Massing, Demographics, and the Beginnings of Japanese Pop Culture

archive5

Massing

A 1977 issue of Japan Echo contains an article called “Hordes of Teenagers Massing” written by an NHK researcher named Fujitake Akira. He looks for answers to a question that had been plaguing society at the time: Why do youngsters mass in crowds and pursue the latest fads? Viewed with hindsight, this may seem like asking why water is wet, but Fujitake notes that this “youth massing phenomena,” which we now accept as a standard part of Japanese culture, was a “major change” for society in the 1970s.

One example of massing:

On May 4 at about 4:30 p.m., a group of petitioners assembled in force before the entrance to Yokohama City Hall. Their petition was to make Yokohama Municipal Cultural Gymnasium available to the Bay City Rollers for a concert in Yokohama. Consisting of about 100 girls, the group had collected 5,000 signatures which they asked to be able to present to Mayor Ichio Asukata. The British rock group, which is scheduled to come to Japan again this autumn, has recently been riding a popularity of boom of almost unreal proportions. The Rollers’ fans are mostly schoolgirls between the fifth and tenth grades, with an average age of about 14. The ¥2,500 albums put out by the Rollers are, of course, selling like hot cakes.

Damn youngsters with their blasted Bay Cities and hot cakes.

If we concede that a majority of Japan’s significant “popular culture” is comprised of “youth-oriented consumer culture” (Sanrio, Gundam, video games, Pink Lady, etc.), then Fujitake’s article essentially pinpoints the beginning of what we know as “Japanese pop culture” to the mid-1970s.

The 1960s saw amazing economic improvement for the Japanese nation, but individual consumption mostly involved bringing up the standard of modern comfort in the sphere of hardware (air conditioning, color TV, cars) rather than frivolous spending on “soft” cultural items. Instead of indulging in fashion and manufactured pop, college students in the 1960s flocked to the New Left since it was the most obvious and meaningful way to engage in social organization at the time. These kids did not prioritize accumulating “stuff” — outside of helmets and fighting sticks (ゲバ棒) needed to battle cops and ideological foes.

After the implosion of the Red Armies in the early 1970s, however, mass consumerism established itself as the new, friendlier vessel for the same socialization that the New Left had provided. Consumer products and information became a ticket to peer inclusion — i.e., if you owned the right product or knew about the right musical group, it was easy to find adoption into loose or formal organizations. Seventies’ teenagers may have still mobilized to present petitions to political leaders, but not to remove Japan from the defense umbrella of the United States as much as to open up Japan to the thrilling manufactured Scottish pop sounds of Rollermania.

Massing itself was not a brand new thing to Japan, but in the mid-’70s, children and adolescents suddenly became the driving force behind mass culture. As Fujitake writes, “One might even be inclined to say that what we are witnessing is no more than the spread to the younger generation of phenomena that had previously been the exclusive preserve of the adult generation.” For example, there may have been a very long tradition of reading and writing manga, but the 1970s youth embrace of that particular medium laid out the foundations of today’s entrenched manga culture. Fujitake calls ’70s teenagers the “comic book generation” — which suggests that comic book reading caused a generational split. He writes, “Some parents are somewhat scornful of the comic-book generation, or perhaps we should say that they disapprove of comic-book reading.” One problem with comic-books, he explains, is that they are a “private” media enjoyed alone. This breaks from the wholesome and communal nature of television, where the entire family sits around the set and chooses programming together. Just as ’50s rock’n’roll developed from American teenagers being able to listen to music away from their families on personal transistor radios, youth culture in Japan needed private and personal media outlets like the phonebook manga comics in order to properly develop.

Demographics

So why did Japanese youth culture explode in the 1970s? Appropriate economic conditions created the necessary discretionary income, media diffusion, and distribution networks to allow for a consumer society, but why did youth consumers make the best target customer for manufacturers?

In the mid-1970s, Japan was an extremely young country compared to its economic equals. In 1975, only 7.9% of the Japanese population was aged 65 or older. (For comparison, the rate for the U.S. was 10.5%, the U.K. was 14.0%, and Germany was 14.8%. Only South Korea had a lower rate at 3.6%.)

Those who began to have kids in the late ’60s and early ’70s had grown up with very little in the way of consumer luxuries and never experienced enough prosperity to know how to spend money on themselves. When the Japanese economy started putting real money in their pockets by the late 1960s, they chose to spend this money on their children rather than themselves. They hoped to provide their own youngsters with the pleasurable and comfortable adolescence they had not experienced in their own youth.

This value shift towards child-oriented consumption hit the fuel of a very large youth generation to create an army of young cultural participants. And due to an extremely limited set of media guides to products and services, kids all “massed” at the same events and stores. More and more companies were obviously happy to get into the youth market once they understood that this was the locus of consumer fervor in society. Soon youth culture had enough artifacts in circulation to really assert itself as a major part of the total market system.

Demographics Now

If demographics helped launched the Japanese pop culture explosion, how do the current conditions appear in comparison? Very, very gray.

Japan’s elderly rate skyrocketed to 17.2% in 2000 — the third highest in the OECD. Predictions for 2025 expect it to push 28.9%, and recent extrapolations have the population reaching 36% elderly by 2050. More than a third of society will be over 65.

I will concede that “youth culture” may not exist in its current form in 50 years regardless of demographic change, but why should we assume that Japan’s manufacturers will continue to focus on children when children no longer make up a robust consumer segment? Even now, the conventional wisdom paints the retiring Baby Boomers as the real goldmine, and producers are shifting their strategies accordingly.

Interestingly though, luxury apparel companies and street fashion brands in Japan are all massively expanding their children’s lines based on the concept that the rich grandparent generation will concentrate spending on their few grandchildren rather than on themselves. This will keep money moving into youth products for a while, but instead of the 1970s strategy of hitting as many people as possible in the masses with inexpensive goods, producers are concentrating on the sale of expensive high-grade goods to a handful of elite kids.

Fewer youth also may lead to a more “adult” cultural environment, which is not necessarily a bad thing. That being said, Japan has spent the last forty years moving more and more ex-adolescents into the kind of infantile consumption originally developed for children. Before children took over consumer culture, the 1960s mainstream culture often relied on an elitist mix of serious subject matter. Magazines like Hanashi no Tokushu (「話の特集」) offered intellectual discourse, political philosophizing, guerrilla music, and avant-garde art/theatre all in one bundle. Popular and youth culture these days (including much of the counterculture) seems completely stripped of an explicitly intellectual element. Evangelion creator Anno Hideki recently was quoted in the Atlantic Monthly article “Let’s Die Together” as saying:

“I don’t see any adults here in Japan,” he says, with a shrug. “The fact that you see salarymen reading manga and pornography on the trains and being unafraid, unashamed or anything, is something you wouldn’t have seen 30 years ago, with people who grew up under a different system of government. They would have been far too embarrassed to open a book of cartoons or dirty pictures on a train. But that’s what we have now in Japan. We are a country of children.”

This sentiment echoes Asada Akira’s idea of Japan being a state based on “infantile capitalism,” but regardless of whether Japanese society is adult enough or not, the truth of the matter is that Japan has a relative lack of infrastructure for producing “adult” popular culture. Between Pokemon, the Wii, crayon-colored Bape hoodies, and Naruto, etc., a vast majority of the Gross National Cool export success stories are either childish in target or childish in spirit. Japanese companies learned to make extremely innovative and exportable youth cultural products because of the conditions of their own market: a huge consumer base of young people and fierce competition for attention. The question is, will the Japanese manufacturers be able to retool their machines to make “adult”-oriented material or will they be able to provide the world’s children with products when there are barely any children in Japan to provide the test laboratory?

Maybe the key is the Nintendo DS — a product developed nominally for children with widespread usage amongst adults. So maybe culture has no demographic destiny. If adults themselves are a huge market for infantile products, the number of children has only minimal impact on the vitality of youth culture.

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

78 Responses

  1. Mulboyne Says:

    What would be an example of adult popular culture for you?

  2. marxy Says:

    Nosaka Akiyuki. Twin Peaks

    Maybe the question is not adult “popular culture” but popular “adult” culture.

  3. marxy Says:

    I think I also need to add that there is a bias against manga/anime in that there are often lots of “adult” themes in the work, but they are ignored by those who think the medium is automatically childish. I don’t want to perpetuate this bias, although I find it odd that Anno does not seem to see his own work as appropriate for adults.

    Then we hit a question, is a TV show like Lost “adult” or infantile fantasy fiction?

    None of this is cut and dry. I think we should say, however, that Japanese popular culture has been overwhelmingly successful with kids more than adults in other countries.

  4. marxy Says:

    Then again, Haruki Murakami. And the shift from Oe to Murakami is seen in the anti-elitist movement in pop culture in other nations as well.

    This self-debate is good for me.

  5. Mulboyne Says:

    Haruki Murakami was my first thought. Thriller writer Natsuo Kirino is getting a big push overseas right now as well. (There are actually more Japanese mystery titles translated into French than into English).

    Most of the Japanese films which garner awards at the festivals (and then rarely do much box office) deal with adult themes: e.g. Sonatine, Unagi and the recent Mogari no Mori. However, they don’t really make much money in Japan either on the whole.

    If Lost is adult then Japanese horror surely qualifies.

    There was an interview with Kenichiro Mogi in the Japan Times on Sunday:

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070603x1.html

    Here’s a lengthy quotation:

    “My long-term mission is to become an exporter.

    Maybe I should explain that. Japanese intellectuals have traditionally been importers of foreign achievements, so to speak. For example, Japanese professors — especially those from cultural studies, humanities — import newly emerging fields in the United States or Britain or Europe. Cultural studies have been imported from England to Japanese society. They make an industry of it: They translate these English books into Japanese and make a happy living out of it.

    Personally, I would like to change that trend. If there is one area where I haven’t really become active yet, it is cultural export. In other words, I’d like to make myself known more in the English-speaking world by writing books in English, not necessarily about science, but many things I find interesting.

    For example, many people don’t know about really important issues in Japanese culture or history. There is a critic I respect very much called Hideo Kobayashi (1902-83). He is very highly regarded in Japan but virtually unknown outside. That, I think, is a very shameful situation.

    When you go abroad, Japanese subcultures like manga and anime and films are really big. But Japanese intellectuals are virtually unknown outside Japan, and I’d like to change that. Maybe that is my biggest complex. Maybe I cannot do it alone, but I think there’s clearly a very serious problem.”

  6. marxy Says:

    Yeah, that quote caught my eye. I think Mogi is interesting in that he is trying to bring back intellectual discussion into society without ignoring the pop culture framework. He is in Brutus often and he hosted the Tokion Creativity Now conference in 2005.

    I think your movie examples make sense. They are certainly adult in context and content. Even if Takahashi Murakami makes art based on manga etc., I still think his work is adult-oriented.

    What we may be able to say, however, is that even adult-oriented material in Japan is often consumed in an extremely childish manner. Asada Akira had a huge best-seller of very difficult postmodernist rhetoric but no one read it or was able to digest it. His fans consumed it like fashion. I have tried to make the case on this blog that the Japanese media environment has stifled intellectual discourse on popular culture because it veers too much into possibly-negative criticism of individual items. But it certainly echoes the lack of “adult” consumption of adult products.

