Japanese Technology from the Future Friday!

JTFF - Japanese Technology from the Future Friday! - AkihabaraNews.com

This week it’s the JTFF being embarrassed for the BBC publishing some wildly innappropriate and overgeneralized coverage of technology & culture in Japan; specifically the "otaku" phenomenon, and clinging to it as a major reason for Japan’s declining population and all the stay at home singles, because seriously, what else could it be? Wow Japan, you so crayyzy!

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Welcome to Japanese Technology from the Future Friday!
It’s already Friday west of the international dateline – here in Japan, it’s totally the future. The weekly JTFF is our somewhat Technosnarky coverage of 2-5 particularly important, specifically Japan-related tech stories. Get yourself hip to the micro & macro that went down while North America was sleeping – check in with Akihabara News every Friday morning and BOOM! Ahead of the game, you win.

:: JTFF – October 25, 2013 ::

• The BBC Makes Sweeping Generalizations and Stratospheric Leaps of Logic to Infer that Otaku Culture Must be the Root of Japan’s Population Problem and in the Process Makes the JTFF Wonder Exactly How Much Journalism One has to Study to Get a BBC Gig Because Seriously it Can’t be Very Much
Well, it’s pretty tempting to just leave this JTFF entry as a title-only piece, but some explanation is probably in order.

First, everybody knows that Japan’s culture is unique. The historically isolationist archipelago is home to what is probably the largest monocultural population on earth, and, barring cataclysm, probably the last. Ever. Most estimates put the people of Japan at 95-98.5% ethnically Japanese - and that’s 127 million or so people (although decline is coming - quickly).

Naturally, much of the outside world is curious about Japan, but when much of the outside world gets a few little nuggets of information, they often fly into wild leaps of logic, blithely ignoring the dynamic yet not at all complicated interplay between concepts like “causality” and “correlation” and “isolated examples and exceptions are indicative of not a damn thing.” Not to go all social statistics on the issue, but that’s pretty basic logic, right?

Okay, so this article from a few hours ago pays lip service to Japan’s declining population situation, then paints these two pathetic, god-level ultra dorks and their socially disconnected, tech-obsessed lifestyles - including virtual girlfriends - as somehow part of the reason. As if these two radical outliers who’ve gone all romancey with their Nintendo DS imply a socio-cultural trend of some kind. In the most coddling junior high science fair, it might be a valid hypothesis, but given than virtual girlfriend technology is... ohhhh, less than a decade old - maybe 5, 6 years max, and given that the Japanese population began declining ohhh... 30 years ago or something, it would be a valid hypothesis for about 15 seconds. Well, for someone qualified to write about Japan, anyway. Someone who wouldn’t refer to a Nintendo DS as “a small portable tablet.” Wow, that's revealing.

And yeah, there’s a link down there - that’s what we do at the JTFF, we find good news from or on Japan and link to it before anybody else can - but we actually don’t really want you to click that link today, because it’s bad news that we found. Not of tragedy or strife, mind you, just bad as is in, you know, not very well made news.

Instead, we’d just like readers to heat up a few brain cells and.. no wait, actually it’d be really cool if journalists could do that. Well okay, both, please - and just give a few moments to think about overgeneralization and aggressive stereotyping. Declaring the existence of two supergeeks evidence of a cultural trend is like... like, ummm... it’s like seeing Steve Nash and Larry Bird practicing basketball together. Because you know they’re both pro, it’s only logical to assume that most NBA players are lanky white guys with surfer and/or blond hair. And then, because you’re too lazy to turn on the TV and watch an NBA game, you just assume, based on those two guys, that “It’s totally like, all white dudes playing pro-ball. Because like, Nash and Bird, man.” And then getting online, with the global reach afforded by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and screaming “THERE’S ONLY WHITE PEOPLE IN THE NBA!!!”

Don’t believe the hype. Don’t read the BBC piece. If you really want to read a decent piece of coverage on Japan’s population situation, check out the very nice work from the Guardian down there. It’s not from the FF, but in this case, we’ll make an exception.

Oh, and lastly, but importantly, the average Japanese person ALSO thinks that grown men in love with an animated character on a portable gaming system are infantile, development-arrested, disconnected idiots. The word “otaku,” in case the BBC didn’t know, is in fact a Japanese pejorative; outside of that tiny sect of humans to which it applies, it’s definitely not a term of endearment.

Oh, and lastly lastly, when you hear the common refrain of “Oh those crazy Japanese and their weird ways,” consider this: when the Japanese think about people in the western world walking out the door, walking through trash, walking through whatever tiny particulate matter might be found on a sidewalk, in a public restroom, a vaguely darker spot on the ground where some kind of fluid, maybe bodily, was deposited 12-24 hours ago, and then heading home and walking straight through the door into the the rest of the house where they live, where they're likely to touch the floor, where children might be playing - imagine how weird and gross that seems.

See - it goes both ways.


That was the JTFF, and live from the future – that is all.

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Tokyo at Night via PhotoEverywhere.