Thursday, March 22, 2007

Trends in Present Tense

I was thinking about what's hot in Japan - like what the social/ cultural trend is right now. It's actually a bit hard of a task because you tend not to notice a trend when you're in the midst of it but only realize it to be a "past" trend after the heat has gone. Some of the trends are pretty visible, especially fashion, but keeping your eyes open for cultural trends is kind of hard. At least for me. Also, even though you're aware that one thing is pretty hot at the moment you feel like it's settled down, kind of stablized as something "normal" rather than a transient trent. Maid cafes are one example. There are so many of them that it's not as worth giving attention to as the earlier days.

A couple of ideas came up in my mind, and they were LOHAS (life of health and sustainability) and the health related boom (food, yoga, etc.) and the other is JAPAN. They kind of intertwine, but since the former is half an imported trend (it's not particularly Japanese) so I decided to focus on the latter - which is actually a very deep observation and discussion if you start thinking about it.

The JAPAN boom is in Japanese called the WA boom (wa=adj. Japanese) and is about the revival of Japaneseness in various aspects. For example, it can be food like so many other countries are experiencing Japanese cuisine trend,
tea like I talked about before (see here also), fashion (maekake mentioned a little while ago) or wearing yukata to fireworks, learning the traditional arts (calligraphy, flower arrangement, tea, etc.) or acquiring the essence of bushido (way of the samurai) etc. etc. It's visible in daily life and also on TV, like a number of traditional / cultural Japan related TV dramas and films get high viewership and the Japanese films doing well last year in terms of box office.

Part of this social trend comes from freshness and exoticness especially for the younger generation, rather than the idea of treasuring the good old things. For many people the beautiful patterns of the kimono are pieces of art that can be added to and blended with the latest fashion, the prints of the maekake aprons a stylish design to make into bags, yukata (summer kimono) a season-limited fashion specialty. The other part of the trend, especially for older people, comes from the spirit behind the Japanese designs and act. For instance, having tea in a relaxing and strain-free cafe is a time to treasure the quietness in your mind. Learning the ways of art is acquiring the spirit of art or the way, of concentrating, of emptying your mind. This is in a way related to the idea of LOHAS and having a life of good quality.

I think I will not reveal too much of it here at once. May continue some other day, but for the meantime read
here for details (which also turned out to become a series to my regret).

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