Before helping you sell laptops and old iPads to fund the latest Apple offering, one of our marketing girls lived in Japan for a couple of years doing the ESL thing an hour or so outside Osaka. But she left the land of kawaii and otaku to begin an exciting new career setting our sell for cash rates, taunting Office Cat with strings of paperclips and not ever, ever, ever drinking green tea again!
So she left this….
And returned to this…
Begging the question, what’s up with Japan?
Work Hard, Play Hard
The bottom line is that Japanese people are raised to work very, very hard in a highly competitive environment where enterprise, achievement and success are rewarded handsomely. In such an environment (where foreign influence is discouraged) the development of new products, technology and weird stuff is going to happen.
We don’t want to get into the ticking time bomb of social unrest that could be brewing in Japan thanks to people living far longer lives and the economy going sushi mats-up, but the current lifestyle in Japan is very much based on working your old Kindle off for a long, hefty percentage of your life for the recompense of some seriously amazing escapism in your free time.
Constant Evolution of Design
Most of us think of Japan as being totally offbeat, like a pimped version of all the stuff we actually like about our own culture. For example, Japan is obsessed with Kit Kats, like OBSESSED with Kit Kats! See for yourself…
It’s like they’re showing us how amazing life could be if we just invited the green tea flavoured Kit Kat into our lives – so fun, so happy! We can relate because it’s a Kit Kat and we have, like, TWO kinds of Kit Kat (three at the moment – woohoo!) here. But we’re dazzled by what THEY do with the humble Kit Kat. It seems this way for pretty much everything fun in Japanese culture, including technology.
Japan also has one of the biggest consumer markets outside the US, and it’s culturally a fairly safe place to engage in mild fetishes and unusual interests. Our girl says all that cool/weird Japanese stuff is just surface; it’s not threatening and no-one looks twice at some hardworking kid making their way home on the late night train after extra study lessons just because they’re reading very rude manga!
More Subcultures than Any Nation Could Possibly Need
Japan doesn’t have punks that have lived the hard life, paid for it in brain cells and can’t imagine any fate worse than losing their £10,000 LP collection. But Japan does have thousands of kids and young adults looking for that elusive bit of escapism. They play at being cyber goth, punks, Victorians, dolls, astronauts, very tanned Jersey Shore-esqe “people” and whatever other weird subcultures develop in a land where soiled pants dispensing machines are not considered odd. (Our girl says she never once saw one, so maybe they’re just urban legends!) There’s an awesome article about Japanese subcultures here!
The Japanese don’t take themselves too seriously when it comes to fashion, fun and design, which is perhaps why you see ‘salary men’ (i.e. dudes like us who work in offices) with Winnie-the-Pooh embossed briefcases reading hentai manga on the train!
Perhaps it’s the ‘otherness’ of Japan we love. They’re not afraid to make bold statements (which isn’t the same as taking chances) with their tech, their clothes or their weird hobbies.
At the end of the day, no-one in Japan takes themselves too seriously when it comes to ‘weird’ Japan, and if you don’t get the joke, then the joke’s on you!
We totally <3 them!