Culture

Here’s What Japanese People Really Think About Marie Kondo

KonMari has gained a cult following abroad but locals ain’t buying.

By 6 min read

It’s hard to find any fault with everyone’s favorite kawaii tidying expert, Marie Kondo. Her approach to cleaning, dubbed the “KonMari” method, has people around the world organizing their living spaces to spark joy and rushing to the nearest thrift store to offload their junk.

When her Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo debuted on Jan. 1 this year, Kondo’s popularity skyrocketed and with it the comedic creativity of the internet, resulting in some truly excellent Marie Kondo jokes like this:

Marie Kondo meme

And this:

And this — to which we can definitely relate:

Marie Kon-who?

One marked difference between the response in Japan compared to overseas is that, well, no one really seems to care here. There’s little coverage in the media and chatter online is limited; most Japanese people don’t appear to be caught up in the hype.

Exploring the Japanese Twitterverse further, the few reactions to Marie Kondo at first show confused surprise at her success abroad.

Like this user still processing his co-worker’s new vocabulary.

Meanwhile, this person feels late to the party:

“Browsing Netflix just now, I came across Marie Kondo’s series ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo!!’ It’s not for Japanese audiences either, it’s in English. I’m impressed… I knew her book sold like crazy abroad, but she’s like a legit celebrity now…”

That’s a no from me

This Twitter user however had a more visceral reaction, promptly turning off the show after Kondo said she would “greet the house” to her client:

When mentioning this house greeting part to my Japanese friends, they also thought that was erring on the side of BS.

Elsewhere online there are some Japanese reviews of her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that question all the love she’s getting, especially since a lot of said love appears to come from herself.

This customer gave the book three stars out of five on Amazon Japan, writing:

“The package arrived quickly, no complaints. However, these rave reviews sound kind of fishy to me. First of all, the introduction starts with Kondo writing things like, ‘I’m so highly acclaimed, my seminars sell out immediately, I am this, I do that!’

The content itself isn’t horrible, but considering this, the reviews do seem suspicious.”

*Eye roll*

GaijinPot reached out to see what some of our Japanese readers think about all the fuss.

One critic was Natsuki who first got to know Marie Kondo through the Netflix series.

Natsuki had a similar reaction to the house-greeting concept, saying no Japanese person she’s met has ever done anything like it, and she rolled her eyes at that part. According to her, the show is all about Kondo building a character to get American audiences to buy into her brand.

Her opinion was only solidified after we had the following exchange, starting with me showing her this “Hikidashi Box Set” from Kondo’s U.S. online store.

Marie Kondo Soldout Hikidashi Box Set

The conversation went like this:

“How much would you pay for this?

Maybe ¥100 (90 cents).

“It’s from the KonMari brand. How much do you think it’s sold for?

¥3,000 ($28) or so?

It’s over ¥9,500. ($89)

Are Americans stupid? You can get the same thing for free when you buy a pair of new shoes.

And it’s sold out.

I give up.” 

Going back to the book, it seems even Kondo herself would agree with Natsuki’s point that buying boxes for ¥9,500 is just too much.

In a section discussing storage solutions, she writes, “I can tell you right now: there is no need to buy dividers or any other gadget. You can solve your storage problems with things you already have in the house.”

That’s pretty far off from charging $89 for elevated shoeboxes, no matter how much joy it sparks.

Staff take

Our surprise having been sparked (wahey!) with these reproving opinions on Kondo, we also asked our Japanese colleagues at GaijinPot about their thoughts on Kondo and her new series.

One said; “She is annoying because she is on Netflix recommend and every time I turn Netflix on she shouts ‘I love mess!'”

Jokes aside, when her book was published a couple of years ago, I remember she was on the [Japanese] variety shows quite frequently and many people seemed to have bought her book too. I think she has this kawaii look that appeals to many Japanese people as well. I am not a fan of her or anything though,” she added.

A co-worker chimed in from his desk next door that he did not recognize Kondo, but that she “looks scary.”

Another added:

“[In terms of the show] I’m more interested in the voyeurism of looking into foreign peoples’ homes and family dynamics. Her methods should only really apply to hoarders. The majority of Japanese people, regardless of how much they minimize, are still going to have crap everywhere in their small Japanese house.”

One GaijinPot staff member sees the KonMari phenomenon as part of a clever marketing strategy, revealing Kondo to be a super smart businesswoman.

I think it’s her strategy to debut in the U.S. first and re-import into Japan. Before Netflix featured her, she had published books and that’s how I came to know her. Her method is a form of dan-sha-ri meaning to cut or throw away. It’s from the Buddhist concept where attachment to things is the cause of every worry and trouble in life. She paraphrased it to tokimeki or “spark of joy” to make it more appealing. But I feel the concept is a bit too optimized for the western market and overrated,” he said. Though he later admitted that he has in fact KonMari-ed his pants and socks, and now his wife is happy.

Lastly, this staff member would choose someone who is arguably Kondo’s direct competitor to help her tidy up.

“I prefer Mary Poppins,” she said.

So it’s looking like Marie Kondo will have her work cut out if she wants to replicate her success at home. But then again this is someone who has turned tidying into a million dollar business of books, merchandise, a TV series, plus she is literally transforming the cleaning habits of a generation right now. 2019 is clearly her year and who are we to judge?

What do you or your Japanese friends think about the KonMari phenomenon outside of Japan? Have you KonMari-ed your home yet? What’s your favorite KonMari meme? Let us know in the comments!

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