Globalizing Japan: Ethnography of the Japanese Presence in Asia, Europe, and America

By Harumi Befu; Sylvie Guichard-Anguis | Go to book overview

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The global context of Japan outside Japan

Harumi Befu

Since the late 1980s "globalization" has been a buzzword in the Japanese media. 1 Japan is said to be "globalizing" in all respects, but, above all, in its economic sphere. The greatest proponent of this idea is no doubt Kenichi Ohmae (1987, 1995), who has written numerous books on the subject. While Japan's globalization in the economic sense has been widely discussed, Japan's social and cultural globalization has not been a topic of much discussion so far. This volume addresses these much neglected aspects of globalization of Japan.

"Globalization" has displaced "internationalization," which was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. This displacement signals an important shift in the perception of the positioning of Japan's worldwide economic expansion and related overseas developments. Internationalization implies a relationship between two or more nations: a minimum of two nations can engage in "international" relations. Indeed, when the term internationalization became popular in the 1970s and the 1980s, the reference was usually to Japan relating to one or another country. For example, when Osaka established a sister-city relation with San Francisco or when Nepal and Japan engaged in a cultural exchange program, it was a case of internationalization.

"Globalization," on the other hand, implies simultaneous extension and expansion in all directions. At least in intent, the term implies that Japan is extending its interests all over the world in a network (Katzenstein and Shiraishi 1997). If Japan was simply having an association with one or two countries, it would not warrant the term. "Globalization" as a concept, indeed, designates the empirical reality of Japan's common presence throughout most parts of the world. The appellation is an ex post facto affirmation of a reality that has existed since at least the 1970s.

What is the theoretical relevance of the endeavor undertaken in this volume? Why do we need to examine Japan's globalization? Let me offer two major reasons. One is the ethnocentrism of the received globalization theories of such well-known scholars as Arjun Appadurai (1996), Peter Beyer (1994), Roland Robertson (1992), Immanuel Wallerstein (1974), and Malcom Waters (1995). Analyzing the theories offered by these scholars, one is left with a strong impression that there is only one center of globalization and that this

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