There is no doubt that “the spread of Japanese cultural products reflects that Japanese media industries and cultural forms are playing a substantial role in global cultural flows” as Koichi Iwabuchi states in his work, “Taking “Japanization” Seriously: Cultural Globalization Reconsidered.” Japanese influences have had far-reaching effect and many cultural products have precipitated a cultural evolution to say nothing of their ability to enhance and expand global lifestyle. From the wonderful world of all things Sony including the invention of the Walkman and the Discman, the phenomena of Pokemon and other gaming software, car manufacturing techniques to ways in which business is conducted. But despite being a cultural and technological mainstay across the world, Japanese cultural dominance and influence is outpaced and outmatched by that of America.
American cultural products are by no means “culturally odorless” and we would have it no other way. While consumers may opt for Japanese products over American in some instances because they are considered superior in technology (I’ll take an Infiniti over a Ford any day). I agree that most consumers aren’t “buying into the culture itself, but the product and its reliability, reputation, status conferment and other factors. Why, as Iwabuchi, suggests, aren’t Japanese products tied to Japan and the Japanese lifestyle, culture and symbolism? The concept of Mukokuseki is particularly disturbing, even though it explains quite a bit. The idea of self-erasing features and characteristics that are culturally and racially defining in order to become more acceptable on the world stage, look more Caucasian, sell more products and assimilate cross culturally goes beyond racism (or more accurately perhaps, xenophobia) and is certainly not unconsciousness and Japanese animators have suggested. It speaks of a rejection of self and acknowledgment of an “unacceptableness” of one’s culture and lifestyle that may to American and other Western consumers. How is it really Japanese if it’s cloaked in American skin? If you don’t want to look like yourself, why would we? Seriously, can anyone imagine a Caucasian product that wants to look and feel like anything else? Would never fly and their would be mass protests and boycotts at the very suggestion.
Although Iwabuchi states as being “supposedly obsessed with its own cultural uniqueness.” am not sure I agree and several . This is difficult to reconcile with the Japanese idea of as well as with empirical evidence. Japanese young adults and teenagers have been seen as wildly enthusiastic and oddly embracing of other cultures even when they seem almost the opposite of antithesis of their own culture. For instance, Jamaican dancehall and reggae culture has been widely embraced by a substantial number of Japanese young women. They darken their skin, don body baring dancehall outfits with ethnic hairstyles and accessories, travel into the bowels of ghettos in Kingston, Jamaica and its environs for dancehall shows and have become a staple local in contests usually performed by locales. I am not joking when I report that the winners and runners-up for several years have been Japanese women who can move their hips like nobody’s business.
It’s unwise to separate that which technologically defining from that which is culturally defining to make products more palatable. I don’t know that japan will replace the US as an object of yearning any time soon, but that’s not really the point. For Japan to not only continue increasing its capital and global market share of audiovisual products, but also to influence the lifestyle of global consumers will mean more than a proliferation of Japanese commodities. It will entail fully embracing that which makes them culturally unique and overcoming the fear of rejection whether based on cultural imperialism. Homogenity is boring.