Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
“Students dealt real-life problems to broaden outlook” (Japan Times, July 15, 2013) 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 non-academic 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 non-academic 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.
Mr. Hirase hailed the students’ initiative and creative thinking. That sounds like worthy praise, but I am suspicious that he is praising results that serve his commercial interests.
The article reports “Most of the ideas from the young students reflected their familiarity with “Cool Japan” cultural products that they grew up with.” But 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 okay 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. By basing Cool Japan on such as these Japan looks 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 their imaginations are really conventional. They will make perfect corporate executives.
Published on Sunday, July 21, 2013 as “‘Cool Japan’ meme a nonstarter."
The point is that Cool Japan is silly and bad, just like Cool Biz. I know there are adult level comic books, illustrated books that are a lot more sophisticated than what children consume, and I know that busy people might prefer easy-to-digest reading material at home and on the commuter trains. And I know that as an art form manga have a long history in Japan. Teenagers and adults who affect a cute manner, cute clothes and cute speaking voices are very unappealing, which is directly opposite to the desired effect. So far as they hope to use kawaii culture, Cool Japan advocates are shooting themselves in the foot.