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  • Workbook Assessment for course "Topics on Japan"write workbook like Literature, narrative formbased on reading belowWeek TwoMcGray, Douglas. 2002. "Japan's Gross National Cool." Foreign Policy. May/June. Pp 44-54. Yano, Christine

Workbook Assessment for course "Topics on Japan"write workbook like Literature, narrative formbased on reading belowWeek TwoMcGray, Douglas. 2002. «Japan’s Gross National Cool.» Foreign Policy. May/June. Pp 44-54. Yano, Christine Essay Example

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Japanese Methodology of Reinventing its National ‘Self’

Last week’s readings on Asian studies have provided some interesting insights into Japanese culture and the way it is transforming itself. How, where, and when this process of ‘cultural re-invention’ started, and the method of bouncing back that is uniquely characteristic of Japan, forms the readings of the last week. Three articles have been taken for scrutiny here, to serve as lens through which the current culture of Japan is studied; two of them have been authored by Christine R. Yano (2009, & 2011), and one by Douglas McGray (2002).

Douglas McGray’s (2002) analysis of Japan’s – “National Cool” (2002, p.45) has considered the method through which it has managed to transform its image as a society with closed, “rigid social hierarchy” (p.51) to a culture that has “transcended U.S. demand or approval” (p. 46), through “two-dimensional” “flat art” (pp. 46-7). Its Pokemon cartoons, Issey Miyake gowns, and of course, “Hello Kitty” products are popular across geographical borders. McGray, argues that its success secret, lies in the “indisputably Japanese” way, the “method” of dealing with a crisis. According to McGray (2002), the Japanese were ahead of their time in the turn of the nineteenth century –“was postmodern before postmodernism was trendy, fusing elements of other national cultures into one almost coherent whole” (p.49). McGray (2002) has cited some real-life examples from the pop-music successes like “Pada Pada” and “Hello Kitty”; he has also offered an interesting reverse of the Japanese Sumo wrestling as an example of how, although the nation is open to accepting foreign influence and positive adaptation of the same into its culture, there is little support to immigrants (pp.50-2). He has argued that the economic downtrend has led to a positive cultural uptrend for the nation which he calls is its “soft power”, borrowing the tem from Nye Jr. (p.52). McGray’s views appear well studied and unbiased since it has touched on the strong points and the weaknesses of the nation in transformation.

Christine R. Yano’s (2009) has dealt with one specific aspect of the trend stated above, and studied its various dimensions, namely the impact and influence of Sanrio’s orchestrated strategy to promote is product “Hello Kitty” and how it contributed to “the ‘pink globalization’ — the widespread distribution and consumption of Japanese cute goods and aesthetics to other parts of the industrial world” (pp. 682-3). Referring McGray’s (2002) term of “soft power, Yano (2009) pertinently points to how the Japanese government was not averse to these promotion techniques and how the “work of pink continues with the Japanese government’s designation of three kawaii taishi — ‘ambassadors of cute’” (pp. 684-5). The “Japanese cute” is not all that it appears, and my be a “mask for larger issues”, namely, 1) the “feminized position” as pointed by “gender and sexuality” of “hello Kitty; 2) the underlying knowledge of the knowing insider, and the unknowing outsider; 3) the power of marketing and corporatization 4) connection between the national and the international or global (pp. 686-8). This article of Yano has served to understand how “Hello Kitty” contributed to the reinvention method of the ‘Japanese cool’.

The second article by Yano (2011) has gone further and deeper into the marketing technique of “Hello Kitty” by Sanrio, using the under currents of Japanese culture — more specifically, gender and sexuality, and how the feminine touch and trait of building relationships is cleverly utilized “neat trick of imaging occurs within the frame of Sanrio’s invention of the touch-based industry labelled ‘social communication’” (p.35). Positioning its kawaii kyarakutaa products as curios or ‘cute’ fetishes, with a catchy slogan of “Small Gift, Big smile”, the company has exposed the power of strategic branding to global levels; however, the subtle reinforcement of the gendered roles of sex and role of femininity in the context of post modern Japan, have been unmistakeably brought out by Yano (2011) in this article.


Christine R. Yano (2009): Wink on Pink: Interpreting Japanese Cute as It Grabs the Global Headlines, The Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 68, No. 3 (August) 2009: 681–688.

Christine R. Yano (2011): Reach Out and Touch Someone: Thinking Through

Sanrio’s Social Communication Empire, Japanese Studies, 31:1, 23-36.

McGray, Douglas (2002): “Japan’s Gross National Cool.” Foreign Policy, May/June, 44–54.