Why is “otaku” the same word as “you”? Second attempt

“In the middle eighties, there was a Japanese science-fiction author called Moto Arai. One of her stylistic tics was to address the reader very formally with the second person pronoun, otaku, a much more distant form than the French vous, for instance. Her fans liked this book so much that they adopted this peculiar usage, referring to each other as ‘otaku’”

Read the rest of this entry »

With the Japanese love of convenience, why do they still sell such exceedingly old-fashioned and hard work versions of corkscrews and can openers?

When they are combined, they do have a certain convenience and, perhaps more relevant, compactness. Alternatively, it could be a case of borrowings from the west reflecting the level of technology of the time it was borrowed- like the hightech Japanese toilets reflecting the technology that was available at the (much later) time at which they became standard. In this case, perhaps by the time the market would have been ready to trade up to a classier or easier to use version, most cans already had tab pulls. As people don’t often entertain at home, there are also few chances to show off your Philippe Starck corkscrew or electric tin opener

Why do Japanese companies have a reputation for being more interested in market share than profit?

It’s a natural reaction to an economy that grows rapidly for 30 years- if the market and your competitors grow and you don’t, you basically disappear. As predicted by this theory, businesses have been much more interested in the bottom line since the growth finished. In other words, despite what 90% of books about Japan say, there is nothing special about Japan in this case. The same is true of China now and was true of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why are there so many patches of land that are unused, derelict or farm land even in really developed parts of Tokyo?

Property taxes are low, but property sales tax, inheritance tax and gift tax are all high, making it cheap to carry on the same and expensive to change.

How have small shops managed to survive in Japan?

Just like in Italy, small business owners are, due to their number, organisation and support of the ruling party for most of the last 50 years, a politically influential group that is well protected by its politician friends. If I’m right about this one, the same must be true in France- any France experts want to support me or put me right? Not sure if the profusion of small shops in Japan that give the place atmosphere and a personal touch but keep prices high is an argument for or against free markets- maybe an argument for a happy medium between Italy and the UK?? Actually, who could argue against anywhere that was a happy medium between Italy and the UK in almost anything??

Why is tachiyomi (reading standing up in a bookshop or convenience store) such a big thing in Japan?

According to the this week’s From Our Own Correspondent (BBC Radio) it’s also big in France, where the other similarity is the popularity of comics-something you can easily finish in one visit. Once people get into the habit of doing it with comics, I guess it just spreads. Why the shops allow it, however, is still a mystery…

Why are gaijin losers done good so annoying?

Even if you haven’t written a whole article about why foreigners who are sadsters at home but pass as normal in their Nova classes will soon see their comeuppance and should just learn their place, if you have never felt a flicker of annoyance at the guy who was a trainspotter at home but now has the stunning Russian/Chinese/Ukrainian/Brazilian/Japanese/Venezuelan girls queuing up to sleep with him when he DJs, then you are not a male and/or are some kind of saint.

For the rest of us, feelings at seeing such a lowlife done good that range from fleeting irritation to entire evenings of rage might not be commendable, but they are certainly understandable. Here are two reasons why we feel that way: Read the rest of this entry »

Why is the tap water in Roppongi so disgusting?

Honestly, not only does it taste so bad I’ve had to spit it out before, but 30 minutes after one cup of tea either in the school or in a cafe I have to go running for the toilet. I only live in the neighbouring part of Tokyo to Minato-ku, and I don’t have this problem at all. What is going on?? Does the government put bromide in the water to control the randy Roppongi gaijin??

Why would anyone queue two hours for a Krispy Kreme donut?

Having tried a particulary famous food stuff is a guaranteed safe conversation starter on Monday morning, especially if you can bring some in for people to try. For some people who are used to being told what to do, a simple way of killing 2 hours can even be a blessing. The whole thing reminds me a lot of descriptions of Edo era(and later) Japanese pilgrimages.

 Images of the queue here.

Why are the mice (or rats) representing this year in the Chinese zodiac often depicted munching on an akakabu (red turnip)?

I’m guessing this one is a pun on a good luck word, but no idea. Anyone else?

Question from Blue Lotus blog.

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