Professional Wrestling in Japan – Researchers Cultural Framework

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If you checked out my last blog post, you know that I am currently conducting an auto-ethnographic project on ‘puroresu’, otherwise known as professional wrestling in Japan. In that last post, I discussed the rise of professional wrestling in Japan, with a focus on the company ‘New Japan Pro Wrestling’. Since that post, I have completed more research, and live-tweeted another match, but more importantly, have begun to understand how my topic in reference to my own cultural framework, and the background of knowledge, or personal framework, that already exists.

As acknowledged in my previous post, I went into this project having very limited knowledge on the professional wrestling landscape in Japan. That said, growing up as male who was very much a fan of different sports, it doesn’t come as a surprise that I was once a huge fan of wrestling professional in America. As such, I am not completely separate from the project. There is a pre-existing base of knowledge surrounding the field site, it just exists for promotions on the other side of the world. However, I understood from the very start of this project that while there were similarities between the professional wrestling in America, and Japan, as many have noted, there are significant differences.

From the fan’s reaction, to the in ring action, professional wrestling in Japan is seen, and observed, for its wrestling, as opposed to potentially the story and drama existing in the western promotions. New Japan Pro Wrestling is a wrestling promotion, and they are direct and honest about this, and there is a “variation in cultural value attached to the spectacles (MacFarlane, 2012)”, especially in relation to the audiences, and why it has peaked in popularity over the last number of years. Having already live-tweeted two matches, the way in which the audience reacts is a cultural variation that came as a complete surprise. I expected, using my cultural framework, that the audience would be similar to that of it’s Western counterpart, and that would include numerous chants throughout the night. That simply wasn’t there throughout these matches. As such, I found myself seeking out literature that explained how, and why the audience reacted in such a way. In a book written by current professional wrestling Chris Jericho, he stated how “Japanese fans appreciated the actual art form of wrestling – they study the matches instead of just watching them (Jericho and Fornatale, 2014)”. He’s also stated how the fans in Japan “respected the art of wrestling (Jericho and Fornatale, 2014)”.

My own personal framework prepared me for the similarities. The rules of the match and how the product is presented shares similarities with the western promotions. It’s the differences that I am choosing to investigate, as many are linked directly with the culture of Japan. Through this project, I want to gain a thorough understanding on professional wrestling in the East, and how this differs from what I’ve learnt through my previous personal framework. Not only that though, I hope gain further learning about the popularity of the New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. To understand this, it is imperative to delve further into this variation in culture, with the aid of further research, including what I have already currently found, and hopefully, more in the upcoming weeks. This is due to “autoethnographers being expected to treat their autobiographical data with critical, analytical, and interpretive eyes to detect cultural undertones of what is recalled (Chang, 2017 )”. 

This methodology, of collecting data from the live-tweets, as well as the research associated with the investigation is known as layered accounts, due to this type of autoethnography often “focusing on the author’s experience alongside data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature (Ellis et al 2011)”. This essentially means that I am currently, and will continue to, completely dive into the world of professional wrestling in Japan, collecting data through the live-tweets, and collecting literature associated with the rising popularity of this field site.

References

Chang, H 2007. Autoethnography as Method Subtitle: Raising Cultural Consciousness of Self and Others, in G Walford (ed.), Methodological developments in ethnography Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 207-221. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/1244871/Autoethnography_as_method

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Jericho, C. and Fornatale, P. (2014). A Lion’s Tale. New York: Grand Central Publishing, p. 288, 354.

MacFarlane, The University of South Australia, K. (1) “A Sport, A Tradition, A Religion, A Joke: The Need for a Poetics of In-ring Storytelling and a Reclamation of Professional Wrestling as a Global Art”, Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 6(2), pp. 136-155. Available at: http://journals.iium.edu.my/asiatic/index.php/AJELL/article/view/265

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5 thoughts on “Professional Wrestling in Japan – Researchers Cultural Framework

  1. Hi Brendon,

    From an outsider perspective, I was quite impressed with your findings on how Japanese fans appreciate wrestling as a form of art, not just for entertainment purpose. You are a huge fan of American wrestling thus in engaging with the Japanese wrestling, your epiphanies and interpretation might differ from mine – who has never been fond of wrestling in general but has grown up exposed a lot to Japanese pop culture. Regarding your methodology, I think autoethnography is all about connecting self with the others. Chang (2008) did mention a variety of others that an autoethnographer looks into while researching. Those include others of similarity (those with similar values and experiences to self), others of difference (those with different values and experiences to self), others of opposition (those with values and experiences seemingly irreconcilable to self). So embrace these areas in your research can add layers of meaning to your work and thus, the audiences can make use of the findings according to their interpretation.

    Looking forward to the final outcome.
    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, I love where you’re going with this!!!

    I have a few friends who really enjoy western style wrestling but I have another friend who knows practically everything there is to know about wrestling around the world!! What you have uncovered in your research so far is really interesting because I’ve learnt from my friends that a lot of the enjoyment from wrestling comes from the storyline and how the different characters and their gimmicks work together in and out of the ring. Understanding wrestling as a performance rather than a physical fight is what my friend told me in order to understand how wrestling works as entertainment. Its interesting that in Japanese culture, there is more enjoyment from watching the skill and finesse of the match rather than the overriding story.

    It looks like you’ve found some really great academic resources already but I know that some subreddits are a really great resource to keep track of storylines within wrestling and it would be interesting to see if you could uncover anything there! Here’s a quick one I found for the NJPW https://www.reddit.com/r/njpw/comments/54b8et/current_storylines/

    Your methodology is really sound, the live tweeting (which I’ve seen!) really shows the epiphanies you are having in the moment, an Ellis (2011) favourite for auto ethnography. I always like to look at the way autobiography and ethnography fit together in the research we do because that seems to be the main grounds in which the methodology Ellis speaks about rests. You have your live tweeting as the autobiography part, real time truthful moments, and then your side research as the ethnographic end, understanding the culture that goes alongside the matches. The culmination of them works really well and I’m keen to see where you continue with this!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Within your post you have engaged in both autobiographical research through understanding and acknowledging your own history with wrestling within your own cultural framework and your admitted position as having once been a huge fan in American wrestling. You have then furthered this autobiographical research into the ethnographic stage by looking into Japanese wrestling and finally through your live tweeting and narrative or conversational engagement with Japanese wrestling you have committed yourself to the autoethnographic researching process.

    By engaging in the live tweeting while watching Japanese wrestling, you have placed yourself within the approximate the emotional stance of the people and culture you are studying, an element of autoethnography. This is an essential component of auto ethnography as identified by Anderson in his article, ‘Analytic Autoethography’. I found this source really helpful in breaking down the process of auto ethnography as well as Ellis’s. I myself have very little knowledge of wresting both in Western and Japanese backgrounds so am interested in what your research finds.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Professional Wrestling In Japan – Final Autoethnography Project | The Fish Pond

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