During my recent lecture about “Teaching language, teaching culture” at the Fujairah Women’s College, I spoke about English language teaching materials in Japan and the ways in which they constructed English-speaking culture as White culture, drawing on “A passion for English: desire and the language market.” After the lecture, a group of students, dressed in the traditional black abaya and sheila, came up to me and asked me about my personal experience of visiting Japan and shared their enthusiasm for Japanese culture. They were huge fans of Japanese pop culture, much more knowledgeable than I in that area, and were dreaming of going to Japan to visit or to further their education.

I’ve blogged about the popularity of Asian pop culture in the United Arab Emirates before and so this enthusiasm for all things Japanese didn’t come as a surprise. The size of the manga sections in bookstores in Dubai, too, is testimony to the fact that young people here look increasingly East for inspiration. This TV show by Dubai One channel provides a great overview of Japanophilia in the UAE. Take 25 minutes to virtually visit Dubai and its Japan lovers! You’ll be taken to a sushi bar with an Arab manager and wait staff from the Philippines dressed in Japanese cheerleading uniforms; you’ll meet young Emirati manga artists and the members of the Japan Club at Zayed University. Listen to their international English voices, with Arabic subtitles, as they discuss what Japanese culture means to them and why they consider Japanese cultural forms perfect for expressing modern Arab identities. Language and culture on the move at its best!

Author Ingrid Piller

Dr Ingrid Piller is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Ingrid’s research expertise is in the fields of intercultural communication, bilingual education and the sociolinguistics of language learning and multilingualism in the contexts of migration and globalization.

More posts by Ingrid Piller
  • Thanks for an upbeat post from UAE:-) It’s pretty much the same here in Bangkok. Japanese manga and sushi restaurants are practically everywhere here, while media here also picks up a lot of Japanese pop culture related news. For example, a Thai manga artist who was inspired by a Japanese manga, ‘One Piece’, and who recently won the silver prize in Japan’s International Manga Awards was reported on the first page in a major newspaper here (http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2011/01/14/life/Master-of-the-manga-30146371.html). Coming from Australia, seeing ads for Japanese movies (such as Space Battleship Yamato) at major mainstream cinemas is as much joy as a shock to my system! The popularity of Japanese pop culture of course has had a lot of impact on Bangkok’s linguistic landscape and I hope to blog about it sometimes soon:-)

  • Mira-chan

    Arigatto gozaimashtaaa for the very interesting lecture you gave at college!
    In regard to the japanese pop culture, Watashi wa Mira dis, anata wa? ..Yoroshikooo, haha. Well yes, i really did not notice that im kind of influenced by the japanese culture too, I thought im only an english buff. I have always asked friends to call me Mira-chan\Mira-Sama because i find it exotic when japanese do it. And I extremly adore the J-rock n J-pop, i love the language the style and everything. I have also got alota friends who are insanely obssessed with japan, i remember in my high school they would bring their chopsticks to have their luch with.
    And yes its good to know that there are some similarities between both our and the japanese culure. Did not know that kimono works like Abaya beofor. It ismuch nicer though, id rather wear a kimono haha.
    Thanks for the update! And now let me continue watching the vid :D.