Weird Japan: Cool Japan or Just Weird?

Weird Japan: Cool Japan or Just Weird?

21st Century Japan

It is very true that many people outside of Japan laugh at the popular culture videos,  game shows, news, and photos.  So, if foreigners think that some of the J-Pop is weird, is that good for Japan’s image?  I think it is, because the bottom line is that you are garnering global attention.  Lady Gaga is a weird American and that doesn’t stop her one bit from upping her Twitter follower numbers.  Now I don’t think “weird Japan” will garner more support for Japan’s government policies, but at least it intensifies curiosity.

I do have an issue with the baby doll look of a lot of these adult women pop stars.  Doesn’t it feed a stereotype of the Asian female in general and Japanese woman in particular as someone to be dominated and controlled?  Am I just being extreme here in my theory?  You tell me.   I think that the West still gazes across the Pacific to the East and finds it a place of mystery and exotic adventure.  We hold a lot of stereotypical images in our heads, both positive and negative, about the Asian region of the world.  How can we get to know each other with more honest eyes?

21st Century China


22 thoughts on “Weird Japan: Cool Japan or Just Weird?

  1. I was impressed by your words, “I think it is because the bottom line is that you are garnering global attention.  Lady Gaga is a weird American and that doesn’t stop her one bit from upping her Twitter follower numbers.” Popular culture, perhaps, should be appreciated not for its value or universality (these are very abstract and difficult to decide absolutely), but for its popularity. There may be no room for evaluation or appreciation. There are just that, popularity.

  2. Very well said remarks. I am a bit perplexed by some of the overtly sexualized fashion that I see out on the sidewalks of Tokyo. I do hold the media accountable for a lot of this. The media can’t tell us what to think, but they can tell us what to think about. That means that they set the agenda for how we occupy our minds, and most of our mind preoccupation is with very superficial and fleeting trends, not deeper concepts that enhance our critical thinking.

  3. I do agree with weird Japan is Cool Japan and it is very good promotion for people outside of Japan (Even Katy Perry tweeted about this girl’s music video. She says she loved it. Ever since her music video on YouTube was mentioned by an American pop star, it is filled with many English comments. ) It stands out if it’s really weird, just like Lady Gaga, but as a Japanese, when I see this kind of thing everyday, then I see some problem. This is a big stream and I see too many people on TV programs dressing like Barbie dolls or from kids anime so that the plastic beauty is admired more than natural beauty. People prefer young girls over sexy ladies. It could lead to some sex crimes, I mean towards young innocent kids. (Maybe I’m too extreme.) I think people in a high position in TV industry dominate these women and make big trends, then audiences follow that trend. It hasn’t changed for a long time. Watching idols from 10, 20 years ago they dress like cute baby dolls. I’m not sure who really loves this kind of thing. We are pretty much brainwashed by media so we think we like them but do we really like them?

  4. The fact that Japan is gaining attention with the pop culture and the anime is very impressive and I think it is a good way to let people around the world know about Japan. However, I find it sometimes embarrassing to look at the girls even older than I am wearing crazy outfits that a 5-year-old would wear. And that sure would make people who have never been to Japan think that everyone in Japan dresses in the pink crazy outfits. I want Japanese pop culture to develop and keep on launching itself into the world, but at the same time, I want the people to look at not only the pop culture but Japan itself.

  5. Curiosity is a good thing when it comes to branding a culture. Japan is no exception. I can appreciate some of the J-Pop. I just want to see more appreciation for women in all roles, not just candy stripes, but also pinstripes, white coats, and white collars.

  6. As you have felt that some of the Japanese culture looks weird, I also think that some of the Japanese culture may seem weird and peculiar to foreigners. Since I have spent most of my teenage years outside the country, I was also surprised to see adults looking like children. Regarding women, there is a tendency that most countries in the world tend to focus on a sexy adult look, however, some Asian countries tend to value a cute young look. It makes people very astonished when they see a culture in other countries which they are not accustomed to. It gives people some shock, but I feel it is very interesting when you actually feel the cultural differences and this shock may grab people’s attention to any culture.

