Emerging backlash against “Japocalypse” theme

Taiwanese tabloid news video makers NMA have a way of perfectly capturing the silliest and most over-the-top possible interpretations of events. Case in point, their take on Japanese herbivore-men:

The video reminded me of the emergence of a mini-trend – articles countering the familiar narrative of Japanese decline and decay. Here are a couple examples.

First, we have Foreign Policy blogger Joshua Keating, who has started a “Japocalypse Watch” to point out over-enthusiastic reports of Japan’s decline:

I’m not really sure I buy [the trend of youths wearing skinny jeans] as a response to the Japanese economy unraveling.  First of all, another recent New York Times trend piece informs me that rising economic power China also has kids with tight pants.

Then there is Atlantic correspondent James Fallows, who used to live in Japan:

The broader point is that while there may be a few relatively small countries that can be classified as “failures” across the board, big complex societies are always a mix of strong and weak points, and the prevailing Western view of Japan goes way too far in (self-congratulatingly) dismissing it as an utter “failure.”

And my personal favorite is a column from David Pilling that questions the assumptions that lead people to dismiss Japan as a failure:

If one starts from a different proposition, that the business of a state is to serve its own people, the picture looks rather different, even in the narrowest economic sense. Japan’s real performance has been masked by deflation and a stagnant population. But look at real per capita income – what people in the country actually care about – and things are far less bleak.

After living in Tokyo for a few years I have become quite sympathetic with this side of the argument. It’s clear that a lot needs to be done to ensure Japan’s continued prosperity, including securing the government’s long-term finances and social safety net. But compared to even the US, there’s a lot to admire and enjoy about life in Japan. Of course, my tune could change once the government announces what will no doubt be some significant tax and withholding increases over the next year or so.

Correcting the record

It would certainly be nice if reporters on the Japan beat didn’t approach their work with such a focus on declining vs. rising powers or other overly broad themes. Maybe articles like these will spur some reflection among correspondents, which would be a positive step.

At the same time, it’s hard to get worked up about this kind of stuff anymore. I understand that readers in New York or Washington will lose interest unless the topics stay broad and generally within their realm of familiarity. In my case, when I read about parts of the world that aren’t familiar to me, NYT articles are almost always more digestible than the local English-language news, simply because I am not familiar with the local leaders or various aspects of the culture.

Probably the best course for people with an interest in setting the record straight is to focus on communicating your side of the story and pointing out egregious errors. One\ recent example seemed like a pretty healthy exchange of ideas. The NYT’s Hiroko Tabuchi wrote an article “Japan Keeps a High Wall for Foreign Labor” that took a negative view on the Japanese government’s policy on foreign labor. In response, the Japanese embassy replied with some clarifications and rebuttals.

Merits of each argument aside, I feel like this was a perfectly appropriate and thoughtful response to an article that was basically sound. Of course, it helps when there’s a solid foundation to the article in question. There’s probably nothing you can do to counter the endless stream of Japan Weird stories.

64 thoughts on “Emerging backlash against “Japocalypse” theme”

  1. “It would certainly be nice if reporters on the Japan beat didn’t approach their work with such a focus on declining vs. rising powers or other overly broad themes.”

    It would be nice if all reporters reporting on other countries didn’t do this. Japan does the same thing when talking about other countries (the U.S. and China in particular). There’s nothing the media loves more than to demonize other cultures as a means of making the natives feel better about their lot. Also, if you’re ignorant of the subtleties, it’s easier just to rely on broad themes, and most writers are just doing some quick research at best and churning out whatever they think will pique the most interest.

    By no means is the media in other countries worse at this than in Japan. They’re all guilty of it.

  2. I don’t want to necessarily defend the MSM reporting on Japan, because when they get it right it’s normally an accident or they followed some good domestic analysis. (There are exceptions, of course, and I have generally thought Onishi and Tabuchi’s work raised the right issues.)

    That being said, I find it very difficult to draw any real narratives for Japan that aren’t almost wholly negative. The best defense that I hear from any of us bloggers these days is basically, “It’s a nice place to live if you happen to be a Japanese-speaking foreigner who has a steady job and can opt out of most crippling social obligations.” (And it’s fair to say that our experiences are completely irrelevant to any larger analysis of Japanese society.)

    I find that when I now leave Japan and visit other countries, I tend to think, “Wow, things are so technologically advanced!” Japan’s visible consumer tech lead disappeared ridiculously quickly. Japanese companies have yet to wrap their brains around the Internet and have made almost zero Internet-related hardware products that have international appeal. And they have not improved in the fields of UI and software despite decades of the world moving in that direction.

    Compare that to Barnes and Nobles and Amazon — two non-manufacturers — who somehow acquired completely new core competencies to make the Nook and Kindle. Whether or not those are the best devices out there, they will likely grab more market share than the Sony e-booker reader or the Galapagos because they will have better online content marketplaces. Everything leads back to the Net, and if your entire country is scared of deep cultural investments into the Net, that’s a huge competitive issue for your companies. In contrast, Korea is now leveraging its Net-savvy in the US — and Japan.

    The declining birth rate and graying of society are abstract issues that you can’t notice much on a short-time frame, but the undeniably big issue is the 13-year-plus straight decline in incomes and accompanying taste deflation. (A majority of the beer market is now fake beer. There is nowhere else in the world where this could possibly be true or have happened so quickly.) People are buying worse goods and have zero economic optimism. And when the most visible aspect of national culture was participatory consumer culture, that’s really sucked the life out of the place. And people stopped even buying goods like Uniqlo. Now they buy nothing.

    The U.S. economy is also in shambles but you can point to huge corporate growth and a lot of very innovative companies. You can’t do that in Japan. Rakuten, Mixi, and Gree are stories worth telling but not exactly about to break international ground.

    We should also note the narrative issue that Japan’s problems can often be attributed to philosophical dispositions that fell out of favor 50 years ago in the West: male patriarchy, closed societies, information control, strict hierarchies, a belief in seniority over meritocracy, a distrust of diversity, pre-set paths to the middle class that allow no room for any mistakes or detours. Japan creates the perfect dichotomy between a post-60s America where the rejection of these values can be directly related to economic growth (David Brooks’ thesis of The Rise of the Bobos). Most educated Western elites passionately believe in the opposite of all of the basic Japanese social beliefs and thus are going to have sympathies towards successful companies/nations that operate on the promotion of those values. China has everyone’s attention because of growth but Japan’s not going to win sympathy as an underdog if it’s both shrinking and clinging on to likely-no-longer-beneficial social strategies like having 65 year-old men decide everything for everyone.

  3. “There are exceptions, of course, and I have generally thought Onishi and Tabuchi’s work raised the right issues.”

    Had to disagree about Onishi.It’s not that difficult to raise the right issue if you simply can read Japanese papers.It’s all there with the headline.I agree that Onishi knows what he was writing though.

    “And when the most visible aspect of national culture was participatory consumer culture, that’s really sucked the life out of the place.”

    But that’s your take on Japanese national culture David,not mine.People tends to forget how vulgar the society and culture was back in the bubble years.

