The Japanese Version

1991, 56 minutes, produced and directed by Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker
This award-winning film takes an unusual look at the West's influence on Japanese popular culture, looking at everything from weddings with giant rubber cakes to "love hotels", decorated in different Western fantasies; to Tokyo businessmen in letter-perfect cowboy outfits singing the theme to Rawhide.

The Japanese Version goes beyond the stereotypical images of Japan that are too often presented to Americans, and asks the questions: What happens to Western cultural ideas and objects when they are placed in a new setting? How have the Japanese navigated the flood of foreign influences that has been inundating their culture for a thousand years? With its series of entertaining yet revealing sequences, The Japanese Version is truly a cross-cultural surprise, as well as a warm and funny portrait of Japan today.

Here are some of the scenes included in The Japanese Version:

  • An overview of how the Japanese have adapted foreign influences throughout their history
  • A group of Tokyo businessmen who have reinterpreted the American cowboy myth to suit Japanese tastes: it's not about individualism, it's about working together to solve problems.
  • How Japanese women are taught Western etiquette at a Tokyo "charm school", using the same techniques they use to learn the classic tea ceremony
  • A young Japanese couple who decide to get married Christian style, even though they're not Christian
  • A portrait of the remarkable phenomenon of the gaijin tarento – well-paid Americans who have become TV stars in Japan be acting the part of "professional foreigners"
  • A Japanese game show that comes to the U.S. and uses important American monuments as part of its elaborate quiz competitions
  • Incisive commentary from eminent Japan observers like Donald Richie, Ian Buruma, and George Fields

The Japanese Version is an ideal teaching tool for both schools and businesses

  • The perfect orientation program for Japan-bound executives, teachers, students, and general travelers
  • Appropriate for Asian studies, anthropology, American studies, multicultural curricula, and for any audience that wants to understand more about contemporary Japan
  • A valuable up-to-date complement to books and films dealing with classical Japanese culture
  • An entertaining testimonial to the warmth and humor of Japanese popular culture
  • A rewarding employee-education tool for US-based Japanese companies with American employees

Principal Advisors: David W. Plath, University of Illinois, Hidetoshi Kato, Japanese National Institute of Multi Media Education

The Japanese Version was supported by grants from the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission, The Panasonic Foundation, The Japan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council for the Arts.