Is adding “Japan” to your fiction a turn off?

I’m going to come out and say that for me it is. I’m not talking just about anime fan fiction. I’ve seen some stuff in published material as well that turned me off. Now this is a hard feeling to pin down and even more difficult to avoid being hypocritical about. I confess, I put a lot of “Japan” into what I’ve been writing lately. Part of the “write what you know” school of thought. I live here, so it goes into my writing. Call it my “Japan period” if you’d like. Like Picasso’s blue period. I’m sure it’s just as good.

Of course the last thing I’d like to come off as is some how “superior” or “better” or “outrageously more talented” than the lovely fan-fiction writers or anyone else that uses “Japan” to flavor their work. Hell, I started writing by doing fan fiction pieces about a computer game I was playing at the time. I’m not here to crap on people.

However, and maybe I’m just more easily attuned to it, often times “Japan” is used in a way that adds little more than “Woah, cool!” to the story. I keep putting “Japan” in quotes because I mean it as taking something that should be a normal part of a story or movie or whatever and just throwing in something “Japanese” for the hell of it. Case in point, every time I see someone use a katana instead of a more practical weapon makes me want to slowly twist needles into my eyes. (Watch Audition if you don’t get the reference)

Exception: Kill Bill doesn’t count since I love that movie and it’s pretty tongue lodged firmly in cheek about the whole thing.

It doesn’t even need to be “Japan”. It can be any culture that isn’t your own. I just bring up “Japan” because it seems to me to be the culture that gets the most abuse in this manner. I’ve read a lot of Haruki Murakami because I like his style. He’s certainly not an author for everyone but is probably the only modern Japanese writer anyone who doesn’t bother to harvest enjoyment from Japanese popular culture has heard of. All of the books I’ve read have a certain “Japan” quality to them but understandably it doesn’t jar the senses, at least not for me.

Murakami is from Japan so he writes truths about his home and tells stories that would fit anywhere. That’s the main point. Cutting off some dude’s head with a katana doesn’t make the story any cooler than if it was done with a Scottish broadsword. If the story is lame then the “Japan” spice isn’t going to save it.

I guess my problem is that I’ve run into too many things that try serve up dog poop and think a little dash of wasabi will make me forget it’s a pile of crap.

Am I wrong? Right? A super nerd dork jerk that should just shut up and go die in a hole because how dare you say katanas aren’t cool? Let me know.



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2 responses to “Is adding “Japan” to your fiction a turn off?”

  1. Quinn Robles (@qrobles) says :

    I’m not sure if I get you–do you mean that throwing references to a culture that is not your own doesn’t work to cover up lame writing? If so, then I agree. I don’t think that any attempt to inject “cool factor” into one’s writing makes it any better of a read.

    • yojimbojapan says :

      Hi Quinn,
      Yep you got me exactly. 🙂 I agree that any type of “cool factor” is actually lame and it’s not limited to culture borrowing. I talked mostly about Japan because it’s the type of culture flavor that seems to get used the most for the worst reasons. At least it’s the one I pick up on the most.
      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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