    Fujiwara Masahiko’s “Dignity of a Nation” is an extremely childish book. It’s a temper-tantrum against liberalism and democracy. That may have contributed to its success.

  7. john Says:

    Who, what, and how a piece of material is consumed by the broader culture determines its marketplace then? How does one, for instance, intellectualize comic books (Maus and few others aside) without seeming to become an obsessive, childish nerd instead of the responsible adult they really are. Choice? Mode of criticism? Other adults doing it making it ok for more adults to do it?

  8. marxy Says:

    Can you claim that Maus is intended for a youth audience and that adults have picked it up? What makes it different than Hello Kitty? The both have cartoon cats.

  9. Aceface Says:

    Why do the Japanese pop culture pops out in the 70’s?
    Simple ansewer.No more social initiation to adulthood like either military draft(existed until ’45) or student activism(from late 50’s to 1970).I just came back from South Korea,where there is a strict military draft exist and ex-student activists are driving the nation’s politics.I’ve found the lack of these initiation period is the marked difference in two societies.

    Now popular culture is blooming in South Korea along with imported Japanese pop culture(although it is not widely publicized as Japan’s Korean wave for various reasons)somehow related with decline of the student activism and falling public support for 2years long draft service.

  10. marxy Says:

    The draft idea is interesting, but it does not explain that Japanese youth were politically motivated one day and totally disinterested the next.

    The 60s were THAT disillusioning for the New Left – once they realized that their protests couldn’t change anything and that the movement was taken over by blood-hungry extremists, politics as a whole became completely off-limits.

  11. M. Says:

    I’m wondering if we really need a Japan-specific reason for why pop culture happened in the 70s there. Outside the U.S. and the U.K., most first-world countries had their pop culture moment in the 70s rather than the 60s. Even in the US/UK, you could argue that pop culture only became truly generalised among the youth in the 70s. Talk to people who grew up in the 60s and you’ll find a lot of the pop culture there was aspirational rather than actual. The hipster elites were living the rock’n’roll lifestyle in the 60s, but Joe Blow had to wait until the 70s.

  12. marxy Says:

    I don’t think that’s accurate. Japan never had anything approaching the pop culture of US/UK in the 60s. Teenyboppers were not “elitists.” There were probably 100 hippies in the Bay Area for every futenzoku in Shinjuku.

  13. alin Says:

    >The draft idea is interesting, but it does not explain that Japanese youth were politically motivated one day and totally disinterested the next.

    I think you’re seriously exagerating/misunderstanding this.

    >I don’t think that’s accurate. Japan never had anything approaching the pop culture of US/UK in the 60s.

    crap. it was smaller but all the more intense for that. So intense that one could put forward the thesis that it was that (the seriously focused, creative and intense , yes, mainly kabukichou-centred pop-culture thing) that big-banged into the 70s pop and not some bullshit BCR or whatever. And one way it happened was by all the individual 60s ‘creatives’ stepping into corporate jobs by the 70s.

    check out 日本零年, a 68/9 documantary, to get a good feel of the fashion/’pop’ energy (as opposed to pure political as you imply) in the late 60s revo fervor. also listen to some, say, 60s yuya uchida and the flowers mind-blowing psychadelia and stop saying that there was no pop/psychadelic culture at the time.

  14. Aceface Says:

    ”Japan never had anything approaching the pop culture of US/UK in the 60s. Teenyboppers were not “elitists.” There were probably 100 hippies in the Bay Area for every futenzoku in Shinjuku.”

    But there were Miyukizoku in Ginza in ’64 equipped with VAN jacket and Heibon Punch in their hand,Marxy.

    M:
    End of draft/rise of student power theory is from French political philosopher Raymond Aron.End of student movement(i.e end of social engagement)brought the age of youth retreating to individual life,which ends up as consumerism,brought the rise of pop culture not just Japan,but else where.I think.

  15. marxy Says:

    “yuya uchida and the flowers”

    Compare record sales of Yuya Uchida to, I dunno, the Beatles. I am not saying there was “none” but people need to stop thinking that Les Rallizes Des Nudes or whatever were anything other than an extremely cult band with zero widespread recognition. A lot of this psych stuff has been reverse curated to make it look like it was more popular then than it was. Compare the total number of psych/hippie/dropouts at the time to the number of hard-nose New Lefters, and it’s obvious which represented youth society more at the time.

    When I say “pop culture,” I don’t mean new forms of low-art avant-garde culture made by artists for their artist friends. I mean mass production and mass consumption, and this disqualifies all the Uchida Yuya stuff you are thinking about. At best, you had the Tigers, but their influence was nothing compared to any of the New Music of the 70s.

    “And one way it happened was by all the individual 60s ‘creatives’ stepping into corporate jobs by the 70s.”

    This is interesting and possible, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the 70s saw mass youth consumers suddenly in a position to demand products targeting them.

    “But there were Miyukizoku in Ginza in ’64 equipped with VAN jacket and Heibon Punch in their hand,Marxy.”

    Were they 14 years-old? I think that’s Fujitake’s point. That the 70s was the beginning of teenagers taking over the helm of pop-cult and not college kids. I don’t mean to deny that the 60s was an empty decade, but the 70s was really when everything opened up for the average person and became more colorful. Footage of the Beatles coming to Japan in 1966 looks like it could have been filmed in a police state like South Korea or Taiwan.

  16. marxy Says:

    “End of student movement(i.e end of social engagement)brought the age of youth retreating to individual life,which ends up as consumerism,brought the rise of pop culture not just Japan,but else where.I think.”

    This doesn’t explain the fact that American society had already experienced enough consumerism by the late 60s to start calling for a rejection of it. I don’t think American pop culture in the 70s was anything but an extension of what had already been created the decades before, where you cannot say this for Japan.

    This doesn’t make America “better” but just shows the economic conditions necessary for pop culture development. America had them in the 50s in a way that other countries did not – regardless of drafts or no drafts.

  17. Jack Says:

    You are right Marxy! Japan has no “adult” culture. The US is loaded with it. Look at our movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean p. III” or the new “Transformers” movie or pulp fiction. All based on serious literary work and blockbusters while they are at it! No shortage of intellectuals here.

    The US has serious adult role models like Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton and numerous sports stars who are at least old enough to drive. Compare this to underage idols in Japan and you’ll soon see US is #1.

    We take adult so seriously that we drive our children to dress in adult fashions like miniskirts showing the ever adult belly button.

    The US also engages in serious political debate such as whether it was 7 days or 6000 years to create the earth.

    It is no wonder that countries stuck in childhood like Japan can’t keep up.

  18. M-Bone Says:

    Great post.

    However, I think that you are being a bit vague on what popular culture. Cultural products for mass audiences, no? This seems to be the most popular academic definition. I don`t think that Nosaka would qualify – his work is usually discussed as `junbungaku`. Murakami Ryu and the like would be popular culture / taishubunka, I think.

    If that is the case, Japan certainly had a popular culture in the Edo period – scandal rags and ukiyo-e. However, it was largely limited to an elite, literate urban class. By 1912 when Daibosatsu Toge, the first `popular` novel in Japanese history, was released, this had not really changed. It was only around the late 1940s when movie attendance started to skyrocket that we can talk about popular `popular culture`.

    Of course, in this period, the movies that were hitting big were ones like Himeyuri no To, Shichinin no Samurai, etc. that appealed mostly to over 20s. The big change happened in the late 1950s with `Taiyo no Kisetsu` and the Taiyo-zoku — movies started to be made for the late teen crowd and they began to clean up at the box office. These movies, the Watari Tori series, the Waka Taisho series, etc. made big bank by appealing to young people who copied the hair, the fashions, etc. In the late 1950s there were also some chaotic rock concerts around Tokyo that drew 1000s (and much media criticism) and became something of a social phenomon. Lots of talk about `delinquent youth` in this period in the media as well. While it was not on 1970s level, it was there and it wasn`t just a few kids — fashion changed.

    I`d also encourage you to check out the film Kyoju to Gangu (1958, I think) about the `toy wars` to capture children`s kodukai. The kiddy market was big by the end of the 1950s and this film gives a fascinating glimpse. There was an anime boom in the early 1960s (and massive Testuwan Atomu toy sales) but if you want to pinpoint a time when under 12`s became `the market` to aim for, I`d go for the late 1960s. In the mid-1950s to mid-1960s kids were mostly watching wrestling with their fathers, etc. The shift from children`s movie series (60s Godzilla, etc.) to a dominant TV presence took place when Ultraman and Kamen Rider premiered. When this happened, dad was stuck reading the paper while Ichiro dominated the TV for the first time in Japanese history. This is a turning point. Kid`s consumption also launched a wave of social criticism with the `Rider Snack` controversy in the early 1970s. Kids started buying chips just to get the Kamen Rider cards inside. Lots tossed the food and kept the card. For the first time in Japanese history people were chucking out good food. The press responded in predictable fashion and it was one of those `ryukogo` stories for its year. This army of cultural participants that you are talking about has deep roots. For late teen culture go back to the late 1950s Taiyo zoku and for kiddy culture, go back to the late 1960s and very early 1970s. I think that the Fujitake article is dead wrong on its timeline and there are plenty of historical works (Shogakukan`s Showa no Rekishi series — the most widely read pop history of the period) that agree with me.

    I think that you are making a mountain out a minority here – `These kids did not prioritize accumulating “stuff” – outside of helmets and fighting sticks (ゲバ棒) needed to battle cops and ideological foes.`I`d also recommend that you see `Nippon Rei/Zero Nen`.

    Also, like it or not, while the 1970s laid the foundation for the present moe moe culture, it also laid the foundation for great adult manga – Blackjack and Kodure Ookami are products of the 1970s. Both are critical, anti-authoritarian and damn good. If you are wondering if youth culture can make the transition and capture older audiences…. it already has. Manga like Monster, 20th Century Boys, Saikyo Densetsu Kurosawa, Jotei, Yaoh and others are selling big, spawning dramas and films, and have carved out a big share of the public awareness. I`d argue that something like Monster is as good as Murakami Haruki`s recent efforts (and I`m not alone). Maybe not as good as Kirino Natsuo – `Zangyakuki` floored me.

    I also rather violently disagree with Anno (who I worship). Anno is pretty famous for talking out of his a$$ come to think of it. There are lots of good intellectual takes on the current milieu kicking about. The criticism digest `Eureka` comes to mind. They did a special issue on Ghost in the Shell lately and some of the articles in there hold water as good academic writing. There are pop scholars like Ootsuka Eiji who also write manga (MPD Psycho) as well as great criticism like Monogatari Shohiron and Shojo-tachi no Kawaii Tenno (ron?). Azuma Hiroki, a Todai pomo intellectual is also marketed to mass readers. In any case, we are talking about a country where the Akutagawa Prize announcement issue (of Bungei, is it?) sells over a million copies. There have been novels about late teens among the last dozen winners as well. Anno should know about this stuff, he`s written from Eureka. In any case, the fact that Anno`s very own (and very sophisticated) Evangelion became such a huge hit should also count for something. No matter how you hack it, you have to describe this stuff as `Adult` in the best meaning of the work.

