Travel Japan: It's... Not Bad!

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As part of a new campaign to promote domestic travel, the posters below explicitly compare Japanese tourist attractions to Western ones. But for some reason, the Japanese examples are all kind of low-key and uninspiring. The text on the left poster says: “The Statue of Liberty may be awe-inspiring, but Ueno’s Saigo (Takamori) statue is also cool (kakko ii).” In other words, hey, the Statue of Liberty may be this giant, meaningful world-famous object, but why go see it when on your way to work you can briefly glance at a pretty neato small bronze statue of a Meiji-era figure who revolted against the central government?

Poster two: “Big Ben may be handsome and grand, but so is Ginza’s Clock Tower.” Are these posters fighting against some meta-battle against the arbitrariness of tourist attractions? I could go for that, but instead, they just seem like a desperate, passive-aggressive attempt to woo Japanese eyes back to Japan. Hey, the rest of the world may be exotic and interesting, but Japan has a lower cancer rate and a world-class postal system!

Why not compare Japan’s more magnificent locations and historical objects instead of banal versions of Western ones? I’d rather see something about the great temples of Shikoku than: Forget Paris! We have the Tokyo Tower!

W. David MARX (Marxy)
February 6, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

16 Responses

  1. Momus Says:

    There’s a real (though accidental) synergy between this entry and my latest posting, which concludes that the Japanese are losing interest in anything that’s not Japanese. The Japanese are ‘becoming more Japanese’, as evidenced by endless TV and advertising images of ideally Japanese pleasures, in which Japanese hosts amaze Japanese guests with Japanese traditions. But by ‘performing Japaneseness’ to themselves as if they were tourists, the Japanese have become not only ‘internal tourists’ but ‘internal exiles’. They aspire to being Japanese. And although foreigners seem excluded from this somewhat masturbatory idyll, it’s precisely here that we can inscribe ourselves into Japan. For we too, just like the Japanese, are ‘becoming Japanese’. They have a head start, but that’s all.

  2. Momus Says:

    http://www.livejournal.com/users/imomus/82872.html

  3. marxy Says:

    It’s a weird kind of narcissism though because it’s clearly based on a lack of self-confidence. Would France do ads like “Sure, Picadilly Circus is great, but check out Montparnasse”?

    Need to go eat. More later.

  4. Momus Says:

    Well, the ads you’ve highlighted are somewhat atypical. From what I’ve seen recently, the norm is to exclude all references to anything outside of Japan.

  5. Patrick Says:

    Rant agreed, pretty lame…
    When I saw that I could imagine some obasan who’s never travelled trying to convince her kids to stay home for the holidays.

    However, the posters being by Tokyo Metro, it would be strange if they’d attempt to send you to Kyushu. :)

  6. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    You may be on a cultural crusade Marxy, but you make some astute observations. This is a very interesting set of posters. The camera angles seem to be chosen to make their subjects as unattractive as possible. The overall impression given is quite Stalinesque. Seems far-fetched, but could these posters be ironic?

    I can’t quite make out the mark in the lower left hand corner. It’s not JTB is it?

  7. marxy Says:

    These are Tokyo Metro posters, so yes, they are all Tokyo destinations. Outside of food, shopping, and sex, Tokyo is pretty lame as a tourist destination anyway.

    These posters are semi-ironic in that they are kind of “tongue in cheek”. The writers know very well that Saigo’s statue is only “neato” compared to the Statue of Liberty’s grandeur. But they are still trying to sell Tokyo to people based on a inferiority complex to the West instead of a real national pride. I don’t think these are ultra-nationalistic or anything, I just find them kind of lame in the way that Soviet propaganda was kind of sad.

    On the exclusion of foreigners, I think the older generation really wanted to prove something to the West and say, hey we’re a great place too! I think kids these days know they’re on top (or at least a strong #2) and don’t care about telling the world. But everyone can agree on not really wanting to deal with foreigners on a daily basis. I mean this honestly – we are a pain in the ass. It takes them 15 years to learn to become Japanese, and we expect to be treated equally even though we flagrantly ignore and oppose the societal norms or you do not exist. There’s no Western idea of just founding your own little Utopia – you have to play by the rules! Most foreigners can’t understand this, nor care. (Momus and I both have this in common – we don’t particularly need to become Japanese, but I’m very suspicious whether the Japanese would want to become Japanese if the idea were floated on the free market.)

  8. Patrick Says:

    It’s the Tokyo Metro logo. Tokyo Metro replaced Eidan-chikatetsu (営団地下鉄) last year.
    http://www.tokyometro.jp/

  9. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Outside of food, shopping, and sex, Tokyo is pretty lame as a tourist destination anyway.

    Your forgot design. ;-)
    I

  10. Momus Says:

    Good grief, food, shopping, sex and design, what else is there in life? Golf?

  11. Chris_B Says:

    Lets have heartful chuto-hampa travel together!

    No but seriously folks, I’ve got a less sinister idea of this ad campaign. It is what it is, promoting craptacular domestic tourism in the hopes of re-flating the local economy.

    On a design angle, seeing these next to the JAL SKI posters with the Peanuts gang makes them look even worse (as if that were possible).

  12. erikhw Says:

    “But they are still trying to sell Tokyo to people based on a inferiority complex to the West instead of a real national pride.”

    If the posters were opposite, displaying self confidence and national pride (who wants to see the Eiffel tower? It’s old and filled with tourists. See the newer, fresher and more colorful Tokyo Tower instead!), would your opinions be the same?

    Does anyone know if these are inhouse productions or did they use an agency?

  13. marxy Says:

    If the posters were opposite, displaying self confidence and national pride (who wants to see the Eiffel tower? It’s old and filled with tourists. See the newer, fresher and more colorful Tokyo Tower instead!), would your opinions be the same?

    Good point. I’d just find another avenue for attack.

    But, I don’t understand why the campaign necessarily has to be comparative to start with.

  14. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Good point. I’d just find another avenue for attack.

    But, I don’t understand why the campaign necessarily has to be comparative to start with.

    Ah, Marxy your lunacy is so entertaining.

    Let me tell you a precious anecdote by way of exchange. A few years ago I had the occasion to organize an evening of live classical Nepalese music at a friend’s 150 year old machiya. Among my guests were a recently arrived Russian-American Ph.D. in Logic with his lovely Japanese newly wed and a long term very-eccentric drunken Danish tea master of Kyoto (anyone who knows Kyoto will know who I’m talking about). Here are the first words of their exchange:

    Drunken tea master, imperiously: “I am a tea master, what is your speciality?”

    Logician: “Logic”

    DTM: “WHAT? AND THEY LET YOU INTO THE COUNTRY???”

  15. porandojin Says:

    these ads look just ‘the royal tanenbaums’-like … they are just ironic, aren’t they?

  16. marxy Says:

    Is anything in Japan “just ironic”?