I apologise in advance as I'm not always the most articulate person in the world, and that I might drone a tad in some sections, but I hope my opinions and observations make sense and leave room for some good discussion. Please also note this thread is not a personal attack on anyone, although I do vent some frustrations.
Hey guys, I want to discuss an issue that's been bugging me for a long time, but a member from another forum has recently put it into perspective as to how much it really frustrates me. I'm talking about a group of people I personally refer to as 'Japanophiles'. I don't know if there is another phrase or word used to describe them.
Basically, they are people who will like, and overly indulge in ANYTHING associated with what they believe to be normal, popular Japanese culture. In a nutshell:
- They think that all the Japanese listen to is utter trite J-pop like Hatsune Miku, AKB48, and similar sounding pap
- Assume everyone there performs cosplay, and that people literally walk around the normal streets every day in strange clothing
- Think there is nothing wrong with maid cafes, that they're everywhere, and they're considered socially acceptable in Japan
- They like EVERY anime under the sun, despite not being able to give a valid reason as to why they're any good, and to criticise any anime is like being racist to the whole Japanese race
- think that all the Japanese are perverts. That every man is a Chikan (a type of person that gropes women on trains)
- That all all Japanese television is of weird game shows, which are all about perversion, or 'wtf' moments, as are all their adverts
- Constantly try their hand at writing Japanese sentences in romanji.
EDIT: I have an apology to make. Some of what I wrote about J-pop does indeed come off as rude, as pointed out by some, and I didn't intend to slam people's taste in music.
My reason for such was not so much that 'people don't like the same music as I do, therefore it's crap' but more an emphasis that a lot of Japanese music is industry manufactured, for the sole reason of making money, and does not represent all of what Japan makes or listens to, as pointed out later in the post.
OK, now, I live in Japan. But prior to that, I knew this all to be untrue... Ok, one thing rings ever-so-slightly true. Groping on trains is known to happen fairly frequently in densely urban areas like Osaka and Tokyo... but that's it!
But my point is, these people are bad for these reasons:
1. They reinforce these negative stereotypes that the Japanese are weird, sex crazy, sexist, racist, and possibly stupid people, to the rest of the world, by showing everyone only the strangest and most negative aspects of the country
2. when these people come to Japan, as foreigners, they're representing their countries too. So when they go around acting obsessive over things like anime, cosplay, and other otaku fashions, they're in danger of making certain countries of their own as consisting of strange people.
Everything above is basically relating to Otaku culture, and part of it stems that many of these people completely miss-understand what the meaning of Otaku means.
Otaku is a stigma. It's not just considered as a person who's just a fan of anime, video game, and J-pop culture. Otakus are often referred to people who are socially awkward, without a decent education i.e. stupid, with little to no self-esteem, unable to make any respectable communication with the opposite sex, look ugly, and are OBSESSIVE. And I mean OBSESSIVE about what they like. To the point where they believe if they buy enough AKB48 singles, it will bring them closer to becoming the boyfriends of these idols one day. That these people are so attached to their anime girls that they would rather masturbate to them all day, than look for a real girlfriend (or, sometimes, boyfriends). There are other negative connotations, but I'm sure you're getting the point.
I have been told by Japanese friends, some of them self-proclaimed Otakus themselves, that opinions do change from person to person in Japan, and with the passing of time, things have changed. Being called an Otaku 10 - 15 years ago was considered, quite literally, offensive, whilst now it's down to context and interpretation.
Now, regarding the points I made about the Japanese earlier, much of the negative stereotypes couldn't be far from the truth. Lets try and break some of these down:
The idea that the Japanese are all strange and crazy, like on the TV shows
Talento 'Hard gay'. Not your typical Japanese man.
No, no, NO. If you go into any normal town in Japan, you will not see members of the public wearing crazy cosplay, or random style clothing. This ONLY happens in places such as Tokyo, Akihabara, Osaka and Kyoto.
They DON'T talk with super squeaky voices, run around like lunatics, playing practical pranks on everyone.
Men/ boys don't perv over women all day long. On the contrary, they're WAY more mature than most Western societies I've experienced (they could teach England a thing or two about maturity and self-respect).
"But, on their television shows I've seen on youtube, they're all absolute batshit crazy!?"
That's because it's fucking TELEVISION! And it's only the weirdest of the weird TV shows people are uploading and focusing on.
Let me explain it, how I was explained it, by my Japanese friends.
"Japanese society is about being conformist. People should not stick out, or be seen as different from the rest of the crowd, under any circumstances. It goes without saying that many people feel oppressed from expressing their real feelings, dreams, personality, and opinions.
Many of the celebrities on Japanese television shows are often considered to be fighting the social system. Swimming against the tide. They either express themselves, or parody stereotypes that would never be acceptable, or are completely against what people would be like in normal Japanese society.
