Those of you who read my previous article, "Ten Ways The Japanese Do It Better ", may think I'm an optimist, only looking on the bright side, working for the Japanese government, yadda yadda yadda... not so! Sixteen years of marriage to a delightful lady born & bred in Tokyo have given me an arm's length perspective on so much that's good about Japan - along with, of course, some of the bad.
Yes indeed, every silver lining has its cloud and it's looking a lot like rain, so without further ado "let's enjoy" Ten Ways The Japanese Do It Worse!
10) Pop Music: The Sound and the Fury Morning Musume
Anyone complaining about the lack of originality and dearth of talent on American Top 40 radio had better count their blessings now. It could be worse, MUCH worse... you could be listening to Japanese pop music. Known as "J-Pop", the sounds emanating from the country's speakers and headphones resemble nothing more than an endless succession of TV cartoon show themes interlaced with weepy ballads. How can a society that prizes harmony produce music that ignores the concept completely? Take a half dozen teenage boys or girls, give them spiffy hairdo's and matching outfits, put them on roller skates and get them to sing in unison... hey guys, 'N Sync is just a name, don't take it literally! (image via j-popcdart.com )
9) Television: Boob Tube for DummiesLow-brow High Definition
I'm not sure why TV in Japan is so bad, maybe everyday life is so stressful people just need an escape into mindless fluff? In general, Japanese TV is dominated by the 3 F's: food, foolishness and more food. It seems like all it takes to be a TV star in Japan is the ability to taste something, make a sincere expression and say "oishi" (delicious!). It's gotten to the point where foreign producers are taking Japanese TV shows and substituting their own English soundtracks - something that works especially well for shows like "Hey! Spring of Trivia" and Spike TV's "MXC", a re-dub of "Takeshi's Castle". (image via Gooseania )
8) Let's Enjoy Mangling English! Let's Enjoy Everything!
Japan is a very well-educated country and English is taught in most schools. It's surprising, therefore, that seemingly everywhere one looks in Japan, you'll find horribly, tragically, hilariously misspelled English. T-shirts are notorious billboards for bad English, and almost every Japan-based website with an English language page is guilt to some degree. There are entire websites dedicated to showcasing outstanding examples of "Engrish", in fact one of the more notable is Engrish.com ! Japanese Engrish displays some curious patterns, such as the need to express "let's" and "enjoy"... even "let's enjoy", such as a billboard emblazoned with "let's enjoy sailing". My favorite, though, was a sign displayed at Tokyo's Narita airport that encouraged passengers to "Enjoy Your Fright". (image via Japan Gallery )
7) City Planning: Where the Streets Have No NamesHighway to Hello Kitty
In Tokyo, at least, the major thoroughfares have names, it's the side streets that go nameless. This is fine for long-time natives but it creates a problem for tourists. So you want to visit that tiny sushi bistro your guidebook recommends? If you don't speak Japanese, try asking the hotel maid to phone the place and then draw you a map. Even big city residents can get confused... which is probably why so many Japanese cell phones come with GPS capability. (image via Scorpions.com )
6) Space Exploration: The Wrong StuffMars or Busted
Riddle me this: how is it that a nation that excels in large scale transportation projects and is a world leader in both electronics and robotics can't get it together when it comes to space exploration? I mean, put ASIMO on a bullet train aimed skyward and its "next stop, moon!", at least it should be. Is it a money problem, or a lack of will? The names JAXA (Japan's NASA) gives its space probes do indicate a certain wishy-washy attitude. The USA named its Mars rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity", while Japan's Mars probe - the one that ran out of fuel - was named "Nozomi" ("Hope"). As in, "Hope it gets there"? (image via Patches Etc )