Only In Japan

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I shocked my coworkers the other day.

We were talking about how Japanese Pop Culture is perceived in the West; and while they knew manga and anime to be wildly popular all over the world, they were quite surprised to realize cosplay and hentai had also become common words in English.

To prove my point, I showed them some Western cosplay websites... Their incredulity soon turned into gasps of horror as they looked at page after page of Westerners dressed as anime or videogame characters, and when they saw the list of cosplay conventions all over the world. You see, Japanese people are not really proud of their "weirdoes", be they otaku technology geeks, hentai fetishists, or "strange dressers" of the many kinds available in Japan. Most Japanese people are very proud of Japan's homogeneity and correctness; and as such they are rather nonplussed when they discover that Westerners see Japan as "cool" because it's a land of strangely-dressed, tentacle-rape fantasizing computer geeks. And try as I might, I couldn't convince them that "Weird Japan" was way cooler than their image of hard-working, honest and polite office workers creating the best DVD players in the world.

DVD players, he he. All the better to watch hentai anime with, my child...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cosplay Yakiniku??

Have you ever heard of the "Morning Musume"? They aren't as popular as they used to be, but they still have a cult following: the Musume are Japan's answer to the Spice Girls, a group of supercute 15 year-old girls singing some canned lyrics and dancing to some canned tunes. Their lyrics make the Backstreet Boys sound like Jane Austen. But who cares! They're supercute.

How would you like girls dressed as Morning Musume to wait on you at a barbecued meat restaurant?

Not too much? So how about Budweiser girls? Nurses in sexy outfits? Flight attendants? Anime heroins? High School girls? French maids?

Welcome to the world of Cosplay Yakiniku Tabehodai, a very popular style of restaurants here in Japan. The principle is simple: it's a rather inexpensive all-you-can-eat grilled meat restaurant, staffed by girls dressed as something cute, funny or exotic. It might sound childish, kinky or simply surreal (Nurse! Some more sirloin please!), but for Japanese people it makes sense: food, drinks and cute/sexy girls have always been considered a perfect combination for a merry evening with friends or colleagues. And don't think Cosplay Restaurants are only for men either: Japanese girls have a very broad definition of what is "cute" or "fun", and if a Cosplay Restaurant is known for its lively atmosphere, they will just flock there without second thoughts.

And you know what? I think Japanese people have a point there. If it's fun, just go for it!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, November 17, 2006

Food, drinks... And a twist.

So you're going to travel to Japan. From what you must have heard, the food is going to be all sushi, tempura, ramen, plus a lot of weird stuff, right?

It can be... But it can also be much more fun that that. Consider, for example, the "Moe" Maid Cafes...

The "Moe" Maid Cafes are a fairly recent invention. Basically, it's a regular cafe where the waitresses are cute young Japanese girls wearing lacy French maid outfits and treating you with the utmost respect; the kind of respect a 19th century affluent French bourgeois would command from his servants. Depending on the place, the food and cakes will be plain to good, but it will always emphasize cuteness and girlishness (think lots of strawberries...). Yes, it's a little kinky, but do you really mind?

The "Moe" phenomenon originated in Tokyo's notoriously geek-friendly district of Akihabara, but has now spread to most major Japanese cities. And while the original target customer for Moe cafes was neurotic otakus (technology geeks), the concept has been so succesful that nowadays all kinds of people visit these cafes, just because it's cute and fashionable. Chances are, you won't even stand out too much...

A cup of coffee at a Moe cafe will probably cost you more than at the ubiquitous Starbucks, and the exquisite politeness of the maids will probably be partly lost on you (unless your Japanese is REALLY good), but the weirdness of the experience is certainly worth your Yen. Without revealing too much, let's just say that the Moe concept has been really well-thought, with great attention to detail and finesse of execution... Well, as usual in Japan.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Welcome to "Only In Japan"! This blog is for everyone who thinks Japan is a weird country. While I agree many things here are quite funny indeed, it seems to me that Japan has its own internal logic, and if you can see things from the Japanese point of view, it all slowly starts to make sense. So I compiled all my bewilderments, asked my Japanese friends and colleagues for their points of view on everything strange or funny I had met or heard of, and there you have it...

Only In Japan!

Labels: , , , , , ,