learnt some new words today

ひきこもり(hikikomori)

Noun. A shut-in, stay-at-home. Recluse. Person who has withdrawn from society.

ほんね (honne)

Noun. True feelings. Real intentions, motives. Disposition or nature.

たてまえ(tatemae)

Noun. Official stance, public position/attitude. Antithetical to private thoughts/nature.

Reading a movie synopsis (‘Tokyo!’, for anyone who cares!) led to reading about certain sociological/psychological concepts in Japanese society. I find the idea of a hikikomori morbidly fascinating – people who shut themselves away from all human contact (sometimes), from society itself, from people and the ‘outside world’. What is it about urbanity that drives people into isolation? Is the ‘outside world’ just too easy to access (in some sort of proxy form) through things like televisions, radios, and most of all, the Internet? Are strangers in chat rooms more comforting than people in the flesh (who are not so easily blocked, shut out, silenced, etc)?

I always find myself in phases of life tinged by (Techni)colours, laid over with (as aforementioned) false images of cities or times, or with the heady scent of certain books. Last week I dreamt of New York and windows. This week I am dreaming in Japanese literature: my dreams are redolent of a Banana Yoshimoto-style minimalism, where people live out their urban tragedies in tall apartment blocks and over telephone calls; they are palimpsested over by Haruki Murakami’s sad lonely men and women who run mad through surreality’s night. These tinges are often coloured as well: New York was blue and yellow – sunsets, taxis, and sky-reflecting skyscrapers. This week I am dreaming in white and grey. Minimalism.

I wonder if cities which cram the millions of lives they contain together – cities which, like the king in that folktale from the Dominican Republic, try to reach for the moon – send people into isolation by creating the (inaccessible) sight of millions of lives being lived out. A city in which even the sky is not blank is a city which pretends to perpetually be there for you – when really it shuts you in, confines you to being the observer (watching from behind windows, from inside houses).

And yet they are so beautiful, cities like this:

Kuala Lumpur during a thunderstorm, view from a balcony! :-)

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