Japan: Taking Cosplay to a New Level 

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Shiguma Aika, second from left, talks with other cosplayers at a broadcasting studio in Osaka.

OSAKA — Keisuke Uranishi reports: An Osaka-based woman is amping up her creativity in a bid to make a difference as a cosplayer.

Shiguma Aika is a famous cosplayer who became known outside Japan about 10 years ago.

“I believe cosplay is a culture Japan can be proud of. I want to be even more creative than now.”

“We can overcome the language barrier and quickly get along with foreigners — that’s one of the good effects of cosplaying,” she said to listeners at the end of an internet radio program late last year.

Sporting bright white hair, Aika appeared on the show with three other cosplayers. Seated in a broadcasting studio, they looked like they had stepped out of an anime world.

“We can overcome the language barrier and quickly get along with foreigners — that’s one of the good effects of cosplaying.”But Aika is not content just to get into a character by cosplaying. She also uses it to express the world the character lives in and share its allure with spectators and other people. She aims to perform “creative cosplay,” shedding new light on the work in question and make it shine more brightly.

“In reality, wars are always going on. I had fun cosplaying, but then I thought I might be able to go a step further and use cosplaying to express [more serious] themes, such as the nature of war and love for humanity.”

For example, Aika and her fellow cosplayers performed a scene from a popular game inspired by the Shinsengumi samurai warrior force at a festival about Japan in Shanghai in February 2012. The Shinsengumi fought for the Tokugawa shogunate in the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan News]

The performance won huge praise from the audience as they demonstrated a theatrical sword fight on stage filled with the passion of Shinsengumi members, many of whom died at a young age.

The festival was a formal event and commemorated the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. But the organizers, which included the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai, recognized cosplay as an important cultural field that plays a role in the “Cool Japan” promotional movement, and decided to invite Aika and her fellow cosplayers.

Aika said she gained a lot of confidence as a cosplayer at the festival.

Love and war

Aika comes from Osaka, and became fascinated with cosplay in her adolescence. She devoted herself to it more and more because she felt that trying to look like her favorite manga characters would bring her closer to them in mind as well. Read the rest of this entry »


The Evolution of the Japanese Ego: Part I 

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Michael Hoffman writes: When Adam and Eve defied God, creator and master of the universe, and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, what did they learn? To say “I.”

They learned that they were “naked” — they were selves, egos. As such, there was no place for them in paradise. Their expulsion was “the fall of man,” narrated in the biblical Book of Genesis.

This seems a long way from Japan. It is. Japanese myth records no “fall,” no defiance of the undefiable, no primeval descent into selfhood. The Japanese ego evolved very differently from the Western one.

This is the introductory installment of a four-part series examining what the Japanese mean when they say “I.”

A peculiarity of the Japanese language gives it many first-person pronouns, varying with circumstances, rank, age and gender, but comparatively few occasions to use them. Japanese often leaves sentence subjects
unspoken. You can speak of yourself without emphasizing and reinforcing, as Western languages force you to do, your “I-ness.”

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Japanese tradition denigrates not only selfishness but selfhood. To Buddhism it was a delusion; to Confucianism, an object of “self-cultivation” whose ultimate object is self-denying, society-dedicated “benevolence.” Bushido, the “way of the warrior,” was especially hard on the self. “The way of the warrior is death,” declared the grim 18th-century military treatise known as the “Hagakure.” “This means choosing death whenever there is a choice between life and death.” The self that instinctively protests51e9jgsshl-_sl250_ its death sentence must be rigorously suppressed: “Every day without fail one should consider oneself as dead.”

[Check out Michael Hoffman’s book, “In The Land of the Kami: A Journey Into The Hearts of Japan at Amazon.com]

The first “I” in Japanese literature is identifiable but not nameable — her name is unknown. A noblewoman and poetess, she lived in 10th-century Kyoto and left posterity a diary — the “Kagero Nikki” (“Gossamer Diary”). It’s a brilliant portrait of a soul in torment. Her “I” is her suffering; her suffering forces her into the black hole of selfhood. Hers is no plea for individualism; if anything she pleads for release from it. She would be anyone other than herself, if only she could. Other people were like other people; only she was different, condemned to the morbid isolation of selfhood by an insufficiently attentive husband and the perversity (which she admits) of her own feelings. Sharing a husband was gall to her. Polygamy among the aristocracy was the norm. Other noblewomen resigned themselves to it, more or less graciously. Why couldn’t she? Why did she alone torture herself over slights and neglect that others shrugged off? Because she was she. She wanted a husband “30 days and 30 nights a month,” and, knowing she demanded the impossible, refused to settle for less. “If only the Buddha would let me be reborn in Enlightenment,” she prays. In other words: If only the Buddha would release me from the agony of selfhood. It never happens.

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Between the long peace of her time and the long peace of the Edo Period (1603-1868) stand 500 years of war — civil war, mostly — in which bushido prevailed. Life was nothing, death everything, the self a mere sacrifice to be laid on the altar of loyalty. Read the rest of this entry »