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Japan: Researching of Orientalism

People usually see Asian culture as significantly different from American or European traditions for example. Additionally, social structures, laws, and interactions are managed in ways different from those in non-Asian communities. Even some aspects of close or resembling nationalities’ traditions may seem odd; hence, non-similar foreign cultures are generally considered strange or irritating. As a result of people’s judgments and prejudice, Japan is often imagined differently from how it really is, and this fact causes various misunderstandings and stereotypical thinking.

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Asian nations are usually considered strange based on online evidence or information. For example, according to Wagenaar (2016), after both the South Korean artist PSY and J-pop star Kyary Pamyu became popular online and their music videos spread around the globe, many comments occurred. After watching the videos that were quite unusual, commentators did not seek the hidden sense but chose to perceive those artworks as another proof of Asian, especially Japanese, strangeness (Wagenaar, 2016). Therefore, prejudice and misunderstanding are usually the results of the nations’ ignorance, lack of evidence-based judgment, and low levels of interest.

Additionally, the attitude toward Asian nationalities usually applies to the so-called wacky orientalism. Wagenaar (2016) explains that once the impression of a nation or culture is formed, it cannot be easily changed. The majority of people examine only the shallow aspects of a foreign culture. However, a profound understanding of the traditions and history requires not only discovering the basic information through social media but also doing additional research. Japan’s culture consists not only of samurai, robots, and tentacle porn, as some people may think. Hence, such wacky orientalism is correlated with impoliteness or even disdain regarding the country’s culture.

For instance, the perception of Japan as ‘weird’ is often expressed by Western nationalities (Wagenaar, 2016). Although ‘weird’ does not necessarily have a negative meaning, it may be inappropriate or discriminating when utilized concerning foreign cultures.

This fact is supported by the opinions of various scholars and researchers. For example, Said (1979) states that the notion of European identity is superior when compared to other non-European peoples and cultures. Additionally, the European and American indifference and ignorance in the correct identification of other cultures is one of the core factors that made those cultures hegemonic in all attitudes (Said, 1979). Therefore, wacky orientalism does not only mean undermining a culture’s value but leads to hidden global inequality regarding diverse countries’ traditions and customs.

Orientalism can be referred to as a flow or direction in the art that involves the imitation of diverse aspects of the Eastern world. The Japanese culture, being one of the most significant, mysterious, and elegant ones, is often used in such artworks as well. However, it seems appropriate only when correctly utilized; hence wacky orientalism is one of the ways of improper cultural motives implementation. An inappropriate utilization may include aspects that are not true or depicted wrongly, along with the usage of cultural facts regardless of their actual meanings. In this case, Japanese culture is often misinterpreted and considered weird, therefore, represented in an odd or irritating way.

Japan is a country with great technical achievements, fast economic growth, fascinating culture, and a fast-developing fashion industry. Due to those facts, the country has many envious competitors, and the United States or Western countries are included. Therefore, other countries seek domination over Japan and see stereotypical thinking in the way of one of the methods of its achievement (Wagenaar, 2016). Hence, in this case, this Asian country is often depicted as violent, backward, and inhuman on the other (Wagenaar, 2016). This is a way of orientalism, but with the implementation of global political structures, and in addition, this intergovernmental competition brings it to another level. In conclusion, the Japanese nationality has obliquely constructed rather a negative attitude toward itself, and the spread of non-official or wrong information about its culture and race led to an inappropriate picture of its inhabitants.

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Through various stereotypes that are common for the overall perception of Japan, the Asians, especially the Japanese race and nationality, suffer from the incorrect image of them built by the social media and the governments. For example, Wagenaar (2016) explains that foreigners usually concentrate only on the specific elements of the Japanese culture, such as samurai, kimono, geisha, tea ceremony, or kamikaze. In such a situation, the whole nationality is looked at only from two perspectives such as aesthetic and martial. Said (1979) supports the previous argument by the statement that due to the development of technology, electronic devices, and the achievement of the postmodern world, a reinforcement of stereotypes along with orientalism has been viewed. Although television, films, magazines, and other media allow foreigners to learn about the culture more profoundly, those sources of information generally concentrate on the two main directions of aesthetics and martial art as well. Therefore, such wacky orientalism can be spread through diverse channels, but its message remains unjust.

Based on the overall perception of Japan and the created image of its culture, it can be concluded that this approach is unfavorable for the country as it strengthens the existing social problems. For example, the levels of Asian nations’ discrimination levels might increase due to the shown cruelty of Japan’s regulation. Additionally, cultural appropriation is one of the outcomes of the misunderstanding of its culture, hence it leads to a broad-based utilization and popularization of the county’s cultural aspects, but in a wrong way.

References

Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. Vintage Books.

Wagenaar, W. (2016). Wacky Japan: A new face of orientalism. Asia in Focus: A Nordic Journal on Asia by Early Career Researchers, (3), 46-54.

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