Australia is a multicultural nation. We pride ourselves on diversity and being open to new cultures and the Japanese culture is no exception. In recent years manga, anime, cosplay and all things Japanese have all exploded into Australia culture and the cultural and media exports make Japanese culture a soft power deserving of our attention. Through my digital Asia studies I have discovered how much Japanese culture is available for consumption in Australia and it’s popularity among Australian audiences.
There are some who believe that the rising popularity of the socially constructed ‘cool Japan’ and products that have an essential ‘Japaneseness’ about them serve to reduce bad feelings toward Japan that came after WWII (Allen 2006). What creates this idea of ‘cool Japan’ are the innovative technology and interesting cultural products that Japan are able to export to Australia, and Australian consumers can’t get enough of them. From sushi and ramen, to music and entertainment, manga and anime, Japanese culture is hot in demand in both popular and alternative cultures in Sydney in a way that you would not have found 50 years ago. That is until Japanese pop icons like Astroboy started starring on our screens, bringing back popularity for Japanese media culture in a way that Hoskin puts it as “the postwar generations basking under the rising sun” (Lynch 2007).
I firstly investigated J-Pop music and the artist Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. There is a plethora of J-pop music available to be sourced by Australians on YouTube and iTunes among other sites and J-music discussion on a global level can be found online through sites like JaME. On occasion Japanese artists tour Australia like Kyary did in June this year when she visited Sydney and Melbourne. Having artists tour in a different country and well as having the music availably digitally shows that there is an audience who are wanting to experience Japanese culture first hand and enjoy the accessibility they have to a music culture that is diverse from the options they are given at home. Although I did not find any J-pop music available on my trip to Daiso, other than the in store playlist, it was able to provide other aspects of Japanese culture.
What I found in Daiso were Japanese food and beverage items from their Eat Asia branch. This branch, according to Daiso’s Kez Katashima, is an attempt to bring Tokyo to Sydney and will eventually expand to include a Japanese eatery with authentic Japanese food available to the Australian market. I did purchase some food products from this offshoot but found that although it was dominated by Japanese goods there were also Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai and Korean goods also available. However Eat Asia isn’t the only Japanese cuisine available nearby.
If you ascend the escalator there are many Japanese eateries like Izakaya Yebisu (10/10 food, would recommend), around the corner you have recently opened Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecakes creating huge queues down the street and across the street you have sushi shops in the HSBC Centre food court. At this very spot on George Street, it is possible to see how big Japanese culture is in Sydney, not only from the food venues but there is the Kinokuniya bookshop on the other side of the QVB which is a Japanese chain bookstore selling books and manga in both Japanese and the translated English versions. If you open up the insanely popular PokemonGo app (based off the Japanese game franchise Pokemon) there are also more than a few Pokestops to hit while you wait for the traffic lights to change. It wasn’t until my trip to Daiso that I realised how prominent Japanese culture is in Sydney, as it just seems to be entwined in the globalised, cultural melting pot that is the city.
These products, shops and experiences are interesting when thinking about globalisation because they play into the idea of the soft power potential of Japanese pop culture through the cultural transferal of ideas, capital, culture and economics to an Australian consumer market (Nye 1990; Allen 2006). This may not necessarily be a bad thing. One of the things I noticed at Daiso was the sheer amount of items that were just so dang cute. I’m talking about lunch boxes, to hair accessories, even the packaging was adorable or as it is know in Japan, kawaii (Kasriel-Alexander 2013).
Kawaii culture is one of the most intriguing things I have found about Japanese culture through my research on Daiso products and kawaii is becoming increasingly popular in Sydney. Not only from being able to purchase kawaii goods from store like Daiso but people are able to fully immerse themselves in the culture through acts of cosplay (costume play) and kawaii dress ups as seen in Japan (Knight 2013). Fans can show off these dress-ups at conventions like Supanova held in Sydney every year which also sell Japanese goods and sometimes hosts Japanese actors (SMH 2014).
My trip to Daiso has provided me with a greater insight into Japanese culture both through my purposeful research into the items in the store and items that I purchased. As well as the inadvertent, autoethnographic epiphanies that Ellis had talked about, which I had when I realised how much Japanese culture was present in the social and economic culture of Sydney and how it had already had an impact on me and other media and culture consumers in Sydney.