Talking about Japan

Talking with Ian and Marxy over at Néojaponisme about the heritage of Onitsuka Tiger, around work they’re doing with us this year. What is the point for a brand like ours to promote a certain idea of Japan? What message are we trying to bring across?

Ultimately, I’d like people to think of deep cultural traits that are bigger than any brand, and that defy a little bit the traditional image of Japan. Everyone curates their own private Japan in their heads, lumping together some subset of geishas and tamagochi and Shinkansen and kamikaze and earthquakes and sushi and the 80s and Hokusai and whale fishing and death by overwork and Hiroshima and in general a sentiment of completion and perfection, but excluding or ignoring the porous quality of Japanese culture and its ability to assimilate ideas and recontextualize them (golf, technology, ivy league fashion, the 50s), its store of less prominent pillars of existence (craftsmanship, seasonal traditions, shogi, deference to a diffuse authority and the power of peer pressure, the 70s) and the thirst for external influences that will be chewed up and integrated. I’d like to nudge the western world’s understanding of Japan, make it a tad more complex and more interesting.

And I feel Onitsuka Tiger was then a spectator as well as a participant, as a brand and as a company. Let’s pursue the same motivation.

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