It has been a great year for learning about Japan here at XpatNation.
Whether your interest is in Japanese politics, planning ahead for a trip, daily life, or traditional culture, you can find what you need right here. Let’s take a look back at 2015.
Abe, and The New Conservative Japanese Government
Though there are important, still-developing stories to watch going into 2016, such as the Japan-China tussle over ownership of several small Pacific islands and the Trans-Pacific partnership (TPP), the big political news for this year all centers around Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his efforts to move Japan far to the right. Coupled with those efforts is Abe’ drive toward militarization.
We looked at the trend toward militarism, and how the U.S. is supporting Japan’s efforts. We also talked about the large protests held against Abe’s plans, and how he disregarded the will of his people to ram new laws through the Diet.
Unfortunately for Japan, the shift right that Abe is effecting is accompanied by some worrying societal trends. Abe’s government seeks to abolish most humanities courses from national universities in favor of “practical learning” in the hard sciences. He also has chipped away at the philosophical underpinnings of Japan’s post-war peaceful legacy, and inflamed neighbors China and Korea by supporting a cruel revisionist version of history that denies the existence of the so-called “comfort women,” sex slaves recruited by the Japanese military during WWII.
Japan like much of the world reacted to the massive NSA leaks involving Edward Snowdon. How did Japan react to the leaked information that the NSA was spying on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe?
In addition, we also devoted an interesting article at the Japanese Internment Camps, and the Japanese American Soldiers who bravely fought for American ideals during World War II.
The Pros And Cons Of Visiting Japan
Despite some ominous political clouds brewing, Japan remains one of the safest and most interesting places in the world to visit, and in 2015 we provided you with plenty of advice, from how to enjoy one of Japan’s famous love hotels, to how to eat sushi in Japan like a local.
For those following a vegetarian diet, we explained how that might be harder than you’d think in Japan, along with practical tips to get around any obstacles. And what’s a good meal, whether sushi or tofu, without the right beverage? In Japan, that means sake, and we explained the various types and how to enjoy drinking them.
Last but not least, we are very aware how expensive all that can be in Japan, and so would not let you leave 2015 without some very practical and specific tips on how to save money as a tourist!
Life In Japan, 2015
Our coverage of Japan this year reached out beyond the basic needs of a short-term visitor to explain many facets of daily life. These articles are helpful to students and residents, but also still can provide some useful context to a tourist. We’ve even heard of some Japanese people sending them on to foreign friends as a way of explaining what life “at home” is like.
An interesting topic covered is one we hope you’ll only ever read about, and never learn about first-hand: a rare English-language account of what it’s like inside a Japanese prison.
There are also things that are within every Japanese person’s shared life experiences, but which may be unfamiliar to outsiders. So how about an article on Japan’s school system, or the morning exercise program adhered to by millions of Japanese every day, or a look at NHK’s daily radio and TV drama, broadcast continuously since before WWII?
We also offered some insight into the LGBTQ community in Japan, where we learned that Japan is one of the most LGBTQ-tolerant countries in the world, though will be perhaps one of the last in the developed, non-Muslim world to recognize same sex marriage. The paradox is, like so many things, very Japanese.
Last but not least, we told you about Japan’s 2015 food of the year. Sushi Sandwiches! Just as delicious as they sound.
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More On Life In Japan
There were also this year several less-pleasant issues that Japanese people were discussing. Sadly, radiation levels remain high near the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, now showing themselves in child thyroid cancers 20-50 times the normal rate.
Japan’s aging population is also a subject of much concern, so much that a new word has entered the vocabulary — kodokushi — meaning “lonely death.”
One of our articles also touched on how Japanese culture is sexually obsessed with school girls, with various music and dance bands, shows and manga depicting underage girls in sexy clothes.
Less tragic but a topic of serious discussion none-the-less is the new My Number system, which assigns a number to each citizen that will track them from birth to death; is it a convenience, or a sign of more government control?
And there are the 2020 Olympics, which are discussed nearly non-stop in the Japanese media. Plans for the primary stadium fell apart this year, and many are worried the facilities won’t be ready in time. Coupled with that is the invasion of Japan by hordes of Chinese tourists. Their money is welcomed, their intrusions on Japan’s insular society, less so.
Oh and on the famous Japanese vending machines, we dived into the real story behind Japan’s used underwear vending machines, they are a real thing, sort of.
The Extraordinary Japanese Culture
Understanding Japan through its traditional culture is a fascinating way to explore this country, for the traveler, resident or student. This year we wrote about sumo, and the experience of attending a live sumo fight, along with looking at just how famous sumo wrestlers are in Japan.
We also looked at some of the Japanese contemporary artists who have been revitalizing the global art market.
Each of the articles also contains places and ways to experience these traditions for yourself when in Japan.
Also, this year, Godzilla, the 61 year old resident of Monster Island, Japan, was officially granted Japanese citizenship.
How Japanese Celebrate Their Holidays Every Year
Last but not least, every country enjoys its holidays, and Japan is no exception. Over the year we told you about:
New Year’s Eve: And how the holiday is celebrated in Japan, with far more of a focus on family time then in much of the world.
We also looked at Valentine’s Day in Japan where women hand out two types of chocolates, “Giri-choco” (obligation chocolate), and “Honmei-choco” (true feeling chocolate.)
Much of the world know about Japan’s famous Cherry Blossom Season, but how much do you really know? During cherry blossom season in Japan, the whole country goes through a change, and the act hanami, literally flower viewing, but the term only applies to cherry blossoms.
For all of you Americans living in Japan or planning a visit, we gave you a first hand experience of what to expect if you find yourself wanting to celebrate the July 4th in Japan
Hiroshima Remembrance Day: Hiroshima and the deaths of over 140,000 people on August 6, the event is commemorated in Japan as a day of mourning, on a national scale. The most significant event is the solemn ceremony held in the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park, beginning at 8 am, allowing for a minute of silence at 8:15, the time the bomb was actually dropped.
The Japanese Festival of the Dead, Obon, Obon is Japan’s version of an annual Buddhist holiday commemorating one’s ancestors, and we took you through the traditions and rituals associated with the event and how every small to mid-size town will hold its own obon festival. The bright lights and happy events of these festivals are explained away by saying the dead are also invited, so no one should feel bad about having a good time alongside them.
Halloween in Japan has been growing bigger and bigger every year, the holiday might not be traditionally Japanese, but being Japan, it is celebrated in a typically Japanese way.
Christmas in Japan, although less than 1% of the country is believed to be Christian, the holiday takes on its own meeting in the Land of the Rising Sun. In Japan, Christmas is more akin to Western “Valentines day” then traditional Christmas, it is far less about the children and family time as it is to do with spending time with your significant other.
So that’s 2015; here’s looking forward to you joining us in 2016 for many more articles on Japan!
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XpatNation is a Social News and Lifestyle magazine, focusing on the insights and experiences on ex-patriots living in The United States.
XpatNation brings together the voices, thoughts, perceptions and experiences of the people of the world who have made the USA their home. Using their insight and unique understanding of the global world we live in to discuss culture, lifestyle, Geo politics and the day to day on-goings of this proud and powerful nation.