Filmmaker Dave Boyle talks with Ritsumeikan students

by Robert Moorehead

Dave Boyle’s films (Big Dreams Little Tokyo, White on Rice, Surrogate Valentine, Daylight Savings) blend English and Japanese languages, and American and Japanese cultures. In this video, he discusses “Big Dreams Little Tokyo” with a class of International Relations students at Ritsumeikan University. Boyle talks about the roles of language, culture, race, and stereotypes in the film, and the choices he made as an actor and a director.

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Mixed Cultures In South East Asian Countries

by Satomi Tanaka

This spring I traveled around South East Asian countries and I was surprised at a lot of different cultures from Japan. We Japanese judge which person is in a socially high position by their belongings or behavior. The skin color does not matter in Japanese society among Japanese. However, in other countries have each mark to judge class. I’d like to describe about my opinion and experience, and then figure out how culture and common sense are created and changed.

In Cambodia, most of all women are attached to lighter skin. When I went to a village, many Cambodian women envied my skin color and it happened again and again.  At first I was surprised because I don’t mind about getting a tan so my skin color is darker than other Japanese. But my skin color was accepted as light skin by them. I didn’t know why they were stuck to lighter skin. I asked a woman about it through an interpreter. She answered “Because light skinned woman is beautiful.” I thought that they are affected by TV shows. Actresses, singers and models in Cambodia have lighter skin tone and they are known as socially high position people. Their skin color is completely different from women in the villages but they are also Cambodian. Because they use skin lightening products and foundation. In short, lighter skin tone means not only beautiful but also high class in society.

This idea is almost the same in the Philippines. Tanned skin means labor class and light skin means high class. I think this phenomenon is unconsciously related to colonial history and mass media carried the idea from European countries to other region countries. It plays a big role in every country’s standard of beauty or common sense. I guess globalization make the world smaller and more complicated because each culture affects each other and creates new one.

In Vietnam there was an interesting trend among young people that is thickly dressed fashion. The weather in Vietnam is hot and humid throughout the year. Sometimes it is chilly but wearing a short-sleeved shirt is fine. However, a down jacket and a knitted sweater were sold in many shops. I couldn’t understand why it is sold and who wears that one. My friend taught me the reason of it. “The reason why is that wearing a down jacket or a knitted sweater means high class or rich,” she said. Because wearing thickly dressed means you work in an office with an air conditioner, so young people think that being thickly dressed is seen as rich and cool. I thought they are very sensitive to appearance. They want to be treated and accepted as a high positioned people. So not only skin color but also cloths can be a mark in Vietnam.

In conclusion, a lot of countries are affected by European culture but today’s common sense were added each countries’ standard and created new one. That’s why more and more culture or common senses were born and it will be changing in the future.

The Impacts of Immigrants in Japan

by Yurika Chiba

The number of foreigners is small in Japan compared to other countries. Basically, it is said that Japan is mono-cultural, homogeneous and monolingual society. For example, all of my classmates in high school were Japanese who have black hair and speak Japanese. We did not have opportunities to interact with foreigners in Japan. When we see foreigners, we feel they are “different” because they do not look like Japanese. It is hard for foreigners to live in such a society, I think. For instance, there was an international student in my high school. She was from America and had gold hair. I mean her appearance was completely different as Japanese. We saw her as “gaijin.” We did not know how to communicate with her although we wanted to get along with her. Finally, she could not fit in our class. One of the reasons why Japan has few foreigners is that Japanese society is said to be homogeneous. Therefore, Japanese people tend to refuse foreigners and different cultures. However, it is time to change Japanese society to make comfortable society for foreigners because globalization has been expanding. I mean that Japan needs foreigners in order to lead to economic growth.

The number of immigrants would be increasing if Japan became comfortable place to live for foreigners. Immigrants are important to solve some problems in Japan. In particular, the problem about the declining birth rate and a growing proportion of elderly people. For example, immigrants come to Japan in order to work and marry Japanese people. Their children probably will also work in Japan. This will help increase the population long term and help to solve Japanese population crisis. Immigrants have an important role in Japan.