    Also, while some of the pop examples that you mentioned are `infantile` – what about Miyazaki Hayao films? Not only are they the most popular in the Japanese market but they do okay overseas as well. Come to think of it, Japan pop has inspired some of the big American pop hits of the past 10 years – The Matrix and 300 (Frank Miller counts Kodure Ookami amoung his greatest influences). Not the best stuff, maybe, but art cinema picks up the slack there.

    `Maybe the key is the Nintendo DS – a product developed nominally for children with widespread usage amongst adults. So maybe culture has no demographic destiny. If adults themselves are a huge market for infantile products.`

    Gotta ask – have you played video games? The big sellers for DS in Japan have been `brain games` – fast math, kanji tests, etc. – as well as tool for learning English, etc. Nothing infantile here. As for other games, some genres use narratives – some very sophisticated. You don`t want to write off video games as a narrative medium. I can think of one – Final Fantasy 6 – that looks at a bunch of vital themes like genocide, whether a state should use violence to stop violence (the big question facing the USA at present), and others.

  19. marxy Says:

    “It is no wonder that countries stuck in childhood like Japan can’t keep up.”

    Oh sarcasm. Show me where I wrote that all other countries have ONLY adult culture.

  20. marxy Says:

    “If that is the case, Japan certainly had a popular culture in the Edo period”

    I am not defining “popular culture” that broadly. I trying to describe the class of materials we call “Japanese popular culture” now. I don’t mean to deny early examples, but I am saying the 1970s are really the birth of this youth-oriented cultural stuff that went overseas.

    “In the late 1950s there were also some chaotic rock concerts around Tokyo that drew 1000s (and much media criticism) and became something of a social phenomon.”

    Can you name groups? This sounds like the moral panic over the Tigers and Group Sounds in the late 60s.

    “Gotta ask – have you played video games? The big sellers for DS in Japan have been `brain games` – fast math, kanji tests, etc. – as well as tool for learning English, etc. Nothing infantile here.”

    This what I am saying. It’s a child-oriented product that was expanded to adult use. You certainly couldn’t say it’s the other way around.

    “You don`t want to write off video games as a narrative medium.”

    No, I don’t. I certainly am not trying to say that comics and video games are automatically “infantile,” but I think there is a discussion that follows from the question.

    M-bone, where’s your blog? I don’t get you people who know a lot of stuff but limit it to the comment sections of other people’s sites. Sheesh.

  21. Aceface Says:

    Whoa,M-Bone.some looong post.

    Nosaka Akiyuki:
    While I agree that some of his stuff he writes do belong to “Junbungaku,genuine literature”,I still think he belongs to the realm of pop culture for he was originally a script writer for TV shows and lyric artist for pop songs and all.I found in YouTube the other day,one of the famous TV commercial he appeared in the 70’s for SUNTORY OLD whisky,himself singing and dancing”ソ、ソ、ソ、ソクラテスか、プラトンか、みんな悩んで大きくなった。俺もお前も大物だ!”Classic.

    Kyoju to Gangu:
    It’s “Kyojin to Gangu”巨人と玩具(The Giant and the Toy),No?Masumura Yasuzo’s film based on Kaiko Takeshi’s Akutagawa award novel?

    Bungei文藝:
    The very magazine is belongs to Kawade Shobo shinsha河出書房新社,another lit centered publishing house with Bungei award.Akutagawa award along with Naoki award belongs to Bungei Shunjyu Shinsha文藝春秋新社 and the awarded works will appear in the monthly Bungei Shunjyu magazine.

    apart from these,no objection to what you’ve posted above.

    Marxy:
    Miyukizoku were “high-teens”.Not 14 years old but can safely say they match the equals in swinging London at the time.

    Perhaps,we should be more specific about the term “pop culture”means here,since Both Alin and I pretty much take the term with nuance of “counter-culture”.

    Beatles in Japan’66:
    There was some dispute of letting Beatles using Budokan for the concert.Shoriki Matutaro,the CEO of Yomiuri Shimbun and at the time the founder and president of Nihon Budokan did not know who Beatles were and against the concert,for he thought Budokan is the holy shrine for Japanese martial arts.(ironically,Yomiuri Shimbun was part of the promoter of the Beatles concert)Even Sato Eisaku spoke at the diet being questioned by the fellow member of the diet,he “does not think Budokan is a great idea”.Right wingers went hysterical about Brit pop band coming there and made some fuss about it.Naturally there were many uniformed officers at the live at Budokan.

  22. sphinx Says:

    “The 60s were THAT disillusioning for the New Left – once they realized that their protests couldn’t change anything and that the movement was taken over by blood-hungry extremists, politics as a whole became completely off-limits.”

    Your point is well-put. It is important to realize that the utter defeat of movements to transform existing conditions have never recovered from the collapse of the New Left in the early 1970s. I disagree, however, that ‘nothing was changed’ in fact that’s going dangerously overboard. The struggle at Nichidai and many other universities were, despite having their most important moments crushed, able to realize standard capitalist universities. Nichidai in particular was ruled with an iron fist by its administrators after WWII and had not substantially changed away from fascist education.

    I would also point to the struggles against the Yakuza in Kamagasaki, Sanya and elsewhere as evidence that ‘things were changed’. I know that there are many more examples.

    What was really defeated (and deserved to be) was the new left’s mode of organization. The politics of helmeted militants, the striking pole against the riot police shield, the raised fists of futility and so on, which I would say, in an extended argument, led inevitably to the bankrupt anti-imperialism and collapse into barbarism of the new left sects in the early 1970s.

    What we are finally seeing is the emergence of new politics that reject these old modes of struggle, not only in France and Britain where one might expect to find them, but recently in Kouenji and Fukuoka, where an anti-politics with real potential seems to be developing.

  23. P P Says:

    Do you foresee a “gross national cool” for the gray set that can be exported?

  24. Jack Says:

    “Show me where I wrote that”

    You said it right there, but I don’t think you meant it with all your heart.

    “all other countries have ONLY adult culture”

    I’m just making the point that there are large elements of “child” culture in the world. Perhaps it is only tangential, but it seems to me you were making a case that Japan lives by the child and dies by the child. My point is that old men can continue to recycle the same old stuff endlessly so no worries.

  25. michael Says:

    NASCAR and NFL football, the most popular forms of “entertainment” in the U.S., are both extremely childish.

  26. Brown Says:

    Yes, 『巨人と玩具』1958! Absolutely fantastic movie, you must watch it, Marxy! It blew my mind. Here’s a review on another blog:

    http://www.sarudama.com/japanese_movies/giants_and_toys.shtml

  27. M-Bone Says:

    `Can you name groups? This sounds like the moral panic over the Tigers and Group Sounds in the late 60s.`

    I is my understanding that there were not really any groups at this point – just individual (crappy) singers echoing American hits with generic backup. In any case, I don`t have my main research materials with me now. When I`m back at `research central` I`ll email you with some names and some dates / numbers of the concerts.

    `M-bone, where’s your blog? I don’t get you people who know a lot of stuff but limit it to the comment sections of other people’s sites. Sheesh.`

    I`m a (young) university prof so my post is probably going to get turned into a lecture at some point. My `big` Japan ideas get published as academic articles. I`ve been thinking about blogging but since I pretty much write for a living anyway I don`t want it to cut into my pop culture / non-fiction consumption time.

    As for the length of the post – I pretty much agreed with everything in your original expect the timeframe that you were talking about so I started writing and a half hour later….

    In any case, all should see “Kyojin to Gangu” 巨人と玩具. Great movie. Haven`t read the novel, Ace, but I am a Kaiko Takeshi fan. When I wrote Bungei, I meant `Bunshun`. That`s the problem with longass posts….

  28. marxy Says:

    “Miyukizoku were “high-teens”.Not 14 years old but can safely say they match the equals in swinging London at the time.”

    But if we think about Van and Ginza etc., it seems that this is youth culture copying “adult” style rather than creating a very obvious protest against it. I am sure there was moral panic about the Miyuki-zoku, but I think they reinforce how kids in the 60s coopted adult styles and actions (like Hirota Mieko’s music). In the 70s, you got the “where a kid can be a kid” kind of culture.

    “NASCAR and NFL football, the most popular forms of “entertainment” in the U.S., are both extremely childish.”

    And these have almost 0 export opportunities.

    “Do you foresee a “gross national cool” for the gray set that can be exported?”

    Just as America may develop products for the “fat economy” that can be exported to other nations when everyone else gets fat, Japan may be able to lead in elderly consumption. The problem with both fat and gray products though is that they are not “cool” and will not create the kind of endearment that “gross national cool” supposedly can.

  29. Chuckles Says:

    A great post by Marxy: wide in its scope, broad in its generalizations, generous with its choice of examples, eclectic in style and ultimately fallacious.

    Consider the following:

    1. The recoginition of an adultescent as a distinct social type is a western phenomenon – kidults, rejuveniles, etc – werent described first in Japanese pop sociological literature.
    See for instance:

    http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2006-06-19-rejuvenile_x.htm
    http://www.amazon.com/Rejuvenile-Kickball-Cartoons-Cupcakes-Reinvention/dp/1400080886
    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/2775/
    http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/031013/13tribes.htm

    Yes, Japanese popular culture is an extension of traditionally infantile modes into a cultural mainstream – but this is not a Japanese matter: In Kojevian terms, one could view this as ultimately the result of post-industrialization, where the social structures that broke extended families, clans and tribes apart during the industrial revolution are eroded in what is going to be, for the most part, service and automated economies. As mass technology erodes the need for a certain kind of maturity, via a proxifying of labor and duty – the broader society is prone to adjust its ways of being: There is a reason, why, in the age of Empire, the West almost uniformly dismissed all cultures (many of them non industrialized) they encountered as childish.

    2. Japan does have infrastructure for producting adult culture. It is called Porn.

    3. Why is Adult Swim so popular among the 18 – 35 demographic in the US? Hardly an example of hard hitting mature intellectual style, is it?

    4. Adultiness is dubious as a metric. Even within the most juvenile of schoolyards and playgrounds; social stratification abounds: Theres a smart one, a bully, a strong one, a sensitive one: A trivial observation that was exploited to no end by the Kingdom of Bubblegum – up till the recent present – hence your generic boybands. In case you didnt realize, this is a very childish mode.

    5. It is not certain that demographic changes caused the explosion of youth culture in Japan, like you have attested. I suspect that a fair amount of confounding is going on here. What happened is that the swell was colinear with economic prosperity generated by Japan’s rapid transit from an industrial to a postindustrial society. The operative concept here is the technology. As long as the technology abounds, the childish mode will abound.

