I loved Japanese culture even before I knew I loved it. Every month I’d save up my pocket money and buy the 5 pound Playstation Magazine, with a demo disk in it. The demo disks were usually awesome and I feel so nostalgic thinking about them, but it was also the thick magazine full of articles that kept me going back each month. My mum was very strict on me playing video games (I could only play for 30 mins a day… haha who is laughing now – I HAVE to play for hour and hours a day at work now!!) and we didn’t have a lot of money so most of the games in the articles meant very little to me, but I loved the art. I’d cut out little pictures of Croc or Lara Croft and sit and draw them for hours. I also used to cut out little cartoon characters – now I know them to be manga/anime style characters – and also draw them, sticking my pictures on my school folder. Of course, these Japanese images were probably not what a 12 year old girl should have had on her school folder – pictures of anime girls with huge eyes and even bigger boobs, but to me they weren’t sexual, they were just cool and funky and I loved the style. It wasn’t til years later that I found that these were Japanese, and that the style has so much sexual content linked to it. It’s one of Japan’s biggest exports, if not just in manga and anime form, but the style of the art is shipped out to make anything sexual and cool.
If you ask any non-Japan-related person what they think of when they think of Japan and after the geisha and samurai will undoubtably come the vending machines that sell used underwear. Newsflash – this is not a thing. People who say they have seen one probably didn’t read the kanji correctly or something, I don’t know. When I was studying in Japan, I had a friend who worked in an adult store and while there were many many things that would have (and probably have) scarred me for life, used underwear was not a thing that was on sale, even there.
And it makes me sad and angry that when people think of Japan, one of the first things they think of is sex. “But in Japan there is so much fucked up porn and stuff, Charlotte!” Yeah? The rest of the world is so pure and innocent, and didn’t come up with the likes of 2 girls on cup, or goatsee? I think the world uses this equation of Japan = weird sexy things to cover up the fact that, actually when it comes down to it, no one actually knows a thing about Japan. “Oh, I know something! There’s that eye licking thing! I saw it on the news!” Yeah, I asked my friends in Japan about that and they said that they had heard little to no news on that from inside Japan. My guess would be it was a very small thing with a couple of kids that got picked up by The Daily Mail and escalating into another OMG JAPAN IS CRAZY article.
A few weeks ago there was a Japanese film festival in Frankfurt. Last year the event was really great – including the posters. When the posters for this year were announced, I thought that they were cute at first, but then I noticed that they were all kinda sexual. Cute animals in skirts, lifting them up to show their heart groins. Bears in little panties with pubic hair poking out the top. It’s just my option but I think that these images of cute and colourful animals would have still been “Japanese” even without the sexual element added to them. It made me really sad that an event called “Nippon Connection” – what I take to mean that they are trying to reach out to bring Japanese culture to regular people – had to bring sex to the table in order to sell it. I only got to watch one film this year since the tickets were mostly sold out by the time I got there. I thought it was going to be a nice tale of a Princess called Sakura, but it turned out to be a soft porn film. Little Sakura was raped within the first few mins of the film and then, because of course she loved it, she turned to be a prostitute in order to find the man who attacked her. The audience was full of middle aged men, and the one next to me made really gross noises every time there was nakedness on screen (this was a lot of the film).
I once saw a photoshopped picture on the net (from a JET Programme forum) that said “Welcome to Japan” with a background of 100s of naked Japanese women. I used this in a diary in Lang-8 and asked the Japanese people what they thought about their country having this kind of image and most just shrugged and said there was nothing they could do about it.
I think Japanese people don’t realise that this is often how the West sees them, so I’m sure this won’t change for a long time. It just makes me so angry because there is so much more to Japan than sex.
What do you guys think? I’d love to hear all your opinions in the comments!