However, Japan has difficult problems to solve in order to absorb immigrants. There are strict rules of immigrants in Japan. In addition, the rules are different from their countries. It is said that the crime rate will go up if immigrants increase. Japan might not be ready to receive immigrants. Japan should make new laws about immigrants. For instance, new laws to allow immigrants to live in Japan easily. The laws suitable for immigration should be established. Besides the laws, Japanese people need to change values like understanding different cultures. For example, Japanese children should be educated in English since a kindergarten. They can go abroad more often and communicate with foreigners easier if they can speak English well. I think English has a important role to accept immigrants.

Japan has some difficulty of absorbing immigrants. Japanese government and Japanese citizens should be aware of and solve these problems. Of course, things cannot be changed soon. It takes much time to make better society for immigrants. Japan has to do what it can do for immigrants immediately. I hope that my children or grandchildren would be free of prejudice and live in multinational society in the future.

Dream From Cultural Globalization

by Chika Yamamoto

Nowadays you see western culture everywhere in Japan. If you turn on TV, there are very gorgeous actors and actresses in many advertisements. If you watch western movies or dramas, you see their rich style of living like having gorgeous dinner and going abroad for vacation and people wearing very elegant clothes. The same things happen in other non-western countries, too. Having a huge influence of western culture makes our culture and idea change little by little. It somehow differentiates us from western people and our way of living from their way of living. By watching those affluent lives and people, people in non-western countries start to wish to have their lifestyle someday. It becomes very ideal and utopia for those people to have the western way of lifestyle that is seen in movies and magazines. People tend to have such a very attractive image especially for America besides the concept of American dream. These people dream of having such a great lifestyle if they can go to America. That is because the images shown in magazines and movies are so strong that they can easily believe in them. It gives them very narrow view, which they just look at the only positive image of America not any negative sides. Those huge influences of cultural globalization have some issues for people who believe in the dream.

The problem caused by this culture image is linked to immigration issue in some ways. When people in developing countries see very rich culture such as American gorgeous culture often on screen or TV, they notice how different their way of living is. Because western culture is very different from their lifestyle, they somehow compare their current lifestyle to western lifestyle and think it is inferior to western lifestyle. It starts to change the idea into dream that if they can move to America, they might have chance to have such a lifestyle. It is not only because of cultural globalization but also American dream, too. These people assume that there are opportunities to make their life better like what they see in magazines and on TV by making efforts there. That goes with some of the reasons of immigrants in America. Those immigrants work super hard and keep waiting patiently for time when they can have better life relying on the dream they have from cultural image. However, even though there is a concept of American dream, almost all of immigrants can never be promoted and have such a lifestyle they have dreamed of. It is very rare for immigrants to be half top of American society regardless of their efforts. For me the cultural image and a little bit of American dream seem to just provide them motivation to work hard in the very unfair system of society. The result is either quitting their jobs and dreams of having rich lifestyle or keep working harder and harder so that they can have better lives. It is far different from what they dream of when they decide to immigrate. The gap between the dream from cultural image and the reality is biggest factor for this.

The influence of cultural globalization is still strong today. Especially nice image of western culture gives us so many feelings and ideas in non-western countries. But I think it is very important not to look at just bright side image seen on magazines and TVs but to see other side of the culture and country. Also, looking at other culture makes you realize the significance of your culture, too. I am not saying that globalization of culture is not preferable. I believe that looking at the world not only with a frame provided in cultural globalization but also with a frame that is different side of the image frame is very important in globalized world today.

The world trend

by Mayu Shibata

In the last class we watched TV commercials of cosmetics for lighter skin, which are mostly on air in darker skin nations. We simply enjoyed watching it but it meant a lot. It’s not only about western culture coming into a nation. Well, I read a book about Indian economic growth before and it tells that in India many women seek cosmetics to get lighter skin. According to the book, Indian women pay more attention than ever with the influence of TV shows and magazines and its beauty market has been expanding. Among beauty goods, cosmetics for lighter skin are selling best. As for Indian women, they have cultural and historical backgrounds that they want to get lighter skin. In early days they had the caste system and the higher caste people had lighter skin than lower castes. Their castes were decided partly on their color of skin and therefore they had dreamt of lighter skin for long. And what boosted their adoration is an influence of western TV shows and magazines.