They are often admired for being bold enough to be different. They're getting to become the people that 99% of Japanese people cannot hope to become."
"Hey, there are sites completely DEDICATED to the strange shit that happens there."
Have you read some of the crazy things that happen in other countries? Heck, people post stuff up on these forums all the time. And some of it isn't that weird when you think about it.
One site posted photos of people sleeping in strange ways on Japanese trains. Oh, come on! Have you seen some of the crazy mofos you get on British trains sometimes? Some of the stupid and dangerous stuff I've seen people do outdoes anything the Japanese do.
They're stupid, narrow-minded, or are only interested in bizarre, Otaku-style culture
Most Japanese people are ridiculously clever. The great majority of them go to University and receive degrees. From an early age, children work seriously hard. Many of them will go to after school clubs, or even go to school on Saturdays and Sundays, to study further. It's very competitive.
I'm currently working in an English school, predominantly for kids between the age of 2-8. That's right. Many Japanese parents have their kids learn a 2nd language from the age of just 1 years old! By the age of 3, these kids can count 1-100, tell you 20 vegetables and fruits, all the main colours, can distinguish vehicles and objects, and speak basic sentences and questions i.e. "Can I have this, here you are, thank you, I want to play X game, etc", all in perfect English. They achieve this through just 1 lesson a week at our school.
How many kids in countries like England could say all that in French at the age of 3? F-all, that's how many.
I can't reiterate enough that the Japanese are, as a whole, a group of extremely intelligent people. Much more sophisticated than many people in countries like England.
The difference is, they're not arrogant about it in the slightest. They are either way too modest about, or they simply don't realise how clever they are.
They listen to J-pop, and nothing else
Not everyone listens to this shit. In fact, recently, a Japanese mother told me most AKB48 fans are actually very young girls, who find their shirt skirts and dances 'cute', and want to emulate them
This is about as true as saying that all westerners listen to, and consider Lady Gaga to be the height of musical sophistication. And regardless as to whether you like such pop music (nothing against you if you do), we can all agree that it's not art. And a great much of it doesn't sound good. It's industry-churned crap for the sole use of milking money.
Imagine if every Asian person you met thought that all Western people listened to songs like Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe'. What would you think? You'd think they were all nuts, right? You might even be offended.
If you listen to normal Japanese radio, or to the music that plays in many of the convenience stores (particularly late at night, when the kids working there are playing their own music), or to concerts of local bands, you will realise very quickly that people don't all listen to those absolutely atrocious tunes that often play at the beginning of anime TV shows.
Many people will tell you that, in the west, the real music, and best music, is not that what you hear in the charts, but what goes around underground, in cult circles. Music that is not made for profit, but made for the love of making music. Often also to make social or political points. It's as much about expression as it is just creating a catchy pop-beat.
This is identical in Japan also. Whilst their music undoubtedly sounds different, mainly because of how their language is orchestrated, they too make music that is political, has social commentary, sounds great, and would sadly never appear on the radio.
They don't all listen to AKB48 or Miku style music. Only teenagers and Otaku culture does.
Ok, lets talk about Anime
Now, one topic here I'm likely to get some heat for, it's regarding anime. I will say this - I have nothing against anyone liking anime. I like it myself.
But, my god, why is it that there are people out there that obsess over it so much? Even people in the anime industry are talking about how the great majority of it is just fan-service to make a quick buck. That it's an over-saturated mess, and a bubble waiting to burst for several reasons, which probably require a completely different thread to get the point across.
Now, it is indeed true that anime and especially manga plays an important part in Japanese life, and has done for decades. Since at least the 1930s. It has been, and has continued to be, a way of both escapism and expression. And I will put it out there that anime, from the 90's, is much of how I came to be fascinated in Japanese culture too.
But there are fundamental flaws with anime that has to be acknowledge, like that stated above. Also, I'm sure some of you are upset about the 'j-pop crap' I mentioned earlier. Let me explain.
These days, certain artists will NOT become famous unless they associate themselves with an anime. So you will find that all the trendy musicians and singers will latch on to whatever anime they can get their dirty hands on, and will sing and play any old fashionable crap that gets them chart positions.
These people are just like the X-factor/ Pop Idol singers in the West, whom will plug their faces anywhere, on any product, for the sake of their 15 minutes of fame, and to sell their records, which usually sound no-where near as good as the artists everyone here would regard as 'real artists, real musicians, and great musicians'.
Here's a fact I read from a Japanese website - the Japanese didn't know who Michael Jackson was, until later in his career, when he starred in a Coca-cola advert over here.
Now, I wouldn't say 100% of anime songs are crap. There's the odd one even I like i.e. Round Table' soundtracks are fantastic to listen to. But, seriously, I find it hard to believe that people out there can enjoy ALL the music at the start of anime shows out there. Maybe there is the odd person, but not all of them.
