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Episode was made in 1999, and was a typical Simpsons travel episode. Tried to jam in as much pop culture and facts as humanly possible. The episode was satirical, often playing on Japanese stereotypes to examine relations between America and Japan. But not China. Screw China.
Premise is that the Simpsons are going to Japan because they got ‘Super-saver’ tickets after attending a seminar on how to pinch pennies. They end up going to Japan entirely by happenstance, robbing the Flanders of the tickets. Early on in the episode, the Flanderseses are wearing traditional Japanese kimono.
On the way in, the Simpsons strike a suspended gong with their courtesy cart. Meant to lampoon the cultural significance of the gong to the Japanese, and its novelty to Americans.
Homer is reluctant to go, Marge says, “You like Rashamon” to which he responds, “That’s not how I remember it.” Rashamon ( 羅生門 Rashōmon) was an influential Japanese murder mystery film from 1950. Film was told from many different perspectives, to focus on the relativity of truth.
Introduction of Japanese film to the West. Was very popular, as it was basically a spaghetti western in Samurai form. Shown in very progressive, discerning theaters. This was 1950 - 5 years prior was Japanese internment. Japanese critics hated the movie, as it was too Western. Older Japanese hated this, as younger Japanese were gravitating to American culture.
Welcome to Japan. The current time is, ‘tomorrow.’ Royal Tokyo: Now With 20% More Bowing! Meant to parody the collision between indigenous Japanese culture with Western culture (revolving doors require revolving greeters)
Delicate design mixed with American boorishness. Homer vs. Paper Doors.
Japanese Toilets. You’ve seen them. If not in Japan, in media. Meant to parody how ridiculously advanced Japanese tech is because of low military spending. “ I am honored to accept your waste.” Also, bidets.
“ The toilet recommended a place called Americatown.” Japan is, for lack of a better term, obsessed with American culture. ‘ Americatown’ meant to parody Rappungi , Tokyo’s true-to-life Americatown. Rappungi was built to be like an American city, and was very popular with American GIs. Also, the crime is out of control.
“ I’d like to see them take on the club sandwich. I bet it’s smaller and more efficient.”
The joke is, Japanese portions actually are smaller. Except for fast food.
The waiter spouts a series of nonsense American phrases. “ I am everyday Joe Salaryman waiter! Don’t ask me! I don’t know anything. I am product of American education system. I also build poor quality cars and inferior style electronics.” Japanese culture tends to grasp large concepts of American culture, but miss out on subtle aspects.
American actors do commercials in Japan because it pays extremely well. The actors are almost entirely the focus of the ad. Woody Allen, of all people, is caught filming one.
Japanese gameshows are a bizarre mixture of odd physical challenges and weird philosophical questions. Insane physical challenges exaggerate the phenomenon of Japanese game shows looking super dangerous. When Wink looks into the curtain and curses the producers, he says “You stupid! Who gave him the answer?”
“ I’ll miss your Kentucky Fried Chicken and your sparkling, whale-free seas.”
This is where Homer meets Mr. Sparkle. Japan is often jokingly referred to as ‘the land of tomorrow.’ To reinforce the ‘japaneseness’, they put a ‘rising sun’ pattern on the Mr. Sparkle box. Culture of adorableness Japan puts on everything, even things that are ridiculously mundane – like soap.
“ Banish to the land of wind and ghosts.” “ Hai, hai, hai, hai, bye! Hi!” The Land of Wind and Ghosts a place that is reached if the person dies in a sudden or violent manner such as murder or suicid e , if t he proper rites have not been performed Of course, ‘hai’ is ‘yes’ in Japanese. Akira’s laugh is from George Takei, an ambassador to Japan’s culture to America. Hokkaido is host to Japan’s famous undisturbed forests, which are chewed on by loggers, exporters and manufacturers. ‘ Sacred forests of Hokkaido’, joke about how religion and spirituality takes a back seat to capitalism in modern Japan.
“ Hello chief, let’s talk, why not?” Japanese factories are intensely dedicated to QA. There is a big value on fluent English speakers in Japan. English is taught to every Japanese student, but fluency is rarely achieved – especially in rural areas like Hokkaido.
Japanese people tend to not grasp how the US is sectioned up. Barn swallows surrounding talking girls – A bird very popular in traditional Japanese folklore, as they would signify the arrival of Spring. Monkey hitting drum, designed to look like characters from Astro Boy or early anime. Matsumora Fishworks and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern. Odd, irrelevant businesses are started entirely because capitalism works in Japan. (Writer David Cohen chose Fishbulb because he had no idea how to end the episode)
Other Highlights (for kids) (with Goofus and Gallant)
The Simpsons Movie The Japanese version of the Simpsons Movie snubbed over the usual Japanese voice actors, replacing them with celebrities. Fans protested, forcing FOX to provide the original actors’ dubs on the DVD. This proves...