Monday, March 5, 2007

Visit Japan for...

Visit Japan for traditional beauties? The awe-inspiring nature and history? Fashion trends? Manga and anime?

There is this long running campaign called the "Visit Japan Campaign" aka "YOKOSO JAPAN" which I bet many of you reading this have seen once or more on other websites. In a word it's a campaign that encourages increase of inbound tourist traffic (details
here ). When it started there were about 16 million Japanese travelling overseas but the number of tourists coming into Japan is (actually "was") less than one third of that and the govt wants to narrow the gap for --- well, good reasons.

The Japanese government (according to my personal observation) is rather on the conservative side - serious and conservative (plus unclear)... a typically Japanese quality one may say - and would have included only the traditional, historical and natural beauties to the Japan's beauty list, maybe joined by a glimpse introduction to the manga and anime industry... that is to say if it were a decade ago. It wouldn't have approved the manga+anime+game industry as something the country can be proud of and in that sense, never the herd of the so-called "otaku".

But the latest situation is different. Actually, a lot of thing have changed about the character of the govt during the five years under the Koizumi administration. Now that we have a new prime minister, I come to realize the changes in the country that I have never noticed during Koizumi's politics. Things have become more... how should I describe... modern? The clinging to the old systems and styles seem to have loosened a bit.

One of the "modern" elements that I think is the acknowledgment of many things that the country didn't want to turn their eyes on, including the existence of the otaku. Otaku, as you may already know, in a word are geeks particularly those who are deeply into the fictious world of manga (comics), anime or video-/computer games. It is still to some extent, but until a while ago these people were looked at with disapproving eyes from the society because the general impressions of otaku, as the non-otaku claim, are weird, obsessive, unsociable, immature, etc. and a good adult deeply amused by 2D characters or young idol girls was kind of a shame to have or to be one.

In truth, there are many that are over-obsessive and extraordinarily passionate about particular things, but then the Japanese society is full of otaku from school to office because anyone can have a passionate hobby or two. In fact, being just a tad bit otaku (referred to as "choi-ota") is even considered as being cool. Let me get back to this sometime later.

Going back to deep otaku, it has been found out a couple of years ago that these otaku have the power to really heavily influence the Japanese economy towards a positive vector. A little while ago one research & consulting company said that the market has not just escaped being a niche but also have become of the very largest in the country, and so it seems because the govt can't keep turning their eyes off of it.

The govt certainly cannot and I doubt they ever will encourage people to become an otaku of a kind, but have started to make use of this millions-population of otaku and their activities as well as entertainment spots (chiefly Akihabara) as attractions to invite international tourists. Now they have a free "Akihabara tour", a tour going around major otaku attractions scattered across Akihabara districts with an English speaking guide, and not only do they came up with such tour, the tour is actually one of their top features for the campaign. It's not clearly written as part of the tour but otaku themselves are clearly attractions. So there are otaku tourists coming for goods and just to breathe the air of the otaku capital, and there are the non-otaku tourists coming in curiosity to have a glance at the Japanese authentic otaku. In just five years or so, the govt has turned from neglecting the otaku to making them one of the highlights of Japan. This is quite amazing.

So this is how the govt is reacting to the expansion of the otaku market - but I wonder how much non-Japanese are actually interested in the Japanese otaku culture. I mean, the sense has numbed quite a bit amongst us Japanese at least in Tokyo. Seeing people crowding over Akihabara doesn't amaze us nor do the existence of the maid & butler cafes that have become a huge fad and quickly stablized - stabilized but not gone. Is the otaku culture still something Japan can boast as a uniquely Japanese specialty? And if so, how long is this whole otaku craze is going to last?

So much for now... ended up with no point again :p

Today's update on Japan Mode:
This Week's Events in Tokyo - March 2nd Week

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your invitation to play LOST: