Thursday, April 4, 2013

Japan's Gross National Cool

Cool Japan is the coolest of my favorite television shows that currently air. In truth, I am likely to enjoy any NHK World program. Especially their hourly news segments, since I am far more likely to hear about the rest of the world than whatever alligator broke into a Floridian's house this week, or a story about citizens of Portland and their outrage over the price hike on milkshakes.

To put my love for Cool Japan in context, I also like Long Island Medium, the Minneapolis City Meetings channel (the music on their neighborhood bulletin slides rivals that of classic Weather Channel), QVC, and Community.

Don't hate on QVC. I don't purchase anything; I value it purely for entertainment and inspiration. When I need to brain dump all the words, QVC is invaluable. Those people never stop talking. Surely, if they can do it, so can I. Thus, words flow like watered-down wine.

Pro writing tips, aside: Cool Japan!

The coolest motherfunkers on the planet.
Cool Japan employs a talk-show format where badass Consuls of Cool Risa Stegmayer and Shoji Kokami, along with a panel of foreigners in the process of integration, pose the question: is Japan cool? or... not cool?

Each episode focuses on a general topic (e.g., craftsmen, hospitality, beef, paper) and guests venture into Japan to investigate culturally-specific elements of this topic. After each segment, the hosts, panel, and a Guest Expert will engage in a sociological discussion on whether the matter would be considered "cool" in their native countries.

It is basically the highest form of entertainment I've ever seen. Don't let anyone (i.e., almost everyone I've forced to watch with me) tell you otherwise. I am giddy and gleeful every time Shoji asks, "...or not cool?" "I see, I see." There is such a high level of regard for Cool Japan in my household that it has become the epitome of language modifiers. Allow me to demonstrate.

Filmed before a live studio audience.

Something about the entire concept seemed adorable and strange to me, as though Japan was a high-school student concerned with its image while passing through the hallways.

But! After an embarrassingly basic Wikipedia search, I learned that "cool Japan" is not just a whimsical program designed specifically for my odd tastes. Rather, it is a concept embraced and adopted by the government, "to exploit the commercial capital of the country's culture industry. It has been described as a form of soft power, "the ability to indirectly influence behaviour or interests through cultural or ideological means."

All this time! Here I thought I was enjoying a harmless program and learning a few things about a culture I appreciate almost as much as that of the Swedes, but really I was being coerced, influenced, and propagandized at. The shame! the existential pain! the abject terror!

This is probably why I live in the heart of midwest America and own a stuffed Domo and Mameshiba, love the works of Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki, desire a charm for my cell phone headphone jack, and am soon to marry someone who temporarily lived in Japan. Clearly I have been infected for years with Japanese cool.

Where is Sweden on this cultural expansion through psychic injection? Are they not cool? Are they not threatened by Japan's cool quotient? I see..

It's just the beginning...
...but despite my imagined culture-war between Sweden and Japan... Cool Japan is... very cool!


  1. I would like to echo the sentiment of you being fucking weird. 'Cause for real.

  2. I started reading Virginia Woolf again, the same I started blogging again. She helps to unhinge my brain. So does the mescaline. "jk lol." It's only going to get weirder from here.

  3. ...Remembering a younger you and a desire to teach in Japan.

    1. I do not remember this! But I guess I've wanted to do a lot of things. :)

  4. This is too funny! Haven't heard of Cool Japan, but I like the concept of it. They should do it for a bunch of different countries.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

    1. I seriously considered doing a youtube Cool Minnesota titled, "Minnesota? You Betcha" or something equally ridiculous. Yes. Very entertaining.

  5. I see you're in the Twin Cities. You're not a Mac grad by any chance, are you? Mac grads run rampant in my life. Many of them would appreciate your sense of humor, I think.

    Japan is very dear to me. I've spent five years of my life there - three as a child, two as an adult. I certainly think Japan's cool!

    1. I am in the Twin Cities now, but I spent 25/30 years in Florida. Glancing at Macalester's website I say: I wish. I've been thinking about finally becoming "a grad" of something, but, ah, who knows. At this stage in my life I can't imagine spending that much money on anything. But perhaps I'll flyer the school with my various web addresses, gain a following, and kickstart an education. Ha!

      Man. Living in Japan. I'd at least like to visit. That's cool.

  6. "You're fucking weird" I don't think even comes close...

    I am definitely not one of the nay-sayers. I give you the symbolic "cool" treatment maybe a little too often. I love Shoji, but sometimes I don't even know if he is engaged in the same conversation as the rest.

    I think you should follow through with the Youtube videos. Maybe... plan it out a bit more than some recent podcast attempts of others.

    Was NHK what we were watching when things got really serious, and awkward? Showing death, destruction, ect? And half of us were in tears? That was awkward. NOT COOL!

    1. YES. That was a Syria documentary. Which I meant to bring up in the post as a cool but not-cool thing. But then I was getting kicked out of a coffee shop and forgot. Ha!

  7. Yes, you're weird. But that's cool! I love Japan, been there, bought the origami.