    6. Subcultural restudies, among elite strata of society confirm that what is operative is not demography, rather surplus of social values: The behavior of elites in private is childish: this we confirm from infiltrative reportage. In two highly reccommended works, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Them: Adventures with Extremists; uber-sleuth Jon Ronson provides an inner look at the social performances of the global elite in venues such as Bilderberg and the Bohemian grove. In a follow up interview on C-SPAN, he noted that these men were people who conducted their lives and speech as though they were still stuck in college.
    http://12.170.145.163/Program/?ProgramID=1668
    This can be confirmed by a trivial observation of the doings and speech of elites: Bush doesnt make fart jokes because they are diplomatic, Koizumi didnt crack jokes about vaginas as a matter of State. Freedom from strictures adjusts modes of being: The Japanese are not unique in this: In fact, what is happening is the massification of all culture, so that the provenance of elites (i.e. a freedom from stricture) is being accomplished on behalf of the non-elites via the mass replication of technologies.
    Quote (via WPedia):
    “The mood is reminiscent of high school. There’s no end to the pee-pee and penis jokes, suggesting that these men, advanced in so many other ways, were emotionally arrested sometime during adolescence” — Philip Weiss, Spy Magazine journalist, who infiltrated the Grove in 1989.

    7. The popularity of the Wii, even outside of Japan, gives cause for pause. The Wii is a fundamentally childish implement. Its displays and capacities emphasize a freedom from strictures, rather than progress towards greater complexity emphasized by PS3 and XBox. It is a success because its opportunities for play arent constrained by notions of what grown up gaming out to be like.

    8. Intellectual elements are a dubious metric. Where was the intellectual element during the days of eroguronansensu, at the turn of the last century in Japan? Intellectualism inspired a vast wave of childishness which you would probably have deplored: Public sex, performances and general hilarity and strictureless modes of being were in play. Intellect is not distinct from popular culture; it is played within the bounds of popular culture – to claim that Japanese popular culture excludes intellect is failing to see the paradox in Satoshi Kon’s Mōsō Dairinin (Paranoia Agent) where a putative critique of Japanese childishness(in the form of an obsession with Maromi) is itself expressed in the same kind of media that it seeks to condemn. There ought to be a LitCrit essay about Godelian Incompleteness in there somewhere.

    9. The invocation of Haruki Murakami is dubious, as I have noted previously on this blog. The man is hardly an original – how exactly does he typify the childishness of Japanese pop culture – except to the extent that he typifies the childishness of that which influences him?

    10. The emphasis on demographics is wrong. The youth swell was colinear with technological advancement. It is technological advancement that creates the mass surplus of social values needed for the childish way of life. In the absence of youth, rapid and dramatic enough changes in technology would probably have the same effect. The automobile, when first adopted by adult cultures all over the world, was performed in a very childish manner. The massification of technology has been much more intense in Japan. Both childishness and adultiness in popular culture are dubious metrics, especially when correlated to human chronology.

  30. marxy Says:

    Same comment for Chuckles as M-bone: where is your blog? All I know is that you run a site called “google.com.” I am happy to provide the space for your ideas, but I’d like to read them in a venue that’s not always a correction to my own.

    I think your doubts are respectable, but I would add that I think the line between “child” and “adult” in Japan is much more distinct in a ritualistic sense. Becoming a “shakaijin” (at least in a white-collar over-working kind of way) means abandoning “youth culture” and taking up a new set of “adult rituals.” Many of these may be equally childish (just as the schoolyard is adult social hierarchies of race, class, and status projected downwards), but I doubt that anyone could see Japan as flexible in the requirements of “adult life.” Hostess bars are “childish” in a certain sense, but they are certainly an adult play in this dichotomy that everyone understands here.

    In the 60s, there did not seem to be this need for workers to flock to “childish play” in their few off-hours to escape from the stern “adult lives,” but these days you could easily make that case. Responsibility towards nation and family seemed to be ends in their own right, but at the same time, was there a really rich set of childish artifacts to choose from? I understand that “technology” helped create demand and supply, but specifically, how so?

    I don’t see how demographics can be “completely wrong” while technology is completely right. Take for instance, the fact that almost all of the pop culture fields in Japan have seen steady decreases in sales over the last decade. This is almost solely due to demographic changes. Do changes in the consumer base lead to changes in what is created and sold? Do you think that the market will suffer no changes from going from the youngest society in the developed world to the oldest in 30 years?

    “The invocation of Haruki Murakami is dubious, as I have noted previously on this blog. The man is hardly an original – how exactly does he typify the childishness of Japanese pop culture”

    I think he was invoked to show the opposite – of exportable “adult” culture.

    “In the absence of youth, rapid and dramatic enough changes in technology would probably have the same effect.”

    This doesn’t explain, however, that the 1970s did not see a rise in “adults co-opting childish culture” as much as children creating a huge youth market. Sanrio had to start as a kid’s brand before adult women could then start to also take it up. They probably did take interest in the 70s, but adult adoption seems to be adults who refuse to give up these “childish hobbies” rather than picking them up without experience with them as a child. So in essence, you needed an initial period of foundation before you could have nostalgia for that period.

    “There ought to be a LitCrit essay about Godelian Incompleteness in there somewhere.”

    Man, I overheard someone on the street the other day say the EXACT SAME THING.

    “Hardly an example of hard hitting mature intellectual style, is it?”

    I admit a bias towards finding an intellectual component in subversiveness. This may also be unfair, but how many Wittgenstein jokes have you ever seen on Sazae-san? I know the Simpsons may be just referencing the philosopher rather than expounding on his work, but there is something going on there…

  31. marxy Says:

    “Same comment for Chuckles as M-bone: where is your blog?”

    Nevermind: your use of a billion unresolvable IP addresses over the last year sends a signal that anonymity is crucial to your participation.

  32. Mulboyne Says:

    In some ways, the west has become more like Japan in the way that adults don’t necessarily outgrow childhood or adolescent interests. Evidence for this might be the growth in the market for rock memorabilia and baseball cards as well as Star Wars and Star Trek conventions.

    The old joke used to be that an out-of-favour rock band could only count on being “big in Japan”, where fans generally remained loyal to their old favourites. Nowadays, 70s and 80s bands can happily sell tickets for reunion tours in the US and Europe.

    I have a feeling, which I can support with no evidence whatsoever, that the average age of people going along to a Rolling Stones gig in Japan is higher than that in the US. They may not quite be the Ventures but the audience tends to grow old with a band rather than being refreshed with new blood.

    If the nostalgia market remains strong then the current generation of overseas gamers and otaku could end up being a decent export market for Japan in the years to come. And they will probably have more money to spend.

  33. marxy Says:

    “They may not quite be the Ventures but the audience tends to grow old with a band rather than being refreshed with new blood.”

    Yes, this is a pretty important observation, and I have heard Japanese critics point out the same thing. There are very few music groups in Japan who attract a non-horizontal mix of fans. Hall and Oates come to Japan and play for the same people who were into them in the 80s. When B’z have a new single, it’s their huge fan base that buys it, not young kids who heard the single and like what they hear.

    “If the nostalgia market remains strong then the current generation of overseas gamers and otaku could end up being a decent export market for Japan in the years to come.”

    I am reading “Japanamerica” at the moment, and a good point the writer makes is that Japan has this huge backlog of anime/manga that no one has seen and will be able to be sold for a while. So whether or not Japanese popular culture stays dynamic, you may be able to just keep sales high by pulling out past hits. This works for cartoons in a way it can’t for most other media.

  34. Chuckles Says:

    […Same comment for Chuckles as M-bone: where is your blog? All I know is that you run a site called “google.com.” I am happy to provide the space for your ideas, but I’d like to read them in a venue that’s not always a correction to my own…]

    I swear, I totally knew you were going to say this. Now, I dont comment on every post; but if post interests me enough to garner a comment, then I try to make a good job of it – the beauty of your blog is that it allows precisely this sort of thing. Besides, one has to know what to look for with Google – and I assure you, my last name isnt Brin or Page.

    […Nevermind: your use of a billion unresolvable IP addresses over the last year sends a signal that anonymity is crucial to your participation…]

    Which again, is a plus for *your* blog – as I have been run out of town in other places because of anonymity – and yes, for me, it is crucial, because my employment is a somewhat sensitive one. So thanks, old chap, and all. Vive votre blog! I would hate for you to think that I didnt realize just how jolly *your* gin joint can sometimes be. Plus, I *am* a rather well behaved fellow, dont you think?

    Long story short: The absence of the responsibilities that define adulthood is the primary signal of our so called childishness. Children have a surplus of several social values – provided, by the most part, at the behest of parents etc. My argument is simply that a very rich (sub)culture will display much the same characteristics, even if it has no 18-34 year olds. In various cyclical theories of history, e.g. Spengler, Toynbee, Ibn Khaldun etc, decadence at the end of a civilization has rejuvenility as a common component – this is after one goes through several phases through which a surplus is accumulated etc.

    Not to be the perpetual nitpicker, but you do operate from a specific set of generalizations about Japan that one would like to see challenged once in a while. Hope no wrinkles on your face, old fellow. Damages your rugged and craggy good looks. Cheers now.

  35. marxy Says:

    I like the conspiratorial mystery of your response, and I have to say I prefer your brand of “challenging assumptions” to the “you are wrong for even asking these questions” kind of criticism I used to endure on a frequent basis.

  36. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    craggy.

  37. Johan Says:

    It’s interesting to read your exposition of what happened during Japan’s economic ascent, but you are not delivering a convincing conclusion.

    It’s not clear what constitutes “adult” culture and what constitutes “infantile” culture. It seems as if you at least partly make the mistake of attributing infantile characteristics to certain media like video games, comic books, cartoons etc. So you are drawing conclusions from the form instead of from the content.

    Look at the west and how adult our culture is! Look at tabloids, look at talk shows and reality tv, and some of the examples you suggested yourself, such as Lost… I wouldn’t call this adult. But then again, these are all examples of entertainment; nobody demands that entertainment is adult.

    If we take “adult” to mean “of intellectual value”, I would say that things of intellectual value, almost by definition, rarely become mainstream. Nor do they usually make it big at the box office, or reach the top of the tv popularity rankings, etc. (At least this would be the case in a free market society).

    Interesting in how one of the comments above somebody remarked that comic books are a problem because they don’t promote the kind of communal togetherness that choosing a tv program promotes. I fail to see how watching tv is a social activity. Maybe it is if you’re uninterested in conversation. But one could probably make a case for the rise of “individualist” media like some uses of the internet, portable music, &c, which detach people from their immediate surroundings and the people there. Such are our times.

  38. marxy Says:

    “I fail to see how watching tv is a social activity.”

    I think this refers to the social patterns of TV in the 60s when there was only one set in the house and families had to gather to watch it. Once you had as many TVs in a house as family members, this no longer became true.

    “It’s not clear what constitutes “adult” culture and what constitutes “infantile” culture. ”

    I as well lost grasp on this as I wrote it. Being right is sometimes a waste of your time as a writer because you don’t learn anything.

  39. Aceface Says:

    Chuckles wrote:
    “Japan does have infrastructure for producting adult culture. It is called Porn.”

    I’ve missed this part at the time this was posted but haven’t this s topic been discussed for numbers of occasions in the past threads?
    I’m talking about existence of the 13 years old models in thong bikinis!