Here’s another story in India. With the rapid economic growth more women are taking part in society. There are more career women and women students and motor scooters are popular with those women now. Honda and local company cooperated and produced motor scooters for women ‘Just for Her’, which hit the market. In India women still struggle with local custom which requires women to stay home and do all the house work. Many men even marry a woman to look after their family and home.

These two stories represent a variety of culture coming into India.

I visited Malaysia last summer to study its culture. In stores there are many cosmetics for lighter skin, American instant noodles, foreign daily products and other countries’ TV shows are on air like Chinese, Japanese and American (with Malaysian/English subtitles). I felt that they live in a much more multi-national country and so that they know about those countries and its culture very well.

It’s pretty much the same in Japan, I think. People like American music, fashion, gossips and TV shows. They know about those stuffs through media and moreover they are mostly available here in Japan, too.

I think it’s fine that another culture comes into a country because I think it has externality in an economically good meaning. In my opinion it’s a matter of people whether the other culture invade the country or not so just let it be because that’s what people want. I do concern that the world goes standardized but I’m not sure if we should avoid it even by sacrificing people’s desire, dream and consumption. I mean that’s a lot. In any way I think now we cannot totally avoid other cultures from coming into a nation.

Three Questions of Cultural Globalisation

by Hiroki Matsukura

We have several issues around cultural globalisation, such as the conflict between globalism and localism. On this post, I would like to focus on three topics which cultural globalisation is facing, in my opinion. These three topics, or questions, challenge us on whether we continue to cope with cultural globalisation in the way we are doing at the present.

The first question about cultural globalisation is a suspicion on the equality of each culture in midst of the globalisation. In other words, when we treat cultures in globalisation, each of them has its own power to influence people’s lives in the world. Some are stronger and others weaker. For example, as we experience now, the American and the Western European cultures affect our lives around the world very much. They are so powerful that globalisation seems to mean the global access to the Western cultures. On the other hand, taking a look at the Bolivian culture, for instance, we notice the difference of treating between them. With an extreme strong expression, people perhaps will see globalisation as a Western non-territorial invasion. In international society, culture can be a form of soft power. Thus, cultural globalisation has a competitive nature among cultures as one of its characteristics. That may be associating to exclusiveness of one culture from others.

The second is the possibility to strengthen the situation in which culture leaves its essence. Cultures can be stated as consisting of the home land and/or ethnicity. However, because of the globalisation, cultures are leaving them. Last Christmas, I went to my Italian friend’s place in Rome, and experienced a traditional catholic Christmas. It was totally different from what I had imagined. In the dinner of Christmas and its Eve they did not eat meats, and the cake was not decorated. They visited churches in the night. They celebrated Christmas for almost whole a week since the Eve. They visited their kin and ate together. Actually, it was quite similar to the tradition of the Japanese New Year’s Day fiesta. There is a possibility that others’ cultures we got to know through globalisation are not genuine, or are faked. Moreover, when we read foreign books, see foreign films, and listen to music from overseas, we may face a difference of norms. We might get completely different feelings from the native people’s feeling while touching on the culture. Even though we do not notice the difference, the norms, the basis of culture, should be completely different from what we, outsiders to one culture, imagine about it. We possibly will misunderstand the cultures from others. Thus, the questionable point is whether the globalisation can transport real and genuine culture toward others.

The third is a point that cultural globalisation is not moral globalisation. Similarly to the difference and gap of each cultural norm, the idea of morality on each culture is not same. Even if we would like to transport our moral idea to others, we might not know whether we could or not. Culture as form can be easily transported, but when it comes to think about the mentality on culture, the transportation will be not easy as the norms show us. Which side, left or right, of escalators standing on is still a cute matter. Probably, respect toward lives or the value of violence will be not same on each culture. This is not a small gap.

With these three questionable points, however, we cannot stop globalisation. It already has preceded our recognition. It cannot be helped as a fact though we have to try not to let the situation be. This is because the gap of recognition and the exclusiveness of our cultures might be leading us to much larger misunderstanding and turmoil. In the situation that the values and goals of each culture are different, the cultures are facing power-relationship and a sort of race now. Since our mixture and co-existing with others through cultural globalisation, we will need to strive to revise the influence of our cultures.