A Chinese male, Elliot Chen, shared a little insight about Japan – one that most of us who only visit there would probably never uncover.
He shares on Quora about the misconceptions about Japan,
“Having a Japanese girlfriend, learning Japanese, and spending considerable time in Japan (I’m writing from there now) I thought I would give my interpretation as I have been actively going through the shock of having my misconceptions blown apart.
“Japan is a country where flaws are hidden under layers of beautiful wrapping and most foreigners enjoy the wrapping too much to begin to open the package.”
1. Japan is a rich country
- On first impression as a tourist seeing the lights of Shinjuku it is easy to be misled that Japan is a rich country. Everything from the delicious food to automated toilets is beautiful, perfect, and modern. However digging deeper it becomes shockingly apparent that many Japanese are on a slow descending flight to poverty. (Anecdote: I once stayed at a manga cafe overnight because I missed my last train. Manga cafes are cheap box like facilities that have a computer, drinks, even showers for people who go there to read manga and chill out. However, as I was waken up at 7, I realized many of the people around me actually lived in these cafes. They woke up and got dressed in business attire and went to work. Some of these people may have been stranded travelers like myself but the amount of them and routine way they went about their day made it clear that many were working part time jobs seeking an existence.)
- Average wages in Japan have stagnated and actually regressed for two decades. Japan’s debt is double its GDP, with a recession with no end in sight.
- If you leave the big cities like Tokyo, or even the bright neon mega districts of Shibuya, you quickly realize Japan is dying. Entire cities have become “shutter cities” where all the shops are shuttered closed due to lack of business. Small businesses cannot compete with the modern chain stores and restaurants around train stations so are being squeezed of their life.
- Japan is a terrible place to be an entrepreneur. Small business and innovative thought are crushed by rigid structures in the workplace and fear of failure.
- Japan can’t compete anymore in the global marketplace. It got rich when wages were cheap. But with China and the rest of Asia’s ascent Japan’s rigid policies and higher wages make their goods hard to sell. Even their entertainment industry has been overtaken globally by Korea. Japanese are bad at learning and speaking English. Japan doesn’t encourage foreign workers or immigration, in fact it actively discourages them. Japan is inward and inflexible when it should be trying to expand and open toward the rest Asia specifically and the rest of the world.
2. Japanese people are polite and nice
- Japanese people are polite in specific situations. They are definitely nice to foreigners and guests. They are less nice to service people and those in an inferior position, this can especially be seen in corporate jobs.
- I am Chinese. My white friends get most best polite treatment. When I don’t speak I receive Japanese person level treatment. When I speak poor Japanese or English, I sometimes get less good treatment. Brown and Black people get it the worst; they are discriminated against and though few Japanese would admit it, they are seen as less desirable.
- I live in a sharehouse with many Japanese people. They rarely talk to one another. They don’t want to make eye contact and actively avoid seeing each other in the halls. Japanese people have problems interacting with strangers. They simply don’t know how to behave as their society does not encourage friendly interaction among strangers. You’re either friend, family, or servant, superior.
- The Japanese have a term for their public face, the one smiling and bowing that tourists see: tatemae. Tourists and foreigners rarely see the not so nice honest voice or honne.
3. Japanese people are happy
- Often they are not. They simply don’t gripe openly as much as foreigners do. Being unhappy is impolite after all. They have a grin and bear it attitude, which while admirable, tends to crush those who can’t cope.
- Japan’s suicide rate is sky high. People jump in front of trains regularly here. So much so that the government fines the FAMILY of those who do to discourage the practice.
- There’s a whole generation of men known as Soshoku Danshi or herbivore men who have basically given up on marriage and love. They can’t afford it, they don’t want to work to death to raise a family, instead they have hobbies or anime or the internet to fill up their time. This isn’t some small weird minority. This is more than 50% of men in their 20s-30s. (Look it up!)
Although Chen reveals some of the dark sides of Japan, he mentions that there’s also a lot of things to love about the country.
Indeed, this is an entirely different take on the Japan most of us know. It’s just a matter of whether you took time to unwrap the beautiful packaging.
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