Japanese California

2016

In Japan, the sun rises from the Californian sunset. Building an account of signs and symbols of American culture in Japan.

During my first visit to Japan back in 2011, I was struck by how everything looked so new and different. A postmodern society that had not so much in common with what I had seen before in western countries. Yet, some aspects felt strangely familiar.
The few school yards and buildings all shared common architectural characteristics - the one I had seen in the Japanese animes I was watching during my youth.

But I was most surprised one day I was strolling along a commercial road of a suburban area between Tokyo and Nagoya. Seven Elevens, McDonald's, Dominos Pizza, shopping malls... all laid out like those drive-in shopping zones that are so characteristic of the American landscape. Then the palms trees, that old 60's Chevy passing by in a roar, a particular sun light, and a distant backdrop of mountains, the kind that I only previously witnessed in the US. It reminded me of the suburbs of Philadelphia, or Chicago, or the southern San Francisco Bay Area. But that wasn't a side of Japan I expected.

When I moved to Japan two years later, I found myself confronted, at times, yet again with the same impression of experiencing fragments of American culture. That became really staggering the day I landed in front of a house that looked quite American, and was fronted by a driveway with a 70's Ford on one side, and a skateboard ramp in the other side. A simulacrum of America, the land of simulacra.
America and Japan are culturally quite opposed in many ways, and looking at elements of US culture juxtaposed against the Japanese cultural backdrop is quite arresting. That day, I decided to start accounting for all the signs and symbols of American culture I would come across in my daily life.

I grew up in France in the 80's and 90's, when Europe got hit by a strong wave of American mass culture. I was a young consumer from the middle class playing baseball and basketball, watching Star Wars and MTV, longing for Nike shoes and Levis jeans, and eating Mars bars between a Big Macs and a can of Coca-Cola.
For me, doing this project is my own way of quantifying the influence of American mass culture onto postmodern societies, and perhaps also an attempt at exorcising what may have too strongly informed my youth.

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