Japanese Culture Enthusiasts

So you might have noticed that I've been quiet lately when it comes to the blog.

I'm not exactly sure what I've been doing. But instead of moping around and typing out my miniscule problems, I'll share a video I came across today from SNL.

I've been living in Japan for almost three years now, and this skit is pretty funny. I've met several people in America like this before coming to Japan, and seen several here in Tokyo while out during the weekends. Several students at the school I used to teach at wanted a Japanese foreign language class, just so they could understand Sailor Moon and Naruto.

And it also brings to mind the opposite - Japanese kids who are "American Culture Enthusiasts" - namely the "hip hop fashion" style that continues to be popular here. Just a couple hours ago, a teenager was standing around the station with baggy pants and an oversize jacket with logos and designs similar to what you'd see either on rap stars or on gang members.

In LA or New York (or many other places) he and others might actually get hurt being dressed that way, as many teens carry or wear colored bandannas that in the States identify which gang you belong to. I've seen girls with one pants leg rolled up - another sign of being in a gang.

And there are tons of stores in Tokyo where you can buy these clothes, from the malls to Harajuku and Shibuya to Ameyoko-cho near Ueno. (I know that hip hop fashion isn't always gang fashion and vice-versa, but for boys especially it tends to run together, and like JCE's in the US, Japanese kids don't always know the difference.)

I wouldn't call myself a Japanese Culture Enthusiast by any means. I enjoy real actual life in Japan, which isn't all that different from American life in many ways. But I do like to use a bit of Japanese from time to time (though I really don't know much), I find myself following Japanese customs (bowing, sort of, for example), and I've collected a large amount of Japanese cultural souvenirs. I prefer chopsticks in many cases and I've been moving toward more and more Japanese meals. But I've never thought of myself as Japanese.

I pose a question to my readers: is being a culture enthusiast, and trying to adopt another culture's styles and mannerisms, racist? Are the characters in the video ignorant?


  1. I would think the longer you are there, the more customs you would adopt. Like they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do.

  2. I wouldn't necessarily say "racist" - I've know plenty of people who are Anglo-philes and one of the kids in my daughter's circle of friends has a serious thing for all things German. It's really the same kind of thing - it's just that the culture in this case isn't white and European.

    The characters in the video are pretty ignorant. They did several of these sketches when Jason Sudekis was still in the cast but they haven't done any since he left.

    As for you, I think it makes sense for you to try as many things in the Japanese culture that you feel comfortable with. What would you expect a Japanese person who was living in the US for a couple years to do here?

  3. Steve - agreed. I guess if it's just adopted or learned by living in the country, it's fine.

    NPB Card Guy - There are lots of Japanese women who are obsessed with dating foreign guys. Or so I hear. And once a year, all of America turns Irish, it seems. Personally, I want to try all I can, and there are plenty of things I haven't done yet that I want to (tea ceremony, for example). But I must say it's fun to "play the gaijin card" and just feign ignorance from time to time.