‘Cool Japan’ meme a nonstarter

The Chubu Connection article published in The Japan Times on July 12, titled “Students dealt real-life problems to broaden outlook,” describes Tatsuo Hirase, head of the business promotion office of the Chubu branch of Mitsui and Co., leading a two-day marketing seminar at Aichi Prefectural University.

It’s wonderful for students to have real-life practical lessons. But I am suspicious of nonacademic commercial interests defining what constitutes a real-life practical lesson. That is what students ought to discover for themselves — more than what schools should dictate to them.

And I am suspicious of a nonacademic businessman conducting a college seminar, and I am also suspicious of the link between business and school curricula. I am suspicious of a lot of things.

Hirase hailed the students’ initiative and creative thinking. That sounds like worthy praise, but I am suspicious of his praising results that serve his commercial interests.

The article reports that “Most of the ideas from the young students reflected their familiarity with ‘Cool Japan’ cultural products that they grew up with.”

I worry about the content of the Cool Japan concept. Cool Japan is a marketing-oriented expression coined to establish Japan as a brand name of international, global culture. If Tokyo’s dream is to become a world cultural superpower, it should rethink using certain domestic pop-culture icons.

Everybody knows Japan’s appetite for cuteness. But Japanese don’t seem to understand how nauseating cuteness is among adults. It’s OK for young children, but that’s all.

Aircraft with Pokemon livery or girl groups who can’t sing are a turnoff. Everybody knows Japan is the home of anime and manga. But Japanese don’t seem to understand how innately childish they are. Basing Cool Japan on such makes Japan look silly. Comic books and Kyari Pamyu Pamyu are ridiculous.

Students’ suggestions to paint cars different colors or to place manga cafes in auto showrooms as a marketing strategy show a typical preoccupation with appearance over substance.

So I feel that their imaginations are really conventional. They will make perfect corporate executives.

grant piper
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Carto

    “Comic books and Kyari Pamyu Pamyu are ridiculous.” No they aren’t if you approach them with a positive state of mind. Kyary’s brand of pop music is fresh and unique and tons of comic books are targeting adults. I’m reading comicbooks from all over the world and I don’t consider it being childish, it’s just called having a good time.

    There is some good points in this article, about the students and their imaginations but the author seems to think his norms apply to everyone and his view of some of the things he quote is superficial.

  • Masa Chekov

    “But Japanese don’t seem to understand how nauseating cuteness is among adults.”

    “Aircraft with Pokemon livery or girl groups who can’t sing are a
    turnoff. Everybody knows Japan is the home of anime and manga. But
    Japanese don’t seem to understand how innately childish they are.”

    I think Mr Piper is confusing his opinions with everybody’s opinion. Clearly there are millions of adults who like cute, both here and abroad, so it seems a bit inaccurate to say that adults do not like cute.

    Several of the aircraft in Pokemon livery are actually from Taiwanese carrier EVA, so obviously the enjoyment of cuteness and characters is somewhat widespread.

    Personally I don’t like idol groups and never even cared for comics/manga as a kid, but I honestly can’t see what’s wrong with liking them as an adult. You like what you like, right? Millions of adults like Harry Potter and Hunger Games and other books/movies oriented towards children overseas too, right?

  • sayoko3

    I agree that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is ridiculous, at least for someone who isn’t into extreme kawaii. And the approach to this “Cool Japan” thing has been quite naive and inadequate indeed.
    However, the world of Japanese “comic books” is so vast and varied that labeling it all as “ridiculous” is a *ridiculous* act of ignorance. There are timeless works of art among Japanese comics (and yes, there is also so much drivel, but that happens everywhere, in every field of culture and entertainment).

  • echykr

    “But Japanese don’t seem to understand how nauseating cuteness is among adults. It’s OK for young children, but that’s all.”

    “Comic books and Kyari Pamyu Pamyu are ridiculous.”

    Besides the part about Kyari Pamyu Pamyu, this is probably the most prejudiced comment I have ever read concerning Japanese manga ever based solely on the author’s own bias. He has clearly no idea on the recent popularity of the “moe” cute factor in popular anime and manga titles overseas.