    “We should also note the narrative issue that Japan’s problems can often be attributed to philosophical dispositions that fell out of favor 50 years ago in the West: male patriarchy, closed societies, information control, strict hierarchies, a belief in seniority over meritocracy, a distrust of diversity, pre-set paths to the middle class that allow no room for any mistakes or detours. Japan creates the perfect dichotomy between a post-60s America where the rejection of these values can be directly related to economic growth”

    I remember the 80’s.And there were tons of narratives in English press that some of the above were considered as the values that had directly related to economic growth of post-war Japan.And in a way,still makes Japanese society livable inspite of the lack of economic growth in the past decade.

    The point is most of the correspondents has no intellectual resource to analyze these issues in local context for the lack of Japanese literacy and probably because of the pressure from the editors room to make the story more sexy(or weird as one expects with story from Tokyo)

    “Most educated Western elites passionately believe in the opposite of all of the basic Japanese social beliefs and thus are going to have sympathies towards successful companies/nations that operate on the promotion of those values. China has everyone’s attention because of growth but Japan’s not going to win sympathy as an underdog if it’s both shrinking and clinging on to likely-no-longer-beneficial social strategies like having 65 year-old men decide everything for everyone.”

    I’m rather skeptic with “philosophical disposition”angle.Back in the bubble years of 80’s,the so-called “Western elites”didn’t particulary sympathize Japanese society as they don’t do so now,even though Japan was considered as successful nation.

    Take an example from James Fallows who were in Japan in the late 80’s and came out with the idea “Containing Japan”.The criiticism was that Japan does not share the basic social value with the US that are human rights,liberal democracy and consumer oriented economy.So America should watch out when the retired Japanese diplomat gets the post of president of The Japan Society for it could turn into the equivalent of AIPAC.
    But when China start rising in 21st century,Fallows changed the attitude and start embracing China with almost the same passion as he bashed Japan in the past.Fallows probably wouldn’t consider himself as a panda hugger.But you also can’t imagine him preaching “Containing China” just because the two nations share very little in common in the terms of social and political values.

  4. But that’s your take on Japanese national culture David,not mine.People tends to forget how vulgar the society and culture was back in the bubble years.

    I am not saying Japan doesn’t have strong intellectual or artistic traditions but that they have been pushed further away from mainstream culture over the last 40 years. There was much more of a public intellectual debate culture before the rise of consumer society in the 1970s (or debatably in the ’80s with Akira Asada, etc., Derrida at department stores) but it’s not at all returning now that consumer society is on the wane. In fact, the more desperate producers get, the more they have to go towards the lowest common denominator. Other cultural markets have seen this same thing, but have had a nice counterbalance through niche publications using technologies like podcasts and websites to breath new life into their world. I can read an entire New Yorker article online. I can get sued trying to link to an article on Nikkei.

  5. My counterpoint to Marxy’s last paragraph is that many Japanese youth feel exactly the same way, and are either (a) leaving the country entirely or (b) trying to set up their own businesses and lifestyles on the fringe of the historical corporate core. This is forcing companies to change if they want to have a future source of labor. The biggest hurdle for the companies is that it’s still impossible to fire or lay off the 50+-year-old men who rabidly defend the old system, so the companies have no choice but to let the fat keep rising to the top of the seniority chart. I still believe that lifetime employment will be dead in twenty years’ time, once small businesses, freelancers and temps finally have a majority.

  6. Japan has some bright spots – Nintendo has ruled in the 2000s after not one but two shaky platforms and turned a Japanese vision into an international norm with huge sales on both Nintendo and DS… while seeming to remain completely unmentioned in any discussion of Japanese electronics. Japanese hybrids look to be world leaders, and so on. I think one of the problems here is that Japan is pretty much only compared to the US and China (and to a less extent, to Korea in the area of electronic exports). Nobody is really talking about why the French didn’t bust out a software revolution and demographic, fiscal, and innovation-related measures all across Europe are looking arguably more dire. In fact, some of the big successes of 1995-2005 from peripheral economies – Blackberry, Nokia, etc. – already seem to be on the way out.

    Demographics also swing all ways – China will age at a slightly lower clip than Japan, but this could be infinitely more disastrous in an economy that grows by freeing up cheap labor and one that is yet to really establish a balls to the wall consumer economy as an engine of growth. On the flip side, there will be 1,000,000,000 Americans in the first quarter of the 22nd century if current rates of legal and illegal immigration continue. The economy will grow, no doubt, but if you think current inequality and the combination of urban decay and problems are bad…. just wait.

    “There was much more of a public intellectual debate culture before the rise of consumer society in the 1970s”

    There were also hundreds dead from industrial pollution, a global communist ideal to cling to, and millions of civilians being bombed to death from bases in Japan. It really isn’t fair to compare or to make consumer society a sole or even leading factor – the stakes have changed and public debate isn’t nearly what it was anywhere. I’m also not sure that you can argue that intellectual culture has been particularly dumbed down as of late – Nietzsche is this year’s Kanikosen, and both of those sold quite a bit more than the 1980s “New Aka” stuff (I hear most of Asada’s work and the early Derrida releases and the like did 100,000-200,000 copies, which isn’t that much more than recent titles by Amamiya Karin, the discrimination round table shinsho two years ago, Kang Sang Jung’s work, and so on).

    “but have had a nice counterbalance through niche publications using technologies like podcasts and websites to breath new life into their world.”

    True, but the average audience for stuff like this is no larger than the readership of Iwanami’s Sekai, and in a vastly bigger market. I think that the Huff Post has long since stopped counting as a committed left-progressive voice and this Atlantic Wire piece contains a reasonable point that there really isn’t a significant left voice in the increasingly professionalized blogsphere, nothing with a consistent agenda and quality of The New Left Review or something similar –
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/atlantic/20110119/cm_atlantic/aretherenoleftwingblogsontheinternet6627
    Is that really a breathing of new life or a death knell in a political sphere where simply supporting socialized medicine can get you called a communist by people who are prominent in public life and pacifism tends to only mean ending the couple of wars that are going on now.

  7. BTW, have you guys seen this number bandied about by Katz and others that if you compare GDP growth with the number of workers in the economy between 1990 and 2008, Japan and the US are virtually identical?

    This raises a few important points related to Marxy’s comment – do all of these X factors that Western elites are committed to really matter so much? Or is it population growth (good), immigration (good as long as immigrants aren’t impoverished, uninsured, etc.) and the huge underclass of up to 20,000,000 illegals – which is a massive number equal to approximately 1/3 of the Japanese workforce? There is growth and there is growth, and I can’t help but think that a lot of what underlies this isn’t a commitment by Western elites to any principles but more a commitment to securing more cheap labor where they can. This will grow the US economy, but at a cost both to the social space and to the illegals living tenuous lives that Japan has not had to pay on anything close to the same level. And let’s also not forget the disaster capitalism idea here – the development of the prison industrial complex which corresponds precisely with this period goes straight into GDP, money borrowed from China to manufacture arms to fight wars of head-scratching utility goes straight into GDP, the insane consumer credit orgy goes straight into GDP, and so on. The US is looking to be past the point of duplicating (another 10-20 million illegal immigrants in the next decade to maintain the GDP growth advantage of the last!?) any of this so one could even argue that Japan, which could open up to immigration, ramp up military spending, and just copy the Korean export model (which was copied from Japan in the first place), might actually have solid prospects.