  7. I really wonder about how Japanese female idols are controlled by the music industry. As it displays, “きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ” has established her own identity by singing and behaving this way, but I really want to disagree that real common Japanese girls are not that strange. For some reason, since about 20 years ago, the Japanese industry has begun to produce a lot of such idols as AKB48, and people have consumed them, which has been a kind of a endless cycle. In order to stop it, the Japanese musical industry has to change its policy to make something better for people’s minds. It is meaningless to produce tremendous idols and waste them because it is harmful for the identity of Japanese women. If we want to send real and faithful massages to other countries, Japan should enjoy a more independent idol culture which has better quality.

  8. I think Japanese weird styles comes from our culture. I don’t think that this girl, called carry pamyu-pamyu, has a pride in doing weird things but Japanese are born to be some kind of geek. No country will or can make so many kinds of writing implements, games that can make us feel 2D (or feel things in game 3D). Even earrings that foreigners tend to use more than us are sold in more than 500 types in just one store. We are culturally geeks. We always see things in a cell level that no one can actually care about, that no one but the experts can understand or feel impressed about. I think that is why Japan is hard to be promoted. Experts do not care about becoming famous but making things that only they can be impressed with on their own.

  9. I think the “weird Japan” culture is very interesting, and is favored by many Japanese citizens, but I am getting tired of them because Japanese media is always concentrating on them. This can be said especially for AKB48. The TV stations are very often showing TV programs of them as if they are national supporters. Japanese female pop artists often have the same characteristics such as their matching outfits, the types of songs and the same baby doll faces. This shows how Japanese people, especially men, favor these types of women, but I agree with you that these women are seen as types of people who are to be dominated by men. Recently on the news, it is reported that more women are working until higher age compared to decades ago, but it is also saying that this leads to the decline of birth rate because they will marry later as they work more. The social system is still not very much improved for women to manage both work and housework, and also I think there is still a tacit understanding among members of the society that women are to be controlled and supported economically by men in Japan. If these images of Japanese women were to be wiped off someday through social development, the society could be a much more comfortable place for people like me to live in.

  10. I believe that it is totally fine for Japanese culture to be seen as weird because it means they care about it. The worst situation is that they start to lose interest towards it. This is kind of similar to the situation among friends. If some friends do not care about someone, it means that they have no interest in them. As long as they have attention towards our culture, we should be proud of it.

  11. I agree that this baby doll look of an adult woman is rather weird than cool, although when you compare a Japanese person to a Western person, for some reason the Japanese person looks a few years younger. That does not mean that Japanese are more immature, but it is true that Western people tend to be bigger in size and have a sharper look.
    While teenage girls in Western countries like to be called “hot” and “sexy,” Japanese teenage girls like to be called “kawaii.” I do not know exactly why, but this may be because of the influence in manga and anime, where a lot of cute girls appear. In Western countries girls wish to look like an adult and to be treated like one. Like myself, I think there are other people in Japan who do not favor her. However, it is true that her extreme fashion somehow doesn’t allow our brains to forget about her. It is likely that if you see her once, you will remember her face.

  12. As many people commented, I also think this “babydoll adult girl” is just a stereotype because it is true in a way.
    Since I am not interested in J-Pop, I Googled about Kyary Pamyupamyu, and it says she was a usual high school student until she became a subscriber model. I do not understand why she became so popular (as well as AKB48), but it is true that girls look like her are everywhere in Tokyo (though of course she is a bit exaggerated). And it is also true that many Japanese young women are obsessed with kawaii, dolly stuff.

    When it comes to its influence on Japanese image, I cannot predict how it will affect the image. At first I thought manga culture would damage Japanese brand image, but now it is one of the most outstanding topics many foreign people have interest in. But at least among Japanese, those dolly idols have a great economic influence, and that is a positive thing for us. Thus, I am pretty interested in how those girls will establish their position as J-pop idols.

