29 August 2014

purification and clothes

Take with a grain of salt: shrines have their own practices too, and misogi is in no way exclusive to Shinto practices, but take these as a general guideline.

First: on clothes.

In shrines, the clothing you see priests and miko wear for shrine ritual work are kariginu: modeled after nobles' hunting clothes of the Heian period (794 CE - 1185 CE). This describes the vest-like clothing with its high shoulders, the hat (modeled after what was worn at court, distinguishing court rank), and more: even the hakama-trousers are trouser style, and fitted to be easy to walk in and yet having a dignified appearance. A variant of this is the jo-e; jo-e have no pattern on them, but otherwise are cut the same as kariginu style.

More formal than the kariginu are saifuku and ikan; these are worn especially for the great formal ceremonies that shrines may have once or twice a year only. Saifuku can also be difficult to assemble and properly wear on one's own, so some priests may have need assistance to put everything on (similar to how women today may need assistance when dressing in formal kimono, if they do not already know how to do everything).

Second: on oharae.

Interestingly, even though these clothes are modeled after the Heian era, what about the practices of purification - oharae? Sometimes, oharae is done with these very formal, very ancient clothes: sometimes, oharae is done with very little clothing on.

Of course, during festivals and the great ceremonies, oharae ceremonies are done on behalf of the community and to help bring humans closer to the kami: sort of an admission of shared responsibility to help straighten and correct the root of misfortunes and to come together to bring kindness and gratitude into the world. In those instances, ceremonial clothing is used, but the residing priest will have done his own personal purification exercises and practices prior.

Practices such as misogi - the purification under running water, normally under a waterfall or somesuch - are also oharae cleansing/purification practices, and are done as close to nude as possible. Nowadays, misogi is done with a sort of white underwear on; for males it is a type of loincloth, for females it is a type of white shift/underkimono. Why might this be?

In many cultures - not just in the sacred traditions of Shinto - purity is associated with nudity. For example, in Judaism, the traditions of ritual immersion states that nothing must come between the person immersing and the water: the person must already be washed (for cleanliness and sanitary reasons), but hair must not be up, jewelry must be removed, there must be not even dirt under fingernails or toenails. This influenced the Christian ideas behind baptism: baptism is done with water (a pure substance), and is symbolic of a "new birth" - that is, a pure state. While Christian denominations may disagree on when baptism is appropriate, or by which method (sprinkling water? immersion? adult baptism only? etc), what is agreed upon is that the symbolic cleansing and immersion acts as a ritual purification by any other name.

Further reading:

26 August 2014

ruminations on conventions, meta-fandom, and bob's burgers

Hey guys. I found this outline for a post while clearing out my computer, and wanted to share it as yet another example of how I string ideas together. It's unfinished and very raw, but while rereading it, it was interesting to try to figure out my thought process while I was in the act of throwing words to the page. It was supposed to be an examination of the Equestranauts episode of Bob's Burgers from earlier this year, and how it both lampoon con culture, but also fits into it, highlighting an awareness of the fandom and meta-fandom on the minds of the writers of the show. 

I don't think it fit that intent very well. But at the same time, as a purely theoretical exercise, it's worth revisiting. And, to be honest, clearing off my open windows that should have been closed ages ago.

22 August 2014

dead man's party - obon

Note: we've been busy selling ebooks, having birthdays, preparing for conventions, putting up new websites (such as Kit's own personal one), and more! So forgive the delay.

If you're going to Anime USA 2014, you can see us all talk about Japanese lore! 


Last week, translator and writer Zack Davisson had a birthday; as did Charles, as did myself.

"Isn't it funny how we all have birthdays in or around Obon?" I mentioned the Obon Festival half-jokingly, but Obon is a curious blend of a fun festival and a somber remembrance; it comes from Buddhist teachings of hungry ghosts, and a story about a monk who saw his own mother hanging upside down in one of the hells. The mother entreated her son to say sutras and remember her, and eventually Obon became a time to remember those departed: in remembering, the spirits would be eased, merit accrued, and suffering would lessen or end.

Over time, Obon became a festival, with the Bon Odori (Obon circle dance) being one of the favorite - and most nostalgic - summer events. Different areas do different dances, and have their own ways of observing Obon. Some of them even have different times: while Obon is traditionally in the middle of the eighth month, the eighth month can be the modern July, or the modern August, depending on place and tradition. However, Obon is not counted as a national holiday according to the national calendars.

But people go to their family home or relatives' anyway, to observe and attend maybe a shrine or temple festival anyhow. You will see yukata just as easily as summer shorts or blouses or parasols/umbrellas to keep out the sun; and in the evening, when the weather is cooler, there may be more people out shopping or having fun. During festivals or the Bon dances, you may see taiko drumming also! Companies often have it as a company holiday time, and it is an expected time of year where people travel.

Obon is likened to a Western Halloween, Samhain, or the Day of the Dead of Hispanic areas; also because of Obon, and the heat & humidity of a Japanese summer, scary films and games often are released (or on special sale) in the summer to help "cool off" with the shivers the fear might create! It helps too that because of the heat, more people go out and about in the evenings and night when it's cooler, and nighttime of course is a time of boundary-crossing, things that go thump...