    You know,all this reminds me of one of the column on Newsweek Japan couple years back,about the rise of the global pokemon fandom.The columnist(I think American woman)was saying skeptically pokemon will not be the Japanese soft power vehicle like American Apple computer because it has no meesage that attaches to it.What she tried to say was every American cultural product from Kool Aid to Ford pick-up truck has one divine aura attached to it called ”THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE”while neither pokemon nor playstation possess such symbolic message.
    While I realize that Pikachu is not exactly the defender of the Truth,Justice and the Japanese way,I found the column was rather absurd when I first read it.However it does fits to our argument at hand,whether J-culture can reach out to R-15 consumers.I,for one do not think Japanese pop culture can create adult oriented cultural trend in certain societies such as North America or Western Europe.Simply Japanese middle class way of life (which is the base consumer of the very product)is not at all attractive to most westerners.I,mean any of you really want to be a Japanese salary man or house wife(sexism is intentional) in Japanese suburbia?

    Going to yet again to my another discovery from the recent visit to South Korea,There is a growing boom of J-lit in Korea in the last few years.More than 33%of the translated fiction are from Japanese and this is bigger in the statistics than English fiction.Not just Murakamis nor Yoshimoto Banana whom are becoming pretty common name in the global lit scene,but likes of Ekuni Kaori and Wataya Lisa et al.The very women writers with Japan only readership.
    The copy right agency woman whom I’ve come to know told me that situaton of womenhood in Japan and Korea is pretty close and J-lit has more variety of subject especially in those targeted to female audience.30 somethings in Korea do sympathize with the topics J-female authors chose to write which are sex,marriage and career crisis.She told me this do not happen as much as in the case of men for she thinks masculine nationalism is involved.
    I can’t say whether this analysis is just and need further research on the subject,but I can safely say that Japan could offer adult oriented cultural export in the culturally associated and socially resembled near neighbors,only if we can manage the stable bilateral relation without igniting the history war.

  40. marxy Says:

    Very interesting perspective.

  41. Mulboyne Says:

    You’ll be pleased to know that Fujiwara’s book is now nearly ready for the export market. IBC has just published a bilingual version with an English translation by Giles Murray. 1400 yen.

    http://www.ibcpub.co.jp/new/nw49.html

    No idea if there are plans for a stand alone English version.

  42. marxy Says:

    I don’t know who Giles Murray is but his time has been wasted.

  43. marxy Says:

    Honestly, reading over my own essays on “Dignity,” some of that stuff is going to just read so poorly in English unless there was some serious editing on top of the translation.

  44. Chuckles Says:

    Aceface:

    First of all, that was a snarky quip which is why I suppose Marxy didnt respond to it. Secondly, You have some points that I want to respond to:

    1. What of the success of Vertical? I mean, Sayonara Gangsters isnt exactly Infinite Jest – but it did get good reviews. Furthemore, Genichiro Takahashi is most definitely not Murakami – yet, he did have some critical success with the translation. I realize that sales arent very strong, but this can only go up among the literati.

    2. I do seriously believe that Japan has much of adult oriented culture – pace Marxy – to offer the world. I do not believe that the Japanese middle class way of life is that much of a barrier. Whiter than white kids in Suburbia have no problem getting with hiphop designed for black America – the same way they had no problem getting with Jazz, the Blues, Swing, Bebop that grew out of folk forms. I am skeptical of the cultural affinities argument; i.e. that because Korea and China are more similar, JCulture ought to be more successful than in the West. The Grudge, the Ring, etc were all stunning successes. Adult Swim is probably the top rated program in its block for 18-34 year olds (I know it used to be a while back) – tho’ anime makes up only a small component of this – and is probably the lowest rated segment now – in times past, it did create a surge of ratings increase for AS:
    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2002-08-14/anime-pushes-adult-swim-ratings-growth

    3. Do you really believe that American suburbia is all that different from Japanese suburbia? Is it not possible that alienation from the American mainstream will create loyal consumers of JCulture? Maybe?

    4. TechTv didnt do so bad. There were Japanese themes. Thats a first step.

    5. The bottom line is: what Marxy means by Adult Culture refers to a kind of literature, media and technological form. Can we really conclude that cultural production is impossible for the West without considering language barriers – not from a cultural angle but from a purely technical one? When translated, Japanese novelists gain some success in the West.

    6. I agree. The Newsweek article is rather absurd. I would in fact argue that her point fits Japan more than it does the USA.

  45. Mulboyne Says:

    Vertical’s main sales appear to be coming from graphic novels and J-horror rather their contemporary fiction titles. It’s good that they exist but the standard of translation is not always up to snuff. I certainly couldn’t do any better myself but it seems to be particularly noticeable when novels are dialogue heavy and there is a lot of slang. Translators seem unsure what kind of voice to give demi-monde characters in English so a gangster ends up veering wildly between Tony Soprano and James Cagney.

    Even at Knopf, the reviews of Kirino’s “Grotesque” seem unsure whether the clunkier moments of the book are in the original or simply the fault of Rebecca Copeland. The New York Times was unimpressed with renderings like “passion hovered in the air between them like a massive lump”.

    One interesting aspect of the English edition is that it appears to have been somewhat censored. A reference to underage male prostitution has been removed and Kirino apparently said in a book tour that she was asked to change the ending.

  46. Mulboyne Says:

    The FT today reviews a book which might be interesting for you:

    “Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole” by Benjamin R. Barber

    The book “warns of a totalitarian “ethos of induced childishness” that not only seeks to turn the young into aggressive consumers but to arrest the psychological development of adults as well, ‘freeing’ them to indulge in puerile and narcissistic purchases based on ‘stupid’ brand loyalties.”

  47. Aceface Says:

    Chuckles:

    Let me clarify what I think about “Adult Culture”.
    Back in early 80’s I was a teenager, living in Westchester the suberb of New York with my family.Occasionaly my parents went to some gathering with business partners in Manhattan,which usually were either opera at The MET or classical concert at the Carnegie Hall.While they were in the city enjoying their high time I was at my house with my sister watching HBO eating take out pizza.We felt there is a massive high wall between us kids and adults in America.
    What I’m saying is “Adult Cultures”are something what Woody Allen does in his movies.Theaters,galleries and art museums.Something with the dress codes and certain amount of intellectual investments are required to be entertained.In another words,not for children.Not saying these don’t exist in Japan(they do)but do not have living life among Tokyoites as much as New Yorkers,especially after the 70’s.And these social lives along with the bigger car,the bigger house and the bigger yard are something my parents have been missing.From these family experience ,one must admit that America offers materially superior suburbia than the Japanese equivalent.

    Now J-culture may have some pospect among those who are alienated from existing social life in NY.Maybe even to those who do not satisfy with NASCAR/NFL environment in the red states.But I imagine they belong in the periphery,aren’t they not?Not in the mainstream like S.Korea?
    Can’t say anything responsible for I haven’t really been to America,apart from two very short stays in ’01 for more than two decades.

    Never heard of Vertical until this post.Interesting.a Japan centered publisher.Unimaginable in the 80’s.
    And Takahashi Genichiro….20 years ago when the magazine “SWITCH”started as American culture centered,one theme/one issue magazine(had special issues like Sam Shepherd,New Journalism,Tom Waits,Jim Jarmusch,John Cassavetess et al)Genichiro had column there.He was a very minor writer and got famous of the translation of Jay MCinerney’s”Bright Light,Big City”which was an instant hit in 87.At the time,He was considered as next Murakami Haruki whose “Norwegian Wood”was hitting every book shop in the country by storm.Kind of interesting coincidence that he got credit for the way his works are translated in America.I know his other works like “Sun down in Penguin village”or”Rise and Fall of the Japanese Literature”needs lots of quotes for page by page.

  48. Aceface Says:

    Mulboyne:
    I was not so impressend with Barber’s”Jihad VS MacWorld”.He seems to write something obvious (modernisation and backlush)while lacking first hand knowledge of many societies he had quoted(definitely in case of Japan).But then again that happens always in case of theoretical work and his new book could be interesting for he had hired army of researchers collecting many second hand data for JvsMW and that could work well along with this time.
    Know anything about 藤田省三Fujita Shouzo(全体主義の時代経験、天皇制国家の支配原理)?
    He did write about “totalitarian consumerism”of which I thought was plain nonsense.But could be interesting to compare it with Barber’s conclusion.

  49. Mulboyne Says:

    Aceface: “Never heard of Vertical until this post.Interesting.a Japan centered publisher.Unimaginable in the 80’s.”

    What about Tuttle? They are incorporated in Japan while Vertical are incorporated in the US but their missions seem very similar albeit in different generations.

    I agree with you view on Barber. Recently it seems we are supposed to allow commentators to be factually inaccurate if their big ideas are important and if their writing style appeals to more people than a small coterie of academics. Personally, I don’t see why accuracy should be at odds with popular appeal.

  50. Aceface Says:

    Tuttle is to me,more of a copy right agency instead of publisher.And to my knowledge it was orginally started as second book shop(and then to import book shop) for U.S servicemen.Wasn’t it?
    Perhaps Wheatherhill hits the category much better.

  51. Chuckles Says:

    Mulboyne:

    Your point about translation is well taken. But this is a general problem – if you read Almost Transparent Blue today, you would feel the translation of some of the speech patterns a bit off too.
    About Barber; I share Aceface assessment. You do realize that his central point is neo-Galbraith? Does anyone still read Galbraith? The failure of many of his predictions is but one strike against him: The second strike is that while the point about creation of wants is well taken; that these wants are frivolous, or lack meaning for consumers is absurd. Barber is microwaving leftover sixties agitprop and marketing it to gullible folks in the oozy woozy left / crunchy con crowd. So for instance, viagra and cialis infantalize men by enjoining them to a youthful virility that they are supposed to have foregone. How a search for eternal youth is new – i.e. a feature of our present world – or frivolous is what I dont understand.

    Aceface:

    I see your point about Woddy Allen and adult culture. The crux of this is sophistication – I think this is what you mean?
    That this concept is unreservedly accepted outside of continental Europe is a fact very much in doubt. I dont know if this is what Marxy meant by adult culture. If you are going to bold out claim that less intellectual investments are required from the Japanese middle class in their culture, vis-a-vis their American counterparts, I would like to see some numbers. Woody Allen is hardly consumed as regular fare even in American suburbia. Most middle class adults in the US dont watch IFC – lets not forget that huge gaping piece of Americana known as the midwest. You lived in New York – do you think folks in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio are sitting around in the comfort of suburbia watching Woody Allen etc? I dont think so. Are we to deny them an adult culture simply because guns, barbecues and church lack intellectual investment? Where are the high class museums in Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis, Cheyenne? The midwest is hardly the capital of world high culture. I pointed this out to Marxy in a previous post – this slight and subtle bias of assuming that the Northeast defines America. It doesnt. And I would wager, that for much of what we know as middle America – Japanese suburbia competes favorably. The wall you speak of is hardly a staple of Americana – at least, certainly not in the South and Midwest, where children actively participate in adult rituals from a young age – on farms, in church, hunting, etc. Are you saying then, that only high faluting Northeasterns have adult culture? I think this is the foundation of our competing visions of society – and defining generalizations like adult culture, intellectual investment etc – based on these visions. BTW – saying adult means not for kids is tautological. Also, from the European viewpoint, America does not have any adult culture whatsoever – and Britain itself very little. Which makes sense – in Albions Seed: Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer teases out these connections in some detail. There are no great American composers, American painters are good but not exceptional (Whistler etc) – others are mostly mediocre by world standards, American poets are hardly superlative (Whitman is okay), American writers are second rate – America brings forth absolutely no competition to Dostoevsky, Moliere, Dante, Cervantes or even to Dickens: What American writers have wrought is mostly in the mould of Europe itself, influenced by Continental Europe – thus Pynchon, McCarthy, DeLillo etc derive from Joyce, Sterne etc American music is folkish and black, earthy and raw: In any sense American has music, the music is black – blues, Jazz, hiphop, country etc – again, not bad – certainly of interest as curios to European anthropologists etc who gave us opera, and classical choirs – America has produced no Bach, no Beethoven, no Wagner, its great conductors do not derive from Albions Seed – America has produced some philosophy – perhaps Peirce in Pragmatism, but dominant strains of philosophy in the US all have continental roots – and those that do not, i.e. American style libertarianism of Nozick et al are rooted in the Scottish enlightenment – whose were in a sense preceded by the French physiocrats etc.
    My point is that America as a whole has no adult culture to speak of in the sense that you have defined adult culture as a package of intellectual investments. Perhaps this is precisely why America is so successful in marketing its popular culture to the world; because it coopts global cultural mediocrity – which you and Marxy apparently disdain – so successfully. And why? Because for most of us – where really, lies the wall, separating kids from adults – what really, for most of us humans, is a culture not for kids?

