Hōkō onchi: Way-finding and the Emergence of ‘Directional Tone-Deafness’ in Japan

Hōkō onchi: Way-finding and the Emergence of 'Directional Tone-Deafness' in Japan

Joshua Roth - Professor of Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College

Friday, October 10, 2014 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Room 105, Anthropology See map
10 Sachem Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Take a wrong turn and show up late to an appointment in Japan and it is quite likely that someone will label you “hōkō onchi” (directionally tone-deaf). The term was coined in the late 1960s, and now hundreds of thousands of Japanese identify themselves as “hōkō onchi.” The term is much more widely used than any equivalent in English, and there is reason to believe that people accept the label who do not necessarily have more difficulty in way-finding than someone who rejects it. What, then, does the label mean? What explains its initial emergence and its current transformations? Roth suggest that the rise of this mobility-related cultural category in Japan is linked to expectations of competence in a data-driven society.

Sandwiches will be served.

Co-sponsored by CEAS and the Department of Anthropology