Nipponia, and a lengthy tangent

Ah, Japan.

It is good to know there is at least one faraway land where Curious Things Are. A land where things happen that leave me gaping, not quite able to believe such things can be.

(Okay, Saudi Arabia is such a place, too, but in its case the disbelief is mixed with a meteoric spike in my blood pressure. Japan is much easier on the old veins because it is not a prudish hellhole but a place of curious innocence.)

Japan, the land of heart-shaped watermelons.

The land of toilet kneelers and toilets with more functions than my cell phone.

The land of bizarre advertisements, and the land of really unsettlingly bizarre advertisements. (That one’s Anabuki-chan of the anatomically inappropriate tanuki; or rather the in-Japan-entirely-logical tanuki.)

The land of, erm, curiously direct products, like the tit pillow. (Google “oppai ball” for more.)

And those aren’t an all-time hit list of heartwarming/burning Japanese peculiarities; they’re what five minutes of lazy memory and rather cursory searching (mostly on Gizmodo) gave.

It’s really nice to see a modern culture with such different roots, one with neuroses different from our tired old ones.

(And now that lengthy, squicky tangent.)

And of course even the small differences can be instructive: I am somehow very fond of the fact that in Japan, despite the immense, bewildering and occasionally horrifying output of adult entertainment, real rapes and other sexual crimes are actually very rare. One could say that the different roots make that lesson inapplicable elsewhere, or cry that the statistics must be wrong, or say correlation is no causation and this is no safety valve, or mention train oglers and upskirt photographers — but as this factoid fits my opinion that there is nothing wrong in portraying a thing in fiction, no matter how loathsome, objectionable, criminal, anatomically improbable and biologically impossible it would be in reality, I choose to pooh-pooh those objections.

After all, we don’t think an action movie actionable because the supposed heroes steal an innocent bystander’s car and extralegally execute the villain — that’s fiction too, and it’s a bit deranged to demand that fictional people get the same respect and rights as real ones. And, to counter the inevitable objection, there’s a big difference between saying Darth Vader is cool and actually going around in black armor trying to force-throttle people or hitting them with a colored stick. The first is a healthy person keeping fiction and reality apart and applying quite different standards to each; the second is a cracked one whose problems are not of Vaderific origin, and my poor old eyes can see no path from the first to the second except for those already broken. (Also, the fact that lunatics tend to wear tinfoil doesn’t mean owning tinfoil will turn you into one.)

And as for those who say fiction should be edifying and exemplifying and never ever portray bad things in any positive or ambivalent way or show people smoking — er, no. I will not accept such a reduction in my choice of pastimes. I like my filth filthy. My mind’s not a pound of silly putty; I can cheer for Darth Vader for the entire duration of the Empire Strikes Back and still walk out without a hankering to freeze real people in carbonite. Who knows, I might even get rid of some hidden carbonite-freezing frustrations of mine.

Instead of Vadering this argument down as I did, I could have written any of a wide variety of sexual things that are in real life either criminal or physically impossible, or both, and for cheer I could have written a different physical exercise, but I think we both feel less squicky by keeping this all-Vader.

And sheesh, I start with an intent to share a few curious glimpses and end up an Urotsukidoji apologist — that’s blogging for you. My excuse is that entirely too many people seem to think watching TV becomes somehow radically different and more risky once you open your fly — it really doesn’t.

Well, except that Jack Bauer is easier to explain if caught than Supaa Hello Kitty Tentacle Violence Dreamers XI.

And, er, since this is Japan… that second isn’t, as far as I know, an actual item.

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