Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Cafe" music and パリ syndrome

In Japan, "café" is its own music genre, and it is 99% either chilled-out bossa nova or some sort of quaint take on a French chanson. Essentially, all that is domestic and adorable is equated to France here. There are not enough fingers and toes on all the polydactyl cats in Asia to count the number of twee trinkets, clothing shops, kitchen accessory shops, notebooks, stickers, etc etc etc ad nauseum that boast meaningless French. I don't know what you would call it...with English it's Engrish. Furansuçais?

Either way, it doesn't take a genius to work out that Japan has a boner for France - ah, excusez-moi, "boner" is rather inaccurate - perhaps a giddy wetting of the vaginal walls in preparation for getting boned on tour packages to the French capital. I have done a little traveling in France - been groped and offered cocaine in alleys by its nationals, sipped wine in spectacular vineyards on a beautiful summer day, smoked Gauloises and downed strong coffee, taken that tedious day trip to Monaco - all those things you do in France should you find yourself there. There is romance everywhere and it is a magical place - the Japanese got that right. But it hits a lot of Feudal Nipponese tourists a bit hard when they actually put themselves on a plane to CDG.

パリ/Pari/Paris is every Japanese woman's fantastic candyland of love, and you can't go anywhere in the city without running into gaggles of J-ladies carrying hazardously wide open shopping bags draped over one arm. With so many beautiful buildings, quaint cafés, and incredible shopping and style, the appeal is a no-brainer. About a million Japanese visit Paris in a given year. Unfortunately, as with any enormous city built on tourism and political unrest, there are obstacles that get in the way of Japan's vision of perfect bossa-nova France - sexual harassment, a sizable crime rate, racial and ethnic tension between immigrant groups, bums upchucking on Le Métro, graffiti (heavens, no), etc.

I know this was all over the news five years ago, but as I see it, no modifications in the Japanese attitude toward "café" lifestyle and tacking French onto everything have been made. So I'll leave you with a link to an article describing "Paris syndrome," which basically amounts to "Japanese people going insane from culture shock because their dream visions of Paris have been shattered." It doesn't take a whole lot to make people go crazy here judging by the country's suicide rate, and Paris syndrome doesn't surprise me at all.

(...This all came up because I'm thinking I'd like to go to France again soon. Japan has infected me. I just downloaded half a GB of Putumayo world music albums.)


  1. We used to call it "franglaisugo."

    Also, seriously, your blog plays music at me that starts automatically? Is this 1996? I lost the bookmark to your blog a while ago, and came back because you're awesome, but... I am not a fan of music just starting randomly.

    Hope everything is awesome.

    -Lisa (yes, the Lisa who you went to high school with)

  2. put it on mute if you don't like it. now you know to expect a sudden onset of noise


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