Saturday, August 16, 2008

TIME Out of Order on Japan’s New Groove

A friend sent me this TIME article. I was seriously tempted to blog it but it is so bad in so many ways that I don’t think that I can critique it to my satisfaction in less than 5,000 words. I’m not going to do that unless I get paid for it.

I’ll give you just one example. Straight off the bat, the report gives a plug for an up-and-coming designer and his ninja-inspired jacket as evidence of a new-found pride for Japanese traditions. Does the correspondent realize that she has just thrown out the half-century history of world-class Japanese fashion designers heavy on Japanese aesthetics and imagery—from Hanae Mori to Issei Miyake to Kansai Yamamoto to… you get the picture—just to highlight someone who is pitching a jacket that channels that American favorite the ninja? If that is unintentional, it only serves to make the story much worse than the infamous wearable vending machine report, best chronicled here*.

Also, “a sleek hooded jacket that zips up to show only the eyes”? Sounds more like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but maybe that’s just me.

Let's just say that the report doesn't exactly go uphill from here either.

* In fact, this article is great material for a full Néojaponisme deconstruction.

ADD: Uh-oh, it's causing brain damage on the Shisaku blog.


Anonymous said...

Don't be hard on Time. They are under contract to write the exact same "Cool Japan" article once a year.


Anonymous said...

Anyone who could write:

"No longer are Japanese products simply equated with technological wizardry or muted expressions of international modernism. Instead, Japan's new exports draw inspiration from the country's abundant artistic heritage."

knows absolutely nothing about Japan. Many people may not recognize the traditional influences in so much of modern Japanese design but it's beyond unacceptable to write an ignorant sentence like that in a major periodical.

Jun Okumura said...

What aspiring Japanese fashion designer would want to, say, revive historical motifs when the rising sun still draws revulsion in Nanjing or Bataan?

Kansai Yamamoto, in the 80s? And speaking of the rising sun, I hope that the Chinese didn’t mind when the good ship Asakaze unfurled the Maritime Self-Defense Force ensign when it visited Zhangjiang, the South China seaport and headquarters to the South Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy, on June 24 this year.

Movie directors are winning international awards for films that celebrate Japan's divine bond with nature…

Maybe there’s no “divine bond with nature” in Takeshi Kitano’s movies, but they feature Japanese characters in Japanese situations and settings with plenty of natural beauty thrown and, oh yes, have been winning overseas awards since the 1990s.


Gen Kanai said...

Time is not a prestigious enough outlet to keep any writer (of quality or not) for any reasonable length of time. Thus, there will never be any writing of significant quality from Time (in comparison to other news magazines such as The Atlantic, Harpers, New Yorker, etc.) Time Asia is only worse. To have expectations of quality reportage from Time is to only be disappointed.

Jun Okumura said...

Which is a sad thing to hear, Gen, for people of my generation, who can remember when TIME used to be the class of middle-brow general-purpose reading material, well above Newsweek. It's like hearing that an older cousin you looked up to when you were a child has been laid off and is bagging groceries to make ends meet.

Well, maybe not that bad, but you see what I mean.