For the last so many years I have been feeling sorry for Tourism Australia. Since their Paul Hogan (our one and only Crocodile Dundee) mega hit tourism campaign in the 1980s, they have been not so successful in getting the Japanese market right – perhaps you may recall the “So Where the Bloody Hell are You?” Campaign. The Japanese just didn’t get the message neither in English nor the Japanese translation (the rest of the world didn’t either …). The campaign based on the movie ‘Australia’ wasn’t a goer, either, seeing that it featured the brutal Japanese invasion of Darwin during WWII…
Now, apparently they are sending World champion ironman Shannon Eckstein to Tokyo, trying to woo young Japanese women to Australia. http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/ironman-to-woo-japanese-women-to-australia-20091104-hwac.html
Using western masculinity to entice Japanese female customers is a trick that many English language schools have relied on for many years, too. This is something Ingrid and I know very well through our research on Japanese women’s ‘akogare,’ or desire, for Western men and how it’s linked with English language teaching/learning.
In their teenage years, all our participants wanted to learn English, for example, to write a fan letter to Tom Cruise or understand what their favorite singers were singing about. Many of them wanted to find a western boyfriend, who, in their view, would be more romantic than Japanese men. Our participants considered finding an English-speaking partner as a killing-two-birds-with-one-stone-approach – enjoy much-admired Western-style romance AND have an in-house English teacher.
One of the interesting developments out of this akogare phenomenon is the Relationship English business. There are many textbooks, websites, and magazines that claim to teach Japanese women how to conduct romantic and sexual relationships with foreign men in English. One of the Relationship English textbooks we have analyzed is called “Roppongi English” and it’s probably one of the most bizarre ‘textbooks’ we’ve ever seen.
The problem with the discourse of Relationship English is that they often perpetuate existing negative stereotypes of culture, gender and sexuality in the context of cross-cultural romantic relationships. In the case of Roppongi English, for example, a traditional Japanese woman is described as socially and sexually demure and has a well-educated chivalrous White boyfriend who is caring and romantic. On the other hand, a Japanese woman who grew up bilingually in LA is portrayed as sexually loose and gets into a dysfunctional relationship with a divorced and aggressive Black American man. Here is a website which talks about Roppongi English and comments there from the general audience will give you some insights into the public discourse of cross-cultural romance in the Japanese context.
Roslyn Appleby of the University of Technology Sydney is looking at another aspect of cross-cultural romance and the ways it is exploited in global and local economies. She is exploring the concept of “Charisma Man” and shows how Western men who are considered ‘losers’ in their home countries can transform themselves into chic magnets as soon as they land in Japan where many women would put the men up on a pedestal just because they are White and English- speaking.
Now back to the tourism campaign. It may be a tough time ahead of Australian tourism officials. The young Japanese women I know have no headspace to think about holidays at the moment – they are either super-busy finding work or super-busy at work (because so many of their colleagues have been made redundant) or just busy holding on to their job.
I wish Tourism Australia and Shannon Eckstein success…. although even Hugh Jackman, ‘the sexiest man alive’, apparently didn’t quite pull it off…