Intentional Pareidolia?

I’m a pareidoliac.

I distinctly remember the pattern on the floor of our toilet when I was 9 years old. I used to sit there (far longer than required) enthralled as the strange characters would emerge and recede, their contorted screams or laughter firing my imagination.
In our next house, the slate bathroom tiles served a similar purpose but instead of animated figures I would more often see scenes in nature – a pond in a forest, mountain valleys, trees obstructing a path.

As far back as I can remember, in the clouds I have seen incredible creatures, landscapes and wild narratives unfolding before my eyes. At night the shadows in foliage have formed strange beasts, and in forests and jungles the interplay of light and shadow in foliage has revealed ancient tribal spirits and alien beings.

Almost every day I see faces in the textures of walls, in piles of clothes and in the bark of trees. Dirty tiles or peeling paint transform into previously unimagined landscapes.

There was a phase for a while where all this had a meaning; everything symbolised something greater than myself, a higher revelation of otherwise hidden layers of reality. But for most of the time it has just been good fun.

Only quite recently did I discover there is actually a scientific name for this ability, or this affliction. This is pareidolia. And I’m a pareidoliac.

What I don’t see is Jesus in a tortilla, or Mary in a cheese snack. I never see recognizable faces or places, but unknown ones – and this only adds to my enthusiasm as each one represents a place to travel or someone to meet in the realms of imagination.

Admittedly I do wish I’d seen this one though. Stunning.

In Japan I see faces too, but of a very different kind: more playful faces, cartoon faces and characters. And whereas previously the faces would usually leap out from random natural phenomena or material textures, in Japan they more often occur in products and within the forms of manufactured goods.

This leads me to wonder – is this Japanese pareidolia intentionally manufactured?
Is a fundamental quality of Japanese design the incorporation of personality via a suggested “character”?

Here begins the series of Faces: Japanese Pareidolia….
(click images to enlarge)

Wash Basin, Nippori

Alarm, Ueno

Gas Meter, Sengawa

~ by JapanGasm on 18 October, 2009.

4 Responses to “Intentional Pareidolia?”

  1. That’s cute you are a pareidoliac. I am trying to imagine the 9-years-old boy! 🙂 A few days ago a famous Japanese comedian was wondering on TV when he had lost the ability to see cloud animal or something in the sky. It reminded me the French movie “Amelie”.

  2. Yes, most children as I was growing up had the ability but many lost it as they grew older. Do Japanese children all see such things? Might there be any cultural differences?

  3. I don’t think there are big cultural differences. Some times I could see many faces on wooden wall or floor, sometimes after raining the puddles looked like sweet milk coffee to me! (Haha…) Oh, you know what? When we Japanese see a full moon, we can see a rabbit beating Mochi rice cake on the surface. 🙂

  4. […] this earlier post (with a more in-depth explanation), here’s another installment of Japanese pareidolia. In this case, the seeing of faces in […]

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