Globalization: The Japanese Version

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 9:44 PM
Japan has been known for a long time for its capacity to borrow things of foreign cultures and adapt them to their own tastes and needs. This behavior is not recent at all, and we can easily check it by taking a look to the Japanese history since the times of the Kojiki chronicles. Religion, language, architecture... all these have their origins in those brought in ancient times from foreign lands through China and Korea. However, all these things changed to create what we can define as "the Japanese style". The result is something that is similar to the source but at the same time different and new.

In the 20th century this behavior was not only kept, but was boosted by the industrialization: electronic devices, fashion, cultural traits, all was imported but transformed into a Japanese version. In some way globalization (or an advanced version of it) inhabits in the core of Japanese culture. That's why today we can see things like Teriyaki Burgers at McDonald's or rockabilly inspired gangs (among thousands of others examples) coexisting in harmony with genuine national creations in modern Japan.

Miss Liberty at Kyôbashi, Osaka

Sometimes the integration of certain foreign elements in Japan is so strong that the Japanese themselves forget their foreign origin. I've been told by Japanese people that during their childhood they thought that things like the Jingle Bells song or even McDonald's were Japanese inventions. That's what I call a high level of globalization where, by loosing the traces of their specific origin, things become global.

Being the Japanese the masters of the adaptation, they are not all wrong when they say that something originally created abroad is Japanese for them, since their interpretation can widely differ from the original.

Japanized Disney characters. Maybe even more Japanese than American?

Now, globalization is present in the whole world, but in Japan it usually takes more shocking ways than in most of the countries. The Japanese, as they did in their origins, if they like something, they take it, leaving aside the elements that don't fit their tastes, and this can lead to very curious results. This is a subject interesting enough to fill hundreds of studies, but since it is impossible to summarize in a single blog post, let's keep with the funny side of this for now.

Takoyaki + CSI = ?


  1. R. A. Stern Says:

    Do things really become "global", or do they merely become local?

    The Statue of Liberty is a great example, as much Japanese as it is American perhaps. Originally French. A global form of Americana that symbolizes both New York and the United States. Thought provoking for sure, but like the Japanese other parts of the world take what they want in interesting ways as well. California rolls anyone?

    You covered a lot of ground in your post.

  2. Victor Says:

    Is true that it happens everywhere, but in my opinion in Japan it happens in a more visual way that sometimes can seem a bit out of context (at least for the foreigner people).

  3. Yes, you did cover a lot of ground in this post. While I agree with your ideas about Japan and globalization, I would like to read more about the photos you offer as case studies. Your photos are both illustrative and frustrating - I think readers will want more information about how/why you are using your photos here.

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