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Sunday, January 29, 2006

'Small Japan'


Sayonara Hotel, Naples I’m just back from almost two weeks in Europe: four days in the UK and the rest of the time in Italy: Rome, Naples and the Isle of Capri.

I traveled with a Japanese friend who was constantly delighted and somewhat amazed by the not-uncommon sight of a Japanese restaurant, a business that had adopted a Japanese name, or advertisements for Japanese companies. You can see here a sample of some of them: the ‘Taro’ Japanese restaurant in London, the ‘Hotel Sayonara’ in Naples, and, if you click here, the advertisements for TDK and Sanyo on London’s Piccadilly Circus electronic billboard – including the very impressive CocaCola ad.

Restaurant Taro, London I was almost as amazed at my friend’s amazement as he was amazed at the number of Japan references in Europe. He is cosmopolitan and well-traveled but, like most Japanese even still, has little idea of how big a player Japan is on the world stage. Japan’s self-image seems to have been forged in the nineteenth century as a ‘small country’ and, in spite of the huge leaps and bounds Japan has made since that time, frozen at that. Japanese will talk about their country as ‘small’ when in terms of both area and population it is much bigger than the UK, quite a bit bigger than Germany, and, even though smaller in area than France, with twice France’s population. And I doubt whether the first thing that comes into a British, French or German person’s mind is the ‘smallness’ of his or her country.

People often ask me here why I came to Japan, and I respond that I first developed an interest in the country when I was an elementary school student. ‘What? You knew about Japan so long ago? And in New Zealand?’ I simply answer ‘Yes’, and tell them that at least half our home appliances and the cars we went through had Japanese names, and that in popular culture Japan was by far the foremost country when it came to representing what was typically Asian.

Anyway, it was touching to see my friend as thrilled by the attention Japan was getting, and it was nice as well to get little reminders of ‘home’ here and there.

Budget Hotels - Italy
Budget Hotels - Japan


  1. Hello, I am a 35-year-old Japanese man. I spent some time in Italy. The SAYONARA HOTEL is my favourite accommodation in Naples, first because of its impressive name, and second because of its moderate charge.

  2. Hi Cipriano,
    We'd already booked another hotel in Naples, so didn't actual stay at the Sayonara. However, based on your appraisal, I'll give it a try next time I'm there.


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