There is no simple Japanization, creolization or localization : some reflections on the cross-cultural migration of Japanese popular culture to Hong Kong

Heung-wah WONG, Hoi Yan YAU

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The general aim of this chapter is to reflect on "cultural interface," a notion conventionally understood as the very point at which two or more independent cultural forms come into contact and interact. While this notion gives primacy to the articulation between forces of different cultural forms or the dialectical mediation between the global and the local, it tends to assume that the local will respond uniformly to different forms of pop culture from the same external force, leading to the proliferation of ideas such as the Americanization of Japan and South Korea (Park 2009, Yoshimi 2003) or the "Japanization of Asia" (Iwabuchi 2002). We, however, argue to the contrary——that the local culture responds differently to different forms of pop culture even though they are from the same place of origin. In this chapter, we shall be using the cross-cultural migration of Japanese pop culture, including TV dramas, pornography and retailing business, into Hong Kong as our examples to reflect on cultural interface. We shall demonstrate that the Hong Kong consumers respond differently to Japanese TV dramas, Japanese adult video, and Yaohan, a Japanese retailing business, even though they are all from Japan and unambiguously constitute a form of Japanese pop culture. They are so because, as Chun perspectively points out, the local cultural "develop[s] and thrive[s] more as a function of its perspectively than its production" (Chun 2012: 499). That is to say, the fact that they all come from Japan does not guarantee that their reception by the local will be the same. Neither does the term "Japanization" cover all the cultural phenomena resulting from the interaction between Japanese pop culture and local Hong Kong geopolitics. The results of the interaction between local Hong Kong culture and external forces are always indeterminate, This indeterminacy implies that cultural interface should not only be seen as a physical point where different cultural forms interact but a "third zone" where there is a complex fit or tension between the local sociocultural contexts and the foreign cultural form and that neither of them can determine the effects of this cultural articulation. This is crossed with what Sahlins called the "historical conjuncture," which refers to "a set of historical relationships that at once reproduce the traditional cultural categories and give them new values out go the pragmatic context" (1985: 125). The rest of our paper is about such ethnographic discoveries. At one level, Japanese TV dramas, pornography, and retail businesses all entered into a peculiar historical conjuncture with the local culture when they migrated to Hong Kong. At another level then, we try to generalise, inspired by Foster (2005: 167), about a "range of relationships" the local or what we shall call the "identity marker", and "concretisation of the local sexual ideal" and "supplements." But before we move onto these ethnographic case studies, we need to spell out the geopolitics of post-war Hong Kong, the very important. context with which various forms of Japanese pop culture interacted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRevisiting colonial and post-colonial : anthropoligical studies of the cultural interface
PublisherBridge21 Publications
Number of pages29
ISBN (Print)9781626430129
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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