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Big in Japan

Yesterday's Washington Post story about the explosion of global popularity for Japanese culture will not come as much of a surprise for many of you. Japanese pop culture institutions from J-pop to anime to Hello Kitty vibrators have been commonplace elements of global cities for quite a while now, and Japanophilia has long been a tradition of American geek culture. Nonetheless, the article provides a good overview of the spread and growth of globalized Japanese culture.

Even as this country of 127 million has lost its status as a global economic superpower and the national confidence has been sapped by a 13-year economic slump, Japan is reinventing itself -- this time as the coolest nation on Earth.

Analysts are marveling at the breadth of a recent explosion in cultural exports, and many argue that the international embrace of Japan's pop culture, film, food, style and arts is second only to that of the United States. Business leaders and government officials are now referring to Japan's "gross national cool" as a new engine for economic growth and societal buoyancy.

Despite the sense that once a pop culture movement has hit big enough to warrant a page one "hey, look at this" article in the Post it's probably over, the article is part of a growing body of evidence that a global shift away from American-driven culture is on the rise. While the current manifestation is Japan-focused, India is hot on its heels, and China may well be next. It's not so much a decline of American cultural power as a rise in new memetic centers -- and new ideas.

Cultural exports are the shockwave of globalism.

Comments (3)


this was discussed on plastic last year :D


i don't know if i've said it here before, but in general my sense is it's when "new wave" cinema is produced that a country or culture has arrived on the global stage, i.e. it's reached a certain level of political and economic development that it's probably alright to go on vacation there :D

but then of course by then hollywood is just as quick to "coopt" the scene :D whether it's steven"sex, lies and videotape"soderbergh! john"a better tomorrow"woo! danny"shallow grave"boyle! peter"dead alive"jackson! alejandro"amores perros"gonzalez inarritu ...and the list goes on and there are nuances and, at least i've noticed in the US, lags and filters at what reaches us here in the mainstream (and even the indie/alt scene :) but like, as feed's then correspondent in togo reported on the west african reception to "american beauty,"

"What will they think of the movie's anguished quest for beauty in the humdrum American suburb, in a country where such a suburb looks like a paradise of unimaginable wealth? What will they make of the movie's daringly ambiguous attitude towards sexual relationships between middle-aged men and minors, in a country where rural high-school teachers sleep with their students routinely and openly? What will they make of the homophobic gay marine, in a country where sex between men implies no fixed sexual orientation; or of the bitterness of the corporate drone, in a country where simply having a paying job is a terrific privilege?"

"Cultural exports are the shockwave of globalism."

Absolutamente, dude.


"In Japan, however, all the skill goes into engineering the scarcity: designers produce only limited editions of T-shirts or jackets, items of the sort that can be easily mass-produced. This means that shopping in Tokyo feels a little like a bizarre parody of grocery shopping in Soviet Russia: you might want to buy a bunch of bananas, but the only thing for sale is pickled cabbage. At the Bathing Ape store just off Takeshita Street, where T-shirts are displayed like prints in an art gallery, sandwiched between sheets of clear plastic, half the display cases are empty, since the company might produce only five hundred of any particular T-shirt design. At certain popular stores, like Silas & Maria, a British skatewear brand, would-be shoppers are required to wait in orderly file in the street, as if they were on a bread line, before being permitted, twenty or so at a time, to rush in and scour the sparsely stocked shelves for any new merchandise. The next twenty customers aren't allowed in until the last of the previous group has left and meticulous sales assistants have restored the shelves and racks to their unmolested condition. The whole cycle can take half an hour or more. This is what Japanese teen-agers do for fun."


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