#00 Why praising Japan?

series WHY U GO LOCAL?

 

I don’t especially like the country I live in. In other words, I don’t especially like the concept of countries. What are the greatest things that national identities have brought us? Wars? Appolo 13? Or the Internet? The nation state system is a tricky idea that can easily deceive us as being unconditionally attached to its fate. It can make us proud, of course. But it can make us even blinder. Every time I encounter Japanese cultural narcissism on TV programs and web articles, their innocence makes me sick. Ok, there is no problem about an American tourist praising about the beauty of four seasons, or a Cambodian receptionist learning about hospitality at a traditional inn. We all have such experiences in different places around the world, and meeting new values and cultures is the very reason for travel. However, it becomes more problematic when such pure reactions become spoiled for constructing a narrow-minded discourse that claims for a nation state’s absolute cultural superiority. The traditional mass media keeps a stronghold in the public sphere of Japan today. On average, people still spend more time on TV than on the Internet (2018

Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications). And I notice that “praising Japan from foreigners’ eyes” has been a popular genre for major TV stations.

 

Why did you come to Japan? (TV TOKYO, 2013-) is one of the most popular programs within this genre. The program starts with the TV crews at an airport, interviewing foreign visitors (which they refer as YOU), eventually following them to their goals. Although often refered as the origin of “Japan praising programs”, its producer stated on his Twitter account that their theme is to praise “foreign visitors who discover values in Japan, and not about unconditionally praising Japan”.

 

Cool Japan (NHK), Why did you come to Japan? (TV TOKYO), The world suprised by Japan! Sugoi desune inspectors (tv asahi), Rediscover Japan (TBS), … these are only glimpses of programs that feature Japanese culture from “the foreign eyes”. To be honest, I haven’t been a TV people ever since I signed my divorce letter with the machine in my freshman year. Every time I visit my home, it makes me a little bit sad to find everyone staring at the screen like Linda in Fahrenheit 451 (well, my little smartphone screen has replaced their role for me so I’m one of the billion Lindas on this planet too). When I watch TV programs, I feel a strong fear that is hard to put into words. It could be a fear of hegemonizing values. Or it could be a fear against the standardization of discourses.

 

I don’t have any particular intention to promote my nation or to serve my life for it. The only inescapable fact lies in the id page of my passport. My parents are from Tokyo, as was my birthplace too. I spent my childhood in northern Germany, then my adolescent years in Osaka. It is sad to admit, but I don’t have any special affection towards Tokyo or Osaka. It could have been different if I had spent my full early life there, but who’s to blame for it? Anyway. This path of my life made me detach from local identities based on culture, history, and languages. Instead, my identity was consisted of the fact being a returnee (or 帰国子女), my Osaka culture prostheses, standardized pop culture from the screen, and a sense of unsatisfaction. I hated to be standardized. That is probably why I choose to go into the woods when it came to making a decision of my path upon graduating high school. I went to study in Akita without knowing anything about the place.

 

(next article on Wed. 26th June)

 

References:

  • White Paper 2018, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications