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GRSJ 230 final presentation by Leah Girvitz

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Leah Girvitz

on 18 November 2015

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Transcript of GRSJ 230 final presentation by Leah Girvitz

GRSJ 230: What I learned from blogging about my niche; Japanese culture and representation in Vancouver
What I leaned about blogging
It's important to be really interested in your topic
If you are interested it makes your work interesting

The blogging platform reflects the type of material and audience you want

As spoken about in class by Sunny Chan:
If you use a casual platform, such as Tumblr, you will attract a younger audience because the platform has a younger user base, and as a result your content can be more casual
I wanted by blog to be assessed partially by it's academically insightful value, so using a UBC blog seemed like the appropriate choice
What I learned about blogging (continued)
Blogging is a good way of reaching a variety of people, and exploring a variety of topics
Blogging encompasses all areas of the internet: there are millions of platforms, content and topics. This means you can use and connect other areas of the internet to your blog (with citations, of course)
I did this by basing many of my posts around articles or videos I found interesting, such as in my post about Japanese cuisine, and the post on ESL students.
I also did this as well as by using articles and videos to support my own ideas, such as in my post about Nitobe Gardens or my post about Daiso.
On the other hand, the most interesting and exciting content comes from original, first-hand experiences
I realized how much more exciting the blogging process became once I started interviewing people for the blog.
What I learned about Japanese culture in Vancouver
When I started the blog I aimed to answer two questions:

1. How does Japanese representation in Vancouver differ from its origins in Japan?

2. Why is there so much Japanese influence in Vancouver?
Answering Question Two: Why is there so much Japanese influence in Vancouver?
I was able to answer this question mostly through my the external sources I posted to my blog, especially the CBC segment on ESL students, the articles about Japanese cuisine, and the article about Japanese immigrants. What I found was that Vancouver has rich Japanese roots, and there are many reasons for Japanese influence in Vancouver:
"In 2014 The Vancouver Sun released an article (see the end of this post for the link) titled“Vancouver is the most ‘Asian’ city outside Asia. What are the ramifications?” The article mostly focused on Asian populations and demographics in Vancouver, and the increasing rate of Asian immigrants to Canada’s west coast. However the title got me thinking about the general topic of this blog: “Asianness” in Vancouver. One of my missions when creating this blog was to look at why Vancouver has such a strongly Japanese-influenced consumer culture, and I believe a large aspect to that influence is the actual population of Japanese immigrants in Canada." ~ From my blog post '"The Most Asian City"...' 
"One thing I really wanted to figure out when I started this blog is the why and who behind Vancouver’s vast Japanese influence and culture. Is it Japanese immigrants as the Vancouver Sun article I reviewed last week insinuated? Is it an increase in the popularity of Japanese pop culture among a demographic of Canadians or ‘Westerners’? The video above poses an answer I’d never considered before: Japanese ESL students. According to the video, which is a clip from a CBC segment from the mid 2000’s called Culture Shock, “every year, an estimated ten thousand young Japanese students, looking to learn English live temporarily in BC”. The video notes that these students are creating a “new Asian presence” in Vancouver. The video, which came out in 2007, brings up an interesting perspective as to why there is such a high market for Japanese products and companies in Vancouver’s consumer culture." ~ From my blog post on 'ESL Students and Japanese Influence in Vancouver
"The Powell Street Festival Society’s (PSFS) mission is to cultivate Japanese Canadian arts and culture to connect communities. Our main activity is producing the Powell Street Festival (PSF) in Vancouver’s historic Japanese Canadian neighbourhood. PSF is an annual celebration of Japanese Canadian arts and culture." ~ From the PSFS's Canada Helps page (on my blog in the post on the Powell Street Festival

I learned a variety of things through this blogging project - my experiences creating and writing the actual blog, as well as my experience finding and creating its content has made me more adept as a GRSJ student as well as a blogger. By interviewing students and conducting research, I've become more aware about Japanese representation, portrayal and culture in Vancouver, and I hope that I've educated others on these matters through my blog!
Answering Question One: How does Japanese representation in Vancouver differ from its origins in Japan?
I was able to answer this question mostly through my interviewing process, my examination of Japanese cuisine and on Daiso, as well as through the external sources I posted to my blog, especially the CBC segment on ESL students and reading the Japanese-Canadian stories. What I found was that the major differences between Japanese society and Vancouver's society regarding Japanese culture is:
Consumer culture / customer service
Stigma / Treatment

