Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slate's humorously outdated travel writing

Over at Slate.com, writer Jane Thomas frets, "am I too frivolous for Japan"? How anyone can be too "frivolous" for the land of used underwear vending machines, Hello Kitty, and the miraculous shithat (pictured above) is beyond me.

With an image of Japan nearly 70 years out of date, Thomas paints an enticing portrait of a land chock full of quiet, reserved aesthetes shuffling around from one exquisitely understated artistic masterpiece after another. And to be fair, while Japan does have its fair share of artisans and art treasures, it bears absolutely no relation to how 99.99% of the Japanese live their lives, nor are the Japanese (who pollute and litter on a level equal to or exceeding their counterparts in the industrialized world) any more or less in tune with art, nature than any other place on earth - an enduring cliche which western travel writers have yet to discard.

And what of Japan's deservedly more visible lowbrow and middlebrow cultural presence? For all of Japan's famous temples, woodcut paintings and statues, even a first time visitor to Japan quickly notes that the actual tastes of the people who live there run far, far closer to pornographic comic magazines, idoru singers, quasi-infantile cartoons for adults, TV samurai melodramas, and the world's shittiest game shows.

So, Jane, it's time to turn the question on its head: is Japan too frivolous for you to be visiting?

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Nothing says high-class party like used undies from a vending machine and a shithat.

Still looks better than some hats I've seen people wearing.