Nadia Hemady comments

Posted in: Why does Japan love fictional characters so much? See in context

Merry White's book "The Material Child: Coming of Age in Japan and America" explains this pretty well. What a lot of Westerners don't realize is that Japanese companies have never primarily targeted a male demographic. They have a whole feedback loop going back decades to the time that all this cute character merchandise started appearing that polls the opinions of teenage girls. This is because teenage girls, especially in the 60s/70s were the ones who were given disposable income and the most time for leisure activities. Married women were supposed to be taking care of their families, men were supposed to be working and sons were supposed to spend all their time studying. Of course, things have changed to some extent since then, but since the economic boom in Japan, unmarried women were the primary demographic looked at by advertisers for most goods and services (like travel for instance).

Honestly, it's not any less ridiculous than marketing trends anywhere else, but if you didn't grow up taking it as a given that everything would be advertised as adorably as possible, then it seems really bizarre. We tend not to see the "man behind the curtain" when it comes to our own culture. So in Japan, it seems normal, because that's the way it seems to have always been. (It wasn't always like that. This is a postwar phenomenon that ties in with the rapid economic development.) Also, people tend to focus obsessively on ideas about Japan's uniqueness or strangeness because it's the only really different culture that a lot of people in Western Europe and North America have any awareness of. If people knew more about a lot of different places, then Japan would just appear as one among many unique cultures, rather than the only outlier. But part of the reason Japan is so well known, not just in the West, but also in Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries, is because of how successful Japanese brands have been at marketing globally thanks to their cute characters! So I don't think we can say this is really unique to Japan in terms of its appeal. It's just that the conditions in the post-war period created a situation where girls were deferred to in terms of taste and opinion when it came to marketing over men. (It's probably worth noting that typically, women are the ones who control the family finances in Japan, even if the man is the primary income earner.)

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