Period: 1 April - 23 May 2005. 2  June - 24 June 2005. 14 February - 14 March 2006. Country: Malaysia
(1) Japanese Cultural Industries in East Asia in the 1990s
OTMAZGIN, Nissim  (Division of Southeast Asian Area Studies)
Key Words: East Asia, Japanese Culture, Industry, Regionalization, Market


My research examines the organizational aspect of cultural diversity and its manifestation in a broader politico-economic context. It focuses on the expansion of Japanese cultural industries into markets in East and Southeast Asia in the last two decades, addressing the circulation of Japanese cultural commodities and their integration in the cultural landscapes of this region, and displays evidence of the externalization of Japanese methods of organizing and standardizing culture.


My field research was conducted using three case studies: Hong Kong, Seoul, and Bangkok. The surveys in each city included: (a) interviews with personnel from local music and television industries as well with scholars in the field, (b) questionnaire surveys among a sample of undergraduate university students (239 students in total), (c) surveys of music and media shops, (d) data collection from local sources, and (e) observation and evaluation of the local contemporary cultural scenes.

The main results of the field research are as follows:

  1. In each city a variety of Japanese cultural products exists and markets for Japanese music and television have been firmly established. Moreover, Japanese products have been influential, frequently providing both cultural content and production models to indigenous industries. At the same time, market share varies from one city to another. Japan’s cultural presence is generally the strongest in Hong Kong, second in Seoul, and third in Bangkok. This indicates that the expansion of Japanese culture to East Asia is not the same everywhere, but rather differs from one market to another.
  2. Ethnicity did not play any visible role in the expansion of Japanese cultural commodities. Being “Chinese,” “Thai” or “Korean” does not make consumers more amenable to Japanese cultural products; and ostensible cultural affiliation does not significantly influence their consumption of Japanese cultural products. The intensity of the influx of Japanese cultural commodities rather depends on local demand, nurtured by economic development and the consequent emergence of consuming middle classes, which created massive markets for imported cultural products.
  3. Diplomatic relations and political intervention, as glaringly seen in the case of Seoul, did not prevent consumers from getting to like Japanese culture. Consumers were able to access Japanese culture informally throughout the period when this culture was banned. The opening of the South Korean market in 1998 has further accelerated the circulation of Japanese cultural products to such a degree that they have now become a daily commodity for many people, especially for the young. In this sense, the circulation of Japanese cultural products depends less on how countries relate to each other diplomatically then on geo-cultural proximity created by market forces.

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