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Cultural Pillars of Japan in the West



It is always interesting to see how a certain culture and country is portrayed in the rest of the world. These lifestyle export categories are extremely important for disseminating overall cultural information and values. Naturally, this often leads to the development of strong stereotypes but still, these lifestyle sectors are essential cultural ambassadors receiving often quite strong governmental financial support. In the case of Japan, the most important ‘Pop Exports’ were easy to identify at last weekend’s Japan Festival in Berlin.

Many years ago I wrote a special feature on Japanese fashion for a leading trade show publication with the title of ‘Beyond Sushi, Geisha and Samurai’. I wanted to highlight the fact that Japan’s very deep and sophisticated culture is much more than a few stereotypes. However, stereotypes are not all bad and in our world of categorized thinking, having a few stand-out categories representing a culture can also present some opportunities.

At the Japan Festival in Berlin which celebrated its 10th anniversary, thousands of visitors dove into things Japanese for just a few hours. The visual image chosen for the poster of this year’s event was once again very stereotypical – an image of a geisha – but all around the selection of cultural categories were very broad. It was interesting and unexpected to see, however, that basically 98% of the vendors at the Japan Festival were non-Japanese. Even none of the food stalls were run by Japanese – probably the most surprising fact as Berlin has some of the most varied and delicious Japanese restaurants and cafes in Europe.

Here are some examples of categories on display:

Martial Arts have always been a big representative aspect of Japanese culture in the West. From Jiu Jutsu to Karate and a few inbetween, martial arts represents a very positive and strong physical and philosophical aspect of Japan in the Western min.


The almost trance-like rhythm of the Taiko drum has been extremely popular outside of Japan. Most famous is the Taiko drum group YAMATO. They have been filling concert halls in Europe for many years now.



Europe has its own comics world but as far as Manga and Anime are concerned, Japan is the holy grail. Millions of fans and followers worldwide. At the Japan Festival, there was a whole floor dedicated to Manga, Anime and J-Pop with some K-Pop from Korea also in the mix.

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Japanese interior has a very soothing and relaxing atmosphere for Westerners. From Shoji to Tatami, their popularity has been unstoppable.

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In the West, Sushi literally stands for Japanese food. Slowly but surely there are other parts of Japanese food culture infiltrating the globe: Ramen, Okonomiyaki, Shabu Shabu and others have become likeable tastes.

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TJ Bruder

TJ Bruder Berlin Office

広告デザインや写真技術の教養を活かし制作業界で15年の経験を積み、Textilwirtschaft, JNC, Link Magazine, BBB Bulletin等、ヨーロッパの有力な雑誌のエディターを務める。日本、ヨーロッパの架け橋となるべく2013年川路蒼藝舎の事業へ参画した。日本企業のプレゼンテーションアドバイス、サプライヤーリサーチ、現地アテンドを担当。使用言語はドイツ語、オランダ語、英語、日本語。


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