  52. marxy Says:

    ”the Japanese middle class in their culture, vis-a-vis their American counterparts, I would like to see some numbers. Woody Allen is hardly consumed as regular fare even in American suburbia. Most middle class adults in the US dont watch IFC – lets not forget that huge gaping piece of Americana known as the midwest.”

    Just because a small minority watches Woody Allen or IFC doesn’t mean you can discount the fact that these items are nationally-distributed. I did not grow up in exactly the most metropolitan place, and yet, we got the New Yorker in the mail every week and I watched indie films on Bravo.

    “And I would wager, that for much of what we know as middle America – Japanese suburbia competes favorably.”

    This is hard to measure and compare, but remember that in most “red states” there is a pretty substantial “blue” population. Or note Oxford, MS (where I once lived) that is a tiny 10,000 pop. town with one of the best independent bookstores in the nation (Square Books.)

    Not that this makes me want to stay in small towns for my adult life, but the non-Northeast/West Coast is not a total wasteland.

    “There are no great American composers, American painters are good but not exceptional (Whistler etc) – others are mostly mediocre by world standards, American poets are hardly superlative (Whitman is okay), American writers are second rate – America brings forth absolutely no competition to Dostoevsky, Moliere, Dante, Cervantes or even to Dickens: What American writers have wrought is mostly in the mould of Europe itself, influenced by Continental Europe – thus Pynchon, McCarthy, DeLillo etc derive from Joyce”

    This seems like the kind of view you would have if you still wear a monocle non-ironically.

    My definition of “adult culture” was too loose and undefined to lead to any conclusions, but this seems way too strict. Writers like Pynchon or Gaddis are not for kids.

  53. Aceface Says:

    Chuckles:

    No,I do not have any numbers on less intellectual investments are required from the J-middle class in their culture,vis-avis their American counterparts.Like I said it was from my personal experience and vague impressions.So I souldn’t even critcize Dr.Barber who is definitely more well informed man in many topics than I am.But it is pretty difficult to state culture that belongs to certain people,whereas certain generalization
    is inevitable.

    Red state:
    Hunting,fishing and berbecuing are all open to all ages both young and old,just like watching NASCAR/NFL on ESPNh.For that I’ve considered they are not “adult”culture.(no sarcasm here).
    Choosing Woody Allen was pretty intentional.I know he is not exactly an all american cultural hipster,but he does represent(and caricatualize) some types of New Yorker,whom I knew pretty well back then.And Allen is good example for me because adult culture,I think is related to social life.

    Big difference between Japan and U.S.A in Adult cultural field is we are lacking citiznery that are equivalent of Boston Brahmins.They too are endemic to New England but their cultural formula,the local elite spending their times and money by building cultural infrastructures,which are the holy trinity of the university,museums and local symphonic orchestra and becoming member of the board of trustees and gaining prestige did spread all over America.Every bigcity,U.S.A has their own local clone of Boston Brahimin and they build infrastructure of Adult culture so everyone can enjoy Woody Allenesque “Adult”cultural life to certain extent,maybe not in Kansas city,but certainly in places like Pittsburg or Cincinatti.

    While in Japan,the task is up to iron triangle of the local government(politician-bureaucrat-construction industry complex)usually end their mission by simply build something.Better are the ones built by railroad company usually inside of the department complex intended to attracts more wealthy comcumers or making more attractive assets to their realestate.For that destined to be tather commercial.

    No culture in America:
    Funny.I was told from a Korean the same thing about Japan recently.”Everything you have came from us.”

  54. marxy Says:

    I had a professor who kept telling us, don’t mention this to Koreans, but kimchi is originally Japanese.

    Also – http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=1947 – Japanese TV seems to have odd ideas about how to deal with celebrities when they come to Japan. Not a lot of questions about “craft.”

  55. Chuckles Says:

    @Marxy:

    I think your response pretty much says it all. You are willing to accept a commercial distribution network in lieu of actual participation in the culture by real, breathing persons. I do not doubt the presence of these outposts of culture in the provinces. But you do not convince me, and neither does anyone else, that people for the most part are participating in the culture. Hofstadters precise point was that what we have accepted as adult culture for the sake of this discussion is fundamentally at odds with Americas historical heritage. Okay, so we dont have numbers. But there is a lot of anecdotal evidence available. I am not a monocle fellow myself – the views arent mine. I am just trying to point out that all this theorizing about adult culture and whatnot is double edged. So youre American. You say the Japanese dont have adult culture – well, the Europeans also say that Americans dont have adult culture. Can you deny that from the European perspective, America is a total wasteland? I accept that your definition of adult culture was loose – I think that suffices.

    @Aceface:

    Okay – lets cut with the adult culture stuff and call this for it really is: an unabashed endorsement of elitism (which has its uses). On the MiLK thread Marxy said something about class stratification and jewel encrusted cards: How exactly is your holy trinity of Universities, Museums and Orchestras any more interesting (Marxy’s term) than bling? Okay, so Cheney builds a Museum in Cheyyene – so what? How many people are going to visit? You think the mere presence of infrastructure – books, New Yorker, Museums, etc is the signifier of culture? There is no participation, man – and this is why I stand by my contention that Japanese suburbia compares favorably with American suburbia. So yes, there is infrastructure – but Americans are just as anti-intellectual and anti-adult as Japanese. Infrastructure does not equal participation. And I never claimed that there was no culture in America: those snippets were an exercise in relativism.

    I think Marxy’s point about the capacity for creating adult culture is not disconnected from infrastructure. Though I dont see how you can press the point and not end up affirming demode theories of cultural superiority – or end up biting yourself in the tail when you realize that the very same logic applies to America vis-a-vis Europe. If one accepts that Americas infrastructure is borrowed (which many claim that it is: BTW, Harold Bloom once made exactly the same points as the commentaries on American culture I noted above) and still affirm that America produces an autochtonous adult culture – then one can look at Japan, affirm something similar.

  56. marxy Says:

    ”And I never claimed that there was no culture in America: those snippets were an exercise in relativism.”

    I see. I get confused by the sadism of your teaching methods, Prof.

    “How exactly is your holy trinity of Universities, Museums and Orchestras any more interesting (Marxy’s term) than bling?”

    Well, you have given your life to intellectual pursuit and not collecting expensive things. Why don’t you tell me why book learning should not also be abandoned as “elitism”?

  57. Chuckles Says:

    Good God – This bit (…I see. I get confused by the sadism of your teaching methods, Prof…) is surely unwarranted. Those points are hardly new or unique – and have been made by far more eminent personages. Both in America and Europe. I thought I noted that. Those arent *my* views – anymore than I believe that Japan cant produce adult culture.

    […Why don’t you tell me why book learning should not also be abandoned as “elitism”?…]

    Well, it is elitist (at least in the institutional sense). But I do not call for it to be abandoned. But this is difference from what Aceface is supporting: A Brahmin caste bedecking the cityscape with monuments to their own egos – intellectual value be damned – is not any more adult than a Brahmin caste bedecking their houses and cars with blingy monuments to same egos. Furthermore, as no guarantee of common participation in this infrastructure can be made; and empirically, none can be found; I think we can safely reject the notion of a Brahmin citizenry as a signifier or precondition of adult culture.

  58. marxy Says:

    “I think we can safely reject the notion of a Brahmin citizenry as a signifier or precondition of adult culture.”

    Then what about an intellectual class of Chucklesmin running around? Japan can hardly be said to be a society with an excess of graduate degrees or even with any sort of real undergraduate education even in the most elite schools. You can have museums as public institutions or you can have them be ways to bring people to shop more at your department store.

    “Good God – This bit (…I see. I get confused by the sadism of your teaching methods, Prof…) is surely unwarranted.”

    I was not attacking your message as much as your acerbic tone. I don’t know if you are a professor, a public-sector employed PhD, or just a guy who likes to name drop Aoki Masahiko’s name as some kind of perverted hobby, but you clearly know a lot which you’d like to share (and we’d like you to share), but you set a relatively sadistic tone when you start off your erudite dialogue with this completely dismissive barb:

    “A great post by Marxy: wide in its scope, broad in its generalizations, generous with its choice of examples, eclectic in style and ultimately fallacious.”

    I’d be one to talk, but at least I have to deal with the repercussions of being wrong and saying mean things.

  59. M-Bone Says:

    Are you guys familiar with Martin Scorsese`s concept of cinema `smugglers`? I think that it is an important one in the context of this discussion. There are certain people working in a system that is hostile to anything intellectual/adult (whatever def. of either that we are using today)that are able to sneak in some real themes and complexity.

    American TV has – `The Wire` and `Deadwood`.
    Japanese TV has – `Monster` and `Paranoia Agent`.

    I think that it is interesting that these types of shows tend to pop up on premium cable (HBO / Wowow, etc.) – fertile ground for smuggling some mature (in the best meaning of the world) material into media that often fall below infantile. Both countries seem to have a hard core of people who consume adult culture (and a group of greats who produce it)and a larger group that goes for the pop crap. We only have to start worrying if that hard core vanishes. I do beleive in an aristocracy of the mind but anyone can wake up one moring and decide that they want in. You can also decide that you want out, but I don`t think that this is happening in Japan.

    Japanese media / popular culture has been doing a fantastic job of putting powerful and interesting themes into various works. Kirino Natsuo, Uchida Shungiku, Murakami Haruki, etc. are excellent and their work crosses between various media. `Out` was a great book, a great film, and both did well as consumer products.

    Japan also has great adult culture in some other areas. The `shinsho` publishing format has produced some serious stink nuggets like 国家の品格 but quality books like Iwanami`s recent title on `Kakusa` has sold in the hundreds of thousands of copies. I think that this is a good time to ask if America has a similarly large market for pop scholarship. Noam Chomsky has done well, but part of that is the snob coffee shop appeal – books as fashion accessories. Also, you`d be crazy to compare rags like `Time` with Bungei Shunju, Sekai, Chuokoron, etc. Whether you agree with their ideological focus is not the point, they feature sophisticated writing from university academics. `Time` will have an article about Japan by some Ivy grad with no Japan knowledge, local experience, or language skills. Japan also has a huge number of newspaper readers. I think that the major Japanese dailies are easily NYTimes class and out sell it by a considerable margin. The tens of millions of Japanese papers sold every day (most of any country by quite a bit) testifies to a very adult interest in world affairs.

