A friend’s take on Japanophilism

I think that non-Japanese Asians are more immune to Japanophilia. They look less weird compared to Caucasian Japanophiles.

Let me explain why.

In East Asia, countries neighboring Japan are closely related to each other. Historically, they’re related. They copied from each other. Their ancient systems were highly similar. Their way of life was also to some extent similar. They ate similar food. They wore similar clothes. Their literary systems were similar. They produce similar works. They share similar legends and stories. They’ve been similar since ancient times. That’s why it’s not so weird for today’s non-Japanese Asians to sort of emulate other cultures (i.e. Japan) and integrate it to their lifestyle.

In fact, it’s undeniable that Japan is the pop culture mecca in Asia. It seems that most new stuff, style, concept, ideas, kitsch, art, movements, attitude and perspectives WITHIN THE POP CULTURE BOUNDARY comes from Japan (or from America but VIA Japan)

Japanese influence is unavoidable in Asia. Even for those Asians who HATE Japan, they’re still living under heavy Japanese influences. As an example, every time they step into a Karaoke, smoke a pack of Mild Seven, and slurp an instant ramen, they’re emulating what perhaps 80% of the Japanese people do on a daily basis.

Therefore, it doesn’t seem THAT weird for non-Japanese Asians to emulate Japanese lifestyle, because it’s far more natural for non-Japanese Asians to sway into Japanophilia. Japanese culture and influence is ingrained into the very fabric of societies in East Asia ever since the Japanese took over and colonize most of Asia. The gen-Y people are affected the most, because they were born at the height of the Japanese cultural expansion and economic bubble.

Compared this to, say, the United States, who has no racial and relevant historical connections to Japan. Clearly, American Japanophiles are perceived as less natural, because of the lack of obvious reasons for them to be wanting to emulate the Japanese lifestyle. American Japanophiles usually started their obsession towards Japan through media such as Anime. That’s why most people (especially the Japanese) think that it is weird to be obsessed with Japan through such small instance of the vast cultural plethora that is Japan.

Certainly, more profound understanding of a culture or a country is needed in order to decide whether or not one would want to be obsessed with that country.

Japanophiles’ biggest mistake is that they are gravely misinformed. They don’t understand what it’s like to be a Japanese, or being an Asian in general, even – their struggles, their dilemmas, their perspectives. All they can see is superficial, stereotyped and exaggerated lives of the Japanese depicted on Anime, manga, and films. They think that there are enough plethora of Anime subjects so broad that it covers every single aspect of the Japanese life – that if they watch enough Anime and read enough Manga, they think that they’ll know everything about Japan.

Japan isn’t some kind of Disneyland that you can just read pictorials and guide maps about it and then understand pretty much what it’s about. It’s a living, breathing country with all the complexities, dirtiness and problems found everywhere else in the world, in any society. When they finally GET that, hopefully, they’ll see no reason why should they want to become Japanese.

I said this because everytime I went to Japan, I always see some Japanophiles who behave like they’re visiting a GIGANTIC Disneyland where every citizens of Japan are ‘cast members’ and everything is to be gawked and be hysterically ecstatic about.

Some of them even took pictures holding multiple yakitori on their hands and making ecstatic faces (with V signs, of course). For goodness sakes, they’re just SKEWERED MEAT!

Whereas non-Japanese Asians are less obvious in the sense that conditions in their native countries aren’t that different from Japan. So, Japanese stuff aren’t that new to them. Therefore, they seem more natural when they actually blend into the Japanese society.

As I said, it’s impossible to avoid the Japanese cultural influence in Asia (especially East Asia). Everywhere you go in Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore etc – you can pretty much see a slice of Japan in every corner of the streets. From the ubiquitous Best Denki, Yoshinoya, Mos Burger, to department stores like Sogo, Seibu, and Takashimaya. Not to mention J-pop blasting from radio stations, national TV, and every conceivable speakers and sound systems in public areas. And these stuff has been there ever since the gen-Y-ers were born. In fact, they don’t have much choice as most quality products are in fact, imported, sourced, or copied from Japan.

When you consider these things, it’s easy to understand why East Asians are more immune to being called a Japanophile – because that’s just who they are and Japanese influences are in their blood. They don’t have to be influenced – they’re born with it.

It is perhaps viable to say that Japanophilia is a NORM in East Asia, not a CURIOSITY, in the case of Western countries.


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