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att. Culture - J'adore Japon!
att. Culture - J'adore Japon!
att.JAPAN Issue 11, April 2003

J'adore Japon!


Teppie and Christina ChartomatsidisTOKYO TWINS REPORT
From sushi to the Japanese Yen, att. Reporters Teppie and Christina Chartomatsidis take you on a journey to discover more on what Tokyo has to offer.


Picture yourself... on a balcony sipping a hot coffee and nibbling on a freshly baked croissant. As you breathe in the crisp morning air, you glance at the Eiffel Tower before you and intoxicate yourself with the grandeur atmosphere of the Parisian. Oh mon Paris! For over centuries the world has regarded this part of the globe as a cultural Mecca for escaping the drabness of everyday life. Southern European nations such as France and Italy have charmed the world by becoming top international tourist destinations - and it seems the Japanese are their number one fans!

Indeed, the Japanese have recently become enraptured and entranced at all that is French and Italian! Almost all significant aspects of these cultures and societies have left the Japanese marveling. The number of Japanese tourists to these countries has recently surged. A survey conducted by the On Japanese Overseas Air Travelers Organization recently indicated that Italy and France are categorized as Japan's top two choices for travel and international shopping.

Every year thousands of Japanese tourists both young and old, flock to famous French and Italian cities to take in the sights and sounds of these culturally rich locations. The consequent result of this immersion in Southern European culture has carried itself into Japanese contemporary society. The manifestation of this is evident in current Japanese city lifestyle, fashion, culinary trends and sports.

Ryouhei Takahashi a former employee of Club Med Hokkaido says that the main force that drives most Japanese to visit Europe is their deep adoration for French and Italian fashion. "Japanese tourists love to go to the fashion capitals and get really excited with the designer brands such as Vuitton and Gucci. Japanese women of any age love the style of the Italian and the French, so buying designer brand products and perfume makes women feel more stylish and cool!"

French and Italian designer brands are certainly the driving force behind a considerable number of Japanese headed to the fashion capitals of Italy and France. Hoards of elated Japanese women visit Parisian and Milanese fashion districts in search of the hottest international designer goods on the market - spending an estimated millions of yen annually! To accommodate to such a huge demand for brand goods, major designer boutiques employ Japanese-speaking staff to cater to the needs of their Japanese customers.

Despite the current weak state of the Japanese economy, sales for designer brand goods are greater now than what they were during the bubble economy! A report released in late 2002 by Japan's Teikoku Databank stated that in the last fiscal year Louis Vuitton remained the biggest brand profit earner. Vuitton reported a mammoth 32.4 billion yen income, up 26.3% from the previous year. Hermes, another leading French designer brand came in as second biggest earner with a declared income of 8.89 billion yen.

YSLSuch high consumer demand has led to the proposed development and opening of brand megastores in Tokyo and Osaka. Late last year Louis Vuitton opened its biggest store in the world in Tokyo's avant-garde Omotesando district, making a whopping 125 million yen in profit on its first day of business!

French and Italian food and wine export industries have also gained huge profits. In addition, the Japanese food, wine and restaurant industry has reaped benefits from this phenomena. Currently there is a growing proliferation of French and Italian restaurants, bakeries and cafes in Tokyo and surrounding districts. Such places sport Mediterranean architecture, decor, flags and names, and are ideal places to enjoy a delicious frothy cappuccino or a hot espresso!

Japan's leading supermarkets are also showing signs of southern European culinary influence. A glance at any leading supermarket aisle is sufficient to prove that Japanese eating habits are changing. Deli counters are fully stocked with all varieties of French and Italian cheeses. According to a 2002 report compiled by the French embassy in Japan, there is a nationwide boom in the consumption of cheeses such as camembert, boursin and marscapone. Leading supermarket chains have also held promotional events, increasing awareness on how to cook with cheese and other French and Italian products such as olive oil, pate and meats such as mortadella and salami.

J'adore JaponMove aside beer and sake - Japan is currently in the midst of a wine boom! According to Europe Market News International, there has been a dramatic rise in the import and consumption of wine in Japan despite the current sluggish state of the economy. French and Italian wine has substantially dominated this market and ISTAT the Italian Bureau of Statistics reported that Japan is one of Italy's top ten customers. The Japanese Sommelier Association presently has more sommeliers than any other country in the world after Italy, proving wine consumption will only further increase in the future.

Where baseball once dominated, soccer is now attracting huge media attention and crowds from all over Japan. After co-hosting the FIFA 2002 World Cup, Japanese fans fell in love with top Italian soccer stars such as Totti, Del -Piero and Cannivaro. This fancy initiated the popularity of the Italian soccer league in Japan and consequently sport programs on television have begun focusing on Italy's Serie A league and other southern European soccer leagues.

Surely with all these unprecedented and exciting changes taking place, the Japanese have managed to make Tokyo into a more cosmopolitan city which offers quality European gourmet, wine, and fashion. Soon enough it just might be that Japanese people won't even need to leave their shores to experience the best of what Italy and France have to offer! Ciao a tutti!

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