  8. M-Bone: Korean exports are obviously booming right now: smartphones, TVs, LCD screens, all kind of electronics plus the large industrial operations (ships, cars etc.).

    What do you think they are doing right that the Japanese aren’t (or aren’t anymore)? In other words, what aspect of that Korean export model should Japan try to emulate to regain its export mojo, if that’s even possible?

  9. “I am not saying Japan doesn’t have strong intellectual or artistic traditions but that they have been pushed further away from mainstream culture over the last 40 years.”

    Partially,that’s because Japanese demography(or that of many industrial nations) has been heavily influenced by the post-war baby boom and the youth has been the cultural trend setter. If the old timers dominate the society,there could be some changes.

    “There was much more of a public intellectual debate culture before the rise of consumer society in the 1970s (or debatably in the ‘80s with Akira Asada, etc., Derrida at department stores) ”

    OK.but that is a trend that took longer time to shape not just”the lost decade” and it may somehow connects with the consumer society,but more to do with university students archetype had transformed from intellectuals to mass.
    And I can say there are more public debate in the society now then it was 20 years ago.The change in intellectual demand of the society does influence my line of work.

    “but it’s not at all returning now that consumer society is on the wane.”

    We still don’t know the cultural effect of the retirement of baby-boomer starting from 2007.
    And there are many subculture in post-war Japan that has little to do with corporation led consumerism starting with underground theaters,dojinshi etc.
    No one outside of Japan paid any attention to “DC brand” fashions in the 80’s.But started to turn their eye after the burst of bubble.

    “Other cultural markets have seen this same thing, but have had a nice counterbalance through niche publications using technologies like podcasts and websites to breath new life into their world.”

    As for media environment,that’s true with broadcasting.But in the field of publishing,the only reason why niche publication do not turn their eyes on IT is because they can still thrive in the old format.

  10. “In other words, what aspect of that Korean export model should Japan try to emulate to regain its export mojo, if that’s even possible?”

    Sadly, export to the lowest common denominator (Samsung products are less expensive than Japanese, but have a bad rep for power supply failure, as do Acer laptops, another success story – Japanese companies can try to be better, but cutting corners or producing cut rate models is the way to compete with Samsung and LG) and while a part of the company can obviously be devoted to tapping domestic demand and trend-making, Japanese companies should, as Korean have done, flat out copy successful models and use the quality and innovation rep that is still associated with many Japanese brands to give them a medium term edge. Japanese consumers don’t warm up to smartphones because clams are easier to text with? Who cares – make them anyway.

    I hear Japanese companies talking about these strategies for the China market. We shall see.

  11. Marxy, I’ve been wondering about a number of things relating to Japanese consumption. We see articles like this one from just a few months ago-

    http://www.chinadecoded.com/2010/09/18/china-surpasses-the-usa-in-luxury-consumption/

    that seems to be suggesting Japan is still the biggest luxury market in the world with luxury consumption at about 3x per capita the USA. Is this statistical gymnastics, or is luxury consumption in Japan still tops and relatively “democratically” distributed? These numbers also might be skewed, given the large number of Japanese who buy (or at least have historically bought) luxury goods abroad.

    And when you say that consumption is tanking (which it is by raw numbers) how does this square with deflation which means that consumers might be getting as much for less? Some indicators that I have seen (broadband installed rates at 75% of households, high rates of flat-screen TV ownership) suggest that Japan has at least kept up with the US on these numbers.

  12. A lot of interesting points raised here, but I think the “Japocalypse” theme can be boiled down to:

    1. The fact that most news and analysis looks at change velocity and acceleration rather than current states (i.e., Japanese are much richer than Chinese, but China gets more positive attention as the Chinese are getting richer while Japanese are getting poorer)

    2. Japan — when compared to its past self — is seeing almost all negative trend directions other than in developing fields like the Net, which is growing at a much slower rate than seen elsewhere.

    Since I am mostly interested in consumer markets, here is a list of markets all in tailspin decline from either a sales (and/or more abstract “quality” measure in production): books/publishing, music, films, manga, anime, luxury goods, apparel, beer, alcohol, cars, # of restaurants, phones, TV (ratings). The games market is the only one doing not so bad, although Japan’s domination over foreign markets has almost completely disappeared due to the rise of EA and the Xbox. I stopped subscribing to Nikkei’s Marketing Journal because they have no news: almost no trends to write about with any optimism and companies are not launching new products at past rates.

    It’s fair to say that consumer society isn’t all, but you also do not see a rise of work-life-balance in any meaningful way. Those “lucky” souls who grab a real job at 22 and are mostly guaranteed a protected ride up the corporate ladder are still required to give every centimeter of lifeforce to the company. Stagnant countries can be Italy or France — with basically no growth — but where the middle classes take month-long vacations and see their families on a frequent basis. Japan is not moving towards a European human-friendly economy.

    I want to believe Joe’s idea of young people making their own economy, but with capital so tied up in traditional avenues and regulators happy to preserve the status quo, I don’t see them changing society in a dramatic way. There is also the problem that young people make up a lower proportion of society now than ever in the country’s history.

    luxury market

    Japan’s luxury market plunge in only two years has been incredible. Luxury goods are growing again in almost every single country — except for Japan, where most of the companies are down anywhere between 3-20% a year. And they only reason they are doing that “well” is because Chinese shoppers are coming to Japan to shop. It was a bit ridiculous that Japanese middle class people spent all their dwindling incomes on these goods meant for the ultra-rich, so I understand why the levy broke, but this market is likely dead forever and evaporated with incredible speed. Last year’s Financial Times Business of Luxury summit did not even mention Japan once. Companies are moving their best people out of Japan and into China. So again, Japan is still #1 as a legacy, but China will beat them soon. So the positive growth story is China.

    Some indicators that I have seen (broadband installed rates at 75% of households, high rates of flat-screen TV ownership) suggest that Japan has at least kept up with the US on these numbers.

    With the Internet, Japanese users have great connections, but as we have discussed a million times, there is so little evidence online that they are using it with the same kind of sophistication as Americans or Koreans.

    The Japanese media for so long defined progress and success by the quality of material goods being purchased. If you have had any exposure to that over the last decades, it’s very easy to see the current Japan as somehow failing. I’m happy for there to be a new collective narrative about “Japanese post-consumer happiness” but the mainstream media with Dentsu and Hakuhodo are tasked with selling goods and moving people into commercial locations. So I am not sure where this new narrative would come from. Meanwhile the population feels things are bleak.

  13. I have to wonder – when we are considering Japanese film or music or literature vs. American, are we keeping in mind a population 1/3 the size? Isn’t that a bit like comparing Australia to Japan in movies, novels, graphic novels, TV, etc. ? Even in TV it would be doomed to an asskicking, I think. It is flattering to Japan, a legacy of the 80s I think, that we compare it to the US like it is a country of similar size, but that wasn’t going to last.

    “Japan is still #1 as a legacy”

    Here is the strange thing about this as any kind of rating – so Japan is in decline for luxury consumption, but consumption juggernaut America didn’t get within striking distance of Japan in absolute terms even though it has 3 and a bit times the population. So why use this as a measure of anything other than what Japanese consumers used to care about? Couldn’t this just be an example of Japan getting over something that Americans might have been wise enough to never subscribe to in the first place just like Japanese never got into 3000 calorie entrées or any of that wonderful stuff supporting US consumption?