"There’s a huge emphasis on sushi here, which isn’t really that huge in Japan ... At least in Tokyo, there’s anything and everything from basically anywhere in the world. There isn’t really a particular emphasis on anything in particular, everything tastes good." ~ Kanon Hewitt (interviewed on my blog) when asked about the differences between Japan and Vancouver
"The products (like sushi) are different and are made for more western tastes. Like we don’t have California rolls in Japan!" ~ Junna Hagiwara (interviewed on my blog) when asked about the differences between Japan and Vancouver
"Overall, it is apparent that many of Vancouver’s Japanese cuisine is a mix between traditional Japanese foods and dining experiences, and western styles and familiarities. This makes sense in a North American context, as westerns don’t want to feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar while they eat, however they do want some sort of ethnic connection and authenticity to the food they are eating." ~ Conclusion from my blog post on 'Japanese Cuisine and Vancouver's Authenticity'
Differences in Cuisine
Differences In Consumer Culture and Customer Service
"To examine the authenticity of Vancouver’s location versus the original Daiso brand, I took a look at both websites.There were some very distinguishable differences. The primary noticeable difference was that Diaso-Japan site was clearly meant for wholesale retailers to buy Daiso products in bulk, whereas the Daiso-Canada site was an informative guide to the nature of the store, including a page for frequently asked questions and a page outlining the layout of the Richmond store. Another noticeable difference was the Daiso logo. In locations outside of Canada, and on the Daiso Japan website, the logo is in a sophisticated font, in white writing on a red background, However the Canadian Daiso is more “Kawaii” (Japanese word for ‘cute’ that has become a style phenomenon world wide). With it’s colorful image and bubbly font, it sells the store as a cheap and cute rather than valued and useful." ~ My analysis of Daiso from my blog post '"The Most Asian City"...'
"One thing I noticed is that even though we have many Japanese restaurants and Japanese-run stores here in Vancouver, the service is quite different! Japanese staff/waitresses are trained to always have a smile on and say “Irasshaimase! (Welcome”) every time a new customer comes in, and apologizes so sincerely when we have to wait for seats to open. Basically the salesclerks have to have a super polite and welcoming manner in Japan … Also in Japan we have convenience stores like 7 Eleven everywhere and it’s a super huge part of consumer life. Workers rush to the convenience stores in the morning/afternoon to get their lunch and maybe a newspaper, and it’s so easily accessible. It’s basically at every train station (we use trains all the time), and of course in the streets too. The stores seriously have everything. Like small rice balls, packed sandwiches/bread/lunches, desserts/snacks, magazines, drinks/alcohol, stationary, condoms, travel size bath utilities, and so much more for so cheap and good quality!" ~ Junna Hagiwara (interviewed on my blog)

Differences in Stigma and Treatment of Japanese People
"I feel like there’s a larger fixation on the Japanese pop culture in the West rather than the more historical or cultural aspects of Japan … An example would be, like, when white people find out I’m half-Japanese, they try to bond with me over anime (not every single person, but enough [people]) … I mean it’s more commonplace, I guess. I feel like there’s almost a perception of Japan being ‘sushi and anime’. Like if someone were to think of France and be like ‘berets and baguettes’ … Like, there’s a lot more to it, y’know? And I feel like people in Japan have, unsurprisingly, a better grasp of what Japanese culture is like." ~ Kanon Hewitt (interviewed on my blog)

"I definitely find that Japanese culture in a westernized environment is sort of viewed under a lens. Since there’s a concentration of Japanese culture in certain places (for example Daiso is characteristically Japanese) in Vancouver, people who have never been to Japan experience this lensed view of their culture. It’s very stereotypical and it’s often detrimental to the culture that’s being perceived. In Japan there really isn’t a diverse population, seeing a person who isn’t Japanese, more specifically white and black people from around the world, is really different from how we (in a heavily white society) would see a Japanese person. There’s also this very interesting thing where our culture is completely different from theirs. In most circumstances people will be ecstatic to talk to you and even more so if you can speak Japanese. In Canada (or the states) we tend to shy away from awkward conversations and we don’t want to learn. It is very rare to find a Canadian who will go out of their way to have a conversation with someone who’s language they are learning versus in Japan how everyone, young and old, typically take the opportunity to learn. Of course there are lots of exceptions but that was my experience in Japan." ~ Sammie Hatch (interviewed on my blog)
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