Are Asian teens losing their ancestral culture in today’s modern society? Due to a drastic increase of popularity in Western films (mostly those from Hollywood); many older Asian citizens would state that common day teens are losing touch with the aged old culture and authentic homegrown entertainment. Does this increase in popularly cause a threat to Asian traditions and cultural aspects that many around the world look in appreciation towards? Is this cultural decline due to Western entertainment exclusively?
In my opinion this downturn of abstracting Japanese culture began hundreds of years ago during the Tokugawa Period which is also known now as the Edo Period. During the Edo Period (1603 to 1868), many changes were brought to the attention of all Japanese citizens. The ruling shogunate by the name of Ieyasu Tokugawa was a modern man that had many dreams of slowly culturing the Japanese citizens with trade by means of the city called Edo, now better known as Tokyo. Many Asian history books and historians suggest that the Tokugawa Period was thought to have brought “economic growth, social evolution, and cultural innovation” which is clearly stated in East Asia: Tradition and Transformation by Fairbank, Reischauer, and Craig.
During this short “Cultural Revolution”, many citizens were digesting copious amounts of modern concepts and towns were being taken over by foreign commercial developments. Up until this period, the shogun was the major ruling class. During the new Tokugawa System, the government was in turn taken over by the increasing popularity of cultural advances within the merchant class. Samurai were given less duties along with less pay, mainly due to less power and a localized government. As the merchant class started to grow in wealth and culture, the Samurai started to become indebted to the merchant class. Many in fact became part of the poverty class and had no modern skills or trades to get by and pay off loans. It was a time of great political and government insecurity across the entire nation.
A few of the major cultural advances that the merchant class was thriving on during this time was Sumo Wrestling and Kabuki. Previously these entertainment venues were only available to the higher classes but were now being opened to the lower classes. Merchants were taking advice from other countries on how to better market their entertainment and goods to the everyday person. These merchants were taking advantage of modern commercial marketing skills such as displaying posters and handing out hikifuda (similar to modern day flyers). In addition, the Museum of Advertising and Marketing in Japan states that many merchants were paying Kabuki actors to include key information about their stores in popular Kabuki plays.
Ieyasu Tokugawa feared that modern culture was beginning to take control over his country people. His main fears were modern education and Christianity. He closed the country off from trade and no Japanese person was allowed to leave the country for education or travel. The only place that was allowed to do any trading was on an island off from Kyushu called Dejima. Since Dejima was not connected to Japanese land, this area was considered not part of Japan and Ieyasu Tokugawa allowed trade with the Dutch. This area still exists and anyone visiting will notice the large amounts of Dutch settlement and influences still today.
It took years for Japan to get out of seclusion and become a member of the trading industry once again. It was during the Edo period though which began the love of foreign ideas in Japanese citizens. Hence, I believe that Japanese teens are not losing their historical traditions and cultures exclusively by Western influences. Rather the seclusion of the country after a tidbit of sampling of modern culture was born during the Edo Period.
Although not all Asian countries were secluded such as Japan for as long of a period, many of them have found a link or rather healthy mixture between traditional entertainment and culture along with remembering their ancestors’ roots. This is thoroughly investigated and argued in
Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia edited by James L. Watson. It argues that “McDonald’s has largely become divorced from its American roots and become a “local” institution for an entire generation of affluent consumers…” This is an important marketing practice that McDonald’s has been smart to encourage of each country that it franchises into. For instance, in Japan there are teriyaki burgers and special fish sandwiches that are not seen anywhere in America. In South Korea this is also the common practice among the local McDonald’s.
So, although there are changes in modern society among Asian countries, it is not due 100% to Western influences that are seen in films and vintage video-games from Hollywood. It is a fact that Japanese teens do have a large knowledge base of Western practices but they also hold to their culture and traditions just as much. If you ask a child in Japan what his/her favorite food is he/she will almost 90% of the time state it is a combination of hamburger or pizza along with a traditional Japanese food.
Top Ten Asian Modern Comedies to Rent this Week:
(Note: After watching these Top Ten Comedies what do you think? Is Asian culture being lost due to modern American Movies being shown in Asia?)
1. At Home Dad: J-Drama (Japanese Drama)
2. Abarenbo Mama: J-Drama
3. Ushi Ni Negai Wo: Love & Farm: J-Drama
4. Yama Onna, Kabe Onna: J-Drama
5. Osen: J-Drama
6. Two Faces of My Girlfriend: K-Drama
7. How to Keep My Love: K-Drama
8. Attic Cat: K-Drama
9. Rolling Love: T-Drama (Taiwanese Drama)
10. Tokyo Juliet: C-Drama (Chinese Drama)