    “The games market is the only one doing not so bad, although Japan’s domination over foreign markets has almost completely disappeared due to the rise of EA and the Xbox.”

    This is kinda like current discussion of the Japanese smartphone market. Apple rules, but as soon as someone makes something with Japanese consumers in mind, they will do well or at least eat a piece of the market. Japan was dominating the console game market internationally for decades, not just because they were making odorless cultural products of wide appeal (like Mario, which looks to remain a huge seller) but really because there wasn’t any competition. The appearance of competition shouldn’t be taken as a Japanese collapse, it should be taken as an inevitability. There was never any chance of Japan tapping this market –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ouf9RyA33A

    Aren’t you glad? As Aceface’s BBC clip comment in Adamu’s last big post also demonstrated, there are some people who feel a need deny carnage, and there are some that think it was pretty damn funny and/or awesome.

    “are doing that “well” is because Chinese shoppers are coming to Japan to shop.”

    This picks up on the mid-2010 Japanese media narrative of Chinese consumers being the future, but I’d be interested to see if this is really the case. It can be checked if you or anyone else has access to Q4 stats, which should be wayyyyyy down due to the collapse of Chinese tourism over the Sankaku incident. I would be really interested in seeing those stats but a quick Google got nothing and this is quite a bit out of my sphere of information gathering expertise.

    “are using it with the same kind of sophistication as Americans or Koreans.”

    Aside from hounding starlets to suicide, is there something sophisticated that Koreans are using the web for that I’m not aware of? Something tells me that it isn’t a radical alternative media. In any case, the basic number for good internet connection rates, regardless of use, is a sound measure of pure consumerism, no? Another point – I also had no way to confirm this but I’ve seen assertions of a radical increase in takuhai deliveries due to online shopping and online auctions. This could be taken as one type of sophisticated use, especially if it is the “democratizing” online auction kind. Have you seen any numbers?

    “If you have had any exposure to that over the last decades, it’s very easy to see the current Japan as somehow failing.”

    That’s a difference, I think. I’ve been baptized into different Japanese subcultures. First is the sphere that took 80s excess as a height of hubris and cultural stupidity -from Ui to Oshii. Second, we want our anime back, none of this moe crap, burn the whole thing down give us back the retro auteur DYI feel of Headgear or early Gainax when stuff got made for a small market with no budget. Also, people used to be pissed off enough to write good Marxist non-fiction but there was also that nasty side – death to America and let’s look to the Paradise on Earth that is North Korea. The new stuff is angry and anti-ethnocentric while also being interestingly globalist in POV – a step forward methinks. Third, casual, fun gaming still has its deepest roots in Japan while American blockbusters seem to be in big pecs and bigger guns mode (at best, see above clip). It really isn’t the size of the market that sapped anything from Japan, but the way the market went. Decline, especially if it is a decline of being only #2 in luxury good consumption and having great broadband, nice TVs, dramatically increased living space since 1990, etc. could be both vitalizing and not destructive of basic lifestyle.

    I also have to wonder if America might not be destined to encounter a similar qualitative decline, yet one that will happen without some of the nice intangibles that Japan can still rely on.

    Finally, you mention pessimism. I don’t mean to whitewash some serious problems (suicide rate – although it must be acknowledged that ageing is playing a large role here) but have you looked at Japanese happiness measures historically?

    There is a “world database of happiness studies” –
    http://worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl/

    (This sounds spectacularly dodgy but is actually a collection of public opinion polls on happiness measures which have weaknesses but are still fascinating sources)

    Now we know that mainstream Japanese tend to follow certain national narratives when confronted with certain questions (the idea that youth crime is worse now than ever before while there was really more violent crime by under 20s in the 1950s) especially if those questions are coming out of the same media outlets that perpetrate the stereotypes in the first place. When the same questions are asked over time, however, it seems as though happiness measures either haven’t changed at all or peaked in 1995-1997 (which conventional ways of talking about Japanese history hold as the absolute low point – employment glacier, Aum, Kobe Earthquake skullf&ck, negative growth) and are now little different (or sometimes higher) than they were during the 80s or high growth years. By these measures, Japanese don’t seem as desperate in decline as the conventional narrative holds and this dovetails with the general finding that luxury consumption and similar phenomena actually have a negligible impact on surveys of personal happiness. Japanese consumers may have less money but still seem “affluent” compared to just about everyone aside from the US and a sliver of the Chinese (keep in mind that for some reason, the Koreans haven’t gotten rich from their international competitiveness – they still have a miserably low rate of millionaires per capita), but a mass wising up to this is by no means a bad thing.

  14. China’s luxury market is growing.
    America and Korea has more sophisticated net culture.
    French and Italians have longer vacations.

    I also happen to know that New Zealand is better fit to make a film based on Tolkien novel and North Korean leaders have more solid political status than Japanese counterparts.
    But there was not a single moment ever in the history when Japan was number one in all the criteria in international competitiveness.Japan can never be the Stepford wife of the nations even if it tries to be one.I mean how could you possible have a rapid economic growth like China and India without having millions of poor populations that owns almost nothing?Secondly,I don’t think the numbers of Louis Vuitton bag being purchased reflects the cultural creativity of the nation.I know because we’ve been there before.

    If Japan’s future is gray because of the aging demography,we are simply ahead of other East Asian states in the time range of 12 to 15 years.Everyone face the same problem and the difference is Japan manage to contain serious social upheavals inspite of long recessions at home.What would happen to China when it’s economy stops to grow any more than 8%?South Korea when it’s currency starts rising or suddenly North Korea collapses?

    “Last year’s Financial Times Business of Luxury summit did not even mention Japan once”

    I would blame FT,not Japan.And I also see the problem lies here.That it is the foreign coverage that creates virtual realty of the rise and decline of the power of the nation.It happens to any countries,but has much more dramatical effect on Japan for the monoculture of groom and doom reports run by foreign journos that you don’t normally see in other part of the world.Countries like Sudan gets portrayed that way.But they usually go out of the rader with in a feew years.While Japan has corp of foreign correspondents producing the same narratives seamlessly for the two decaades.If it creates some disastrous effect on the nation’s publicity,I wouldn’t surprise.

  15. when we are considering Japanese film or music or literature vs. American, are we keeping in mind a population 1/3 the size?

    I am not specifically talking about growth/decline rates of Japanese markets, which are almost perfectly correlated with rise/drop of incomes WITHIN Japan. That’s to say, Japanese cultural markets rose from 1945 to 1995 and then have been in decline since due to structural economic problems. There is no need for international comparison here to make this point.

    Couldn’t this just be an example of Japan getting over something that Americans might have been wise enough to never subscribe to in the first place just like Japanese never got into 3000 calorie entrées or any of that wonderful stuff supporting US consumption?

    Yes. Americans just never got into luxury accessories like the Japanese. But again, even if a market is collapsing, it still takes a while for it to go down. Whether for journalists or business decision makers, everyone is only looking at the direction of change.

    is there something sophisticated that Koreans are using the web for that I’m not aware of?

    Net journalism that changes political discourse, media companies actually putting content online, name-based social networking. These things are not radical but none of them have come to Japan.

