Yesterday JG asked me what nationality I would’ve preferred to be if I could choose. I said I think I want to be Japanese. Mostly because I think they are very interesting people, I love how they are still very in tune with their past and their heritage, their discipline, and I am also a big fan of their anime/manga, even their dramas and films (of course no need to mention how great their food is). Anyway I mentioned this because yesterday, we were invited to attend an opening of a photography exhibit by the Japanese Embassy. It was to commemorate 40 years of Japan and Oman’s diplomatic relations and from what I got from the Ambassador of Japan’s speech he seemed to be a fan of photography.
The great thing about the exhibit was that it wasn’t just photos but mostly ads that can be found around Japan. The Japanese are well known for promoting a lot of things about their culture mostly traditional stuff like tea ceremonies, but I always say that the best way to learn about a country’s culture is to watch their TV shows as well look at their advertisements. Mass media says a lot about a society, especially in advertising, it gives you an idea of what it wants, and the things that can entice and influence them, and it is one of the things I try to look at whenever I travel.
For example in Libya during our stay there, the only endorser worthy of being posted on billboards, were of Qadafi’s. I remember in the subway in London big portraits of Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, etc. were posted promoting the National Portrait Gallery. What I like about the ads here in Oman is that it is mostly very family oriented, a family running at the beach having fun; an Omani in his traditional everyday Omani wear standing by his new car beaming with pride; a Lady in her Abaya talking happily with her mom on the phone. I am still very unfamiliar with the norms that are happening in an Arab home, and seeing the ads that they have here give me a glimpse of that, and at times show that they are as we are all. In the Philippines, over a period of ten years I think, billboards as big as one can imagine are sprawling everywhere, would you believe that there is even a building in Manila covered in ads? Never mind architectural design, the ads is its main aesthetic appeal.
So last night’s exhibit was really interesting for me because it kind of felt like peeking into Japan. Like this series of ads promoting a certain train line, I like it because it does not directly advertise its main service, but shows places that the train can take you, showing different parts of Tokyo, tourists wouldn’t normally find.
My most favorite collection was these which were basically promoting Chashakus or the Japanese tea spoon used in traditional tea ceremonies. Unfortunately I do not understand what the ad says, and had to ask a nice Japanese lady to explain it to me. If you can understand Japanese, I would greatly appreciate if you could tell me what the ads are mostly about, other than promoting the tea spoons. I like it because it is simple, and a bit artsy, something I can display in the house.
There is also a corner in the exhibit that shows photos of parts of Japan that were affected by last year’s earthquake and Tsunami.
But, aside from the devastation, there were also photos of festivals and programs that the community did to help uplift their spirits after the tragic disaster that swept their country.
There were also other great ads that I liked, others left me wanting like these really interesting Ajinomoto pictures…
So all in all it was a great exhibit for me, and would really hope other Embassies would do the same and showcase a little bit of their modern culture here in Oman.