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  • Tanya Mackenzie

The Nipponland (Japan) Fallacy


Hello, and welcome to my new blog! I'm a very opiniated person as you may have noticed, so I have a heck of a lot to say. I used to make some videos but they just take so much time and investment into good equipment for them to be of a decent, watchable quality. I think, perhaps, I'm a writer at heart. I may be one of the only people who really enjoyed writing up my university thesis. (Speaking of which, I am thinking of uploading that here too, in sections, at some point. It's about eating disorders in Japan and I still find this to be an interesting, important, subject). I'd like to start off with a relatively short discussion on the subject of 'the grass is always greener on the other side'. I'll also address a question I get asked relatively frequently, which is "if you studied Japanese at university, why don't you want to go and live there?" It's a fair question. I think Japan is a very interesting, safe and culturally rich country, and I would love to visit it again (when I can afford it and we are also all virus-free). The point I'd like to address is the sub-culture of Japan-obsession, cultivated by those who in most cases have never lived in the country itself. This is also something I have observed with regard to other countries too, most notably at the moment South Korea, and also the USA. I'm sure there are more, so please let me know if you think of any. Perhaps France, which is apparently the artsy and sexy place to be, so I hear. See Paris Syndrome. It's nothing new to have a country or people judged in a negative way, without the person actually having been there and experienced it. In this case though, it is a perpetual and baseless positive judgement that stems from...the internet perhaps? I would like to suggest that neither is good, though baseless praise is usually preferable to baseless hate of course. So, yes, I did used to be a weeb. For those who don't know, though I'm sure most of you reading this do, a weeb or weeaboo, is someone obsessed with Japan, Japanese people, and usually popular Japanese culture such as anime, manga, kawaii stuff, and J-Pop etc. Everything is amazing as long as it's Japanese. To demonstrate, when I was a weeby teenager I decided to start eating literally everything with chopsticks because...Japan. And no, Japanese people do not eat everything with chopsticks. So you get the idea, and also understand that I'm not mocking those who are as I once was. It can be sweet in fact, but I would say unrealistic, and a little worrying if someone doesn't grow out of it. To clarify further, there is nothing wrong with liking J-pop and anime, they are legitimate interests; the issue only arises when this turns to obessions which clouds ones usual judgement. When I started university I met quite a few people in first year whose ambition it was to live in Japan and marry a cute Japanese girl/guy and so on. That's a valid ambition, though I personally don't agree with the idea of wanting to spend your life with a particular race of person, as it seems pretty shallow and narrow-minded to me (but that's a different topic altogether). What took away from its validity was that the majority of these people had never actually ventured into Japan before. That's not a knock at them of course, but rather a point to illustrate how strange their dream was in this situation. Moving your entire life to a very different country on the other side of the world is not something that should be based only on watching anime and YouTube. Let's face it, that's where most of us got our first exposure to Japanese culture, and maybe continue to do so. In the end, this dream did not actualise for most of them. I do have some friends and acquaintances living and working in Japan now, but these are not the people whose soul goal in life was simply JAPAN. These are people who went and lived in the country for a while and came to understand it, speak great Japanese, and accept both the benefits and flaws of this foreign place and society. They made an informed decision. If the dreams of those mentioned previously had actualised, I fear that they would be disappointed. In actual fact, Japan is not an anime land where anyone can become a happy kwaii idol with no personality. Just as South Korea is not a K-pop land where all the hot guys will want to date you. The USA is not the perfect land of freedom and liberty where all of your dreams will come true. If these impressions are what influenced you to want to uproot yourself, it will most likely not end well. To reiterate, I do like Japan, and I think it can be a nice place to live. Public transportation is excellent, people are polite, cute stuff is everywhere, and the food is banging. However, public transport, especially in big cities, is crowded. I've also been on the train before where I was the only one who would get up to offer someone elderly or disabled a seat, many times. People are too polite, they will often not tell you their true feelings and opinions. Cute stuff extends to pornography, which is a two-sided issue I'm not going to get into now. Food shopping is expensive and kitchens are so tiny they are sometimes virtually non-existent, and if you're vegan like me you can basically get lost. Unless you want to eat tofu every day. These are just lived examples I plucked out of my head to show the other side of the coin. Another one would be the seemingly global impression that Japan is the most advanced country in the world. This is entirely false. Yes, the toilets usually make noises, lift the lid up automatically, and have a bidet attached. But there are also literal holes in the ground that are used as toilets too. And public toilets almost never have soap and never any hand dryers or paper towels. Most offices still use fax machines, and almost all paperwork is actually on paper, stored in massive filing cabinets. This includes government paperwork. You learn to adapt, but it's just an example of misinformation. You may also want to move to the UK because you think that everyone lives in either manor houses or cute little cottages, where we drink tea and talk about the weather politely. Bullshirt. Unfortunately. Or perhaps fortunately, as we at least all have a sense of and right to individuality. In summary, before you fall head over heels with the idea of somewhere, something, or even someone, get to know them a bit better and then make your decision. Just because something is Japanese, that doesn't make it a good thing. In the same way, just because someone is beautiful and you're in love with them, that doesn't make everything they do good, or even OK. Let's do our research and become more capable of good critique and intelligent thought, rather than believing all we are presented with from the positive side of the coin.

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