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Split Down the Middle

    “Azemichi” or “A Path Between Rice Fields” by Japanese artist Makoto Aida.

    Aida, who has also included schoolgirls in his paintings Azemichi and Picture of Waterfall, believes the uniform fundamentally suits the Japanese. Not because they provide conformity, but because they provide a sense of belonging to a group–something that is extremely important in Japanese society. The concept of being “in” or “out” is so culturally ingrained that when parents want to punish small children, they will threaten to lock them outside the houses, thereby making them outside the family group. Uniforms, however, offer a sense of being part of something. Yet, over the past two hundred years, Japan has become Westernized by cultures that value individuality. “The foundation for Japanese people isn’t Western individualism, and our Asian-style group thinking lingers,” says Aida. This creates a paradox, and as the artist says, in Japan today “everything is really warped.” (source)

    Tony M.