    Decline, especially if it is a decline of being only #2 in luxury good consumption and having great broadband, nice TVs, dramatically increased living space since 1990, etc. could be both vitalizing and not destructive of basic lifestyle.

    Incomes are massively decreased from 1998, and income inequality has increased. Inferior goods are on the rise. No one Japanese understands this era as one of higher quality of life. People are getting poorer, and even if they can buy “more stuff” (which they are not even doing), they feel like the future is more poverty.

    And with the system unlikely to see any major shifts in a positive direction — even when the market was “good” in 2003-2007, average incomes were still in decline for the average person — no one is expecting a brighter future.

  16. China’s luxury market is growing.
    America and Korea has more sophisticated net culture.
    French and Italians have longer vacations.

    The point here is not that Japan has to be number one in all of them, it is that :

    1. Japan had the largest luxury market in the world, but is now shrinking
    2. Japan was seen as having the most sophisticated consumer technology in the world, but now has not been able to follow the new IT paradigm and lost that lead
    3. Japan wants to claim to be a “non-growth nation with high quality of life” but still yet to follow the lead of similar European nations that work to protect labor and consumer rights

    Aceface is right though that Japan was damned in the media even when the economy was good, but I am just finding it hard to legitimately claim that the Japocalypse narrative is completely the product of a media-led conspiracy. Vitals are just moving in the wrong direction in almost everything.

  17. “Aside from hounding starlets to suicide, is there something sophisticated that Koreans are using the web for that I’m not aware of?”

    You consider hounding starlets to suicide to be sophisticated? Boy that’s strange. And Marxy provided a nice answer to your strangely worded question.

    “Japocalypse” has emerged as a theme because as recently as 10 years ago, people crunching numbers and wishing to emphasize the awesome economic prowess of their favorite archipelago nation could make the claim that Japan’s national economy was larger than the economies of all other Asian countries combined. Today, not even someone who believes in Japan the way Christians believe in Jesus can make that claim. A unique period in modern Asian history–one in which Japan developed an economy so large and so productive that it dwarfed the rest of the continent–is gone and unlikely to return.

    “It would certainly be nice if reporters on the Japan beat didn’t approach their work with such a focus on declining vs. rising powers or other overly broad themes.”

    I suppose so, but Japan is an irresistible target for this kind of “realist” narrative given the clear obsession many of its political and economic leaders in the modern era have had with attaining and wielding power in international affairs. Call it what you will–schadenfreude, racism, a burning desire to see a certain people get their comeuppance–but the temptation is too great.

  18. Average income for salary earners is down 5% since 2000 (includes part and baito). I wouldn’t call that massive and this doesn’t seem bad during deflation.

    Canadian and American governments have been accused of gaming the public by almost exclusively focusing on average household incomes rather than individual incomes. When adjusted for inflation / purchasing power, US incomes fell by a similar amount during the same period and are back around 1989 levels due to the Great Recession.

    The growth in US consumer spending comes from two things – credit bubble, which is probably over, and piling more people into the economy.

    It’s not that Japan isn’t hard hit, but the strength of the decline narrative is surprising sometimes.

    “No one Japanese understands this era as one of higher quality of life.”

    My point is that maybe they should. Not only are happiness measures the same, but living space per capita is up 40% since 1989, mostly because affordable housing has increased. The number of registered passenger cars increased from 31,000,000 in 1989 to 58,000,000 in 2010. Now, the decline in publishing or in Louis Vuitton sales in the last few years is something that I don’t particularly like, but there really are numbers indicating a tangible gain in living standards in many areas corresponding with the two lost decades.

  19. “And Marxy provided a nice answer to your strangely worded question.”

    I was joking as all that I have ever seen in reference to Korea’s online culture is cyber-bullying. Is there really a vital online media that is sparking political change in Korea? Anti-English Spectrum? If there really is, are there any examples of this that have been translated or articles about it?

  20. “Is there really a vital online media that is sparking political change in Korea?”

    Have you seriously never heard of OhmyNews? Oh my, please investigate to your heart’s content. I’m sure Marxy had this in mind when he referred to “net journalism that changes political discourse” in Korea.

  21. I should mention – I do know about OhMyNews. Didn’t that just turn out to be a propaganda stunt for Roh, even venomously censoring critical NK coverage on the government line while fanning anti-Americanism over beef?

  22. “Didn’t that just turn out to be a propaganda stunt for Roh, even venomously censoring critical NK coverage on the government line while fanning anti-Americanism over beef?”

    I don’t know, but after perusing all of the information about OhmyNews available out there in multiple languages, is that the conclusion you reached? Or did you just come up with that line off the top of your head due to some preconceived notions about Koreans?

    Why are you turning this thread into a grudge match pitting Japan against Korea and the US?

  23. No, we’ve been talking about this kind of thing for years now.

    https://www.mutantfrog.com/2005/07/14/racist-korean-commercial/

    OhMy has, as far as I understand it, had a lot of problems with this “netizen, defender of the nation” stuff that Marxy has repeatedly written about with regard to 2ch.

    OhMy started the US protest thing back in 2002 which was justified to some extent, but the site never really learned its lesson from the “die “&#$#ing American pigs” signs that showed up.

    Roh’s tenure as president is what OhMy is famous for and isn’t that now considered to be a disaster on every level from Korea-Japan, Korea-China, Korea-US, dealing with North Korea, as well as for corruption and the man personally?

    OhMy was at least partly responsible for the madness that was revealed in a poll by JoongAng Ilbo and CSIS carried out in September 2003 where 36% of Koreans in their 20s picked the US as their least favorite country compared to 4.1% for North Korea. I don’t have to invent or assume anti-Americanism and ultra-nationalism here. While I don’t have the source, a poll from the same year put Japan and the US at the top of a list that South Korea might go to war with, ahead of North Korea.

    I take the point that OhMyNews might have fomented political change, but between online smear campaigns and death threats against journalists who write flippantly about Seoul to what was a very extreme type of anti-Americanism to support for the Roh type of ineffectual fake left nationalism fronting for ethno-centrist thought and neo-liberalism, I don’t think that OhMy was a revolution so much as the founding point for a new type of youth conservativism. And let’s not forget that the site’s forums have been a source for those online bullying campaigns ending in star suicides.

  24. “Why are you turning this thread into a grudge match pitting Japan against Korea and the US?”

    The temptation was just too great for us to start the “realist” narratives comparing these nations.I guess.

    Asahi had series of articles on Korean MSM last year and seemingly the time of online access free journalism had came to it’s peak mostly because the change of political tides and the rise of blogs and SNS.And according to the article,Ohmynews is a by-product of sappy journalism in Korea where major dailies are not-so-reliable and politically conservative(coming from the word of another Korean journos working for online paper).
    I can guess the reason why Ohmynews trying to reach the wider audience with multiple language sites.But it didn’t work out in Japan.That’s why don’t have politically active online media nor the ex-head of state who jumped off from the cliff right after his resignation.

  25. “Why are you turning this thread into a grudge match pitting Japan against Korea and the US?”

    M-Bone made jokes. He does that sometimes. About Japan too.

    Still haven’t heard about that savvy Korean Internet use. The things Marxy mentioned were pretty banal from where I’m sitting, even if Japan lags behind.

    Starcraft?

