What do we Japanese people think of France?
French baguette, wine, foie gras, French kiss, the Eiffel tower, Napoleon,
Montesquieu, Guillotine, etc.
As you can see, most words that pop into our head are related to food or history.
The average Japanese person doesn’t know much about French politics, economy,
or culture, nor do we think we really need to know. Does it really matter?
In the Japanese mentality, France is a very remote concern since it is very far away geographically.
Surprisingly, when you get to France you realize that French people care and know a whole lot about Japan and Japanese culture. Almost all young people under 35 can name the 4 Japanese islands(of course their pronunciation of all foreign words can be mind-boggling). Moreover, they have a general idea of where Tokyo and Kyoto are(they’ve also heard of another big Japanese city, Sapporo, which unfortunately they think is only a beer company). In addition to this, I’ve never met any French person who had never tried Sushi. *1
After 5pm, most French people unwind by reading manga. Some of the most popular Japanese shows among the French are Takeshi’s Castle and Iron Chef.
It’s very important to highlight the fact that the French people I’m talking about are not necessarily the ones who attend Japan Expo or go to Manga cafes, but your average French person who has never gone to Japan and has never met Japanese people.
Since Japanese culture has been and continues to be very popular among the French, you can’t help noticing very many similarities between us and the French who have taken to the Japanese way.
For instance, just like us they are very handy when using chopsticks, when watching Final Fantasy 7 they cry when Aeris dies, they grow up with One Piece(or Dragon Ball Z), they recycle, they wear condoms, and they think they work too much(actually, they go out of their way to work less and always love to go on strike when they feel like it).
Obviously, there are many other Japanese elements that can be found in current French society, as well as many bizarre French things it would take a lifetime to understand.
To sum up, France today has become Japanese friendly to such an extent that Japanese culture is proving to be a key element in understanding and deciphering French contemporary culture.