Tokyo Damage Report

the current state of Ignorance



I was talking to my kid Shisen about pop culture the other day. Dude is one of the only Japanese indie dudes (for the purposes of this article, indie = people who are trying to make a living doing music, art, event promotion, fashion, books, manga, design, toys, stuffed animals, etc.) who is really busting ass to sell his product overseas. (his product is himself ? he DJs youth rave parties or what-have-you while dressed up like Terminator Meets a Lolita Muppet).


He was saying that there is so much foreign interest in Japanese underground culture, but it’s a shame how there is a language and cultural gap that separates the fans from the producers. I believe he said it was like a valley or a chasm. The Demand is there. The supply is there ? so why do people come here all the time on vacation and leave without being able to track down and buy stuff that store owners want to sell them? Why is there this huge canyon that keeps tourists from being able to experience the scantily-clad-vampire-dance-parties that they apprently need to wow their friends back home?


I’ve been thinking about this gap and here are some of the reasons:




In my little theory, here are 3 basic types of authors writing about japan:


Expats and Bloggers . . .they have actual Japanese friends but are incredibly boring and uninterested in anything remotely creative.


Academics that talk extensively to Japanese people, AND write about interesting subjects BUT publish in this ridiculous theoretical jargon plus they make it boring.


Foreign fan communities that are really interested in cool stuff but they only talk to other foreigners, so they never get paydirt.


It’s like nobody is hitting on all 3 aspects: Japanese primary sources, easy-to-read English, and interesting subjects. I mean, there is this one guy that has all 3 but he only ever writes about gigolos and slamdancers, so fuck him. What a waste.


Also, time-lag:

America is used to being in the cultural lead. We laugh at Russians who get a little money and try to impress us with their “hip, rocking acid washed Jordache jeans” and rich Arabs who are just now discovering “techno.” When it comes to Japan, America is on the other side of the equation: American kids are all hot for stuff that is over- whether goth Lolita or kogals, that shit is long gone. This also contributes to the “hard to find what I am looking for” problem.



Japanese indie people don’t reach out to tourists, let alone fuckin’ export to other countries. Why is this? I have no idea. I mean, there’s so many people trying to make it as a designer/toymaker/musician/whatever that they mostly fail. Japan has a glut!!! A glut of creativity! A japanese kid might just sigh and roll his eyes at the this season’s 18 th consecutive new fashion pants, but a foreigner might jump at the chance to buy the same pants. ("Dood it is so Anime looking!")

If there is only one company with an English language website, they will be able to corner the market overseas! That is the point we are at now. But dudes is all like, “eh.”


Seems like the only indies people who really export stuff successfully are the “little vinyl toy figures that cost $100 and you can’t play with them because they are limited edition” people. Which is sad because that whole phenomenon is just retarded. Toys are for playing! But still, I would really like to know what made them think exporting was doable? Why did THEY take the iniative and not, say, plush toy makers or fashion dudes?

Another thing to keep in mind: even the bigger vinyl figurine companies are basically loose collections of individual artists working together. Or a company that makes a figure and gets different artists to paint the surface in different ways. I mean in one way that is a total rip-off because it’s still the same fuckin’ toy and they make you buy it like 12 times. But in another way it’s cool because it shows that a bunch of small artists can pull together, which is a model that could apply to other pop culture areas.




English as it is taught in public schools is crap. Study for 5 years and learn nothing. If some right-wing asshat with a loud truck demanded that English be removed from the classrooms starting tomorrow, I’d be the first to sign the petition, if only to stop wasting the time of the kids. But I have no idea how much of this don’t-try-to-sell-overseas thing is language barrier and how much is simple apathy.


Non-academic Researchers who want to write well-researched, interesting books in regular language can’t get a visa from the government. I must have met 6 of these guys, who want to write what sound like cool books but get denied for a “cultural visa” (while yakuza-bought Filipina hookers get brought in by the boatload on cultural visas (to teach the important culture of pole dancing)).


And here I am going to gleefully sidetrack to a rant about the pinche putos at La Migra.


See, the immigration beuracrats are not interested in if the researcher’s book could benefit the sales and exports of small Japanese businesses.. All they care about is maintaining the Plantation System. Which works like this: Gaijin only get a visa if a Japanese garuntor sponsors them. Whether the relationship is boss/worker, professor/student or husband/wife, there is always someone who can take responsibility for the gaijin. So when the gaijin breaks something, the government goes to the Japanese and says, “Your pet gaijin broke this precious flower. You have to pay for it, or give the gaijin the boot.” The Japanese boss who not only controls the gaijin’s visa status but also controls their job and apartment, and they have the right to kick out the foreigner the second the foreigner displeases them. People who come to do research outside of the academic system have no Japanese boss and that is, as we say, NG (nou guudo). I don’t think that La Migra seriously worries about Chinese Mafia guys pretending to be journalists writing a book about Naruto cosplay as a cover. But they do want to keep foreign labor cheap and scared, so they need that plantation system.


Anyway, books take time to properly write, get all the facts, meet the best people, and that’s why authors can’t do it on a 3-month tourist visa. TV , on the other hand, operates on a very different schedule: fast and superficial. I must get an email every other month from a TV crew that thinks I know important people. This has less to do with how awesome and well-connected I am, and more to do with how desperate the TV people are to meet a tight deadline. They don’t have time to find the Japanese people who really have a lot to teach us. So while interesting books wind up being unwritten, misleading and content-free TV shows about Japan pop up weekly from Australia to L.A. to Saltzburg. So that’s how La Fuckin’ Migre contributes to the Culture Gap.





The fuck should I know? It’s 3 AM and I’m tired. Jesus Christ, is it beginning to SNOW out here????


La Migra should lighten the fuck up. Academics should use regular words. Foreigners with nothing to say should not blog. Japanese indie entrapeneurs should form a network, where they each pay a small amount and collectively maintain a website in English, Russian, Chinese, and oh let’s say French, which announces upcoming events and existing stores. Japanese mom-and-pop stores do this all the time ? they band into little networks and make Shoutengais. All the stores on a street will pay for a roof over the street to convert it into a shopping mall, with matching decorations for all the storefronts, and a community website, and stuff.

So why not do the same with underground stuff?


Also, there needs also to be a BBS where people who want to buy Japanese indies stuff post what they want, so that Japanese indie entrapeneurs get some idea of exactly how fuckin’ many dumb Americans want to buy the next Hello Kitty. Or there could be a J-BAY type site so people living overseas get some idea of what is on offer.


JLIST makes hella ducats selling anime and hentai as well as corporate pocky snacks and stuff, and good for them. But why did it take a fuckin’ foreigner to think of that idea? And why has nobody applied it to non-corporate stuff? That shit is just wild. Dude is selling like Hello Kitty toilet paper for $20 a roll and pushing like five Beemers, meanwhile underground Japanese kids is going broke trying to promote their product to Tokyo’s already saturated marketplace. Fuckin’ retarded!!!

1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. EnergeticCrab April 27th, 2012 1:43 pm

    I wonder if this has changed since your time of writing… I sometimes frequent the western lolita communities and there is sort of an unspoken rumor that the reason there is a Japanese clothing store in San Francisco (the New People store) is because of the large amount of foreign interest in these clothing brands. People  would order clothing through shopping services or when the brands started allowing international orders, and generated enough demand to similar some interest in the US as a legitimate venture. The import landscape has evolved recently, anime is much easier to come by, more Japanese rock bands are touring in the US, etc… So, clearly, something has changed, but what? At the same time I feel it is too little too late? Like, Japanohphiles would have benefited more from this a few years ago than current saturation.   

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