On Writing About Japan

I had wanted to write some kind of uncategorizable blather here for quite some time, some of my feelings on Japan and why I’ve been updating this blog so little. Hopefully the following doesn’t sound like some kind of mish-mash dribble that makes no sense, nor sounds like something just anybody could say.

Slow Around Here…

As to why I haven’t been updating this blog very much, my time is divided among many, many things (and more recently among them: personal language studying). That’s only one reason(s), however. I created this blog for a very specific purpose —¬† to log my potential time in Japan — once I got a deal on web hosting and finally came up with a name which I didn’t hate (and in fact like quite a bunch). And perhaps I did it too early — I had planned on traveling and living in Japan as a contributor to society eventually (sooner rather than later), among other places to come later in my life. I would document the experience here. World travel is something I aim to do — and Japan is very interesting to me, for reasons I’ll cite shortly.

The possibility of doing so — traveling and living abroad, in Japan especially — is slightly distant, and certainly not immediate. So until then I would update with things about Japan. And while as a culture and language I know more about Japan than most other countries besides my own (ignoring how I could stand to pick up a few world history books and refresh myself on a lot of things), I need to flex my blogging creativity: I cannot simply post about games and comics I am interested in, or recycle every quirky little thing that becomes the next big “zany thing that happened to occur in Japan”.

Note, I love said zany things; I like quirky, culture-specific news in general (barring some of the more head-pounding aspects of being American). It highlights the few things that make people so varied from each other. But you don’t need me to tell you about that guy who married his DS in Guam, because you know already.


I got my thoughts together about this post after reading Lisa Katayama’s article about Wacky Japan and why we need to tone down our views on it. She makes amazingly correct points. Among them:

Japan is fascinating to some of us (Americans) because Japan is like America, but with something “off”.

Personally, Japan intrigues me because it’s old — America’s come a long way in a short time, but it’s not ancient, and I love older cultures — with a language system relatively unchanged over millennia, and what it has become now is a blend of this OLD culture and Westernization. That’s what makes it seem “like America, but different”, and not in the way that England is “like America, but different” (England being more like a parent, and Japan being kind of like an adopted cousin or something). It is so far away, and yet so close — and a mere few centuries ago, it was a totally different place. It’s full of different faces, different mannerisms, and yet not quite so different.

Because of this, I wanted to make it my first place to travel abroad. There are many similar, and then many different, ancient-cultured towns, cities, and villages underfoot in my future, to experience firsthand. I don’t want to harbor or foster delusions about any of them — which is why travel to Japan is especially important to me. I can only know so much by reading and hearing. And in a world where worldwide news is instant, it’d be nice for a person like me — creative, easily inspired, determined, and concerned about people — to be able to experience more of it for herself.

Now, honestly, whenever something wacky comes up relating to Japan, I don’t even bat an eye anymore. It’s mostly because

  • My home country already does a ton of “wacky” stuff. I try to filter it out of my mind sometimes.
  • It’s a different culture. ALL other cultures do things that seem weird to us. It’s just normal. We do stuff that’s weird to them.

And you know, I honestly would not have chosen to be born anywhere but America if I had the ability to, but the way the American people¬† — and people in general, but especially now with a whole generation raised on the Internet on open forums, possibly exposed to global communities but having no more cultural insight than normal — react to certain things outside their own norms is just gross sometimes. I don’t understand it; such ignorance shouldn’t be a big part of our culture, especially (if we’re going to seriously take on all this “we’re an example to the world” stuff), but it is. People shut things out that differ in the slightest. It’s all over the place, in the media, online, and it’s invasive; when you were a kid, you had no idea adults could be so dumb, but you grow up and suddenly are faced with it daily.

Then, you try your best not to be like that. Insight is a value! That kind of thing needs to have a school class or two.

Is it that people who feel that way — who reject “different” things while keeping their own personal quirks under wraps — tend to foster that feeling in others? I can only assume. It’s pretty deep-seeded here, though. It’s almost…a cultural thing. Gah!

That’s part of why this Japan stuff especially gets blown out of proportion — that and because we can get away with it, while pussyfooting around the “quirks” of other cultures.

As Katayama noted, people in Japan aren’t nearly as serious about this supposedly “zany” stuff. That may relate to some of the country’s issues, too — I don’t know, it’s a consideration — but on the whole, a lot of it shouldn’t be approached with such somber judgment as some more unfamiliar people are fast to deliver (especially on the Internet — but God help the Internet). It’s just going to wear you out.

In summation: The Windows 7 Burger. Do you know whose fault that is? That’s our fault, y’all.

Designer, artist, author, comic enthusiast, and geek about visual design/video games/Japan/human rights. Among other things!

One Reply to “On Writing About Japan”

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