asiascape vistas

Techno-Culture, New Politics, and Philosophy in East Asia

Asiascape Vistas is a forum for discussion about the many and various dimensions of cyberculture found in or originating from East Asia. Its focus is on the interplay between these media and questions of politics & philosophy. Contributions are from the academic collective responsible for the core project, but other contributions will also be considered by that collective.
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The short serial “The Japanese Tradition” by the Japanese comedians RAHMENS includes various enjoyable parodies on different cultural aspects of Japan and can be found on youtube with English subtitles. I most enjoyed the one called “Sushi”, which claims to teach the viewer (foreigners?) how a sushi restaurant works and how one has to behave there. RAHMENS employ a great variety of exaggerations and “fake” information, but season it with what I conceived of as “true” statements about the Japanese culture and society (which, in the end, might say more about me than about the film). To me, the interesting question here is, what exactly RAHMENS are making fun of in “The Japanese Tradition”? Before explaining this any further, I would like to encourage you to watch the 8-minutes-movie [here] and decide for yourself before reading any further…
[hopefully 10 minutes pass by…]
My first impression was, that this is a parody on Japanese culture (sushi) and Japanese society. As such, it was fun to watch because I could tell where they are exaggerating or faking and where the information is “true” (but nevertheless provides a critical view). At least I thought I could… Thinking about this a little more, I realized that I am not at all able to completely distinguish between fake and “true” information in the film. This feeling might be even stronger with anybody who is not familiar with Japanese culture or its global entities, and who might for example have no reason to doubt that you have to dip your sushi into the soy sauce until the weight changes (which is very “dangerous”, since the sushi falls apart when soaked with soy sauce). Aren’t RAHMENS actually mocking me by confronting me with my perception of Japan, my personal asia-scape-goating. And doesn’t this parody then, work better, the more I think I know about Japan? From this prespective, the topics that come up in “Sushi” can be categorized in some general fields where (Western) stereotypes converge. Critique of whale-hunting and related topics might have been the source for the idea to show that, by asking the cook for his suggestion, you get access to a variety of dishes made from protected species.
It would be interesting to know, whether this is intended by RAHMENS or not, whether they had a foreign audience in mind and deliberately played with this audiences images of Japan as a place where they eat anything and don’t care about extinction of species at all, but this cannot be answered here (although I think their target audience is located in Japan). To me, the more interesting question is, whether this kind of parody created by deliberately blending “fake” and “true” self-criticism can be a strategy to engage with the asia-scape-goating of others in a thoughtful and productive way, a form of counter-asia-scape-goating? And, would I think of it in these terms if it was produced by a Western group?