Media Mix, April 2, 2017

Yasunori Kagoike

Here is this week’s Media Mix, which is about the unofficial “Nippon Sugoi!” campaign. “Nippon Sugoi!” is usually translated as “Great Japan!”, though I think “Amazing Japan!” is closer to the vernacular meaning, since “sugoi!” is so commonly used as an exclamation of pleasant surprise. As I wrote the column over the last week, a few other English language writers covered the same or similar topics, especially with regard to sudden media attention to the concept of sontaku, which is explained near the end of the article. Because of Kagoike’s use of the word the Japanese press practically fell over themselves trying to explain its significance, and I thought it was interesting while watching the feed of Kagoike’s FCCJ news conference that several reporters didn’t seem to grasp what he was suggesting about the huge discount he received for the land he bought. So Tetsuo Jimbo’s comments were useful in that regard, but a lot of commentators have made the point that sontaku isn’t unique to Japan, that underlings all over the world constantly try to second guess their superiors in order to curry favor with them. And while that’s true, I think the Japanese version is special in that it’s been systematized, especially by the bureaucracy, as Gohara points out in his blog post. The most obvious form of this systematization, however, is self-restraint on the part of the media themselves. Much has been made in recent years of how the press has muffled itself so as not to incur the wrath of the powers-that-be, who it is assumed will retaliate for any perceived reportorial slight by withholding access. They do this without any actual threat being held over their heads, and thus the act of self-restraint, at first reflexive, becomes part of the business model.

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