The Strange Relationship Between Cyberpunk and Asia #cyberpunk
It has become a cliché in cyberpunk fiction that to create a suitably cyberpunky atmosphere, you sprinkle liberally with neon pseudo-Japanese and Chinese characters and stick a street-stand noodle shop in the scene.
The reason for the significant role that Asian urbanism plays in cyberpunk tropes (especially in the 1980s) is complicated. It speaks to the anxiety the west felt during that time towards the economic and technological ascendancy of Asian, most significantly, Japan.
All things Asian were also cool in 80s popular culture. Kanji characters could be found all over clothing and other products and shirts and headbands featuring the Japanese flag were de rigueur in New Wave dance clubs.
In this piece on Wired, they look at the “yellow peril” in cyberpunk sci-fi and the deeper roots of fear and racism toward the east as they stretch back to the 19th century.
The origins of the cyberpunk genre involve Western anxieties about the East. Techno-orientalism is the use of Asian aesthetics in cyberpunk, futuristic, and dystopian settings. There is a long and deep Euro-American tradition of using Asian symbolism such as neon signs with Japanese and Chinese lettering to express those feelings about what the future holds, including globalization and the threat of a takeover from the East.
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