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Everything But the Kitchen Sink


Although laments over the rise of commercialism have become familiar to the point of cliche, the ping-ping of demand is fresh. And it's faithful: the crest of Fuji-san to the interiors of pachinko parlors where off-duty salary men dream of soutsmarting pinball machines, the ghost in the apparatus whispers its promises. Even the soundtrack of this Postmod world jives with it. Rap groups like Sha Dara Parr bust rhymes about Pacman while karaoke machines pump out calliope-like revamps of Carpenters, and all these riffs play carefully over the rigid surface of politics. After all, cultural hegemony becomes obsolete when authenticity becomes irrelevant; the depth of tradition collapses and flattens into endlessly reproducible sounds and images. The burgeoning Japanese movement works this surface. All-consuming, it endlessly re-dresses and exhibits itself, and its sounds are those of a happy child in a frenzy of pleasure. But this isn't a naive sound. Carefully composed and styled, Japanese pop constructs deep grooves and complex layers from the bag of global music.

While such hyper-engagement with commercialism may seem superficial or pathologically disengaged, perhaps this careful respect for surfaces actually reflects a reluctance to participate in an imposed that is alien to a once-proud imperialistic nation. Democratic discourse the pill that Americans are taught to swallow as a panacea for all social ills but it is not Japanese. In Japan, tradition, habit, and belief must live holy paradox alongside consumerism and pop culture. Although the faith once required at the altar of a divine emperor might now be approximated in a random vending selection, Japan's centuries-long co-existence with extremes has set the stage.

Although laments over the rise of commercialism have become familiar to the point of cliche, the ping-ping of demand is fresh. And it's faithful: the crest of Fuji-san to the interiors of pachinko parlors where off-duty salary men dream of soutsmarting pinball machines, the ghost in the apparatus whispers its promises. Even the soundtrack of this Postmod world jives with it. Rap groups like Sha Dara Parr bust rhymes about Pacman while karaoke machines pump out calliope-like revamps of Carpenters, and all these riffs play carefully over the rigid surface of politics. After all, cultural hegemony becomes obsolete when authenticity becomes irrelevant; the depth of tradition collapses and flattens into endlessly reproducible sounds and images. The burgeoning Japanese movement works this surface. All-consuming, it endlessly re-dresses and exhibits itself, and its sounds are those of a happy child in a frenzy of pleasure. But this isn't a naive sound. Carefully composed and styled, Japanese pop constructs deep grooves and complex layers from the bag of global music.

While such hyper-engagement with commercialism may seem superficial or pathologically disengaged, perhaps this careful respect for surfaces actually reflects a reluctance to participate in an imposed that is alien to a once-proud imperialistic nation. Democratic discourse the pill that Americans are taught to swallow as a panacea for all social ills but it is not Japanese. In Japan, tradition, habit, and belief must live holy paradox alongside consumerism and pop culture. Although the faith once required at the altar of a divine emperor might now be approximated in a random vending selection, Japan's centuries-long co-existence with extremes has set the stage.

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Check out previous articles:

03.19.00
Divine Winds of Change
Japan has always been a culture that embraces extremes. But the Western ideas, images, and ways of life have created new, unfamiliar desire to adhere to tradition now confronts the desire to evolve.
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02.14.00

Future Art
This essay takes a look at the tension between these two desires. in mysticism of Mt. Fuji, the history of Japanese war, the writing of Yukio Mishimi, Mariko Mori, and modern electronic music. It discovers embodiments.
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