Monday, April 18, 2011

Japan's Odorless Public Diplomacy

Japanese culture and products have been popular for as long as I can remember. However, in my experience they have had little affect on Japan's soft power influence over the United States. When I was younger everyone had to have a Tamogatchi pet, those annoying little egg shaped key chains with a fake pet that you have to keep paying attention to or else it will die (great for kids...). Pokemon were also huge and my brothers were obsessed. I think they new all 100-some odd Pokemon back then (I've heard there are hundreds now, it's crazy). I also have friends and family who love anime and Japanese video games, however, very few have expressed an intense desire to become much more involved in Japanese culture.

As discussed in class, when I think of Japan, I do think of it's Japanese culture fads, like Harajuku and J-Pop, and it's innovative technology. In that respect their branding efforts are clearly working. But this acknowledgement and occasional appreciation (especially of all the advanced things they get before us!) haven't made me more likely to support Japanese policies or activities.

I think this has something to do with the phenomenon discussed in Iwabuchi's article on Japan's odorless culture from the International Communication class. The promoted features of Japanese society don't feel like things that are authentic and unique to Japan. Although Harajuku girls might have a cool style, I know that not very many people in Japan dress that way. And while Japan does have a great deal of technological innovation, it somehow seems disconnected from culture and more related to the global marketplace. I don't think of Japan when I hear about these products, I tend to think about the companies first, Sony, Nokia, Toyota. In this way, the culture doesn't seem to have an odor. It doesn't linger (at least not for me) in a meaningful way. This may just be the way that Japanese culture is and I'm just not drawn to it, but I find that somewhat hard to believe. In order to resonate with people, Japan's culture needs an odor, and needs to promote it's unique fragrance, not a sterile polite version of the real thing. After all, smell is the sense most closely tied to memory.

No comments:

Post a Comment