Illusions of Japan dispelled

Most people who become interested in Japan, and even many who aren’t have a certain number of assumptions and illusions about this country.  I don’t want to sound overly critical or jaded, but many of these are just plain false, or misrepresented.  When people think of Japan they invision polite intelligent people in a very technologically advanced society.  And they probably imagine all these people watching lots of cartoons, bloody movies with sad endings, and reading manga a lot.

From what I can tell, most Japanese are no more polite than any given American.  Really I mean Oklahoman when I say this as they are what I’ve had the greatest amount of experience with and I’ve heard it said that Oklahomans are quite friendly, but that is beside the point.  They will talk to you if you ask questions, they will offer directions on occassion, and generally helpful if you seem to have problems.  One exception to this is when you are on bike.  While biking you are at best invisible and at worst down right dispised.  People often don’t move for you to get by, and have often moved directly infront of me while looking straight at me.

The technology part is what amazed me.  Aside from making many things much smaller, there really is not a great rift between Japanese technology and the states’.  But then there are cellphones.  The Japanese have us in a headlock when it comes to cellphones.  Most of the features our phones in the states are just now implementing, they have had here in Japan for years.  Nice cameras, mp3s, video, tv, internet, etc.  And the Japanese use these phones constantly.  I would guess that the average Japanese sends 5-10 times as many messages via their mobile than an American.  Perhaps more.  Sadly, their failing in my eyes is their quality of internet connectivity.  Most of the locations that I have tried accessing the internet from have had poor connections, and lousy download speeds.  Not what I would have expected from such a “technologically advanced” country.

From what I can tell, Japanese do not watch many Japanese movies, nor do they listen to much Japanese music.  They too have been inundated with American culture.  I’ve not met a great deal of Japanese that still watch anime either.  Perhaps this is more of a subculture.  Perhaps this is something left to the ‘otaku.’  Although there does seem to be quite a few animated movies coming out.  On the other hand, manga are still extremely popular and you can see people reading them all over, especially on trains.

I still like Japan, its a wonderful country to live in most of the time.  My advice to any of you interested in living in Japan for a stint is this, assume anything you read/saw in a manga/anime is wrong, people are generally nice but don’t want anything to do with you, and get an awesome cellphone.

One thought on “Illusions of Japan dispelled

  1. I completely agree with everthing you’ve said in your post! I have had the exact same experiences, and have had trouble convincing people back home (in the States) that Japan isn’t as friendly, clean, or as “wired” as they think. The biggest surprise for me is the whole Internet deal. I come into contact with high school and junior high students a lot, and hardly any of them check out the Internet with any frequency. MySpace wouldn’t have gotten off the ground in Japan!!

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