- May 29, 2015
This is another extra piece on what has been going on outside classes.
On 20 May, we had the cooperation of the Hosei Chanoyu Club, an official university circle, in holding a tea ceremony for the Erasmus students. Participants were the four Erasmus students, and their student acquaintances.
The tea-ceremony room is a space where Japanese people feel at ease, yet it seemed to them rather an exotic place, and when the sliding doors were closed, they joked that they had been shut away somewhere unknown...!
The tea ceremony begins with the serving of okashi, Japanese cakes. The cakes served on this occasion portrayed goldfish swimming in water. They were cakes giving a sense of cool that befitted the season of approaching summer. Japanese cakes are of course to be enjoyed for their taste, but they are also for enjoying with the eyes. Their were voices among the Erasmus students exclaiming that they had never seen such beautiful cakes.
Then came tea. When we drink the tea, we turn the design on the tea bowl away from us so that we do not touch it with our lips. Although this is an awkward movement, they successfully put these manners into practice. It is also the rule that wrist watches should be removed for the ceremony. This is to enable the tea master and guests to value the time they are spending together, unconscious of the ticking of actual time. On hearing this explanation, the students were happy to comply.
After the real tea ceremony, and special to this occasion, the students were allowed to try making tea by themselves using bamboo whisks. It is extremely difficult to create the fine froth in the tea, and they greatly admired the ability of the club member instructing them. Having tried a taste of the tea they themselves had prepared, the ceremony came to a close.
The scroll that was hanging during this tea ceremony read "Ichi-go ichi-e", which means, "treasure every encounter, as it will never recur". For the Erasmus students and their first experience of the Japanese chanoyu (way of tea), this occasion of the tea ceremony might prove one such encounter.
- May 27, 2015
As the Japanese assistants, we have tried on a daily basis to make sure the students on the Erasmus Mundus Program get the most out of their three-month stay.
Among other things, after classes we have been to Teishokuya diners, Izakaya pubs and game centers: experiences peculiar to Japan that we all decided on.
In particular, weekend excursions have become part of our schedule. So far, since their arrival in April, we have visited various places including Mt. Takao, Kamakura, Shibamata, the Kokugikan (Sumo hall), Kiyosumi Park and Yoyogi Park.
We heard how they frequently went hiking last semester in Toulouse. With their strength and stamina, wherever they visit they never catch the train or bus; they just walk.
During the Golden Week holiday we visited Kamakura. Starting from Kita-kamakura, we looked around Jochiji, Kenchoji and Enkakuji temples, and Kamakura Hachimangu shrine. After a dip in the sea on Yuigahama beach, we then saw Hasedera temple and the Great Kamakura Buddha. Lastly we completed the five-kilometre hiking course known as Daibutsu-kiritoshi (Great Buddha pass).
Unfit as I am, this really tired me out, but the Erasmus crowd were still in lively spirits. I decided to follow the example of their stamina, and joined them for a drink in Yokohama!
Events we are still planning are a trip to see a Kabuki play, attending the tea ceremony, Karaoke, and a "Prison" Izakaya. The students are already in the second half of their stay in Japan; we, the Japanese assistants will try even harder to make their stay worthwhile.
- May 23, 2015
Professor Kazuyuki Hara of the University of Tokyo gave a series of three lectures. The title of the lectures on this occasion was "Elaboration of the concept of 'desire' in Lacan and the question of 'the Other' and their existence".
The first lecture provided an explanation of the concept of "desire for desire" to be found in the doctoral thesis of 1932 of J. Lacan (1901-1981) and the idea of "assumption of desire", referring to a text by A.Kojève (1902-1968) : Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (1947).
The second lecture showed that the problem of understanding the desire of the Other overlaps with the problem of understanding the meaning of what the Other says, as found in Lacan's argument of this period. In extension, we saw that Lacan made reference to general linguistics whose founder was F. Saussure (1857-1913). There was also an overview of the notion of the "signifying chain" and "the Graph" which are an elaboration of those results.
The third lecture chiefly explained the notion of the "Œdipus Complex" in Freud (1856-1939), and the work carried out by Lacan to re-present it.
The most thought-provoking part of these lectures for me was the relationship between desire and the Other. Why do humans feel desire ? According to Lacan, it is because they lack something. Humans are essentially unsatisfied beings. Said conversely, not to desire means "omnipotence (phallus)" that lacks nothing. Humans, however, are not omnipotent, and must live life as "the desiring subject". One subject, living and desiring things, may seem to constitute the actions of an individual. Yet according to Lacan, "man's desire is the desire of the Other". That is to say, without the existence of the Other, there would be no desiring of anything. When someone thinks and expresses themselves using language, it is if they are assuming the existence of the Other who thinks, and can understand expression, in that language. This is because, in reality, the desire had by someone is expressed in language and transmitted to the Other. In other words we could say that the desire of a certain individual originates in the relationship with the Other, and is shared by both. When and how, then, did humans master the art of desiring through the relationship with the Other? What I found deeply interesting in search for the answer to this was Lacan's argument surrounding the "pre-Œdipal phase" of infancy. New-born babies require the existence of a "mother" to look after them. When a baby cries, the "mother" responds by satisfying the baby's physical "need", such as hunger or wetness. One could say, "mother" desires this. The baby then desires that "mother" desires this, and expects "mother" to be beside it all the time. Once its "need" satisfied, however, it soon notices if "mother" goes away again. Here, the baby is starting to express "need" as an excuse to have "mother" stay nearby. Once the baby has learnt "demand" in this way, it becomes a subject that lacks things, and that must constantly call "mother" to display a "need" for something. Rather than feeling a simple physical "need", the subject has a "demand for love" along the same lines. However, the baby gradually begins to notice that what "mother" really desires is the "imaginary phallus" - exemplified by the "father". So that "mother" keeps desiring and does not leave its side, the baby's "demand" also starts to direct itself towards "father". We might say, in order to make "father" desire what "mother" desires, the baby attempts "demand" of the "father". The subject is never fully satisfied, and is compelled towards continual desiring. In this way, it learns to feel "desire", which acts as a release from that limitless "demand". The above argument adeptly describes how the ways a baby desires undergo changes in the relationship with the Other - the parents. We could say that it shows the reasons why, by experiencing this process of infancy, our desires and their methods of expression mature as well as transform in various ways.