Japan has been called “the only country that cares what its foreigners think,” and judging from the large number of Japanese Twitter users who seem interested in my random observations about their country, I think it’s a true statement. It certainly is common to turn on the TV and find a program dedicated to listening to what gaijin think about various Japan-related issues, and engaging in a discussion about how Japanese culture compares with other countries. One show I caught the other day is called Sekai Banzuke World Ranking, which takes a topic — say, Korean music and popular culture — and ranks its popularity in different countries, while Japanese-bilingual foreigners give their thoughts. In the episode I watched they were discussing what foreign visitors like best about Japan, and the people they polled were full of praise for the country’s convenience stores (“so much interesting stuff to see, I could live there”), the quality of service in Japanese business establishments, and of course for Japan’s high-tech toilets. One woman from Finland said, “My favorite thing about Japan are the pens, erasers and notebooks sold in stationery shops, and whenever I go home I buy these as gifts for friends and family. They’re so advanced and well designed, everyone loves them.” These shows aren’t all about gaijin praising Japan, however, and the foreigners get their chance to ask hard questions about why Japan is the way it is. For example on a similar show, a woman from a conservative country wanted to know why mainstream news magazines like Friday felt compelled to include a few pages of nude models in every issue.
The Japanese are interested in the opinions of foreigners.