Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reasons the World Would be a Worse Place if Japan Ruled the Earth

I finally have some time on my hands now that I'm back in Austin for the summer, so I thought I'd deliver a slightly tongue-in-cheek response to the article 10 Reasons the World Would be a Better Place if Japan Ruled the Earth. Again, this is for the sake of being a contrarian; I actually happen to think the original article was pretty spot-on, but there are definitely things with which I would take issue if Japanese culture was omnipresent.

Order at the Expense of Disorder

It's true, Japanese trains are punctual to a fault, streets are clean, and violent crime is so rare it makes national news. While this may be all well and good to the Japanese, as an American, I was crying out for a little chaos from time to time! In a way, living in Japan was like living inside the mind of someone with OCD: everything had its place, every person a set of phrases to use for every occasion, and if anything should go wrong, it's immediately quarantined and shunned by society (Brave New World, anyone?). Don't get me wrong, these qualities make Japan a very comfortable and desirable place to live. But I remember what it was like leaving and stepping foot on Thai soil for the first time - roads without clear lane markers and dirt spilling over; people dressed sloppily and eating on the streets - and thinking "YES! Finally! Something different!"


One of the first experiences I blogged about in Japan was seeing how a cake was wrapped for take out at a bakery.
...she unleashed her fury on the small black confectionary by trying to suffocate it: first came the plastic covering; then two disposable ice packs; a small plastic fork; a thin cardboard box; a paper bag, designed to fit perfectly over the carboard box; and finally, the coup de gras, a plastic bag with handles. All this for a slice of chocolate cake, half the size of one I'd expect back home for the same price. On top of that, I planned to eat it immediately. Waste upon waste upon waste.
As an American, I see frivolous uses of packaging and resources almost continuously: taking too many napkins, eating too much food or throwing it out (not composting). Japan has its own ways of showing it cares nothing about the environment, from the example above, to its standards on fresh food - bento boxes are tossed out on a daily basis - to using concrete surpluses to pave over rivers.

Sexual Immaturity

I know this is somewhat of a controversial topic, but there are too many examples to just ignore it. Although many Japanese by and large maintain a healthier attitude towards sex than those residing in dominantly Christian nations, the types of sexual deviants make me shutter:

- Tentacle rape
- Schoolgirl fetishes (fake picture)
- Love pillows
- Used panties in vending machines
- Mainstream porn that includes rape and abuse

If these were simply minute interest groups, as small as those interested in something sick like snuff films, I probably wouldn't be concerned. But a lot of Japanese men seem to have explored the above in one way or another. There are more cheap tickets to places in Soapland than to cultural icons... well, maybe the district could be considered a part of Japanese culture.

Lack of Variety

I suppose this is a gripe unique to Americans, but there's such a lack of variety in Japan. Over 90% of the people are ethnically Japanese. It's difficult to find different cuisines with the exception of Japanese and fast food. Even people's behavior is "set": take a whole day to just sit in front of a train station and watch businessman interact; it's the same bow, same exchange of business cards, same phrases.


With the exception of Hokkaido, Japanese homes are often designed for summer, not the winter months. Mold can form on blankets and mattresses in the summertime, which are sometimes hung outside on a daily basis. Using heaters and humidifiers can be so expensive and ineffective that many people use just one room to stay warm (and not always the bedroom); personally, I think Koreans have it better off with floor heat.


Even in Tokyo, there's not exactly much in the way of urban design in Japan. Public "parks" outside of Yoyogi and the area surrounding Osaka Castle are just hard sand with no grass. Power lines remain unburied and clutter rooftops in all areas from Okayama to Okinawa. Very few buildings last longer than twenty years, and the grey box design is still very much in demand.


Anonymous said...

>Lack of Variety

Heck! Forget about.
If the way is same all over the world, it is boring.
As far as you live in Japan, do as the Romans do with studying the background.

Mr. Satyre said...

I would suspect that power lines are not buried in Japan due to earthquakes. Above-ground lines are much easier to access and repair when broken that those buried under ground (and potentially under megatons of rubble). Just a guess.

Daniel McBane said...

I'm half German and half American. As such, one half of me really appreciated the Japanese insistence on order. Unfortunately, it drove the other half of me nuts. I'm currently in Germany and have been here for several months and I'm starting to get that feeling you described, where you just need a little chaos. Just a little..

Dion said...

Great observations. I noticed these things when I lived there, but never gave too much thought on a lot of them except the outlandish sexual items (who can ignore those?).

Tommie B said...

The most annoying thing for me I think is the lack of trash cans! Think it has something to do with a terrorist attack in the Tokyo subways way back. But even though they don't have any trash cans it is still less trash on the street in Japan than in America. Btw, the thing you wrote about the school girl fetish is spot on.

Kconan said...

Some of what you are saying might be controversial, but its true. Nice people, but there are some kooky underlying things like you said, most notably, sexual and perhaps (overall) emotional immaturity.