More and more, psychoanalysis has to deal with cultures different from that belonging to its foundations and initial diffusion and with the problems posed by the transformations of the contemporary world. The intent of Geographies of Psychoanalysis is to draw a map of the psyche that takes into account the interconnections and differences that occur in a now globalized reality The focus of this first cycle is the problematic theme of death in different cultures and religions, and the ways of dealing with it in the event of the pandemic. This podcast series is created by Lorena Preta and the Geographies of Psychoanalysis group. Editing by Massimiliano Guerrieri. Podcast Image: William Kentridge, North Pole Map, 2003
Monday Nov 08, 2021
#5 Furui Hiroaki - Japanese View of Life and Death
Monday Nov 08, 2021
Monday Nov 08, 2021
With The COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, the government was unable to impose a lockdown, but asked people instead to do same thing voluntarily. Incorporated in this, sacrificial rituals can be seen .
The book “Voluntary death in Japan” (1984) written by Maurice Pinguet was very helpful to Furui Hiroaki in thinking about the Japanese view of life and death. Pinguet's idea of seeing vitality in voluntary death seems to be a suggestion with which to overcome the current pandemic. He picks up on two recent topics that have been talked about on the theme of saving people: The movie "MINAMATA" and The movie version of Demon Slayer- Kimetsu no Yaiba “Infinity Train”. Unlike suicide, voluntary death is, so to speak, a story of rebirth.
Furui Hiroaki is a psychiatrist specialized in psychoanalysis. For some decades he was dedicated to the treatment of in-hospital patients, then 15 years ago, he opened his own clinic and has to date treated over 6000 patients there. Within his career, he has spent 2 years, from 1997 to 1999, in the US for training as an international fellow at the Karl Menninger School in the United States. At that time, he also received training analysis. He is currently working as a full-time clinician in his psychiatric clinic, he also dedicates as much time as possible to doing psychoanalysis. In June of 2020, He was admitted as Member of the International Psychoanalytical Association. His major studies in psychoanalysis include: countertransference to aggression in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder,and psychotherapy processes in patients with borderline personality disorders who have experienced sibling sexual abuse.
I am a psychiatrist specialized in psychoanalysis. I have been dedicated to the treatment of in-hospital patients for decades, and after that, I open a clinic by myself 15 years ago. During my career, I stayed in the US for 2 years at Menninger Clinic for training, and it is my great pleasure to have this opportunity to do podcast.
I have a clinic as a psychiatric practitioner. During COVID-19 pandemic, I saw patients under various situations. Some patients have implied suicide to escape from the hardships of their life. Despite the severalty of their claim, their tone of expressions is very calm as if they are talking about daily conversation or a joke. COVID-19 has killed many people. Since the therapist and the patient share the social situation of being next to death. It may be changing the treatment space shared by the two. There may be a special sense of solidarity between the two. Such a special relationship and environment gave me the opportunity to reconsider the Japanese view of life and death.
This pandemic revealed that our government cannot use the method of “lockdown” in the Peace Constitution of Japan. Therefore, the government demanded that the people voluntarily refrain from going out in consideration of their surroundings. Most people obediently followed government instructions of “Jishuku”, which means voluntary restriction of oneself, despite confusion and contradiction. It seems that we can no longer think of the word as a volunteering to choose on our own initiative. In the history of Japan, we don’t prohibit suicide so strictly. I think that one aspect of the Japanese view of life and death is expressed in people's words and deeds for this pandemic. We can't just take it as a pathological mental condition.
French philosopher Roland Barthes discussed the characteristics of Japanese culture, using the example of his observation of eating habits of Sukiyaki in his “Empire of Signs”. For Westerns, forks are an extension of hunting, reminiscent of spears. For Japanese people, what they use are “hashi” chopsticks in Japanese, and it means the little thing and a tool to play. Freshly cut raw vegetables and thin slices of meat are prepared on a table, with the heated frying pan at the center. People gather and surround the table, picked up the prepared veg and meat with their own chopsticks and fries them in a pan with sugar and soy sauce while enjoying conversation. The movement of the body with chopsticks is like a child's play which seems that the sacrificial ritual is taking place in front of them. Without this book, I wouldn't expect sacrificial rituals to be incorporated into our daily diet.
A book “Voluntary death in Japan” (1984) written by Maurice Pinguet who was a friend of Roland Barthes, a professor of philosophy at the Paris University and later taught at the Tokyo University, was very helpful in thinking about the Japanese view of life and death. Voluntary death was derived from the Latin mors voluntaria. In pandemic I began to imagine about the Japanese ceremony of “Seppuku”. But “Hara-kiri” or “Seppuku” is not unique to Japan. Pinguet presents an example of Cato, who was the first Roman to fight Caesar and was defeated, refused to submit to Caesar and be harassed by him. The spectacular situation that Cato's near relative tries to stop his behavior was drawn. In contrast, the Hara-kiri of Japanese samurai is ritualized, and some have the role of decapitating to shorten the time of the death agony. And he points out that historically Japan has never forbidden the freedom to die. In Japanese behavior, this ultimate act of death, often painful, is associated with rational and deliberate decision-making. The reason for living and the reason for dying are calmly planned. I hope this feeling may still remain in the current Japanese.