    Quality `adult` film is also far from dead in Japan. The yearly `best 10 list` of Kinema Junpo magazine can hold its own with the best 10 of any country and let`s face it, quality cinema is not making money anywhere, so Japan is not an `out nation` in this regard. Things like Miyazaki`s films which have become big hits are a nice exception. I think that `Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi` is a wonderful, complex, and yes, adult film and it cleaned up. For me, one of the measures of a country`s adult culture should be the ability of artists to create children`s stories and fables with deep meanings for adults. Look at Oscar Widle`s short fiction. In the USA, we get `Shrek` (on the flipside we have `Rushmore`).

    In terms of international engagement, even average video shops in Japan offer a wider variety of foreign titles and `classics` than do simlar stores in North America. This availability works for bookstores as well. I can walk into a bookstore in an inaka town and walk out with Foucault`s complete works. You can buy scattered volumes at chain shops in the US of A, but a complete works set? Also, let`s face it, we don`t often hear Japanese declaring that they don`t like to read subtitles. This is almost a mantra in North America.

    In any case, there may be more people with Hello Kitty bags than Foucault`s Zenshu but I see a solid hard core of committed adult culture consumers in Japan. This hard core is divided into a vast number of subcultures which is the sign of a mature and pluralistic society.

    Finally, this I have to disagree with –

    `or even with any sort of real undergraduate education even in the most elite schools.`

    I`ve some experience at top 10-15 national unis in Japan and their instruction in my area has some major advantages over the way that it is taught in the United States. Students in Japan are far better with original documents / research. Lots of Japanese students do little in the way of study. However, the idea that American students are doing much more is something that I hear often from elite students (like everyone who posts on this page)but when you have to mark the work of average students, the difference between American and Japanese unis and their students seems like a myth. Japan also lacks the large group of people who think that the world was created 6000 years ago or whatever.

    In terms of academic production – Japan lags in the sciences (fewer huge grants from weapon system developers) but there is a LOT of good work being done in humanities. In terms of Japan scholarship, there has been a major shift over the past decade — these days English language Japan journals are featuring more and more articles by serious Japanese Japan-based scholars who publish in both languages.

  60. Brown Says:

    “Japan lags in the sciences (fewer huge grants from weapon system developers)”

    What about big pharma? Takeda is huge, but I have a hard time thinking of who #2 would be. And I don’t know how much of their R&D they do in-house. Agribiz?

    Also, definitely have to agree with you about inaka bookstores. They sometimes carry a range of continental philosophy etc. that you’d be lucky to find even at “hip” bookstore in the US. Not that anyone buys books at a brick-and-mortar stores in the US anymore, mind you…

  61. Brown Says:

    Big pharma research money is pretty transnational too, isn’t it? Lots of researchers in the US get funding from Takeda, Pfizer…

    To answer my own question about who’s #2 in Japan pharma (scroll down to “Prescription for success,” see especially “Japanese Pharma R&D Investment – 2005”): http://wistechnology.com/article.php?id=3421

  62. Brown Says:

    Big pharma research money is pretty transnational too, isn’t it? Lots of researchers in the US get funding from Takeda, Pfizer…

    To answer my own question about who’s #2 in Japan pharma (scroll down to “Prescription for success,” see especially “Japanese Pharma R&D Investment – 2005”): http://wistechnology.com/article.php?id=3421

  63. M-Bone Says:

    Japan does lag behind the USA is drug research as well. `Lag` does not mean that Japan is backward or anything. The USA does have over twice Japan`s population. In any case, I was talking about the academic world, not private R&D.

    Japanese bookstores never cease to amaze me. You can seriously go to one of those tiny book corners at a `Jusco` in some backwater and grab translations of Paradise Lost, Dante, Hume, and recent French lit. Try that at Wal-Mart.

  64. marxy Says:

    “You can seriously go to one of those tiny book corners at a `Jusco` in some backwater and grab translations of Paradise Lost, Dante, Hume, and recent French lit.”

    Is this poor merchandising or represent the huge demands for Hume translations in Ishikawa-ken? I am not sure if Wal-Mart is allowed to sell anything that doesn’t contribute to greater obesity. (It is basically impossible to defend Wal-Mart for anything.)

    “I`ve some experience at top 10-15 national unis in Japan and their instruction in my area has some major advantages over the way that it is taught in the United States.”

    From personal experience at quote-unquote elite schools on both sides, I have to say that I found K-大 a bit underwhelming in terms of requirements of graduate education (there are no “generals” as far as I could see, at least in the 商学 department), and undergraduate students were only moderately challenged if they took the initiative to go into a zemi program.

    We literally spent 3 months in one of my “once a week” core grad classes translating a single English text of institutional economics. (A lot of time that would be dedicated to material is given to the art of line-by-line translation.) Even in my Junior-year undergrad seminar back in the old days, we were required to read 200-300 pages a week on a certain topic. I found the level of expectations much lower in Japan. Someone who partied down at University of Florida may have not picked up anything in four years, but I am not comparing them to Todai students.

    I don’t think this is because the Japanese system is “lazy” or “intentionally bad,” but there is 0 institutional requirement for propagating a strong liberal arts education for a population when corporations are determined to limit incoming workers’ knowledge in order to easily pass on a limited set of proprietary instructions with which young workers should solely operate.

  65. Chuckles Says:

    Mea culpa: I certainly did not intend an acerbic tone. One thing with this medium is that it conveys text and not attitudes. If we were discussing this in person, I would probably be refilling your mug with stout in tandem with my attitude. I take it you have no objection to stouts?
    To recap: Assume arguendo, that America has more museums, specialty bookstores and whatnot – my basic contention is that this distribution network does not imply common participation and we cannot assume that our Brahmins are being more intellectual than their Japanese counterparts in their erection of monuments – instead of simply being egotistic – i.e. Just because Yoshiaki Murakami doesnt have a fancy medical school named after him, doesnt mean that the presence of Geffen who does implies a more of a participative adult culture in the USA. My major quarrel isnt about the existence of a distribution network, or how it generalizes to a capacity for production of said culture, even if it isnt being popularly consumed.

  66. Mulboyne Says:

    I wouldn’t want to push this point too far but I am often struck by the way in which you are not deemed to be a fully-rounded human being in Japan unless you have hobbies. This seems to be one of the ways in which Japanese broaden their minds outside the confines of the regular education curriculum or received company wisdom.

  67. marxy Says:

    “I wouldn’t want to push this point too far but I am often struck by the way in which you are not deemed to be a fully-rounded human being in Japan unless you have hobbies.”

    You mean “hobby” singular. No man can serve two masters.

  68. Mulboyne Says:

    Marxy wrote: “You mean “hobby” singular. No man can serve two masters.”

    Meet Ms. Naruse from the Joint Research Division of the National Institute for Fusion Science:

    “Well…my hobby. In my case, my hobby occupies a larger part of my daily life. First of all, I majored in Design in my university. Therefore, I do product designing and textile designing (fabric-dyeing) as my career. Occasionally, I open a private gallery for a limited period of time in abroad with my European friends. Simply, I love arts…Now, this one is a bit maniac. But I love assembling and operating radio-controlled cars. Mines are not the engine-type cars but the electric ones. This is a pure hobby of mine; therefore, I am not that expert yet…Then, I am learning Japanese Traditional Dancing, ‘mai’. To tell you the truth, I have a recital coming up this month…Besides, I make original soap and cosmetic lotion. In the middle of the night, I blend different kinds of essential oils to make additive-free product…I also like reading a lot. I read considerable amount of book of various genre. It often happens recently that I start in the midnight and read through till the morning. Looks like I forget time once I start reading…I wish that I had more time and power…Though I like sports, I barely do any exercises these days.”

    http://www.nifs.ac.jp/pr/kao/naruse-e.html

  69. M-Bone Says:

    `Is this poor merchandising or represent the huge demands for Hume translations in Ishikawa-ken?`
    Availability is important. Once again, we are talking about a minority group of sophisticated readers here, but it is still an important group.

    `I am not sure if Wal-Mart is allowed to sell anything that doesn’t contribute to greater obesity.`

    Hume was obese….

    `We literally spent 3 months in one of my “once a week” core grad classes translating a single English text of institutional economics.`

    Great, but Japanese majors at Ivys, for example, really never get to the level where they can translate much of anything unless they have some serious out of class initiative. In some programs (that I won`t mention to be polite) there is an expectation that students will be reading 1000 kanji but at that level, the glass is not even half full.

    In addition, you may have done the 200-300 pages of readings – that`s why you were an elite student. In my experience, most students fink of readings and BS their way through. Also, while Japanese students may not have the most demanding assignments, there is nothing on the level of US essay buying going on at Japanese unis.

    I`ve had a Todai exchange student (undergrad) in my class (top 25 `Western` uni) – absolutly kicked ass, 2nd or 3rd highest grade in the group. I was a Japanese history course but a great essay is a great essay.

    `0 institutional requirement for propagating a strong liberal arts education for a population when corporations…`

    This is exactly the same criticism that is being thrown around re American education (especially the business / MBA track). Type in `higher education` over on Amazon and you will see dozens of books on this. The `Chronicle of Higher Education` is also all over this. It also depends on what `corporations` you are talking about Asahi and Nihon Terebi have print and media empires that are all over the liberal education / cultivate character thing. Toyota has gotten a rep lately for going for `unorthodox` grad students, hiring more women, students with literatre degrees, etc. Square/Enix, one of Japan`s biggest game makers has been going out of its way to snag humanities grads (as interns with the intention of building them into idea people later on), etc., etc. Sure, there are just as many examples of shitbird companies but… is this a Japanese only thing?

    I agree 100% with Mulboyne`s hobbies point as well. As for not being able to serve two masters, I serve about 17.

    In any case, I`m not really trying to take a dump on the States, both the USA and Japan have that `adult` culture hard core that I was talking about.

    Marxy – do you think that `utopian` cultures (however you see them) would have the vast majority of members consuming `adult` culture?

  70. Aceface Says:

    Lots of posts and I don’t know where to begin with.

    Chuckles:
    Did Cheyney actually build a museum in Cheyyene?
    Last time I traveled that part of midwest was 25years ago,but back then Wild Buffalo Bill museum in Cody,Wyoming was definitely packed with visitors like myself.Pretty informative establishment about how the west was won and existing ecosystem and native american culture were lost.It certainly was not just a wild west tourist attraction.

    And about Boston Brahmin,you see I have an uncle who was an official at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government who was in charge of building Edo Tokyo Museum in the gilded age of late 80’s.There was an argument at the time that TMG was destroying the old Tokyo neighborhood by giving green light to massive development plan on
    one hand and building museum to preserve it as sort of an indulgence in the other.I had come up with the question whether a culture can be preserved in the simple form of bureaucrat planned infrastructure.And seems to me the lack of feedback to the politics of city hall from local community was one of the problem.

