Monday, October 12, 2009

Japanese Media Culture

Iwalbuchi’s article on the “Japanization” of a global culture encouraged me to reconsider my impression of Japan and of the Japanese. It is extremely ironic and perplexing that the Japanese creators of such a significant export flow mask their own cultural identity. In a position to infuse the media with culturally specific designs, the Japanese producers refrain. Iwalbuchi notes that cartoon artists create characters resembling Caucasians, in an attempt to promote more “attractive characters” (413). However, Iwalbuchi later quotes an author who suggests that the “American way of life has lost its appeal in Japan.” (421) So why such odorless cultural promotion?

At first I wondered if the Japanese are ashamed of their culture. But, as a high-context culture, in which assumptions are understood and internalized, I realized that perhaps their cultural pride prevents them from promoting their culture, in an attempt to preserve it. In a high-context culture, where diversity is low, foreign assimilation is perhaps discouraged. Thus, could such “odorless” cultural promotion reflect extreme pride and protection? Is the Japanese penetration of a global market, specifically through electronics, meant to demonstrate its export prowess without revealing its culture?

There were two other significant points from this article. First, the author quotes numerous scholars who infer that Japanese culture is perhaps more materialistic than Western cultures. While this may be true, it’s hard to image a culture more consumer oriented than the United States, in which mostly every good is a marketable product.

Secondly, Iwalbuchi notes that media globalization actually encourages foreign media presence and domination within the United States. But I wonder, was that the initial intent of media competition in the United States? It seems odd that American media firms control most of the global sphere, yet within our own country media resources are dominated by Japanese products: Sony (Columbia), Matsushita (Universal), Nintendo, and Sega. This urges me to consider the role of American media both domestically and abroad, and the presence of a Japanese media hegemony.

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