Suicide is a term that started to be in use in the 18th century and is influenced by Christian religious condemnation and prejudice linked to medical pathology. He looks back on the history of various suicide studies and arrives at the influence of Durkheim and Freud. Durkheim performed typology of suicide, in which he takes up anomie suicide as a hallmark of modern society. Anomie stands for undisciplined state. Modern society has given individuals freedom, but actually it has only driven him into loneliness and anxiety. It is said that the human group will collapse and increase the number of self-centered suicides aimed as an escape from reality and anomie suicides caused by the disappearance of collective obligations. Durkheim idealized a world of labor in order to escape from the chaotic suicide-prone world of the end of the century. Pinguet says that Japanese companies with seniority and lifetime employment have something close to that ideal.
Freud also helped free suicide from the category of mental illness that was previously trapped by psychiatrists. The hypothesis of the death instinct reveals that suicide is just the tip of the iceberg of primitive masochism. Some people see masochistic characteristics in Japanese culture. Japanese try to avoid the formation of Oedipus and delay its time to immerse it in the symbiotic relationship between the child and the mother. Heisaku Kosawa’s Ajatashatru Complex and Takeo Doi's Anatomy of Dependence are mentioned as references. From the point of view of current psychoanalysis, Japanese people tend to focus on the early Oedipus complex. That is, all dramas are in the mother's body.
Pinguet continues to carefully trace the history of voluntary deaths in Japan, its light and shadow. First of all, the legendary hero of Japanese history in Kojiki, Yamato Takeru, goes to the eastern expedition on a ship at the command of the emperor. Along the way, a storm occurs, damaging the god of the sea. The story is that his wife, Oto Tachibana, jumps into the sea and sacrifices to calm the wrath of the sea god. Subsequently, various stories of “voluntary death” will be taken up and discussed. The Tale of Genji, Bushido, Geisha, General Nogi, Special Attack Units, Yukio Mishima, etc. Pinguet said, "After careful observation of the various paths that have led the men and women of the Japanese archipelago to “voluntary death” for centuries, I can now clearly say: Of all the virtues of the Japanese, the most outstanding and beautiful virtues are their vitality. "
Maurice Pinguet's idea of seeing vitality in voluntary death seems to be a hint to overcome the current pandemic. Finally, I would like to pick up two recent topics that have been talked about on the theme of saving people by making self-sacrifice and discuss them as a summary.
The movie "MINAMATA" starring Johnny Depp has become a topic. It depicts Eugene Smith, a photographer known for his collection of photographs of Minamata disease patients, "Minamata." The motif of the movie is a picture titled "Tomoko and the Mother of the Bath" (1971), in which a 15-year-old girl with fetal Minamata disease and her mother are taking a bath. Is reminiscent of Dante's Pieta statue of Mary holding Christ down from the cross. When Minamata City was asked to sponsor the screening, it refused to sponsor it because the creator's intention was unknown, and it was not possible to determine whether it would contribute to discrimination against victims or elimination of prejudice. The mother believes she was able to maintain her health because her daughter absorbed organic mercury on her behalf during pregnancy. The mother had her daughter play a role in informing the world of her Minamata disease, but she wanted to release her from that role. Tomoko passed away in 1976 at the age of 20. This parent-child photo contains a story of self-sacrifice and salvation, not just accusations. Tomoko does not save mankind like Christ does. The name of Tomoko means a baby of wisdom. The mother wanted to bring the poisoned sea back to the original sea of fertility. Fifty years have passed since the photo was taken, and now we can take fresh seafood from the Shiranui Sea. Shiranui means mysterious lights on the sea. This is where darkness and light intersect. The dawn comes while the lone moon remains in the sky. The sun rises and the sun sets over the sea. There is the Pure Land in the West.
The movie version of Demon Slayer：Kimetsu no Yaiba “Infinity Train” became the world's number one in 2020 movie box office. In the movie a Japanese monster “Oni” goes into a dream and destroys the core of the spirit. Rengoku, the pillar of the demon Slayer corps, and his juniors exterminated the demon. However, an upper rank demon appeared. Rengoku fought and was severely injured by the demon. The illusion of his dead mother appeared before him at the time of death. Once Rengoku was taught by his mother that the strong will use his power to protect the weak. He asked his mother if he had completed the teaching and mother praised him for doing well. The idea is a kind of the spirit of Noblesse oblige, but different. The teaching is from an unnamed mother who died of illness. Rengoku said “Someday you guys will become HASHIRA and be the pillars of the Demon Slayer Corps.” This anime empowered many Japanese people to live. Given that the economic crisis is progressing and the number of people in need is increasing, it is possible that suicides will increase in the future. Reviving the vitality of Japan's history of " voluntary death " may lead to a decrease in the number of suicides.
After World War II, it became difficult for Japan to teach its own myths at school. Nowadays, young people who have lost their myths are free to create their own myths through manga or anime. The main character in the manga is mostly adolescents. The hero is about 14 years old. A long time ago, Japanese samurai’s children at the age of 14 performed a coming-of-age ceremony called genpuku. And now, the ritual of genpuku is gone, but I think that children create psychologically, their own myth of Parental Killing: The Japanese version of the Oedipus Myth, through manga and grow up to be adults. Unlike suicide, Voluntary death is, so to speak, a story of rebirth. To conclude this text, I would like to express my condolences to the victims of COVID-19 by quoting the words of the Master of Demon Slayer. At the beginning of the movie, he visits the grave of Demon Slayer corps. And he said “No matter how many lives a demon takes, the one thing they can never crush is a human’s will. No matter how battered we are, we will rise up and fight again.”
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