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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

10 reasons for Japan to defeat America

Japanese flag

After being devastated by World War II, Japan bounced back to become the world’s second largest economic power in just a few decades. Meanwhile, the U.S. went from being on top of the world to being the country everyone loves to hate. Is it possible that Japan, a country whose greatest strength was once its expertise in making miniature American flags, is now a country Americans should look up to?

I went to Japan recently to see what’s so great about it, and it does indeed have some good things going on. Without further ado, here are 10 reasons Japan is better than America.

1. The world is their buffet.

Japan is one of the most isolated countries in the world. They generally don’t care about anything that happens outside their borders. And yet, when they find that someone has something they like, they’re perfectly happy to make it their own.

They needed a language, so they borrowed Chinese, and later some words from European languages. Shinto is their native religion, but they had no problem adopting Buddhism on top of that. And Christmas seemed pretty cool too, so why not be Christian as well? They love their ancient castles, but they’re even better when you add a McDonald’s and a Starbucks nearby. Walking down the street, you might see an old woman in a traditional kimono next to a 20-something in a T-shirt that says “F*ck that.”

It doesn’t matter if different things conflict. Once they become Japanese, there is no conflict. Japan is the Borg. You will be assimilated.

2. No shaking hands.

I’m guessing the reason for not shaking hands is simply because bowing makes it unnecessary, but a pleasant side effect is that they never have to shake with someone who doesn’t wash their hands.

3. Hikonyan the samurai cat.


Hikonyan was a cat who saved a feudal lord from being struck by lightning over 400 years ago. In return for his heroism, they made him a samurai, built him a castle, gave him his own theme song and merchandise line, and dubbed him Hikonyan (which comes from Hikone, the name of the city, plus nyan, the sound a cat makes in Japanese). While he was created in 2003, they have whitewashed history to have him saving a feudal lord in 1603.

As well as still being alive well past the age of 400, he is approximately as popular now as Elvis was in the late 50s. He can’t go anywhere without being followed by legions of fans of all ages. Grown adults go nuts when he waves at them.

By the way, these fans are very well behaved. You can see in the first pic that everyone is standing where they were told to, in a wide semicircle around him. In the second pic, it’s time for him to say bye-bye, and the kids aren’t tackling him.


4. Taking your shoes off indoors.

Instead of dragging your muddy clodhoppers across the floor like a caveman, you’re invited to do the sensible thing. Kick off your shoes and relax. The floor stays clean, and sometimes they even give you slippers to wear.

5. No tax, no tips, no pennies, no nickels, no quarters.

10 yen50 yen100 yen500 yen
Front and back of the only four coins the Japanese people need: ¥10 ($0.10 U.S.), ¥50 ($0.50 U.S.), ¥100 ($1 U.S.), and ¥500 ($5 U.S.). Photos by Misogi.

Taxes are always included and there’s no tipping, so the price is what it is. In spite of not using paper money until they get up to ¥1,000 ($10 U.S.), you never have to carry around a bunch of change. That’s because they’ve gotten rid of the useless coins. Pennies (¥1) and nickels (¥5) do exist, but prices are almost always a multiple of ten cents (¥10), so they don’t need them. 50 cent pieces (¥50) make up for the absence of quarters. I’m sure they would laugh at the idea of Coinstar, because their coins are actually useful.

6. The food.

Photo by jslander

It’s hard to judge American food as a whole because there’s such a huge variety, but in Japan I found that the food was almost always terrific. Sushi, chicken, beef, noodles, it’s all good. Even things that don’t seem like they’d be anything special turn out to have some combination of spices that brings your palette to life. In spite of this, they don’t have a national obesity epidemic.

When I came back to the U.S. I went to a local Japanese restaurant and had some sushi (fish on top of vinegared rice) and sashimi (just the fish). It was twice as expensive, and not half as good.

Japanese chicken

7. They’re obsessed with perfection.

The Japanese are guided by the principle of kaizen, a philosophy of continuous improvement in all aspects of life. It’s how Toyota took over the automobile industry. Every person from the CEO on down has the responsibility of improving the way they do things. They perform experiments, observe the results, and make adjustments as needed, always inching closer and closer to perfection.

Americans ask “why fix it if it ain’t broken.” They think if something’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for anyone. They think “your” and “you’re” are interchangeable, and any trivial difference is best left for Oxford academics to debate.

8. The girls.

Japanese girls
Photo by tata_aka_T

I don’t know if this is a national law or something, but at least in Kyoto and Tokyo, you can go to any random location at any time of day, and at least half the girls there will look like supermodels. And they’re very likely to be wearing leather boots and a miniskirt…even in the snow.

9. Public transportation.

Japanese trains
Photo by Wikipedia

Thanks to a wonderful public transportation system, many people in the cities don’t feel the need for a car. Buses run frequently between all the locations I wanted to visit in Kyoto, and for traveling greater distances, they have ultramodern trains that go as fast as 186 mph in service.

Public transportation is cheaper, safer, and better for the environment. If you’re like most Americans, the last bus you rode was a big yellow one.

10. They’re totally into technology.

Robot playing the trumpet
Photo by angela n.

For many Japanese people, their gadgets are an extension of their body. I don’t think I was ever more than 50 feet away from a Nintendo DS. Once when I was sitting on a bus, I noticed that all four people across from me were texting on their cell phones. One of them was an old lady, and another one was texting on two phones at the same time.

Here in the good ol’ U.S.A., it wasn’t that long ago that I had to give someone personalized coaching on how to insert a floppy disk.

American car companies are proud to have some models that get more than 20 miles per gallon. The Japanese have recently built a robot that can play the trumpet. Who do you think is more likely to enslave mankind?


  1. I dont really care who is better i think that they as a people live much much better than the way we are bloddy living.. thats for sure... we should adopt some of there sensible living instead of sticking to our own way!! >:l

  2. It's true that we shouldn't stick on our way of living, instead, we should adopt a way which we see better.

    Well, just don't forget to be grateful for what you have :)

    Nice to meet you ^^

  3. if you like it soooo much go live there

  4. If Japan is such a great country, why is it that they are the only Asians that don't want to be Asian? They long to be Americans and live their whole life wishing they were part of the American "race" instead of the Asian rave.

  5. Hi there :)

    It has nothing to do with my articles, I guess.

    I guess there are people like that in every country in the world. I'm sure there are Americans who want to be Asian, and vice versa.

    Sure I want to visit there, it's not that I want to live there, just visiting is ok, thanks for the drop :)

  6. Very good reasons and I agree with your about Tokyo girls, a lot of them looks like models!

  7. Very interesting post. I will digg more about kaizen, haven't heart about it before...and the picture with the two hot Japanese girls on it, is amazing.

  8. Love Japanese girls!


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