Got any travel plans this summer? If you find yourself in Tokyo for any amount of time, and you tell somebody you’re from Texas, don’t be shocked if you’re greeted with a “Howdy, y’all” with a Japanese accent.
They might assume you eat fajitas or fried chicken all the time. Even Church’s Chicken – which was founded across the street from the Alamo – has capitalized on Texas’ International recognition. Outside of the United States, Church’s is known as Texas Chicken.
Grace Mineta – a freelance writer from Austin who now lives in Tokyo, says the Japanese have a very specific image of Texas.
“And if they know something international, then I would say, Western movies, guns, [and] steaks. That’s the general image of Texas,” she says.
Takeshi Yoshino and Grace Natsuko live in Tokyo, but they’re surrounded by the Lone Star State. About ten years about they opened a bar in downtown Tokyo called “Little Texas.” It’s decked out with Longhorns, Texas flags and old Lone Star license plates.
They serve Tex-Mex – sure, you might have to eat your enchiladas with chopsticks, but for a Texan over in Japan, it might be the closest thing to home.
“They feel that the smell reminds them of Texas… maybe that barn smell,” Natsuko says.
It’s hard to explain to foreigners that, no, you don’t wear cowboy boots all the time. You don’t have a horse or know the Ewings, but this simplified narrative dates back to the founding of Texas. Dr. Frank de la Teja is a history professor at Texas State University.
“There was this border with Mexico and so consequently a lot of these Europeans who did come to Texas, which was the frontier, rode back home, talking about all of these issues. Frontier life, the open spaces, the availability of cheap land,” he says. “The interactions between Euro-Americans and Native Americans and Mexicans and all of that.”
If you’ve never been here, how you would you know that Texas is a big, complicated place? Geographically, we’ve got deserts and mountains on one end and swamps on the other. And culturally, we’re just as diverse. Just like every iconic place on the planet, we’re more than images on these postcards you send back home. When you think of Japan, what do you think? For me, it’s sumo wrestlers and Hello Kitty. So, maybe it’s time to fully embrace the ViewMaster version of Texas. Do me a favor and just ponder on that next time you saddle up and head down that long and lonesome road abroad.