  26. Average income for salary earners is down 5% since 2000 (includes part and baito). I wouldn’t call that massive and this doesn’t seem bad during deflation.

    Not sure where you got that number.

    This chart shows a much greater drop in incomes from the peak in 1996-1997:
    http://memorva.jp/ranking/japan/kourou_heikin_shotoku_2010.php

    Salarymen income: http://loungeblog.jugem.cc/?eid=996

    And this shows how much harder it’s gotten for people in their 30s to make a decent salary in just 10 years:

    http://www.mri.co.jp/NEWS/column/thinking/2009/2009015_1801.html

    Losing ¥1 mil a year in a decade with no chance of a future rise is significant and nothing to be passed off as “people don’t know how rich they are!!”

  27. Two quick points regarding the OP’s media Japocalypse theme:

    Firstly, much of the international media, it seems, assumes that there is only room for one power in East Asia, so that the rise of China must mean the total eclipse of Japan. This is of course neither realistic nor especially insightful, but fuels the current sino-philia among certain writers such as Martin Jacques. Much can be done to patiently refute this, either by providing a clearer definition of globalization or by making comparisons with Europe, where certain nation-states have had to cope with relative decline.

    As for the herbivores…it’s interesting that the current anxiety about birth-rate and gender roles is being directed at young men rather than, as in the past, demonising women as irresponsible. Male heterosexuality, rather than attempts to dictate the use of the womb, is becoming the focus of cultural criticism. I wonder myself if it is symptomatic of a traditional male employment culture that knows that its time is up but needs to shift the blame. This invites and deserves a serious study of how gender, masculinity and economics combine in contemporary Japan.

  28. BTW Is Herbivore another word for Hipster? And if middle class kids are cynical about their parents’ pursuit of the trappings of wealth, as the narrative goes, should we be surprised that they are buying fewer luxury goods?

  29. And Re: Samsung, LG, etc. what do we make of the argument that Japan has intentionally gotten itself out of manufactures that occur at the beginning and end of the product line and concentrate on high-value manufacturing in the middle?

    http://www.globalasia.org/V5N1_Spring_2010/Ulrike_Schaede.html

    “Those that have already accomplished this transition have emerged as more profitable and differentiated. This change took a decade, and in some industries is still under way. Nor was it easy, and it took some companies too long to realize that the previous cost advantage they enjoyed in the mass production of high-quality household products has moved elsewhere. Margins in the assembly stage are too thin for a high-cost nation. Moving upstream, where technology leadership is less contested and margins are much higher, is the correct strategic repositioning for Japanese firms. “

  30. Thanks all, for your comments. My last point: Being a Dedicated Japan Hand does NOT mean you need to disparage and downplay the status or achievements of other countries in order to prop up your preferred nation. It’s sad, but not surprising, that some of you feel the need to do that. With its many detractors, Japan doesn’t need supporters like that.

    Say what you want about Roh’s “disastrous” presidency of South Korea, but it was pretty remarkable that a human rights lawyer became president of a country that had been governed by jack-booted, right wing, anti-communist military officers for decades until the 1990s. Unlike Koizumi, he wasn’t pals with George W. Bush (was that bad?), and I know he didn’t belt out Elvis tunes at Graceland before leaving office, but his presidency was a signal to the US that Washington couldn’t take its bilateral alliances for granted, as the Americans would realize again a few years later with Japan over the Futenma issue.

  31. Or, perhaps being a dedicated Japan Hand means that you look on claims that Korean vibrancy is something the Japanese could learn from with a bit of skepticism, because we’ve seen it all before. Besides, Korea is building itself up from a much lower (jackbooted, as you say) base. Remarkable that Japan voted in a Socialist in 1947. And a Christian at that.

    Look, I have nothing against Korean achievements, but they shouldn’t be exaggerated either. OhMyNews is not Google.

  32. I had a comment deleted on “Spike Japan” for accusing the author of making out that Japan is the only country in the world that is experiencing visible decay. Sure go out to the boonies and take a picture of a load of haikyo, doesn’t mean the country is going to the dogs.
    You could do this anywhere, right ?

    Reading the comments above, I would like to add that I think foreign pundits love to jaw-bone Japan and bring it down as they are still afraid of it and its economic might.

    As a father of two here, I increasingly feel, I don’t want to inflict this country on my children. That’s what I feel, theories and data aside.

    Noise, well-old social constraints and stone age attitudes regarding what is expected of people (women, mothers, fathers, children) – companies that dominate your lives so much that your frigging boss makes the main speech at your wedding . . .

  33. “And Re: Samsung, LG, etc. what do we make of the argument that Japan has intentionally gotten itself out of manufactures that occur at the beginning and end of the product line and concentrate on high-value manufacturing in the middle?”

    Have a friend working at THK, maker of specialized parts for factory lines, and they are making insane amounts of money selling to Samsung et al. So yes, in real High tech Japan still tops.

    Doesn’t change the fact that people in Japan are getting poorer, and the response by the establishment is just some good old 根性論 bullshit. It wont take much until big biz gets an expansion of immigration quotas and Japan has a chinese immigration boom.

  34. AR – you should look at some of the critical stuff I wrote about Abe.

    ”as the Americans would realize again a few years later with Japan over the Futenma issue.”

    Roh was the guy who, after North Korea launched a series of missiles in 2005, criticized the Japanese criticism before criticizing the North. This, combined with young people polling as considering war with allies and democracies before considering it with a nation that was periodically announcing its intention to turn Seoul into a sea of fire seems a symptom of a rather sick time in South Korean public life, one that OhMyNews helped to usher in. You say that Americans are realizing this about Japan at present, but that’s without the flag burning and without the embassy having to issue a warning to citizens about the potential for random violence.

    You know, I like Korea. I’ve written in support of Japanese-Korean friendship initiatives. I wrote above about how Japan should emulate Korean manufacturing strategy (yes, I was a bit down on Korean products, but read what I wrote – I clearly think that they are smart to do it that way). I thought that Kanryu was a great thing. How do you think I felt when Roh flirted with war rhetoric over Dokdo/Takeshima? Or about the Dokdo class amphibious landing ship? Or about military drills near Dokdo? And what do you mean that Roh wasn’t buddy buddy with Bush? South Korea played a much bigger role in Iraq than Japan did, just because he didn’t sing doesn’t mean that he refused to put boots on the ground. And here is the real kicker – they did so while Roh was stoking anti-American feelings to boost his popularity while never having any intention of doing with less American defense commitment. That really is the ultimate scumbag move in East Asian politics. If you want the US gone, fine. Just don’t whip up hatred to play to the populist base and then beg them to stay. We shouldn’t be praising ultranationalist populism just because it has an online base.

    “It’s sad, but not surprising, that some of you feel the need to do that.”

    Almost all of what I presented above had statistical backing. I take looking up those statistics as an opportunity to learn something. If you have any problem with numbers or if you have an alternative to the polls that I cited, fine. I like new evidence of any kind. However, getting antsy about statistical comparison in a thread about Japan’s RELATIVE decline or considering statistical comparison as an irrational propping up is just distracting from healthy back and forth. Think Toshiba displays fail more than Samsung? Forbes understates the number of Korean millionaires? Korean nationalism in the early 2000s didn’t vilify America? By all means, present an alternative.

