Japanese Perceptions of America

Japanese Media Coverage of January 6th U.S. Capitol Attack

Police confront supporters of President Donald Trump, including Jake Angeli in a horn and fur costume, as they demonstrate on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. [January 6, 2021 | REUTERS/Mike Theiler]

While I follow news about the United States from U.S. news sources, I also spend time exploring how Japanese media reports on news from and about the United States. The discipline allows me to better understand how the Japanese government and people interpret what is happening in the U.S. means for Japan and its governmental policies and individual perceptions.

The events of January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol serve as an excellent example that I followed closely at the time and since. The English language newspaper Japan Times publishes a weekly column, Big in Japan, that focuses on issues being discussed by the Japanese domestic media organizations. By coincidence, the paper’s February 1 issue featured a piece written by Mark Schreiber titled “Japanese News Outlets Report from the Besieged Citadel of American Democracy.” [A pdf appears below.]

I was fascinated with Schreiber’s examples and analysis. The introductory paragraphs will help to illustrate his theme as well as my personal point of view:

One of the oft-cited entries in Mao Zedong’s famous red book of quotations begins, “A revolution is not a dinner party.”

Nor, would it appear, is a revolution a Mad Hatter’s costume ball. But one might not know it from the initial reactions in the Japanese media, which focused on the flamboyant garb of a certain individual who was part of the unruly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Schrieber then proceeds to provide examples and excerpts from prominent Japanese news sources to illustrate his point.

I agree with his analysis. It was also consistent with what I saw on Japanese TV news-variety programs. However, I was surprised the author did not relate the costume focus of the news coverage to a unique element of Japanese culture –– Cosplay.

“Cosplay” is an abbreviation for costume play, the practice of dressing up as a character. from a film, video game or a book that is so popular here that practitioners are evident in everyday life and Japan is often referred to as the world capital of “cosplaying”.

A gathering of Japanese cosplay fans.

The popularity of cosplay reflects the Japanese love of anime and manga. Some Japanese like to dress up as their favorite characters! Though there are designated cosplay events, one can find cosplayers roaming Tokyo’s busy downtown shopping districts in their costumes on a weekend. Think of Halloween in the United States happening on every weekend. The costumes range from inexpensive readymade ones, available for example in 100 yen stores, to elaborate and expensive from specialty fashion shops. There are choices to suit everyone regardless of age, income or status.

Japan, the cosplay capitol of the world.

For myself, it was logical and expected that the Japanese news media seized upon the “cosplay” nature of some January 6th participants. It made sense from both a business and news analysis perspective.

Click to read the Japan Times article –– http://www.paulmyer.com/wp-content/uploads/JapanTimes-020121.pdf

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Hi, I’m Paul Myer. Thank you for visiting my website. I hope you enjoy my writing and photography. If you want to stay connected, please subscribe to receive posts via email.

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