For example, earlier this summer, the Japanese horror visual novel/adventure Corpse Party was on sale, Higurashi When They Cry takes place in the summer, and so on.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

More information, see:

15 August 2014

otakon 2014 review - with our powers combined

I'm a professional. (Actually, Phi from Virtue's Last Reward is.)

For now, this is Kit.

Since Charles is at In-CON-ceivable this weekend, he'll be adding his part later! Which is sad, because honestly: we worked well this convention. The Kill la Kill panel? Went amazingly. The Spirits, Wheels, and Borrowed Gods panel? Same.

Here's the rundown of Otakon 2014!

  • Kit: italicized entry text
  • Charles: bold entry text

Wednesday: Arrivals

Arrived. This time I was using a rolling suitcase, but I still managed to pull a few muscles. Also, the Mount Vernon area in Baltimore is familiar to me, so I got to play guide with the local transit (hint: the Charm City Circulator buses are free, if you're within range of it).

Thursday: Cats and Memories

Switching hotels for main convention, but before that, went to Tribeca Coffee Roasters (Facebook link). I found them last year and Charles and I explicitly wanted to go back there again, even just once. They make excellent, smooth coffee on premises, a wonderful location, and even make bubble tea.

I wanted to work on panels, but I ended up doing my Baltimore habit: visiting cats. So, by Tribeca is a pet supply shop, which contracts space out to the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care city shelter. I loved visiting the shop to say hello to any cats that might be there: so I went while we were across the street, and just so happened that a volunteer from BARCS was cleaning out cages and needed someone to hold a kitten. (There were two kittens and two older cats, so ages varied.) 

I think we were there for an hour or so, just playing with the cats and talking with the volunteer. To whoever was working that day, I salute you. And if you still have money from the convention, dear attendees, try donating to BARCS or your local shelter. My own Bruja was from BARCS, so I have a soft spot with helping them.

The rest of my day? Working on finishing up my Utena and Madoka panel.

I did get my badge later this evening, and unfortunately hit the midst of the problems with badges: even with panelist right to skip the main registration line, I waited for an hour in a special needs line with an escort from Panel Operations. I was more afraid of falling / stumbling than not getting my badge, and it did get sorted: the staff at the booth I was in line for were trying their best to get chairs for those who needed them, and so on. But once I got my badge, everything went smoothly: I got my badge, got my two ribbons, and all was well. 

However, signing a W-9 for tax information purposes (for panelists) was new this year, and I'm glad to have done this Thursday.

Everything was all right.

Friday: Otakon, 1st day

Woke up early and went to Introduction to Researching Manga and Anime. The necessity of having signed that W-9 for panelists came back and hit this panel; due to traffic and registration, one of the panel hosts ran into the panel late, and had to arrange signing everything before they could present - even when they were right there. That being said, it didn't seem to disrupt the panel much. The wall of text slides, however, could have used some improvement; but I'm glad people (and not just me) showed up for this panel!

The Kill la Kill and the Transformation of Japan panel was one of the best ones we've given, easily. We first gave this panel together at Anime Boston, and now with improved presentation skills and better practice, this easily has been either the best version of it, or tied for the best.

Also, bowing to Satsuki Kiryuin's English voice actor previous to our panel? Just made it better. Bow to your Student Council President!


Saturday: Otakon, 2nd day

I gave the Utena and Madoka: Heroism and Journeys: the Movie panel (haha, and need to change the title eventually).

A few people commented that they saw my Utena and Madoka panel last year, which focused on the respective series, and so wanted to go this time. I wanted to make this panel more fitting to the films, and if possible, better than the panel I did last year: my efforts ending Thursday night succeeded. Panel 6 wasn't full, but this was also a 10am Saturday panel; I hope to give it again at a future con, only improved. But then again, I want to improve all of my panels! If you saw this panel, please let me know what you thought!

I also helped with Spirits, Wheels, and Borrowed Gods - a panel on Japanese sacred cultures. But then again, I could speak on Japanese sacred cultures for hours. (And have.)

Sunday: Otakon, final day

Due to technical difficulties with my phone, I actually didn't see any of the convention Sunday. I did however roam the Inner Harbor area, as well as Harbor East, and it was a good way to unwind after a long convention.   

05 August 2014

otakon 2014: elements of style rundown

Best Otakon Ever. While there should be at least a partial rundown of the entire weekend within the coming days, since I will be up in Northampton for In-CON-cievable, much of that will likely come from Kit. Needless to say that between the two of us, we managed to fill up panel 7 three times, and have a truly awesome weekend down in Baltimore.

But for now, this is a rundown of what was shown during my Saturday "Elements of Style: Anime Openings" panel. Situated between one lecture on Sacred Japan and another on Ninja history, this panel was meant to be a correction for some errors made during last year's "50 Years of Anime OPs." During that mammoth two-hour chronology, I neglected to spend time covering some of the stylistic changes found within the opening sequences as a whole, instead focusing on a broad definition of how technology has changed the openings. This year, a trimmed down version of the panel was focused on how openings convert atmosphere, character development, musical experimentation, and incorporated symbolism.