Of course it feels good to have people praise your own country, but I would always stop and wonder what exactly they liked. Sometimes they would get more specific, praising our anime, technological gadgetry, or Haruki Murakami. On the one hand I'd agree, but then again their rock/punk/rap music, PCs, or William Gibson/Raymond Carver/Tom Robbins all seemed even cooler to me.He says he originally held a dismissive attitude toward some of the same Japanese things his American friends praised. The artists they liked, he thought, were just "neophiles" ungrounded in tradition.
Now he says that neophilia is Japanese tradition, and what's more, gives a defense of it.
The very first Japanese novel—The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter—was a fairly tale, ending with a pun. We have always favored childish things like wordplay and spectacle over the subtler arts of the aristocratic "high culture" of the ruling class. We like to laugh away the gravity and smugness of the metaphysical musings of the elite. But it never amounts to real criticism, or to a genuine counterculture. People simply invent funny words or gestures and enjoy their silliness, just like kids. And by going back to their childhood this way, they can start their lives anew. Words and actions lose their serious, heavy meanings and become plastic and flexible. The childish element in our culture allows us to see things from a new, irreverent perspective. So it was all right to regard manga, anime, and all those silly things that otaku neophiles appreciate as quintessential arts of our pop culture.Plastic, flexible, irreverent--sounds pretty good to me.