Japan in the Asia-Pacific

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When the football World Cup was hosted in Japan and Korea in 2002, an astute expatriate Japanese living in England observed how certain television channels recycled clichéd images of Japan in the opening sequences of football programmes. From ‘a Kodo drummer, a couple of geisha, the rising sun’ to the kitsch Japanese television-set design of ‘cherry blossom pond and wood-and-paper shoji screens’, it was clear that Westerners needed to conjure certain images in order to place Japan in its proper place: as something alien and exotic (Kawakami 2002:6). The dozens of metropolises that make up Japan, the overwhelming high-tech advances, and the significant modernization and consumerization of Japanese society were conveniently glossed over in a display of conjured exoticism. This traditionalistic representation of Japan is not only symptomatic of international ignorance; indeed, the highlighting of Japanese difference and uniqueness is not conducted by outsiders alone. Japanese agencies themselves, as part of nation-building and the promotion of Japanese national identity, have attempted to project the image of a people fundamentally different to others, characterized primarily by groupist and hierarchical orientation (Mouer and Sugimoto 1986). These so-called cultural traits imply that Japan functions differently. Similar arguments are made for the uniqueness of Japanese business practices. At the same time, some suggest that there is a culturally derived form of diplomacy based on the pursuit of harmony and conflict avoidance (see Tamamoto 1993). In this vein, the former Japanese ambassador to the UK notes that:

We prefer to work behind the scenes to promote agreements, just like the unseen feet of the water-fowl work to propel the bird gracefully along the water. This adaptation has been very profitable for Japan, though viewed by outsiders as ‘reactive’ and ‘exceptional’. With the end of the Cold War we are to become ‘normal’, whatever that is.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe New Global Politics of the Asia Pacific
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)0203642074
ISBN (Print)9780203642078
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes

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