Explaining Fukushima to children: a cross-cultural study of bodily functions as metaphor in Japanese

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This research proposes that a cross-cultural disconnect exists between Japanese and American English in the realm of bodily functions used as metaphor. Perhaps nowhere is this notion illustrated more clearly

This research proposes that a cross-cultural disconnect exists between Japanese and American English in the realm of bodily functions used as metaphor. Perhaps nowhere is this notion illustrated more clearly than by a cartoon that was inspired by recent tragic events in Japan. In the afternoon of Friday, March 11, 2011, the northeast coast of Japan was struck by a massive earthquake and tsunami that caused immeasurable loss of life and property and catastrophic damage to the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. In the immediate wake of these events, Japanese artist Hachiya Kazuhiko, determined to make the situation comprehensible to children, created a cartoon in which he anthropomorphized the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor and likened the dangers associated with it to illness and bodily functions. This cartoon garnered considerable notoriety, both in Japan and abroad. The reactions of English speakers appeared to differ from those of Japanese speakers, suggesting the existence of a possible cross-cultural disconnect. This research into the reactions to the cartoon and other relevant literature (both in English and Japanese), viewed against federal regulations regarding the broadcast of "obscenity" in the United States, commentary on American society, and how the use of similar language in American cartoons is seen, clearly indicates that negative attitudes toward the use of bodily functions as metaphor exist in the United States, while the same usage is seen differently in Japan.