I’ve written before about how one interesting way to make sense of Japan is through the concept of kata, a word which can be translated in many ways, including “mold” (to shape things with), “model” (as in the model number of a computer or other product), “type” (for classification, also being used for blood type), or the customary postures taken in martial arts. It’s the word’s meaning of “customary form” that I’m mostly concerned with here, and the way it describes the patterns of thinking that become accepted practices in Japan, which no one ever then thinks very deeply about. I saw a news item the other day about popular AKB48 idol Atsuko Maeda being named “Police Chief For a Day” in Tokyo to help kick off this year’s Spring Traffic Safety Week, and this seemed to me like a good example of kata in action. To have a pop star appear in fluffy media stories wearing a police uniform is silly on the surface, but viewed as a part of a pre-defined idea that famous stars will lend their names to certain projects for the public good, it’s easier to understand. (If you are a fan of AKB48, their music is available through the iTunes Japan store with the prepaid cards we stock. You may need log out and select the iTunes Japan store to access the songs.)
AKB48 star Atsuko Maeda was Police Chief for a Day.