The Three Bullets: Lessons from Japan's Survival Games Subculture
In addressing the question of how to restore Japan’s economic prosperity and make the nation a model for reform, Japanese political and industrial leaders should look for inspiration from an unconventional source: the growing airsoft-based Survival Games subculture.
From Contributor and otaku/subculture enthusiast Reece Scott:
No Bang; No Problem
Airsoft guns were first invented in Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the beginning, they were used primarily for target practice, but combative shooting contests called ‘Survival Games’ soon grew in popularity. The games led to greater popularity domestically and throughout Asia, with airsoft eventually making its way to the United States and Europe in the 1990s. Today, there are several stores in Akihabara alone selling airsoft guns, accessories, military apparel, and catering to the Survival Game market in general.
Returning to my original thesis statement, casual observers might ask:
“What could the industrial and political elite of a pacifist nation like Japan, where citizens aren’t allowed to own real guns (unless they’re licensed hunters), possibly learn from military otaku running around playing war?”
These critics might point to the recent, tragic case of Haruna Yukawa, a Japanese man who became fascinated with things military-related, went to the Middle East, and was eventually taken captive by Islamic State fighters, as evidence of “military mania” being a force for ill in Japanese society. On the contrary, the reality of the Survival Game subculture is something quite positive.
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the Three Arrows Agenda of Abenomics. Another approach, and one that can work in cooperation, is what I call the Three Bullets Agenda; These three points, the bullets, are highly encouraged in airsoft and if applied to the rest of Japan could lead to a much more productive and robust economy.
The first bullet is honesty.
The worst thing anyone can do in a survival game is continue playing even if they have clearly been hit. Unlike paintballs, BBs will not leave any traces of paint on a person’s clothes, so if a player gets hit by a BB, be it from a direct hit or a ricochet, that player is expected to raise their hand, yell in a loud voice “Hitto!” (Hit!), and exit the field. Because honesty is so highly-valued in this environment, most players make sure to be very strict with themselves in determining when they’ve been hit, and will even encourage other players who have been hit by saying “Nice hit call!”
Something as simple as honesty, like that displayed in Japan’s airsoft community, is clearly a much-needed remedy for Japanese firms plagued by corruption in corporate governance. Readers who recall the Olympus scandal of a few years back, in which more than 117.7 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in investment losses were concealed, will surely agree.
The second bullet is effective decision making.
In a survival game, much like a real battlefield, a single decision, or in many cases, a lack of one, can make the difference between completing an objective or getting killed. It is for this reason that being able to make decisions quickly and accepting responsibility for them if things don’t go as planned is an important skill to have in airsoft.
Anyone who has done business in Japan or who has observed the Japanese government’s indecision on the Futenma military base issue or the Fukushima nuclear disaster post-3/11 will know that Japanese decision-making, which places emphasis on building a consensus, tends to be very slow. Japanese political and business leaders would be wise to accept that there are times when consensus simply is not possible and simply do what they feel is right, even if it doesn’t go well.
The third and final bullet airsoft offers consists of lessons for Japan on encouraging women to actively participate in a male-dominated culture.
While airsoft was for many years a traditionally male-oriented sport, recent years have seen a huge increase in female participation, and the airsoft industry, survival game venues, and the still mostly male airsoft community is more than happy to accommodate them.
Venues in particular have focused much of their recent marketing efforts towards women by pointing out special deals or events for female airsofters as well as women-friendly facilities. Female participation has also been encouraged by Japanese military magazines featuring women cover models as well as websites such as Survival Game Fashion Snap, a photo collection of both male and female airsofters decked out with weapons and gear.
Some may cynically suggest that standard objectification is the real reason women are being targeted with these marketing efforts. Perhaps, but I would argue that if women are encouraged and able to actively participate in an area where they previously did not have access, then the ends justify the means.
Japanese society needs to get used to the idea of more women in business and politics, which is why I think Abe’s push for ‘Womenomics’ is a welcome development. Perhaps if Japanese men can learn to value the role of women in positions of power, female politicians being told to “hurry up and get married” will become a thing of the past.
Survival Games: Recognize
If Japan can put into practice the three bullets of honesty, effective decision making, and actively encouraging women’s participation, solutions for major issues such as the rapidly aging population and immigration are more likely to take much more substantive form. For now though, it’s only a shot in the dark.
Contributor Reece Scott holds a B.A. in Japanese from Georgetown University, and a Master’s in Modern Japanese Studies from the University of Oxford. He is passionate about otaku culture and trends.
AkihabaraNews and the author send special thanks to Survival Game Fashion Snap for granting use of their photos.
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