All men dress androgynously, are feminine looking, and all Japanese women like it
99.9% of all Japanese men to NOT look like this
No, no, no, no, no, no, NO! Seriously, if there is one thing you walk away from this thread knowing, it's that this is simply not true. Not.At.All.
Again, if you browse around any normal town in Japan, you will not see these men anywhere. They are only found in major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. These men target a specific type of woman, who's looking for a specific type of man.
You know, some Asian countries have this ideology that all Western women are sexually promiscuous, wear high-heels, short skirts, and like to show as much cleavage and skin as they possible can. We all know this is a demeaning way to think of women, and not true in the slightest, regardless as to whether you see these types of women walk around the streets on a Saturday night. The same rule applies here.
"Oh, but we constantly see them in video games like Final Fantasy, and in Anime."
Yeah. That's like saying that every western male looks like the characters from Gears of War, or Kratos.
Most Japanese men just look like, well, ordinary Japanese men. I will say this though, and this is something that every foreigner I've met over here has also acknowledged; all Japanese men out of the Otaku culture are VERY well kept. Clean Shaven. Whatever you want to call it. Japanese people, on the whole, dress much more conservatively, and pay a lot more respect to their personal hygiene and appearance.
Japanophiles constantly type Japanese sentences in Romanji, usually on youtube videos
OK, this is not a fact, but more a vent.
Many of us have seen this on forum and on the conversation sections of youtube. People start writing random Japanese sentences, using the English alphabet.
I have this to say; if you really want to learn the Japanese language THAT MUCH, do yourself a favour, and learn hiragana and Katakana. Do it! Then, install hiragana and katakana abilities on your pc/ mac, whatever, and write using their alphabet.
Seriously, this is identical to how the Japanese and other Asian countries throw out random English phrases and don't really understand what they mean. I can't stop you from doing this, but if you do, don't expect anyone, particularly the Japanese, to take you seriously.
However, this isn't just because it annoys me either. By typing, and reading in Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, you will learn how to pronounce the Japanese language better. It's a fact. Many people whom write a lot of Japanese using the English alphabet are often not very good at pronouncing it, just in the same way that many Japanese people whom write English find it very difficult to pronounce the language right.
Japanese TV consist completely of weird comedy shows where they play pranks on others, or focus on some really weird person's fetish
Takeshi's Castle - very few Japanese shows are anything LIKE this. Which is why crazy TV shows are so popular. Because they're different!
Bollocks! Don't get me wrong, I spent a LOT of time watching, and posting funny Japanese videos to my friends. But don't think for a second that these shows are everywhere.
My friends, consisting of both foreigners and native Japanese people, went actively looking for strange Japanese TV show for several hours from about 7pm to about 2am, and we could only find one random, funny show on one channel. That's it. Much of their television, which I have (admittedly not too much), is full of cooking programs, shows where they follow 'talento's' as they are known, or celebrities, as they interview people regarding various topics, all in a fairly low-key fashion.
Maid Cafes and host/ hostess bars are everywhere, and they're acceptable
Maid cafes are EXCLUSIVE to places like Akihabara and Tokyo. They target specific people i.e. Otaku, socially inept, or the very lonely or misunderstood. They exploit the disenfranchised for their own financial gains, some of them with little to no respect for the people they apparently serve.
Recently, a friend of mine roped me into going with him to a semi-hostess style bar, and the experience was HORRIBLE. Whilst I acknowledge that we didn't get the full experiences because we had a very limited understanding of the language, it was clear from observing, that these women say exactly what people want them to say, and don't mean any of it. Pretending to like the same hobbies as you do, giving out fake giggles wherever possible.
Many of them don't even enjoy the job. You tell in their fake smiles, and hear it in their fake laughs.
Maid Cafes and host bars do NOT even exist in most towns in Japan. They are just like the gimmicky stores and places you get in all the famous cities in your own country. No, the great majority of the Japanese don't go to them. They're not that socially acceptable (most definitely not the maid cafes), and people here find them just as strange as any foreigner does.
Side note - Akihabara is a gamer's/ geeks' heaven? No, not really...
Imagine this X4 and that's the size of Akiba. That's it. Really.
No, it's not. I've been there a number of times now (I live a 30min train ride from there) and it's just not any of that.
Akihabara' world famous electronic district is nothing more than A SINGLE MAIN ROAD, with a couple of backstreets, dedicated to otaku culture like video games, anime, electronics, AKB48, and seedy hostess/ maid cafe culture.
And this is a SMALL road. You can walk from one end of Akiba' Otaku section to the other in just 15 minutes! Akiba is NOTHING. In terms of video games, there's more in Osaka than there is in Akiba. There are possibly more arcades in Kyoto than in Akiba.
Besides shopping, and laughing at some of the very liberally sex shops, and gazing at the maids trying to hook easily manipulated men, there's really isn't much else to do other than shopping, like you would in any other normal city.
