Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Roland Kelts visited Kennesaw State University in March 2010 for a lecture event, which was organized by KSU's Dr. Edward Chan and Atsuo Nishikata, the chair of the Japan-America Society of Georgia's Young Professionals group. The JASG was a promotional partner of the event and many of our members enjoyed the lecture very much. Roland Kelts has both Japanese and American ancestry like myself, and I was particularly interested in his views of the relationship between Japanese and American pop culture.
The book gave me a better understanding of how Japanese popular culture developed to what it is today and how it has spread across the world. Although Japan is still a huge contributor to the world economy, its cultural influence, especially its pop culture, may now be more influential. Japanese pop culture has spread throughout the world and has defined what is "cool" in many countries (the theme of JapanFest 2009 in Atlanta was "Cool Japan" and attracted over 17,000 visitors). Manga and anime alone are now a multi-billion dollar industries in the U.S. Japanese pop culture is everywhere you look these days and I think it is important for The Japan-America Society to be part of this trend and use the influences of Japanese culture to bring together the Japanese and American communities here in Georgia.
I highly recommend this book. It is a very easy and fun read and it will give you a better appreciation for how popular culture has evolved and how it will continue to evolve.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Welcome to Japan’s latest eyebrow-raising innovation – a “maid café” train where passengers are “served” by a clutch of pretty all-singing, all-dancing and all-adoring female train staff.
The popularity of Japanese maid cafés has been well documented over the past decade: primarily located in Tokyo’s subculture hubs such as Akihabara and Ikebukuro, they involve young women in maid outfits (often dubbed modern day geisha) innocently serving tea and cakes to manga and anime loving customers.
Last weekend, the Seibu Railway Group installed a “maid café” on board its limited express Red Arrow train operating between Ikebukuro and Chichibu, a stretch of track renowned as home to a number of high-profile animation companies.
Nine maids recruited from Akihabara’s maid café district will tend to passengers on board by serving drinks, playing games and taking turns to make tannnoy announcements.
The cartoon-like selection of maids on board include Shoko Suzumiya, who says she has “increased motivation whenever she puts on a maid uniform”. Then there is Kira Hoshino, who derives pleasure in “soothing and instilling vigor in people”, not to mention Chuchu Amakusa, who likes to “give people nice warm feelings”.
And their ages? All maids are forever 17, says a spokesman for Seibu, seemingly with a straight face. Describing the reason behind the launch, he adds: “This train is a sort of theme park inspired by the world of anime and games.”
Never mind maid lovers, its arrival is also likely to be welcomed by the government, which is increasingly keen to tap into the growing popularity of Japanese subculture trends overseas and boost export of domestic anime, manga and gaming.
It seems likely that the new train will open up the world of maid cafés to a wider audience, not least because it combines two of Japan’s biggest “otaku” geek obsessions – trains and maids.
“It’s important to note that it runs on a route that has become increasingly obscure and disused in recent years and its operators are naturally desperate to attract riders to the line,” says Roland Kelts, author ofJapanamerica and visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo.
Whatever the reason, ticket inspectors in many cities around the world could well learn a thing or two from the ever-smiling and friendly demeanour of their Japanese maid counterparts.
But the flouncy maid outfits? They can perhaps stay in Japan. [More @ Monocle]
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
PS Any of you remember the ‘Comics Code’ in America, effectively shutting down the most creative comics artists in the US in the 1950s, as aptly recorded by David Hadju in The Ten Cent Plague? Let's hope that doesn't happen in Japan.
>>More @ The Comics Journal
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
“We have to get beyond these silly classifications of manga vs. comics and whatever,” he says. Smith even objects to English speakers using the term ‘manga.’“There’s a word for them in English—‘comics.’ Just call them comics."
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
“what’s wrong with being the world’s no. 2?”
So said Renhō, the single-monikered and, for a Japanese politician, unusually single-minded 42-year-old female member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, tapped by Prime Minister Naoto Kan this summer to serve as minister of administrative reform (aka, chief budget-slasher). Renhō uttered the question during a debate late last year on financing a next-generation supercomputer project powerful enough to compete with the US, but her plaintive question resonated far beyond the walls of Japan’s Upper House chamber.
By the middle of this year, as the stack of urgent reports concerning Japan’s stagnant economy, political paralyses, fading competitiveness, so-called Galápagos syndrome isolationism, emerging social strains amid widening income gaps, diminished labor pools and a rapidly aging population piled high, Renhō’s rhetorical query seemed to cut to the core of Japan’s mounting troubles.
She was promptly criticized, most notably by old guard politicos like former Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma when he offhandedly reminded voters that Renhō “[was] not originally Japanese,” playing the hoary hand of nationalism by referring to her naturalization in 1985.
Born to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother, Renhō is a former pinup model and TV news presenter who maintains a very active Twitter account, YouTube channel and Ustream internet video streaming site. She favors short haircuts and lean white jackets over her almost entirely middle-aged male colleagues’ bland barbering and suits of charcoal gray. A Wall Street Journal profile of Renhō this summer called her “the ruling party’s most recognizable face,” a significant label even in a country that has gone through five prime ministers in four years.
In other words: Most Japanese needed no reminder of who she is.
And then it happened. In the middle of Japan’s month-long summer holidays, during which local papers reported that some companies were curtailing vacations or cutting them altogether to stay competitive, the international media made it official: Japan suddenly became No. 2, at least in Asia, and No. 3 in the rest of the world. China had made sure and quick work of it.
Photo by Yasutaka Kojima
Reaction in Japan’s domestic media was mute to nonexistent. Some questioned the various methods used to calculate GDP figures, while other outlets simply ignored the story. The implied answer to Renhō’s question, which resonated deeply enough that she published a book titled Do We Have to Be No. 1? in June, has grown glaringly obvious: What’s wrong with being No. 2 is that you have to adapt to it. [more here @Adbusters magazine]