Thursday, December 9, 2010

Disneyfication in Japan

Disneyfication is a term assigned designed to describe and denigrate a society that has an increasing similarity to the Disney theme parks. The phrase holds the same meaning and definition as Disneyization, which was coined by author A. Bryman in his book The Disneyization of society (1999). (Disneyfication),

It is used to describe the dedicate use of themes, merchandising, huge consumption and emotion based labour on a society.

One of a very obvious disneyfication on the Japanese culture and country, would be through Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli is one of the more famous animation company in japan. It was established in June 1985 by Takahata Isao and Hayao Miyazaki. The success of the film, Nausica of the valley of the wind lead to the founding of the studio. And since then, they have continuously created new and outstanding films, catching hearts of not only the Japanese, but from audiences and fans from all over the world.

Some of their more famous works include, ‘Spirited away’, ‘Howl’s moving castle’ and ‘Ponyo on the cliff by the sea’.

Disneyfication is very prominent in studio ghibli. They have incorporated the usual Japanese culture into movies and added some westernised touch into it.

Theme cafe and museum was also opened during 2001. The museum has different themes in different sections depicting specific scenes or character from each of the studio ghibli films such as ‘My neighbour Totoro’.

Cultures have been changed and altered in order to suit and attract the attentions of the younger generations. The addition of influences into the films further modifies the traditions and culture. However, it is through this modification of culture, that the society is moving on.

Disneyfication also meant the introduction of Stand Operating Procedures into a working environment. In this case, the cafe opened in the museum. The servers in the cafe would be trained to work a certain way.

Changes brought by growth of tourism

With the growth of tourism in Japan, there would be an increase in the introduction of influence from other countries. Practices and the way people look at things would have affected. The influx of western culture into japan has already developed and change the way the Japanese works. In order to catch up with the changes happening outside of the country, they will be conform into changing. For example, the way a company works, or how the interior of the shop should be design, etc.

Disneyfication also affects the way and thinking of the owners. With theming being the more ‘IN’ thing in the market now, they would think about opening theme restaurants or cafe in order to attract the right crowd and make their business successful.

Therefore, in my own views and opinion, i feel that tourism is the main culprit in commodifying cultures and traditions in japan.

In the case of studio ghibli, alteration of tradition Japanese culture had to be done to be included into the films so that more people would be attracted into watching it. However, not all is bad in this case. Should the tradition be able to catch the attention of the younger generations, it would encourage them to search for more information and thus being exposed to the cultures or tradition that they would not have be interested in on a normal basis.

Most of the studio ghibli films also have hidden meanings or teaching in order to make sure viewers gets the best out of watching the films. They are able to put the teaching through in the films and get the message across to all the different age groups.


Disneyfication. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9 , 2010, from

Festivals (Matsuri). (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2010, from Japan Guide:

Gardens. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2010, from Japan Guide:

Ghibli Museum Mitaka. (n.d.). Retrieved december 10, 2010, from

Japan Atlas Festivals. (n.d.). Retrieved december 7, 2010, from

Japan Modern Culture - Quick Facts-. (n.d.). Retrieved december 7, 2010, from Japan 101:

Japanese Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2010, from Japan Zone:

Japanese Education System. (n.d.). Retrieved december 8, 2010, from Japan Guide:

Kabuki. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2010, from Japan Zone:

Kimono. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2010, from Japan Zone:

Kuhn, A. (2008, August 12). NPR. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from Japan Recognizes Indigenous Group:

Leisure Time activities. (n.d.). Retrieved december 8, 2010, from

Leisure time in japan. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2010, from

New to Japan - Language - Japanese. (n.d.). Retrieved december 7, 2010, from Japan Zone:

Origami. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2010, from Japan Zone:

Studio Ghibli. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2010, from

Survey on Time use and Leisure Activities. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2010, from Ministry of Interal Affairs and communication Statistic Bureau:

The Ainu people of Japan. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2010, from Japan 101:

Thomason, A. (1999, july 2). The Ainu of Japan: The history, Culture and Discrimination against this aboriginal group. Retrieved december 9, 2010, from Suite 101:

Traditions. (n.d.). Retrieved december 7, 2010, from Japan Guide:

What is Noh & Kyogen. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2010, from Noh & Kyogen:

Well known for

Different people have different views on what and how japan appeals to them. Personally, japan is a country full of beauty landscape and scenery, however that is not all. Japan also has high technology and produces the most beautiful types of art.