    At around the same time I also got befriended with a civic group in Ueno area demanding TMG to preserve the neighborhood.Ueno area has neighborhood survived both the earthquake and the wartime bombing and has history of attracting artist and academics due to the establishment of art academia in the late 19th century which later evolved into National University of art.The academia was built by American Japanese art collector Ernest Fenollosa who happens to be a member of Boston Brahmin.And from there I came to know about Boston Brahmin and relationship of culture and citizenry.
    Japanese culture sustained by the cultural bureaucrat seemed alienating citizenry,while American culture backed by local citzenry symbolized by Boston Brahmin seemed more atrractive to my eyes.
    So in my head an equation was made in my head from that on.Boston Brahmin>Tokyo bureaucracy.
    American civic society’s stance toward culture>Japanese civic society’s equivalent.I know that there are some idealization here.

    Anyway,you keep your sharp criticism along with your sharp tongue.I enjoy it that way.

    M-Bone:
    As I type this right now,my kid is watching Nihon Television’s “ガリレオの遺伝子”and there TV crew is interviewing two American guys claiming that Washington had made secret pact with extra terrestrials at Roswell sending exchange students to each other’s planet.Then the program went on with introducing the weirdest geocentric theory of the universe I’ve ever heard of.Saying that there is a huge cavity beneath the earth and there is a sun in the core.That I’ve heard about before but the TV continued saying there is a cavity inside of that sun and they have small sun inside….I had to laugh.All this under the blasphemous title of “GALLILEO’s gene”.
    Japan may not have large groups of people who believe that the world was created 6000 years ago,but there seems to be some people out there believing something equally weird theories.

    And about Shinsho…..We’ve talked about this over mutantfrog sometime last year.And I must say shinsho may not be the indicator of intellectualism in Japanese publication.In my opinion it could be the other way around.10 years ago,there were only three or four shonsho series around.Now 24.(I’ve checked the bookshop today).I don’t see the space of the bookshop getting bigger in Japan,but the shinsho is increasing.That only means one thing.Hard books are disappearing.
    I know Iwanami is selling good books like that of the work of Hume and Marx in bunko/paperback format that can be bought anywhere in the country.But the problem is that the Iwanami is the only institution that does the publishing work of which in America,various university press do.Here the only working university publisher is Todai and Hosei,while America has at least dozen.And Iwanami bunko readers are declining rapidly which could make bookshop difficult to sustain large space of the shelves for Iwanami Bunko against the onslaught of shinshos.And if that happens since we have too many eggs in one basket/Iwanami,we may face cultural disaster.

  71. M-Bone Says:

    `Japan may not have large groups of people who believe that the world was created 6000 years ago,but there seems to be some people out there believing something equally weird theories.`

    We REALLY don`t want to start talking about American UFO numbers…. In any case, you realise that there are people in positions of authority in the US that think that the world is 6000 years old and that gays are the spawn of the devil, right?

    `Hard books are disappearing.`

    Hard BACK books are taking up less space but the comparison with the United States is the main point here – quality non-fiction in the USA costs 3-4 times what it does in Japan and has vanished from major booksellers over the past decade. When the `Chapters` chain started up in Canada, they had hundreds of great titles from university presses in every store. Now, you get the Freakonomics type. Also, while shinsho of all stripes may be dumbed down, many of them are written by academics, not the talk radio shock jocks and flavor of the week journalists that dominate non-fiction sales in America. Works by academics, journlists with language skills and years of experience in other countries, etc. are tailored for popular audiences AND selling pretty well at that. Let`s put it this way, a recent ultra critical title by a left wing thinker (Takahashi?) about Yasukuni from Chikuma did over 300,000 copies. You could spin the current publishing envrionment as a victory for quality pop scholarship. An average title from a major academic publisher like Routledge, Cambridge University Press, etc. does 700 copies, the US numbers are not any bigger. Of course, the Harold Blooms and Noam Chomskys of the world sell more, but most of their stuff comes from commercial presses at this point.

    Here is a test that anyone can do – go to a big US bookstore and see what types of titles you can find on Japan. Go to a Japanese bookstore, pick a country, and see what you can find. I`ll bet my thumbs that the Japanese bookstore wins hands down in terms of variety of titles, price, and the quality of books that you can find.

    In any case, Shincho-sha and others are also putting out quality university-style work (on literature and other subjects), many of the best titles on pop culture are in Kodansha`s set and there are always Otsuki, Akashi and other smaller publishers who do a lot of left wing academic stuff.

    Also, are you sure that Iwanami bunko readers are getting fewer, or are they simply a smaller fraction of the total reading public? In the early 1950s, a translation of Tang Dynasty poetry became the best seller of its year, I`m afraid that those days are long gone but one of the reasons is that more and more fiction and non-fiction is published and the market has diversified. There are also used bookstores like Bookoff that have been eating into the market – people are still getting books there, however, and they do stock decent titles.

  72. Aceface Says:

    OK,I do not have numbers to show you that Iwanami Bunko readers are getting fewer.But I’ve been reading 本とコンピューターmagazine(now gone)
    and one of the main theme of the magazine is “where has all the reading class has gone?”

    The publisher house,Misuzu’s president was saying there were at least 3 to 5 thousand readership on any hard topics that Misuzu had published in the past.Now it become something about a half of it.The trend could be the universal thing,but recent blatant praise of pop culture by likes of Ishihara(who had boosted Tokyo Anime Fair)and Aso(who read little or else other than manga)I have my reason to worry about declining or to be more accurately marginalizing intellectualism in this country.

  73. Brown Says:

    “where has all the reading class has gone?”

    This is sad to see/say, but aren’t they basically dying off? I don’t see anyone U-35 browsing the titles that interest me in bookstores. It’s entirely possible, however, that I’m just a cranky curmudgeon, and that there are other avenues to “hard” topics that I’m not noticing youngsters using…

  74. Brown Says:

    …not that any of the U-35ers I know have any money, mind you.

  75. Brown Says:

    Sorry if that sounded like a tautology. To clarify, I mean “dying off” in the literal sense.

  76. M-Bone Says:

    `The publisher house,Misuzu’s president was saying there were at least 3 to 5 thousand readership on any hard topics that Misuzu had published in the past.Now it become something about a half of it.`

    Could that not be due to used bookstores and the proliferation of titles? For example, there are at least 15 books out there criticising the Tsukurukai textbooks (I have most of them….). If there were only 3 or 4, would those have sold twice as many copies? The number of history titles being published in Japan each year doubled from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s…. These days, Japan is producing as many new books a year (around 60,000 if memory serves me correctly) as it did in the entire 1955 to 1965 period (the one that most people associate with quality pop intellectualism in Japan and real student movements).

    On the used bookstore front – this kills the sales of quality titles in North America as well. I looked at a university course handout lately that had Umberto Eco`s `In the Name of the Rose` as a reading. The advice to students – go and buy it at a used bookstore, we`re not ordering it because you can get it anywhere. I, personally, have good translations of the majority of the Greek classics. I bought most of them used, however.

    Also, is the pop culture that you are talking about a bad thing? If it (the government support) involves (creating) the next Miyazaki or Oshii, isn`t it partly a popularization of intellectual culture?

    `I don’t see anyone U-35 browsing the titles that interest me in bookstores.`

    You see young people in a variety of sections in Kanda, university bookshops, etc. It depends on where you go. Also, there is the chance that some people may start reading harder books from the time that they are 30 or so…. In any case, part of the point of the discussion was a comparison with the United States — can`t say that I see very many young people browsing the `hard` sections of bookstores in North America (not that there are many `hard` books being stocked) but if you go to a smaller shop in a university town, you will see something different.

    I also think that the `customers` on this blog will cause any discussion on this topic to become slanted – aren`t we the `intellectual` types, prone to remembering out undergrad days and our `intellectual` friends back home and looking extra critically at the current Japanese enviornment?

    Japanese readers (Ace) are different, of course, but there is a measure of seeing the grass greener on the other side (USA / Boston in this case).

    In any case, what are we talking about here? Is Japan uniquely infantile in its culture? I don`t think so. Is it part of a trend away from hard reading common to other post-industrial countries? Perhaps. What about a country like South Korea that went from dictatorship / censorship to a post-industrial pop market in the space of a decade? Where do they fit? Did a significant `reading public` for the good stuff ever exist in Japan or the USA? I`m not convinced that it was any better back in the day. For a few years in the 1920s, German philosophy was all the rage at Japanese universities. This was a tiny, tiny slice of the Japanese population, however. At least now, there are a vast number of `niche` markets for all kinds of readers and some mainstream titles (like those published as shinsho) are cleaning up.

  77. Aceface Says:

    Grass is always greener.Indeed.
    I adore those those “book of the month club” in America.And France has good TV program at Antenne 2 just talking about current intellectual best seller.I envy that too.

    I’m interested into this particular theme of J-culture ‘s slash-and-burn-agriculture like development and decline phase as you have read in Maruyama Masao’s 日本の思想 and the topic at hand is somehow got to do with it.Thus I’m very critical here.

    “Could that not be due to used bookstores and the proliferation of titles? ”
    That could be partly true.Since Misuzu is the most popular publisher for shoplifter,because they sell well in the second hand bookshops.Anyway what the Misuzu pres was worried about is since the books from Misuzu and Iwanami are more than just books but a sort of intellectual status symbol,the decline of the sales can be an indicator of the declease of the reading class.But then again second book shop factor can be crucial considering how I own consumer habits.

    ” is the pop culture that you are talking about a bad thing? If it (the government support) involves (creating) the next Miyazaki or Oshii, isn`t it partly a popularization of intellectual culture?”
    Popular culture like anime is a venture business and few venture company supported by public support made it to profitable stage in the past decade here.
    Also from creativity side,Oshii and Miyazaki are both leftwing(even with their weird mix of military mania-like belief,that is what they are seen).Consider that I don’t think anything new that are equivalent would come out from the patronage of LDP politicians.
    (But then again,the sequel of Zainichi North Korean drama,”Pacchigi,Love and Peace”,now in theaters,was made with GoJ’s financial support.In spite of both the producer Lee Bong woo and the director Izutsu Kazuyuki are highly critical of Japanese society.So rebel and official patronage may coexist)

  78. M-Bone Says:

    `I adore those those “book of the month club” in America.`

    Unfortunately, lately they have degenerated into a sort of `crap pulp mystery book of the month club`.

    The French TV example that you noted is really special. However, Japan has some very good movie discussion programs (and director features) on BS1. Not the same but good in its own way.

    `But then again second book shop factor can be crucial considering how I own consumer habits.`

    Don`t want to underestimate second hand bookshops. I have a lot of Iwanami titles but when I ask myself `what have I done to support the company`…. I don`t like the answer that I come up with as I have bought most of them used.

    On the pop culture issue, the Monbusho did grant a major award to the manga Kajimunugatai (Kaze ga kataru Okinawa-sen) – a very critical manga about the Okinawan war experience. There is always a chance that the government support will go into interesting hands. Let`s face it, in Japan, as in the USA, rabid conservatives tend to go into business or politics, the types of people who become anime directors tend to have a very different ideological slant….