  35. “Firstly, much of the international media, it seems, assumes that there is only room for one power in East Asia, so that the rise of China must mean the total eclipse of Japan.”

    Yeah, one thing that rarely gets mentioned in these discussions is that Japan is at near trade parity with China. This means, if everything else is neutral, that the expansion of the Chinese economy will provide a proportional boost to Japan. Far from eclipse, China seems much better news for Japan than for the United States, which is currently borrowing money from China for an arms race with China.

  36. “Not sure where you got that number.”

    It is from the government 家計調査 2000 and 2009. This is the number earned from employment income in working households of two or more people. The statistics that you linked to include elderly households, no? I think that including households that are earning income other than salary from employment makes demographic change more likely to skew the results in what is essentially a discussion of income from jobs/employment. Also, the “zensetai” measure is not a good indication of income of actual households as the number of single person households has increased considerably during this period (from 11,200,000 in 1995 to 14,000,000 in 2009) and includes elderly. The “households with children” measure seems promising, but as you yourself have pointed out – it is working class households that may have fallen disproportionately into haken or underclass life that are having a disproportionate number of children. Now the “working households of two or over” measure does show decline, but a more modest decline. Aggregate measures across the economy do not mean that individual works will make that much less (although you are right to point out that they do make less).

    The second link that you provided is very interesting and can be read in two very different ways. You say that it shows how hard it is to make a decent wage, but nearly 50% are making over 500 man (and nearly 1 in 4 700) and the highest earning 20% little impacted since 1995.

    If we arbitrarily say 100 yen to the dollar as rough PPP (am I the only one who feels that 100 yen to the dollar is “natural”?, if I did these stats at exchange rate, Japan would dominate) the US numbers from 2005 (the only date that I could fine quick, but probably okay – a slight gain before and a decline since 2008, I’m also comparing the Japanese 30-34 with the entire US household sample, hoping that it will be at least ballpark… and leaving out totally the fact that there are more single income households in Japan… and finally all of the Japanese numbers are rounded, mostly in a way favorable to a pessimist argument, since the categories don’t quite add up) –

    0-25,000 – 28.22% (Japan 16%)
    25-50,000 – 26.65% (Japan 30%)
    50-75,000 – 18.27% (Japan 29%)
    75-100,000 – 10.93% (Japan 17%)
    100,000+ (likely to be high because includes entire household sample) – 15.75 (Japan 7%)

    We really end up seeing quite what the expected national narrative is – more very rich and more very poor in the US with Japan looking more egalitarian in the middle and no dramatically different gaps in what we would expect to be normal working households between either economy.

  37. It wont take much until big biz gets an expansion of immigration quotas and Japan has a chinese immigration boom.

    This is already happening. The visa rules were changed very quietly a couple of years back, and now a listed company can now get an “international services” visa for basically anyone, even if they don’t have a college degree. There are already media reports about big Japanese companies hiring employees in China en masse. I personally know a significant number of bilingual or trilingual Chinese people in their 20s and early 30s who graduated from Japanese universities within the last couple of years and were picked up by well-known companies in prominent roles — one is now basically running the Chinese operations of a Japanese video game maker, for instance.

    Two more points to add to this discussion.

    First, working women are generally doing much better now than they were 10 years ago. Many big companies, both domestic and gaishikei, are modifying their HR policies specifically to be more friendly to working mothers — making it easier to take leave for childbirth and family care and removing or limiting expectations of overtime. There is still a big gender discrepancy in pay, but much of that is due to the different expectations from men and women. In Japanese banks, for instance, you’ll find that while men still rule the front office (i.e. making the deals), almost all of the back office operation and infrastructure is managed by skilled women who drop off their kids at school or day care, come to work at 9 and leave at 5. They make less money than the front office men do, but their jobs are more stable and they can almost always go home on time. And there is a growing number of female telecommuters, as well as female doctors, lawyers and businesspeople who can work on their own time.

    Secondly, NHK and other news reports have consistently indicated that while new graduate hiring rates are very low, the employers are blaming this on the poor quality of new graduates rather than on a lack of hiring budget. Businesses don’t need grunt labor as much as they used to; they need talented and energetic salespeople and eggheads, and many people just aren’t cut out for that (or haven’t been taught to do that by the education system). It’s the same polarization of labor that you can see in the US or other advanced economies.

    I personally think the problem in Japan is an overall lack of a sense of urgency. Many factors — strong labor protections, huge cash reserves, no social downside to living with your parents, etc. — combine to create a situation where the entire country is “on cruise control” and has no tangible incentive to become more active in controlling its destiny, since everyone alive now will probably be dead by the time things really get bad. The earlier postwar generations in Japan definitely felt a need to build things back up, as do today’s Chinese and Indians, since they all know what it feels like to have a society at the bottom. Japanese people are aware that their society faces serious structural problems in the future, but the most common response seems to be buying a dog or engrossing in an RPG and forgetting about the issue entirely.

  38. ” personally think the problem in Japan is an overall lack of a sense of urgency. ”

    Well bringing migrants certainly doesn’t help. If companies have a problem with the quality of the students they should lobby the government to change the education system/ labor law / tax structure, not trying to dissolve the people and elect a new one. Japanese youngsters are quite demoralized already. At this rate China is eating Japan up.

  39. If companies have a problem with the quality of the students they should lobby the government to change the education system/ labor law / tax structure

    Companies are already doing all of these things. Some of the effects are already coming out, like the recently announced corporate tax cut. The problem is that common citizens and various interest groups generally hate all of these ideas, so there is only so much that the government can do.

  40. “The problem is that common citizens and various interest groups generally hate all of these ideas”

    Which means the japocalypse is coming indeed.

  41. “but Japan is an irresistible target for this kind of “realist” narrative given the clear obsession many of its political and economic leaders in the modern era have had with attaining and wielding power in international affairs. Call it what you will—schadenfreude, racism, a burning desire to see a certain people get their comeuppance—but the temptation is too great.”

    “Being a Dedicated Japan Hand does NOT mean you need to disparage and downplay the status or achievements of other countries in order to prop up your preferred nation.”

    Coming from one same guy,eh?

    I’m just saying most of the Japan coverages are example of bad journalism,It can be legitimized if it were written by un-paid amateurs from Ohmynews.But then,they are not.

    “As a father of two here, I increasingly feel, I don’t want to inflict this country on my children. That’s what I feel, theories and data aside.”

    As a father of two here,I increasingly feel,I don’t want to inflict this country on my children myself.But then,children can take care of themselves.And I don’t think I can live in a life without living in the environment that can take a walk to the convenience stores to get a beer at 2 am and can come back without getting mugged.

    ”Noise, well-old social constraints and stone age attitudes regarding what is expected of people (women, mothers, fathers, children) – companies that dominate your lives so much that your frigging boss makes the main speech at your wedding ”

    Sorry,Girth.It could perfectly be none of my business.But I worry more about you than the country that you live in.Japan can go on with or without you and even if it would slide into “japscruity”as you mentioned,you won’t be any help.

  42. Most of the time I take these statements about mugging and whatnot as realistic hyperbole, but someone was shot to death two blocks from my house two weeks ago and two Mafia coffee shops in my neighbourhood have been firebombed in as many months. It goes without saying that Japan is a haven in some ways.

    My neighbourhood is considered “safe” as well, gawd knows rents are high enough.

