Note: This article isn’t really about video games at all. I know this is primarily a video game blog (Nintendo at that), but this topic has been something that’s been on my mind lately. So don’t mind the excursion, it won’t happen all the time!
Note: The article contains opinions. You may disagree with them! Let me know in the comments!
Ever since I was a kid, Japanese culture has always been primarily represented as something that’s weird. It makes sense: in a lot of ways…Japan is really a mixture of traditional Asian culture and modern Western culture because of it’s history. Japan was the only Asian country to actually imperialize its’ neighbors, and even stood up the major European powers. During the Meiji Restoration, Japan borrowed a lot of ideas from other nations. It modeled its’ government after the German Empire for example. This isn’t far off from when Japan borrowed a lot of elements from China in the pre-modern era (such as kanji, and rice planting methods).
In the early 1900s, Japan won the Russo-Japanese War which solidify the nation as a major world power. During its’ rise to power, Western Powers feared and sought to limit Japan’s growth. The United States and Japan had a “Gentlemen’s Agreement” where the U.S. wouldn’t restrict Japanese immigration, but Japan wouldn’t allow additional immigration to the States. Japan was an active participant of both World Wars. After the blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrender unconditionally to the United States and the Allied Powers. After World War II, Japan was poor, but it quickly turned its’ economy around and became the second largest economy in the world. Now, it current sits in third place after the United States and China respectively.
Sorry for the very brief, and rather incomplete overview of Japanese history. I do think the aspect of Japan being a mixture of “Asian” and “Western” culture in addition to its strength and notoriety is the primary reason many people see Japan as weird. It might fall into something like the ‘uncanny valley’ where to many people Japanese culture is familiar enough to be recognized, but still off.
But that’s not all. On the Internet things tend to get magnified. Information spreads almost at the speed of light (even if it’s not based in fact), and there something like a confirmation bias effect. If something reaffirms existing believes, then it must be true. This causes the echo-chamber effect, where people will continually feed information that reinforces existing beliefs. See the negative reaction to when I predicted that Wolf wouldn’t be coming back to Smash as DLC.
Because of somewhat familiar but different culture, and the way the Internet operates it leds a lot of people to have a notion that Japan is just full of tentacle monsters fighting kaiju while girls wearing their high school sailor uniforms run. Spoiler alert, it’s not. There’s weird stuff in Japan, but it’s still weird here. It’s if people outside of the U.S. heard about the inflatable grill, and said “all Americans use it”. Let’s break apart this video and fact check it: After all the YouTube channel is called FactsVerse…so they must have done their research…right? Right?
- The Poop Museum
It was actually a temporary exhibit in a science museum in Tokyo, not a permanent exhibit. It also had educational purpose and wasn’t that shitty.
Interviewed for a CNN report, exhibit staff member Tami Sakamaki explains, “Toilets and feces are normally thought of as very unclean topic. But I would like for people to actively talk about them instead of thinking that they’re dirty.”
The exhibition is not all about the entertainment, though, as it also educates people on the challenges the world faces on a global scale. According to Miraikan, 2.5 billion people around the world are unable to use a toilet and many die from the lack of sanitation. The future of sanitation and toilets is also an educational topic for both children and adults.
–From Tokyo Weekender
So it’s already starting off with misinformation…
- Toilet Slippers.
The video gets the basic concept down. If there’s some leakage in the bathroom you don’t really want to get your socks wet…so slippers are not only more sanitary, but they are practical.
- Strange Flavored Treatse
I’ve never seen most of the flavors they listed in the video. They aren’t that common at all. Though, speaking of weird ice cream flavors my friend worked on a map of weird Ice Cream flavors in Japan if you want to see some. A lot of Japanese people are big foodies though. Sometimes when I tell people I’m traveling to a different prefecture they tell me exactly what I need to eat there.
- Vending Machines
Vending machines are a big part of Japan…they are everywhere. However, 90% of the time it’s just a normal soda vending machine. Don’t buy hot food from them, it’s awful. Beer and cigarettes from vending machines can be found in the countryside, but have been declining. The only time I’ve seen a pornographic vending machine was when I was in a sex shop. I once saw a used panty vending machine, but I’m pretty sure those are illegal. The reason they have pornographic vending machine is if you are too embarrassed to buy it face to face. WAIT WAIT WAIT. Every corner has a vending machine that sells umbrellas? I’ve never seen one. I must be in the wrong Japan. I’ve never seen a vending machine that will hold items bought online. Honestly, it sounds like the person got convience store and vending machines mixed up there.
- Bagel Head
Seriously, wtf? I’ve never seen that anywhere. I need to find a bagel party…. I don’t think this was a major craze in Japan at all. It reminds me of the “Eyeball Licking Craze” which was also not really happening.
A restaurant that only serves canned food? Never seen it before. I’m sure it exists, but it’s a novelty thing. Using the same logic as the video, I guess all Americans go to pitch black restaurants.
Not as popular as it was back in the day, but it’s still a style. In my experience, most people are still very anti-tan, and where use umbrellas on sunny days to avoid a tan. So yes, this is true.
- Creepy Human Robots
Robots are being developed all over the world. A lot of them are very creepy. So I guess true, but I don’t think this is exclusive to Japan at all. Technically true, but you can find these all over the world.
- The Liberation Wrapper
Freshness Burger has 162 shops in Japan. I don’t know if the wrapper even really made a splash in Japan, as the video is in Korean and English. I couldn’t find a Japanese version of the video. All the videos I found in Japanese just have a boring white wrapper around burgers. So…maybe?
- Strangest Japanese Fast Food Restaurant
Pretty sure that’s a porno [Obviously NSFW]. So yeah, not a real thing. Guess they had to make the thumbnail appealing?
The thing is…this video has been viewed 9 million times. Even if 20% of the people were duped into believing all of these exist exactly how they presented it…it’s a lot of people. 35,000 people liked the video too.
The truth is that at the end of the day, most Japanese people at the end of the day are pretty normal just like everyone else. There’s some really cool and interesting things about Japan, but often those get ignored for things that are even weird here.
Lastly — as a reminder: things on the Internet must be interesting to float to the top as there’s just so much content. The boring, everyday mill of stuff doesn’t get noticed. If you want to be exposed to real information, do rely on lists to relay proper information. Most of the time, list articles have no real effort put behind them…and they are usually not created by anyone who has any applicable credentials to publish a definitive list.
So please, remember: Japan isn’t that weird, it’s the Internet.
Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)