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    It’s so me

    May I ask a favor of the people who are doing stuff that makes Japan trendy again? Could you knock it off? ‘Cause, see, if it becomes too fashionable, I’m going to get all grossed out and have to leave.

    I was talking to this guy the other night, and he said something to the effect of, “Well, you certainly chose your specialization well. Japan is hot right now.” I didn’t quite know how to answer. The dude was a stylist from LA, around my age. He probably wouldn’t have found anything odd, bless him, about the idea of choosing a college major in your late teens with the express hope that it would put you at the cutting edge of hip when you were 33.

    But I’m more the preserver/custodian type. I was born and brought up in Pennsylvania (long and noble history of contributing to American liberty, but currently declining in relative population and influence). The heaviest cultural influence on our family was my grandfather, who was from England (glorious imperial past now several steps removed from the shabby-genteel present). In college I studied modern Japanese poetry (nothing more recent than the 1930s). After the bubble burst, Japan’s HAPPENING! HERE! NOW! cachet was lost to South Korea and China, with Japan taking a forceful but unassuming place as an established economic power. I moved here and felt very at home.

    Got it? I like things that are grand and beautiful, but also kind of past-it and mouldering and a bit scuffed up. If other people want to live in thriving boomtowns like…I don’t know…Las Vegas, I think that’s great. I’m a libertarian; innovation makes it easier for a wide variety of people to have richer, better lives and stuff. I really believe that.

    But all this crap about how Gwen Stefani and anime and Beat Takeshi and Koizumi and blah-blah-blah are making Japan cool again is annoying. It is RUINING MY PARTY.

    So remember: Japan is tired. Try Vietnamese food. Or Korean soap stars. Or Chinese liquor. Or Thai martial arts movies. You know, Asia’s a big continent. Lots to choose from. Just stop telling me how fashionable it is to be a Japanophile before I throw up all over you.


    Added on 18 September: Atsushi–who had the rare opportunity not to work until midnight today–pointed out during our phone call tonight that, given Japan’s aging society, excessive hipness is not something I’m likely to have to worry about for long. Point taken.

    4 Responses to “It’s so me

    1. Toren says:

      I’m delighted to know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Nothing like some 13 year-old anime fan babbling away and telling me how cool Japan is. What can I say?

      “Hey, kid, I was hanging out with Miyazaki and living with the Gainax animators before you were born.”


    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Yeah, that’s annoying–though given what an obnoxious little know-it-all I was when I was 13, I can’t get too indignant.

      The thing that drives me nuts is the implication that being in Japan makes me some kind of fashion victim. It’s laughable because when I was in college and grad school, all we ever heard was how Japan was no longer hot and all the cool and interesting people were going into Korea and China studies. I was willing to stand up and be frumpy and outdated then, and I am not going to stop just because Gwen flippin’ Stefani took a shine to Harajuku girls.

    3. Has it occurred to you that the “coolness” (again) of Japan may also have something to do with the fact that Japan, under Koizumi, has re-emerged as a reliable (conservative) US ally, rather than the 1980’s economic competitor that was supposedly set to take over the US (and the Rockefeller Center)?

      China, on the other hand, is replacing Japan as a “rising” threat among us conservatives. North Korea is always worth a punch, and South Korea’s “We love free protection of USFK, but Yankee go home!” routine may be wearing thin (the new inventive Korean cinema and increasingly popular soap stars notwithstanding).

      Just a quick thought. Glad I found your site (via Instapundit).


      aka Guns and Butter

      aka The Asianist

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      Thanks for commenting. I hope you’re right, but that applies to a different group of people from those I’m talking about. One doesn’t want to be sterotypical, especially about one’s own kind, but…well, I’m guessing that the homosexual stylist from LA I referred to, for instance, is not, in demographic terms, likely to be falling in love with Japan because of its energized conservative movement, you know? Ditto for other people who have made similar comments to me–they were mostly talking about trendy pop-culture stuff and not political philosophy.

      If more Americans are starting to pay attention to Japan’s significance as an ally, that’s very cheering. I’ve devoted a considerable amount of my energy here to citing reports of new US-Japan joint military initiatives and the Koizumi cabinet’s (often politically risky) commitment to the WOT. Both deserve more notice than they seem to get. I hope the election made a difference.

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