The Pachinko Parlor

Ian Scott Silk Road Blog Post ImageAfter working as an assistant editor for this magazine, the words Silk Road no longer hold the meaning they once did. If you were to do a Google search of “Silk Road” the first result is a Wikipedia page describing the historical trade route. Following that, there is a plethora of hits on the infamous illegal online drug marketplace, also known as “Silk Road.” This literary magazine doesn’t appear on a Google search until page three, following a hit on a Stanford website of a project with the same name.

Falling into a static view of the world is common. It’s easy to forget that there are a multitude of perspectives on any subject. Some of these differences are entrenched in a region or society’s culture and language. This past January I returned from a three week trip to Japan during which I collected data for my thesis regarding cultural differences in facial perception between Japan and America. The above picture is of a Pachinko parlor near Fuchinobe Station in Tokyo, just down the road from J.F. Oberlin University where I was collecting data. Watami, advertised above the SilkRoad sign, serves some really good Korean style raw horse (bazashi).

As opposed to American culture, it is not as acceptable to be extravagantly boisterous and to constantly display overt emotion. There the emotional culture is one more of facial stoicism. Consequently, when reading faces, Japanese people tend to look at the eye as it is harder to hide emotional expression in that part of the face.  In America we tend to be more open about our emotional state and advertise it, thus Americans tend to look at the mouth, where it is easier to read emotions.

This difference is most exemplified in the use of emoticons. An article titled “Cross-cultural comparison of nonverbal cues in emoticons on Twitter: evidence from big data analysis” published in the Journal of Communication, Park, Baek, and Cha found that Japan uses vertically orientated emoticons which emphasize the eyes. Conversely, in America we tend to use horizontally orientated emoticons which emphasize the mouth.

Asia is in many ways fundamentally different than the west. They eat “strange” food, they tend to hide their emotions more than we do, and they even read faces differently. In essence, they have a fundamentally different view of the world and society around them. I’ve already read some of the submissions for Silk Road’s Asian edition.  I must say I’ve been impressed and moved on all accounts, and this Asian edition is something I am really looking forward to. I hope that this upcoming edition will shed some light on a new way to approach or think about the world. I encourage you to put your preconceived notions of the world down and fully open yourself up to these new perspectives. Asia has a lot to offer. All you need to do is read.

By Ian Scott

Image Credit: Kana Tateyama