侍、忍者、コギャル、いつの話ですか?Samurai, Ninjas and Kogal are Played Out

最近、渋谷を歩いていると訪日外国人らしき人や団体にしばしば遭遇する。自撮り棒を持ち、GoProを胸に付け、冬なのにタンクトップで歩く元気な外国人。本当に増えた。というよりも、どんどん増えている。ニュースを見る限り、旅行者は地方にも流れているそうだ。日本にとってはインバウンドマネーが潤い、アベノミクスの賜物と言えるのではないだろうか。私は国が潤うことに何も文句はなく、むしろ、どんどんやってくれと思っている。These days you can’t walk around Shibuya without running into foreign travelers or tour groups. You know the types, energetically bouncing around with their selfie sticks, GoPros fastened to their chests and wearing tanktops in the middle of winter. Tourism is up. And I mean WAY up. According to the news many of them are also visiting the Japanese countryside. All of this inbound money could be called a result of the prime minister's so-called Abenomics. What’s good for the country is good by me, and I hope to see the trend ramp up even more.

ニッポンはどこへ向かっているんだろうWhere are we headed as a country?


ディズニーランドへ行くと、被り物をして、キラキラした格好でいても誰も気に留めない。そのエリアに入った以上、そこは夢の国なのだ。原宿もそうなのかな? もしかしたら、ここ渋谷自体が夢の国なのか? そんな気すら、毎日ここで暮らしていると感じてしまう。けれど、夢じゃなくて現実の世界なんだ、ここは。YouTubeやマニアックなニュースに洗脳され、ゴスロリファッションをして成田に降りた外国人はショックを受けるだろう。アニメの世界はそこにはないのだから。


I do, however, feel like we’re going about it in the wrong way. This is always a heated topic in the media. I’m aware of all the baggage, so please bear with me here. Is the Japan we live in the same one that foreigners think they know and love?

When you go to Disneyland, nobody bats an eyelash when you put on a character hat or are decked out head to toe in Disney gear. After all, it’s the Magical Kingdom. Can the same be said for Harajuku? Is Shibuya a magical kingdom too? After living there awhile you might begin to think so, but let's head back to reality for a second. Tourists arriving at Narita airport in full-blown gothic lolita fashion are going to be shocked when they don’t see the country that sensational news outlets and YouTubers have led them to expect. Sorry, but life doesn’t imitate anime here.

Fashion is subjective and for the most part harmless. As long as you believe you can pull it off you can walk around in just about anything. That said, an objectively cool side of Japan lies in our delicate sense and sensibilities, and our particular set of priorities.

Personally, my own view of Tokyo is getting closer to the world of the anime ‘Akira’ or the many hyper-real visuals of Kazuaki Kiriya’s film ‘GOEMON.’ The recent tearjerker ‘Your Name’ has reminded us of a side of our humanity we often forget. It’s pointless to endlessly chase ‘coolness.’ The definition of what qualifies as cool is subjective at best, not to mention in constant flux. That’s why we need to avoid selling our nation’s soul when we market it for tourism. What would we have left if we sold out our creativity and attention to fine detail? Forgive me if this sounds nationalist, but we have many things to be proud of here. Take, for example, the footage from our closing ceremony at the Rio Olympics. Now that’s the kind of originality that makes me love to live here.

どんな日本が世界で流れているか知っていますか?What is Japan to the rest of the world?

ヨーロッパでは『ONE PIECE』が毎週放送され、日本人だと気づいた高級レストランの店員が、『ジョジョ』のセリフを私に向かって叫ぶ。税関で日本語を話すと、税関職員に笑顔で「そんなのカンケーねー!」と踊りつきで言われた。正直、慣れてはいるが、リアクションは苦笑い以外にない。こちらが東京にいるテンションで酔っ払っていたら、笑顔すらないだろう。





アイコンになるにはパンチが必要。でも、ビジュアルだけのパンチってどうなの? 夢の国のままでいいの? 私たちが暮らす“リアル”は夢の国じゃない。『アキラ』のバイクは走って来ない。アメリカではバッドモービルが走っていて、イギリスでは007がビルをぶっ壊している、そんな風景を向こうに行けば見られるのか? 身の周りの「日常」を伝えること。外国人にとっては普通の居酒屋の街並みに「カルチャー」を感じ、ただ歩いているだけで感じる空気が、その国のエネルギー。無理くり格好つけて発信しても、リアルじゃない。そのままでいいんじゃないかな。

In Europe ‘ONE PIECE’ is broadcast on TV weekly. At an expensive restaurant a waiter started belting out ‘Jojo’ quotes to me the moment he realized I was Japanese. I once used Japanese going through customs and the officer gave me a big grin before breaking into Yoshio Kojima’s trademark ‘Sonna no Kankei Nai!’ song and dance. I’ve gotten used to forcing a smile in these situations, but honestly they’re always painfully awkward. Imagine the kind of reception this behavior would receive in Tokyo...

An American pal of mine calls Japan ‘Game Paradise.’ While it’s true that most American game designers grew up on Japanese titles, I myself never played video games as a child.

One facet of Japanese culture can become it’s face abroad, and the results can be scary.

My wife is British and I have to admit she lives a more Japanese lifestyle than I do. She moved here on her own after developing an affection for Japanese cuisine. How can we communicate a more honest version of Japan to the world?

To me the real Tokyo is found in UraHara or on the lips of party-goers in late night clubs. A German photographer published a monograph of commuters crammed into rush hour trains like sardines in a can. Talk about real and raw Japan.

To become iconic, you need a hook. But is a visual hook enough? Can we keep on playing dress up like it’s Disneyland? This isn’t a magical kingdom. The bikes from Akira aren’t whizzing around the city, just like the Batmobile doesn’t patrol the streets of America and 007 is constantly blowing stuff in England. So let’s start focusing on sharing a less sensationalized version of Japan. Tourists always fall in love with simply walking our streets, looking into izakayas and feeling the culture and energy of the country. Our truth is far cooler than the fiction being put out there.


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