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Japanification (日本化) is the process of becoming or wishing to become a member of Japanese society. It most commonly refers to ex-pats living for an extended period of time in Japan, though it may also be used to describe persons living outside Japan who have a certain affinity to some aspect of Japanese culture. Cultural assimilation could include adoption of Japanese mannerisms, style of clothing, taste in entertainment, and sometimes aspects of Japanese language.
In ex-pats this process often occurs because of a feeling of isolation or desire to conform, whereas outside Japan it may occur because of an especially strong interest in some kind of fan culture based in Japan, e.g. anime, manga, television dramas, music or lolita fashion.
Japanification in Popular Culture
Japan has a strong influence on American culture that can be dated back in 1956 when US children were first introduced to Japanese popular culture with Godzilla. The idea of Godzilla is later depicted with the character Reptar in Nickelodeon’s Rugrats. The Japanese culture is also present in popular video games such as Jet Set Radio, a game that has evident references to the Japanese manga and graphic novels. This trend of Japan taking over children’s popular culture continues with well-known icons such as Pokémon, Hello Kitty, and Astro Boy. Simply put, Japanese media is just Kawaii, a term meaning “cute” by American standards. Kawaii is another example of Japanification in the United States as more and more Americans can be found using a word that has been changed from its original written form in Japanese Hiragana “かわいい” in order to facilitate its usage in the English language.
Reasons for Japanification
As more and more people become and wish to become a member of Japanese society, the numbers of students and individuals learning the Japanese language has risen. Today Japanese classes are being offered now more than ever, being integrated into more colleges around the nation. There has been a 10.3% increase in Japanese language enrollments in U.S. colleges and universities between 2006 and 2009, 66,605 in 2006 to 73,434 in 2009. This is unusual given Japan’s economic gloom and turmoil amid the lost generation, but then again it might not be that surprising due to the rising popularity of manga and anime. Manga and anime is a leading factor in reasons why Japanese language learners are learning the language, “Over 50% of Japanese language learners surveyed by the Japan Foundation as recently as 2009 cited wanting to learn how to read manga and anime as a key reason for studying Japanese.”
Due to Japanese war crimes such as the Nanking Massacre and the atrocities committed in Korea under Japanese rule, anti-Japanese sentiment is much stronger in mainland China and Korea than in Taiwan, where the Japanese colonization is not remembered as bitterly.
Japanification in Economics
In addition to its cultural definition this process can be described as the transformation of an economy into one that follows the steps of Japan. In other words it is a term used by economists that refers to falling into the same deflationary trap of collapsed demand that caused the Lost decade (Japan). Japanification is an ongoing issue today as the U.S., U.K., and other countries go through similar economic issues.
- Mann, Jaimy (2010). "The Japanification of Children's Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki". The Lion and the Unicorn 34.1.
- "Kawaii". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
- Landsberg, Eddie. "Demand for Japanese language instruction in U.S. skyrocketing". Japan Today. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- Fackler, Martin (October 2010). "Japan Goes From Dynamic to Disheartened". The New York Times.