Japan it’s women who like to pay for romantic entertainment!

Japanese monks marry?

Posted in preconceptions with tags , , on February 24, 2010 by mikele

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I didn’t know that, and actually I was pretty surprised when I first met some monks that live happily with their families. And this applies to both Shinto and Buddhist priests alike.

Shinto (“the way of the gods”) is the indigenous faith of the Japanese people and as old as Japan itself. It remains Japan’s major religion alongside Buddhism.
Shinto does not have a founder nor does it have sacred scriptures like the sutras or the bible. Propaganda and preaching are not common either, because Shinto is deeply rooted in the Japanese people and traditions.

Buddhism originated in India in the 6th century BC. It consists of the teachings of the Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha. Of the main branches of Buddhism, it is the Mahayana or “Greater Vehicle” Buddhism which found its way to Japan.
Buddhism was imported to Japan via China and Korea in the form of a present from the friendly Korean kingdom of Kudara (Paikche) in the 6th century. While Buddhism was welcomed by the ruling nobles as Japan’s new state religion, it did not initially spread among the common people due to its complex theories.

Sincerely, I like that and I think that the ideal of chastity (e.g. the catholic one) for non-hermit religious officers is bullshit. I mean, if priests have to live in the middle of a non-religious community in a stable manner, why shouldn’t they marry like anybody else?
But I guess it’s a long discussion..

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If you have 69 dollars to invest in this topic, there’s a book that tells you the whole story about marriage in japanese buddhism: Neither Monk nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism, by Richard Jaffe:

Buddhism comes in many forms, but in Japan it stands apart from all the rest in one most striking way–the monks get married. In Neither Monk nor Layman, the most comprehensive study of this topic in any language, Richard Jaffe addresses the emergence of an openly married clergy as a momentous change in the history of modern Japanese Buddhism. He demonstrates, in clear and engaging prose, that this shift was not an easy one for Japanese Buddhists. Yet the transformation that began in the early Meiji period (1868-1912)–when monks were ordered by government authorities to adopt common surnames and allowed to marry, to have children, and to eat meat–today extends to all the country’s Buddhist denominations.

An interesting article by Soko Morinaga, titled Celibacy: the view of a Zen monk from Japan. He’s the Buddist monk. Rector of Hanazono University.

The issue of monastic celibacy differs for each sect of Japanese Buddhism and for each individual monk. We cannot say that the social issues I have outlined above reflect the definitive state of contemporary Japanese Buddhism but it is true that where these various problems do exist, they arise from the marriage of monks. Moreover, in thinking about this question, we should not overlook the fact that nuns are usually neglected and that an exclusively male-centred point of view is argued.


There’s more: you might run into japanese monk-rappers too, as attested by cnn article Japanese monks serve up alcohol and hip hop music to lure in followers..