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Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 03:04 am
Japan's new sakoku?

44CommentReplyFlag

imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)

"Japan is no longer so interested in the West", Momus said, thereby somehow implying that it OUGHT to be.

Oh, I don't want to give that impression. No, as I said, I have mixed feelings about this. The days when the West could say "we are the world" are gone. It was great to be an in-demand gaijin in 90s Japan, but I felt it was incorrect even at the time (in fact, that's a theme of many of the songs I wrote for Kahimi Karie -- basically, I was making her sing her defiance of... well, of me making her sing her defiance of... me!). I felt that Japan was more interesting than its interest in the West suggested. But now, ironically, having lost interest in the West, Japan has become less interesting. And so has the West, having lost interest in Japan, or in Japan's interest in itself. We were holding up mirrors to each other and getting interesting distortions, but now we occupy our mirrors with ourselves.

But I thoroughly approve of a Japan that's getting more interested in the rest of Asia, in India, in Africa. Bring it on! (Not militarily, obviously.)


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dignified_devil
A Dignified Devil
Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)

"But I thoroughly approve of a Japan that's getting more interested in the rest of Asia, in India, in Africa. Bring it on! (Not militarily, obviously.)"

Yeah those Japanese books of African villages are amazing and the latest issue of Tune features several young men hunkering around Osaka's shinsaibashi in Laotian textiles. The local African bar here in Bangkok has a note in Japanese kindly requesting tourists not to take photographs. They do remain a culture in love with travel.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)

Do you give much thought to the survivalists' claim that the world will end in 2012?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)

No. I am glad they delayed switching on the Hadron Large Collider, though.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Jan. 8th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC)

""Japan is no longer so interested in the West", Momus said, thereby somehow implying that it OUGHT to be.

Oh, I don't want to give that impression."

I knew you would deny it, but nevertheless, that is what this whole discussion implies. My point is that conflating Japan's apparent loss of interest in the West with nationalism and isolationism seems severely misguided.

Politically, since WWII, Japan has always had a right-wing government with strong ties to Washington, and if the last few administrations have been somewhat more right-wing than those of a decade ago, that is just part of the larger global trend. But I don't see that this has anything to do with popular culture at all.

Apart from the current universal blandness, economic factors are also highly significant. For the last couple of years (until about two months ago) the yen has been extremely weak, especially compared to European currencies. That in combination with skyrocket fuel surcharges has made it much more difficult for ordinary Japanese people to travel abroad the way they used to, and Europe in particular was forbiddingly expensive. It has also meant that the price of many imported products have escalated to a level where they are simply unsellable, that putting on concerts with foreign artists have become increasingly difficult, and that gallery exhibitions of contemporary art by British and European artists have become virtually non-extinct, since almost nobody can afford to buy the works any more. This may change again this year, but perhaps the damage has already been done.

Interestingly, there was a long article in the Asahi Shinbun this morning about many of the topics in this discussion. The author laments what he calls the "Family Restaurant Syndrome": the increasing prevalence of the "safe but bland" at the expense of anything challenging or difficult in music, art, TV programs etc, and how dull Tokyo is becoming as a result. He also mentions an inquiry done yearly by a Kobe university professor to his female students about "what topic do you think is of the most urgent interest to women in their early 20s today?". Before, students used to answer "fashion", "brand goods" and things like that, but this year not a single student (out of 49) gave those replies. Instead, the top answers where "East Asia" and "poverty"!

Jan


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