  13. The other day, I was asked by some French ladies where they could see “Japanese funny fashion” and I suggested going to Harajuku. When I heard the word “funny” I wondered if it meant positive or negative but I could see they were interested in that “funny” fashion at least. Thus, regardless of whether Japanese image is affected positively or negatively, this Japanese pop culture is useful to get attention from outside of Japan. The “baby doll look” of Japanese female pop stars is popular among Japanese girls. I am not sure if it is a stereotype. However, I think the reason girls want to be like them is because men prefer that innocent, weak and cute looking girls. It is often said that the men prefer the girls who are “inferior” to them in terms of academic background or their professional career. In that sense, the men may want to dominate or control the girls and the girls are just trying to match their needs.

  14. Marin, point well taken about the baby doll look. It is attractive to the eyes, and you are suggesting that it symbolizes Japanese female emancipation in some manner. Okay, I’ll take you at your word. I’m not an expert in this area.

  15. I agree that Japanese pop culture is effective to get the curiosity around the world. Of course, it is much different from the former image of Japan which is high-technology and beautiful traditional things such as kimono. However, I think for young people, this pop image is more interesting. If Japan can show the world both images, the opportunities to let the world know about Japan will increase. I also think that the pop stars with baby doll looks are not necessarily seen as weak or independent. Most of women do not really hate this style. Moreover, they even think it is cute. I think this popularity of baby doll style may express that Japanese women can show themselves however they want and they can freely tell other people about whatever they like. It would be nice if this expresses some kind of freedom of Japanese women.

  16. This is a different take on the baby doll look. I would think that as more Japanese women work outside the home, there would be more rejection of this infantilizing trend that perpetuates a submissive persona. Aren’t all women people first and women second?

  17. I grew up more as a tomboy. I know a lot about sports, and while I’m not as athletic as you, I am able to bond quite easily with my male counterparts. I suppose it’s because I had four brothers and no sisters, so there was a lot of male energy in our family household. I think women should act naturally and not try to put on a persona just to please their partners. That creates a lot of stress to act out a certain role.

  18. I think that no matter what, every country will always have a stereotype. The only way for people to know each other through more honest eyes is to really go somewhere and really experience the culture.

    After living in Japan for 4 years I have found through personal experience that some things really are stereotypes and some things aren’t.

    I think that stereotypes for the most part come from SOME sort of truth, otherwise why would it be stereotyped in the first place.

  19. I don’t feel like the Japanese “stereotype” of women wanting to be controlled or dominated is a stereotype. I feel like it is true. I know so many people in relationships where the men completely dominate the women. Unlike American men, Japanese men like their women to be very feminine and girly. The tomboyish Japanese girls aren’t exactly considered popular amongst the boys whereas their American counterparts love when women can be boyish, for example, playing video games, being able to do sports or even like watching sports. Many Japanese women know this and know that boys have pride when it comes to wanting to dominate in the relationship. So I think a lot of Japanese women purposely act like they are helpless so that their boyfriends can “come to their rescue.” This reply may seem like a stereotype but this is what I’ve found through personal experience living here in Japan.

    I’m a tomboy and I can tell that a lot of guys here don’t like losing to me. It really eats at their pride when I’m better then they are but being the American I am, I won’t lose on purpose to make them feel better. If they want to win they have to win for real, which is probably why many guys here see me as someone to be friends with, not someone to date. I think I can be a bit intimidating to Japanese boys because of my athletic ability. I’m better than MANY of the Japanese guys here when it comes to physical activities and I know they don’t want to date someone like that.

  20. The Western impression on Japanese women to have baby-doll faces is in fact “correct,” I think. It is said even inside Japan that we tend to like small and pretty things in general. AKB48 would be included as a perfect example. The girls symbolize youthfulness with their costumes modeling high school uniforms even though some members are in their twenties and have already graduated from high school. Moreover, they often appear on magazines in pale color and with smiling faces, both emblems of which exaggerate “purity” or “innocence.” Such trends may come from a smoldering traditional role for men to be responsible on the outside of the home and women on the inside of the house. The division was fairly equal in the past when business and housework were conducted together at many self-employed houses, but the shift in business from home to work at offices could have hollowed out the belief, leaving only monetary dependent essence and dropping domestic responsibility behind. Perhaps this unbalance is what is spooky about Japanese admiration for baby-doll appearances.

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