I have a created a top 10 list of what japan is well known for

1. Anime and manga

2. Technology

3. Cherry blossom

4. Samurai and ninjas

5. Kimono

6. Festivals

7. Scenery

8. Sweets

9. Shrines

10. Origami

Above are the 10 items, that I would think of immediately when Japan is mentioned. Especially for 1. Anime and manga. To me, these 2 aspect are what attract me the most. I am personally a big fan of anime. From anime and manga, I got exposed to a lot more culture and traditions of japan. It is also linked to their music Jpop artists. The interest from anime and manga also got me interested in the language and urged me to learn their language so that I can better understand.

One most common item that japan is known for to the world, would be their cherry blossom. It is considered their national flower although it is unofficial. It holds a very prominent position in the Japanese culture. There are various number of cherry blossom types found all over japan. During the blooming season, the Japanese celebrate Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, where they organize picnic and sit under the blooming cherry blossom trees.

Types of leisure programme

Types of leisure programme

According to Central Research Service Inc, published a report on leisure activities in japan.

Eating out


Travel within Japan


Driving (or being driven)




Watching videos


Doing the lottery


Personal computing (games, etc)




Listening to music


Visiting gardens, museums, zoos




Bars, pubs, and other drinking establishments




Amusement parks


Physical exercise


Picnic, hiking, hill walking


Board or card games


Console games


Jogging, marathon


Concerts, live music


According to Japanese government statistics, the most popular leisure activities in Japan are dining out and domestic travel. The Ministry of internal affairs and communications also conducted a survey on time use and leisure activities in japan. They spilt activities in 6 major categories, being,

1. Internet use

2. Studies and Researches

3. Sports

4. Hobbies and Amusement

5. Volunteer Activities

6. Travel and Excursion.

Different prefecture also has it’s own preference of leisure activities.

Mode of education

Japan has a compulsory free 9 years of education which is followed by public or private upper secondary school. In addition, students also attend preschool or after school education. Elementary school grade 1 to 6, lower secondary grade 7 to 9, and upper secondary grade 10 to 12.

According to statistics, about 94% of lower secondary students continues on to attend high school. Over 90% graduates from high school and over 40% from university or junior college. Percentage of males to females student are higher in universities while females to males students attending junior college are higher.

School terms starts in april in japan. One main characteristics of Japanese school are the entrance exams. Many students attend prep school in order to get into the school of their choice.

The most prestige university in japan now is University of Tokyo, followed by University of Kyoto.


Japan has her own language which is used throughout the whole entire country. Japanese is considered a challenging language to learn due to their 3 different writing system. Kanji, Katakana and hiragana. Each has their own different representation. Kanji is used to represent words with core meanings, Katakana is used mainly for foreign words and names, Hiragana is used as a linkage tool for kanji to make it work as a communication tool.

There are 46 basic hiragana and katakana. However, the usage for kanji are the ones that will take people a long time when studying Japanese language. In addition, the sentence constructions for the Japanese language are different. The verbs are at the end of the sentence instead of the front like English.

Indigenous group

Indigenous people of Japan

The ainu people of japan Hokkaido. They are the aborigines people of northern japan. they are close to extinction now with the ever increasing decrease in number due to reason such as oppression, racism and forced assimilation policies. Modern socialization have also lead them into deny their identity.

'Ainu" means human. (Thomason, 1999) they survive by fishing, selling handicraft to tourists, hunting, etc. they are heavily bearded and have thick wavy hair. With a mix of european and asian physical traits, they clearly contrast themselves from the others indigenous group of asia so much so that their origins is uncertain. some believe they hold caucasians blood. There are only about 150,000 ainu today.

The traditional dress of the ainu are spun from the bark of the elm tree. It has long sleeves and is folded around the body and tied up by a girdle made from the same material. During winter times, they wear animal skins to keep themselves warm.

The Ainu people have only been recognised by the japanese government in 2008, just a 2 years ago. the government had tried to assimilate it by force. According to Anthony Kuhn's article on the indigenous people, they are now seen as a model of man living in harmony with nature. (Kuhn, 2008)


Tea Ceremony- About the ritual way of preparing and drinking tea.

Geisha- About entertainers performing traditional Japanese arts.