There aren't even many people wearing cosplay style outfits in Akiba. You'll see WAY MORE in Kyoto, where I lived for 6 months.
Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting experience. But don't buy a plane ticket just to go there. It will barely qualify as a day trip. IMO, go to Kyoto and Osaka. Way better. More things to do.
Japan is Male Dominated, and that women are still treated as inferior
Sure she looks sweet and innocent, but if her husband doesn't do what he's told around the house, he's in serious F&%$ing trouble!
Oh, boy. This one could get messy. I wondered while writing this thread if it's such a good idea to raise this topic but, hell, here goes!--
It's more complicated than that. I've read people write 'Japanese women are not jumping on the feminist bandwagon, therefore, Japanese women are clearly being silenced from speaking out against oppression, and being treated as second rate, inferior to men'.
People will have different opinions on the matter, but the fact stands, what Japanese women WANT in life is different to what many Western women want.
Many Western women are obsessed with being 'independent'. They want the dream job, dream house, the car, the best social life, the perfect husband, and perfect kids, yada, yada, yada.
Whilst this actually rings fairly true in Japan, how women go about it is as completely different matter. Japan is a non-confrontation country by nature. It's not in their nature to go on air and shout their opinions in the loudest, most confrontational way.
If a woman wants to achieve a career rather become a typical housewife- then she is perfectly in her right to pursue that lifestyle. In fact, arguably the main reason for Japan's decreasing birth-rate for the past 30-40 years has been because more women are choosing to pursue a lifestyle that makes them happy, rather than being tied down to being a housewife, and doing what a husband tells them to do.
However, these days, it's not so much that men tell their wives what to do anyways. Any Japanese man will tell you, in the relationship, the wife controls ALL the family income. Many men are opting to stay single because they find Japanese women to be too demanding!
In a Japanese marriage, both the man and woman make sacrifices. Both have to work together to make things work. As it so happens, mothers are expected to become housewifes whilst the man earns, because it's a society where it's still possible for just one person to go out an work and become the bread-winner.
Not only that, but many Japanese women WANT to be housewives, rather than have a career.
For instance, sources tell me that many women here go to university, not to make something of their degree, but because it increases their chance of meeting and marrying a financially successful partner.
Regarding the treatment of women, many of my foreign friends that have married women have told me that, make not mistake, the WIFE makes all the decisions in the household. It's HER house.
So, why do women seem so sub servant there? Well, this is what a Japanese woman, my female boss has to say about the matter:
"In Western society, like in England, men are expected to be gentlemanly and open the door for women, put them into consideration first, etc. In Japanese society, a women is seen more attractive if she puts other people before herself. This includes members of family, children and, of course, men. It's supposed to show their gentle, thoughtful personality."
Unlike the West, where women seem to be bearing more masculine traits i.e. being confrontation, loud, drinking and smoking, expressing themselves more, in Japan, women are seen as most attractive by BOTH sexes in the country as polite, gentle, cute and innocent. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Now, I'm not saying sexism doesn't exist in Japan, because it most certainly does, just as it does in every society. But it can't be compared in the same way it is in most Western countries. How the country has been in the past, and how it works, means it can't change, and doesn't bloody want to change, the way it does in the west.
Firstly, let me take this time to say I do NOT have a problem with people liking, or having a fascination with the above. Because, as a matter of fact, to a certain extent, I do too. If you like anime, if you like J-pop, if you like Japanese women in maid outfits, that's fine. Really. Honestly. No judgement. Despite a few curse-words, I am not out to offend anyone.
But there appears to be a group of people almost forcing themselves to indulge in all of this otaku culture, under the belief that they'll get closer to the 'real Japan' if they do so. They won't. They should never believe for a second that they will.
They're like those trendies you got in high school, who listened to whatever music they were told was cool, wore whatever clothes everyone seemed to be wearing, and spoke the way all the hip kids were speaking.
These people do not understand, and are not respecting the REAL Japan. All they are doing is making a disservice to Japan, and a disservice to themselves.
There is SO much more to Japan than what many are seeing on the internet, and in the media. The Japanese are AMAZING people. Some of the politest and most intelligent people you could hope to meet, and are leaps and bounds better than the stupid stereotypes we keep seeing (although you could easily say this about ANY culture. I've already mentioned on these forums that Americans are grossly miss-represented by their media and stereotypes).
In invite these Japanophiles to look beyond the silly trends and fake cultures laid down by the internet and other forums of media, and to seek the real Japan out.
P.S. Thank you to all those taking the time to read all of this.
EDIT: 24/5 - after re-reading I realise there are lots of typos in this post. This is because I was up until 3am writing this. Half way through writing this, the page crashed, and I had to re-write half of it again at speed. Just so you're wondering.