Written by Björn-Ole Kamm

Why Japan does not Larp

Article for the conference “Knudepunkt 2011” in  Bymosehegn, Denmark, 2011/02/17.

A presentation of research results on the absence of larp (life action role-play) in Japan which has been published in the conference volume “Think Larp!” which accompanied the conference.

Even though similar practices like cosplay (masquerading as media characters) exist in Japan, larp is quite unheard of. The aim of this study is to understand why Japanese roleplayers do not see larp as an activity they can easily adopt. Instead of following a common, Western research perspective on Japan that repeats notions of Japanese uniqueness, an interactionist approach is adopted. This is done by engaging in actual exchange with the researched subjects, and through the introduction of a theoretical model for the process of experience evaluation in order to understand how former experiences form expectations. It shows the importance of individual ascriptions of meaning and their connection to the historical, discursive, societal and personal contexts that frame these meanings. Fieldwork and qualitative interviews were conducted and analyzed in respect to larp in Japan. The interviews were later contrasted with the interviewees‘ experience of a mini-larp. Most players expressed a desire to learn about larps and try them but felt uneasy regarding the space and time restrictions they experienced in Japan. These restrictions have influenced roleplaying tremendously and have formed the expectations towards what roleplaying encompasses — and what people deem possible. Especially the perceived non-availability of knowledge about larp and of space is of importance.

japan, larp, qualitative research, symbolic interactionsim, uses & gratifications

Further reading
Aida, M. (2004). Gendai nihon ni okeru komyunikēshon no hen’yo: otaku to iu shakai genshō wo tōshite (Transfiguration of the communication in the Japanese modern society: a consideration on the social phenomenon known as “Otaku”). Hiroshima shūdai ronshū, 45(1), 87-127.

Blumler, J. G., & Katz, E. (1974). The Uses of Mass Communications: Current Perspectives on Gratifications Research. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

Edwards, R. (2001). GNS and Other Matters of Role-playing Theory Retrieved October 15, 2010, from https://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/1/

Fine, G. A. (1983). Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ōtsuka, E. (2004). “Otaku“ no seishinshi – 1980nendairon. (History of the „Otaku“ psyche – the 1980s discourse). Tōkyō: Kōdansha.

Kamm, Björn-Ole (2011). Why Japan does not Larp“. In: Thomas Duus Henriksen, et al. Think larp. Academic Writings from KP2011. Kopenhagen: Rollespilsakademiet, S. 52-69.
Download the PDF.

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