Gardens- About Japanese gardens.

Cherry Blossoms - About cherry blossoms or sakura.

Japanese Plum - About the Japanese plum or ume.

Autumn Leaves - About autumn foliage (koyo).

Traditional music - About traditional music and instruments.

Sumo - About Sumo wrestling.SwordsAbout Japanese swords.

Public Bath - About public baths (sento).

Festivals - About Japanese festivals (matsuri).

Annual Events - About national holidays and other annual events.

Calendar - About Japanese calendars.

Hanetsuki - About Japanese badminton.


Festivals are the most common event found all around japan. They have a large number of festivals occurring all around the year celebrating different events such as historical events, seasonality, etc. Matsuri, or how it is referred to in Japanese, is unique only to japan. The festivals usually includes many decorated floats which are carried or pulled through the event route during the festival. Every festival has it’s own unique characteristic, which is why it makes all the different matsuris in japan different and special.

Japanese Gardens

Garden Design are a very important aspect in the Japanese life. Most Tv shows filmed in an authentic Japanese houses always showcase a huge garden that are well designed. There are 3 types of landscaping design for the garden art, mainly Tsukiyama Garden (hill gardens), Karesansui Garden (dry gardens) and Chaniwa Garden (tea garden).

Tsukiyama gardens are mainly replication of a natural scenery of a famous landscape area in japan or china.

Karesansui gardens are a replication of a natural landscape using more abstract approach such as using gravels, stone, sand and sometimes patches of moss to symbolise mountain, islands, sea, etc.

Chaniwa garden are built specially for tea ceremonies. They usually contain a house where the ceremony will take place with stepping stones that lead into the house, stone lanterns and a stone basin.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Japan has a long history which dates back into the 250 A.D, starting with the Yamato period. There has been a lot of development in terms of culture and the lifestyle of the Japanese people.

The Japanese performing arts have made some unique contributions to world culture
• Kabuki Theater
• Noh Theater
• Bunraku - Puppet Theater
• Geisha
• Musical Instruments

The quieter and more contemplative arts have developed followings world-wide
• Sado - Tea Ceremony
• Kodo - The Way of Incense
• Ikebana - Flower Arranging
• Ukiyoe - Woodblock Prints
• Bonsai - Miniature Trees
• Origami - Paper Folding
• Classical Literature
• Modern Literature

Japanese royalty has a history dating back many centuries
• Imperial Family

Many cultural events fill out the annual calendar, with something in every season
• Annual Festivals
• Annual Holidays
• Four Seasons
• Hanami - Cherry Blossom Viewing

Japanese costume is unique, differing greatly even from those of other Asian cultures
• Kimono
• Footwear

Japanese food, sushi in particular, is popular arould the world and renowned for its health benefits
• The Basics of Japanese Cuisine
• Popular Dishes
• Alcohol - Sake, Beer and more
Source from

Kabuki Theatre

Kabuki was created in the 17th century by a shrine attendant, okuni. It is largely popular entertainment for the masses. It used to be an all female performance due to their sensual nature. Tokugawa shogunate banned this all female performance as male audience often got out of control. The stage layout is different from the traditional Noh, with addition draw curtains and a catwalk runway through the audience for more dramatic entrances and exits.
The Kabuki was designated as one of the masterpiece of the Oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO during November 2005.
Source from

Noh Theatre
The Noh theatre was developed in the 14th century during the Muromachi period together with the art of kyogen. They are known as the art of Nogaku. It is the oldest existing form of theatre. Noh is a kind of symbolic drama paired together with the graceful aesthetic effect of quiet elegance. The characters are usually taken from history or classical literature. Kyogen is a kind of spoken drama that is based upon laughter and comedy.
UNESCO added Nogaku to its intangible cultural heritage list as a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

Source from


Origami started in the Heian period where the Japan’s nobility had its golden ages. It was the time of great artistic and cultural development. However, paper was rare during those times and this past time is only available for the nobles. The papers were used for ceremonial purposes. Only during the Edo period that origami developed as a form of entertainment for the commoners.

Source from


Kimono is one of the world’s most recognized traditional garment. The type of traditional wear of the Japanese has changed and developed over the years into the one that is worn now. The Kimono is worn mostly at ceremonial events now, such as weddings, funerals, and also to festivals like New year and shichi-go-san for children. It is usually wore with geta.
Source from