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Transnational and Vernacular in Japan

By Jason Hart


While in Japan I traveled through Kobe and Hiroshima. I don’t believe that either of these can be truly considered to be global cities due to Tokyo’s dominance as the international business center of Japan, however, a transnational presence can be noticed in both of these cities and in this brief reflection I will present and analyze my observations of this apparent transnational character. Present, along with transnational character, in these cities was an obvious vernacular, which maintains the local character and heritage of the people in their locations. This too will be assessed herein:


Kobe: Of all the cities I visited, Kobe is the largest, and evidently the most transnational. Traveling in Kobe is not particularly hard for westerners due to the presence of the English language, along with Japanese, on nearly all roadmaps and signs. Evidently, more Westerners visit and work in Kobe compared to other cities, so such annotations are present to facilitate the needs of these foreigners. Kobe is also what appears to be a fashion capital, filled with young and hip people. They dress in Western style clothes, however, the fashions are not identical to those of ours in the USA. Instead, they seem exaggerated and intensified versions of pop culture. For example, the hairdos of the young hip youth are very unique. The males cut and dye their hair in layers, and often times have different lengths in the front back and sides of their heads. Their big belt buckles, cowboy style boots and ripped jeans are reminiscent of 80s metal style. I often thought that they were dressing up like Axl Rose, and soon noticed several people wearing Guns n Roses or Motley Cru T-Shirts. Apparently, the style based on glam rock is not unintentional but a conscious replication of a style that, although, present, is less mainstream in America.


Hiroshima: The main “tourist” attraction in Hiroshima is the peace memorial, dedicated to the memory of the atomic bomb dropped there, which ended World War II. I noticed many Japanese students walking around on what appeared to be field trips to the memorials, as well as many westerners. For this reason there is much English text on signs and maps. Unlike other Japanese cities I noticed no smoking signs virtually everywhere. I have two theories as to why Hiroshima is a smoke free city. One is that since the bombing, many citizens have developed cancer. This epidemic has possibly inspired awareness to the dangers of smoking, as they contribute to cancer. The second possibility is that of the presence of Americans who have no problem smoking anywhere outside has irritated the locals.

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