Follow TV Tropes


Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Go To

"Moon over Japan,
White butterfly moon!
Where the heavy-lidded Buddhas dream
To the sound of the cuckoo's call...
The white wings of moon butterflies
Flicker down the streets of the city,
Blushing into silence the useless wicks of sound-lanterns in the hands of girls."
Elizabeth J. Coatsworth, "Sky Lotus", as quoted (without attribution) in the H. P. Lovecraft and Anna Helen Crofts collaboration, Poetry and the Gods

Japan in modern Hollywood is a mix of old and modern. All Japanese are polite, superintelligent, great at technology, and Salarymen. They love sake,note  sleep in apartments the size of shoeboxes, and make fantastic electronics. They also know martial arts.

Mostly, the only part of Japan that is ever shown is Tokyo, or a city that just happens to look exactly like Westerners imagine Tokyo looks like. Otherwise, it'll be some generic Far East place. Pop culture is composed entirely of crazy surrealist works.

Oh, and by the way- Aaaaauuugghh! It's GOJIRA!!!!note 

Some of this, though, is Truth in Television — see Japanese Culture. However, the reputation of Japan as being on the cutting edge of technology has fallen in recent years. People are now more likely to point out that many Japanese offices still use fax machines.

Though the avant-garde rock band Pere Ubu has a song with the same name, the term "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" actually refers to the 1944 film of the same name. That film, a history of the Doolittle Raid, does not actually feature this trope.

Compare with Animeland for depictions of Japan based on Japanese pop culture, Hollywood Medieval Japan for simplified foreign depictions of pre-modern Japan, and Jidaigeki for Japanese-produced depictions of Japan in the past of varying levels of accuracy.


    open/close all folders 

  • An official tourism promotion campaign by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government specifically evokes this: Tokyo Tokyo: Old Meets New
  • This video by the Japan National Tourism Organization also portrays Japan as the land "where tradition meets the future."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kyatto Ninden Teyandee depicts a mix of this and a more futuristic version of Japan. It's even mentioned in the opening, the first two lines of which are "Ottodokkoi kako/Ottodokkoi mirai" (translation: It's a time like the past/It's a futuristic time).

    Films — Animation 
  • San Fransokyo in Big Hero 6 is based on the reputation of Tokyo and Silicon Valley as "hubs of technology." Traditional Japanese cultural elements are also implemented, such as the Golden Gate Bridge being based on the torii gates of Shinto.
  • The automobile version of Tokyo seen in Cars 2 is every bit as glitzy and colorful as the real thing, mixing nicely the culture and the high technology, right down to the toilets! (just ask Mater)
  • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo hits every single stereotype about Japan you can name. Generally how Japan is portrayed in any comic book, really, although this is fading as comic fandom and anime/manga fandom increasingly cross over.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • RoboGeisha: There is not a Japanese stereotype in existence that this movie does not portray. Yakuza, Geisha, Ninjas, Samurai, Sailor Fuku, Kaiju, Tokusatsu, you name it. However, this being a Japanese film, it's all tongue-in-cheek.
  • Sayonara was significant for being a major Hollywood film done on-location in Japan. There is a scene in Tokyo, but the majority of action happens in Kobe. There's definitely a romanticised tone - as the director made it after enjoying a trip there. Also a scene where the American protagonist is invited over for dinner and is introduced to sake.
  • Though filmed on-location in Japan with Japanese actors, You Only Live Twice has some funny ideas about the country. This includes (but is not limited to) Japan's single most famous castle being a "secret" Ninja training base. Well, what better way to learn stealth than to avoid those pesky tourists?

  • Victoria: Among other stereotypes, the brief appearance of Japan fits this perfectly. From the philosophical discussion of collectivism vs. individualism to the Yakuza.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The spoof show Banzai that ran for several series on British TV (and which was taken off American TV when Japanese-American pressure groups labelled it "racist") was a parody of Japanese television game shows, and on the perceived Japanese tendency to bet on anything, however absurd.

  • The music video for Phil Collins' "Take Me Home" features various cuts of Tokyo's urban and provincial scenery.
  • The Police's "So Lonely" was filmed on-location in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Rifts Japan is literally a mix of old and new — the city of Hiroshima and the surrounding towns was sent hundreds of years into the future during the apocalypse and largely survived intact, while much of the rest of Japan, deliberately forsook technology, going back to the customs of the feudal era. Other areas of the now-divided country retained varying levels of technology. The conflicts, cultural and martial, between the two versions of Japan drive a lot of the story in the setting, although in unexpected ways (the Anti-technology Empire actually likes the time-lost Republic (and vice-versa), even if they wish they would give up their tech; It's some of the people that have held on to theirs that are the right bastards). Well, them and the Oni.
  • Torg, with a similar premise as Rifts got Japan conquered by the most subtle of the High Lords, and got turned into a country of high tech and MegaCorp intrigue. Nobody outside the nation noticed that anything had changed.

    Video Games 
  • Tokyo Field from Backyard Baseball (an obvious spoof of Tokyo Dome) definitely fits this trope.
  • Italian-produced adventure game Nippon Safes Inc. is set in a fictional Japanese city that sums up almost every stereotype of Japan in the early Nineties and not only these. Karaoke, pachinko, tea ceremonies, sumo, Yakuza bosses in hot baths, advanced technologies, suicides, you name it.

  • In the webcomic Starslip Crisis, the entire Japanese archipelago has been converted into a starship which roams the galaxy selling its state-of-the-art electronics. Japan is in fact the second Earth landmass to have undergone such a conversion, but the first one to do so successfully — the tragedy of "Hyper-Maine" is, of course, not spoken of in polite conversation, apparently being so grotesque in nature that one character refused to talk about it because they planned to eat lunch that day. Leading to the following exchange between a man of the strip's time and a recently released robot:
    Colonel: They don't make 'em like you anymore.
    Vore: What about in one of the factories that made me? Of course! Japan! We're going there right now!
    Colonel: These days, Japan is in space.
    Vore: What?! Come on! Now you're just being jerks!"

    Web Original 
  • The exaggerated reputation of Japan as a high-tech country is satirized in The Onion article "Earthquake Sets Japan Back to 2147," depicting the country as having a "protective force field, quantum teleportation system, zero-point fusion energy broadcasting grid, and psychodynamic communications network."

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons actually had an episode named "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo", which jabs at anime (the entire family suffers seizures à la that one Pok√©mon episode when watching one), their culture (Homer and Bart learn the language, origami and tea ceremony, among other things, when in prison), and even their weird TV shows, much in the vein of Takeshi's Castle (which they have to "survive" in order to get free tickets back to the USA).