"Gaijin love anime and can’t eat sushi?"

Gaijin love anime and can’t eat sushi?

On Tuesday, a hit Japanese business TV program, Gaia no Yoake, took a look at the services available in Japan for foreign tourists. The show featured our sister magazine, Metropolis, as well as various other tours and services for foreigners. Because Gaia no Yoake is such a well-respected program, the staff here at J@pan Inc and Metropolis were expecting great diversity in the portrayal of “gaikokujin” in the media. Yet we were left disappointed…

The program started by taking a look at Japan’s need for more tourists to visit (as started by former PM Koizumi’s misguided “Yokoso Japan!” campaign; see http://www.japaninc.com/tt425). It then went on to follow a few select foreigners who wanted to come here. Unfortunately, a majority of those featured were “gaijin otakus” (foreign nerds) who had decided to go on “otaku tours” to visit maid cafés in Akihabara. The problem with this is not that they were otaku, but rather that they were made to seem as being representative of all foreigners wanting to visit Japan. And, quite clearly, anyone watching the program would find them ridiculous.

The show featured gaijin eating sushi disastrously badly (drenching it in soy sauce), wearing happi (yukata) whenever they could, talking about not knowing how to bathe in Japan, and playing maid café games—even after they had left the café.

The Metropolis staff was also disappointed to learn about the factual inaccuracies of how the magazine was portrayed. The show got the distribution numbers wrong and misrepresented the magazine as being a tourist guide rather than a publication for foreigners already established here.

But leaving in-house disagreements aside, the show’s overall theme seemed to be “look how silly these gaijin are” intertwined with a few serious facts, such as Japan’s rural community needing more tourists to keep afloat and how they have so far been failing at accommodating foreign visitors. The original angle of the program was to take a look at what Japan is doing to accommodate foreign people here. However, it became clear that for the sake of fun over facts, the producers focused more on the stranger aspects of foreigners rather than what services are actually available for them here.

However, in a strange way, this program showed Japan in the same light as many foreign media often do—it’s just that the foreign media changes the quirky “anime geeks” to Japanese who travel in large groups giggling behind their hands with flashing cameras and samurai swords.

For basic information on the program, visit here (Japanese): http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/gaia/backnumber/preview080429.html


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I thought the most glaring omission was the impression that most tourists are either European or American. I think in the years to come, tourists from China will completely revolutionise the Japanese tourism industry. In fact, I think it may be the cause of some tension as Japanese are unable to book onsen holidays as the entire onsen has been booked out by wealthy Chinese tourists. They already seem to be a noticeable force, so imagine what the numbers will be like in 10 years.

I agree: I think Chinese and Korean tourists will definitely be the biggest money spenders in Japan, especially as many of the ones who come here are very wealthy. However, I think/hope many Japanese residents are acutely aware of the fact that rural areas are struggling with the lack of tourists, especially with growing amounts of Japanese people travelling abroad. Perhaps as more foreign tourists visit the hotspots in Japan (and book up the places), Japanese tourists will experiment and find other areas worth visiting instead.

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The misrepresentation done is very troubling indeed. This brings fear in my heart that I will be seen as an "gaijin otaku". Seriously, maid cafes. Not that I have anything against them, but what a shame. I imagine that would be one of the last things I'd do in Japan, the first thing I would do is go to the country side and see the rural Japan that I've longed for my whole life. Though it is true that I don't imagine many western tourists going into Japan. Really the only reason I can see myself going to Japan is because of my want to teach English there. Being that I am a fan of Anime, and a western person, I am somewhat worried now that a laughable stereotype will be placed upon me. Regardless of this news, I don't intend on changing plans, and am interested to see how the tourist market of Japan develops over the next few years.

P.S. Sushi is good with a bit of soy sauce...its too much wasabi that seems to be the problem..

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