Japan can be a mysterious place, and this is something that’s been true for hundreds of years. Western painters including van Gogh were fascinated with the country during the Japonisme period of the 1870s, and I think they’d be right at home in our modern Japan-obsessed world today. It can be fun to see how the world views Japan based on the Google keyword suggestions that pop up in your web browser. I’ve collected some that popped up for me, with short answers, here:
Why is Japan so rich?
This is a hard question to tackle. Japan has a very stable economy with low unemployment, but just as prices haven’t risen much over the past 20 years due to the crash of the Tokyo Asset Bubble, salaries haven’t risen much either. Some careers — including ESL teachers — have actually declined over the past two decades, while others, like the anime-industry, pay wages that are frighteningly low. If you’ve got in-demand web design or programming skills, of course, the situation can be much better.
Why is Japan so weird?
Japan has it’s weirdness, to be sure, from Hello Kitty-themed love hotels where a couple can grab a quick 2-hour “rest” to $300 honeydew melons. But as I often write, the “lens of the Internet” distorts the Japan that we actually see, making us more likely to read about bizarre crimes or squid ink-flavored ice cream than normal everyday news.
Why is Japan so expensive?
It isn’t, really, thanks to the country’s naturally low inflation rate. Prime Minister Abe’s weakening of the yen has helped, too: it’s now about 30% cheaper to visit Japan than it was 4 years ago, and the prices we all pay for anime is about 30% cheaper, too. Go, Mr. Abe!
Why is Japan so populated?
With a population density of 337 people per square km, Japan is the world’s 38th most densely populated country, lower than Belgium or the Maldives but higher than the United Kingdom (225/km2), France (114), the U.S. (33) or Australia (3). This has led to a population that’s at home living in cramped spaces and able to maintain a polite society despite often being separated from others by paper-thin walls.
Why is Japan so Advanced?
Is it? Chances are you’re able to use Microsoft Word or Excel competently, but for many Japanese, mastering these basic software tools would be akin to us learning to compile a Linux kernal. While their devices may still seem sleek and advanced, the software that powers them still comes from Apple, Google and Microsoft, and never Japanese companies.
Why is Japan so Westernized?
Japan definitely took the lead in Westernizing in Asia, engaging on a program of industrialization from the 1860s to emulate “Britain-senpai” as quickly as she could. Japan based virtually all her institutions (legislative, military, post office etc.) on Britain, France, Poland and the United States.
Why is Japan so clean?
This is a hard one. While it’s true that Japanese cities are nearly always spotless, it’s also true that some Japanese would dispose of a refrigerator in the woods if they thought no one would see them. When I climbed Mt. Fuji in the early 90s, I was horrified to see places where climbers — Japanese climbers, since foreigners invariably worship Mt. Fuji as holy ground — had discarded ramen bowls, chopsticks, etc. Happily Japan realized its mistake of this and cleaned Mt. Fuji up, which was the main reason UNESCO granted the mountain World Heritage status in 2013.
Why is Japan so nationalistic?
Is it? While it’s possible to see loud people on the Internet protesting, in truth these people are very rare, usually driving around in trucks broadcasting WWII songs, or somewhat more awesomely, the Space Battleship Yamato theme song. They’re no more common than KKK members in the U.S. Of course, any country will get riled if pushed, as various statements by South Korean presidents about Japan’s emperor have done, but by and large Japanese are very un-patriotic.
Why is Japan so cute?
Another hard question. Although the word kawaii has been around since the Heian Period (it appears in the Tale of Genji, published around 1000 A.D.), the modern rise of Japan’s worship of all things cute is the 1970s, when consumers suddenly had enough income to buy products that were cute rather than just useful. Now it’s everywhere, from Rilakkuma condoms to panda coffee cups.
Why is Japan so conservative?
Japan certainly is a cautious country, one that “taps on a stone bridge with a stick three times before crossing,” to translate a Japanese proverb. Japanese actively consider their country to be “behind” the U.S. and Europe socially, and the government watches developments in the West to see how, say, a new banking initiative played out in the U.K. before introducing it in Japan.
There’s some great news for fans of yaoi games in English: a brand new title from MangaGamer called No Thank You! It’s a great title that’s fully translated and has a great story and lineup of characters. It’s got awesome game innovations, too, like the ability for players to select how much body hair the men in the game will have, so you can customize all the action to your viewing tastes. All fujoshi and BL game fans should buy and support this great new title!