  43. “And I don’t think I can live in a life without living in the environment that can take a walk to the convenience stores to get a beer at 2 am and can come back without getting mugged.”

    that’s a late time to be drinking. I usually stop around 11 and have water

  44. Japan would rather go into obscurity than allow too many of the inferior races (everyone else) onto their island.

    They are pinning all their hopes on super intelligent.robots that will clean house, help with homework, design and build Toyotas, and that has the vibrating vagina for the fastidious japanese male too busy playing on the computer to chase any real poon.

  45. I have no wisdom to add to this discussion, but I do want to thank the better commentators for some very wise and informative comments, notably Joe Jones, M-Bone, Fat Tony, and of course Aceface. But especially Joe Jones!

  46. “They are pinning all their hopes on super intelligent.robots that will clean house, help with homework, design and build Toyotas, and that has the vibrating vagina for the fastidious japanese male too busy playing on the computer to chase any real poon.”

    What’s wrong about advancing technology? You’d rather have cheap labor flooding the streets? Go to Dubai then.

  47. Immigrants is something Japan should have. But should not allow the large influx of them for now.
    Immigrant can only be the power of the society when they can fully integrate.And to do so,they need not only stable jobs,but also the possiblity of not only economical,but and social elevation.America/Canada/Australia can offer that because of flexible labor market.France can not as much as English speaking nations for the lack of it.And Japan is even worse.People like Edward Lincorn think immigrant is the key to solve the issue of aging society.But they dismiss the fact that Japan currently lacks the institutional frame work and only blame the cultural insularity they think that exist here.

    Most of the social reforem now being discussed in Japan such as,educational reform,introdcing ID card,hiring more women and senior citizens are something that most of the Anglosphere nations already have.Thus they have managed to integrate immigrants.Japan should clean the house first before invite someone to the house party.Without that,we will see the rise of xenophobism on the street level.

  48. “Without that,we will see the rise of xenophobism on the street level.”

    Erm, I think you’re closing the door after the horse has bolted there.

    Have you read Bryan McVeigh ? He very succinctly points out how various types of institutional nationalism / racism is ingrained into Japanese life through education and the mass media.

    Rather than some kind of “house cleaning”, Japan should move on and accept that they are humans like everyone else on the planet.

    If you’ve got millions of ageing fish-diet-longevity old people to look after, you damn well need a massive tax base, and it ain’t going to come from a swarm of manga-reading freeters.

  49. “He very succinctly points out how various types of institutional nationalism / racism is ingrained into Japanese life through education and the mass media.”

    Not really. In fact, his most successful book is called “NationalismS of Japan”, which is the scholar-talk way of indicating diversity of views and self-identification. McVeigh calls representations of Japan by Westerners that talk about things “ingrained” or talking about Japan like a single agent as “ahistorical and essentializing” in the same book. You can’t convincingly argue that Japan should take more immigrants if you are using the same terms to understand what Japan is (one-thinking and unique) as the Japanese conservatives who want to keep them out.

    From a review in the Journal of Asian Studies – “McVeigh’s important contribution is his demonstration that Japan is not unique in the way that its myths of identity have been managed and mystified at both official and nonofficial levels.”

  50. Japan is going to slowly slide into obscurity in the coming decades. All the old guard will die out and the new generation will be too bothered with fashion and manga to bother running the country.

  51. well this is true unless people realize they can change things and make the society that they want rather than saying “sho ga nai” what about
    “eeeen jyanai” back in early Meiji

    Japan needs some of that early Meiji 立身出世 spirit

    it would be sad if Japan clung on through a lifeline of translated
    rape porn sold abroad

  52. “Erm, I think you’re closing the door after the horse has bolted there.”

    So far the horse hasn’t bolted infront of our house.Japan only allow limited immigrant labors.I covered a story in the city of Toyota after Lehman crisis.And can’t entirely support rosy picture of open door policy of foreign labors promoted by Toyota Inc.

    “Have you read Bryan McVeigh ? He very succinctly points out how various types of institutional nationalism / racism is ingrained into Japanese life through education and the mass media”

    Never read his book,but if someone ever write a book on “History of Japanese party clown”,there would be tons of anectodal episodes how party crowns are ingrained into Japanese life through the education and the mass media and why it’s inseparable from collective unconscious of the nation.If McVeigh wrote a book on nationalism in Japan,I would presume he treats his central theme in a same manner.

    Regarding “Japanese youth needs animal spirit meme”,I have to be rather synical because it was no one but the very same expat/foreign journos preaching us “economic animals”to get a life.Now they are telling the same audience to “kick your harbivour men into boot camp and turn them into Koreans”. And that goes
    back to my own mantra that foreign discourse on Japan are ahistorical and has little connection to the actual reality.

    “Japan is going to slowly slide into obscurity in the coming decades. All the old guard will die out and the new generation will be too bothered with fashion and manga to bother running the country.”

    “Japan needs some of that early Meiji 立身出世 spirit”

    Not very new thought.It’s all over on “WILL”magazine and Sankei shimbun.

  53. “What are our kids supposed to do?” asked Walter F. Mondale, the former vice president, speaking to a group of electrical workers. “Sweep up around the Japanese computers?” It captured the economic pessimism of the time, even if it serves as a laugh line today because, after all, how often do you see a Japanese computer?

    I think most of us see Japanese computers all the frigging time, actually. OK, maybe most of them aren’t PCs, but I have a Nintendo DS and two Canon digital SLR cameras which collectively contain more processing power than Mondale had likely seen in his entire life at the time he posed that rhetorical question. My desktop PC also includes quite a few Japanese components, including the RAM, power supply, at least one of the hard drives, and quite a few other chips and capacitors – but it also has components made in Taiwan, China, the US and probably Malaysia and Thailand – but with all of the advanced components being designed in the US, Japan or Taiwan regardless of the place of manufacture.

    Edit: and my DVD drive is from the Korean company LG.

  54. Japanese kids have less debt than Americans, but probably about as much as Brits and more than almost any other country. Student loans are basically ubiquitous here, although tuition is a lot lower than North America and more students save costs by living at home – although that applies equally to post-college pre-marriage life as it does to the college years.

  55. While the general situation for Japanese young people looks far from bright, articles like that one remind us that the press is out there to provide a product and “the sky is falling!”is a great way to grab eyeballs.

    Interesting again is the lack of international comparison – the stats that the author gives for new public offerings in Japan and the US actually follow roughly the size of the two economies and population figures.

    Without any discussion of the degree to which this is a Japanese disease or whether it is instead due to the evident exhaustion of a global system meaning diminishing returns across developed economies.

    The contrast between the NYT article and Joe’s more hopeful comments above is huge. To a degree, this is a case of dueling anecdotes but one would expect a different standard of balance or original contribution in a newspaper feature when compared to blog comments – where it is fine just throwing ideas out there.

    How can he ignore examples of younger and older company builders coming together to make bags of cash in examples like Uniqlo? Or the fact that Japan has Asia’s youngest self made billionaire in Tanaka Ysohikazu?

  56. Concerning Japanese student loans – It is my impression that they are mostly paid back by parents. In addition, I have not known Japanese under 25s to have substantial credit card debt, although that is pretty much the norm in Canada. Would be interested to see some numbers.

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