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Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

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Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby CardinalGuy724 » Tue 12.27.2011 1:48 am

I think we are all familiar with the learners of Japanese who take it a wee bit overboard and by that I mean the ones who have never been to Japan, don't know anything about the country except for what they see in anime/manga but yet have no doubt in their mind that it is the best country on earth and/or know for a fact that they want to move there permanently (most of the time with unrealistic expectations of what kind of employment they can get given their current skill levels in whatever field and of course their often poor Japanese language ability). I've seen a lot of people like this make threads on this site and who were often shot down by many of the other members here.

My question is though why? A simple explanation is that a lot of these people don't think they fit in in the US (I'm going to use US citizens as my go to example just to be consistent) and see Japan as an escape-a place where they can start anew. But this doesn't explain why it seems that this *only* happens with learners of Japanese. When was the last time you saw a learner of French/German/Spanish whatever obsess over their respective countries in the same way? I personally have never-which is odd considering that the argument of social misfits trying to start anew in a completely different place can be applied to any country in the world, not just Japan.

Now I thought of the possibility that maybe it's because Europe or Latin America, etc are still western places and so learners of those languages from the US don't see these countries as adequate escape routes whereas Japan can be so different that to some Japanese learners it's the perfect escape. However, other East Asian countries like China and Korea are just as "exotic" and non-western as Japan, probably even more so (Japan is one of the most western countries in east Asia if not the most western). And yet still here I have never seen a learner of mandarin Chinese or Korean utterly obsess over China and Korean in the same way as some Japanese learners.

Maybe these people are out there and I just haven't met them but I don't think so. So what do you guys think? What is it about Japan that seems to attract what seems to me to be a greater proportion of these obsessive people?

What do you guys think? What explains this phenomenon?
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Shiroisan » Tue 12.27.2011 6:31 am

Japan produces a ton of open media, more than China/Korea (at least from what I've seen), readily available for western audiences, so we have a chance to get to know their culture better than the closed-off China, or the smaller-populated South Korea.

I'm not just talking about anime/manga/video games here :sweatdrop:

I have a few great novels on my shelves that are full of Japanese tales and folklore. I've found that you can learn a lot about a society from reading the stories that their children grow up hearing. It provides context to their morals, beliefs, and ways of thinking. This may surprise you, but I've found that some stories in anime or manga are allegorically derived from many of these traditional tales. So, as out-there and crazy as anime can be, I would not say that it's irrelevant to Japanese society at all. If anything, it's shockingly revealing :shock: .

There's many other practices that you can learn about that may make Japan your home away from home, before ever setting foot in that Country. Buddhism and shinto immediately come to mind. Some people immediately identify with such things upon hearing of them. I'm passionate about such things, and I'll be travelling around to many related festivals when I get to Japan. It's fascinating to see it thriving, in such a genki nature, in a largely secular society.

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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby soldieroH » Tue 12.27.2011 8:09 am

I am one of those obsessed learners if you count those who started and continue studying the Japanese because of anime and manga. :)

Japanese culture attracts me because it is different from the western culture. You can learn a lot of things, like, new ways to express ideas, the little nuances between two words with the same meaning etc. by just learning the language. The culture is interesting because it has developed for a long time without coming in contact with the western culture. Europe, for example, to me seems boring because everywhere you go, nothing much changes - architecture looks similar (almost every church in Europe looks the same), the people aren't that different too, the food also is not so exotic, and the way of thinking also is almost the same. But in Japan, at least I think so, the people, the food, the buildings, the temples, the way of thinking - everything is different! And it is interesting because of that. :)

I also have thought about living in Japan, but, because I am a realistically thinking person, I understand that it won't be so fun and easy to do so - the prices are much higher than in my country, I would need to know the language quite well to interact with other people or even get a job, also I would have to get used to the Japanese customs and so on. And that's why I don't want to move to Japan permanently, but I would like to live there for a few years and then go back to my country. :)

There are also things that I like about the Japan that I have heard and read about that are better than in the western countries (if I am wrong on any of these then feel free to correct me :D ). For example, in the western society the general way of thinking is "every man for himself" - nobody really cares about you, everyone just do things for their own good not caring about what others might say or how it might affect them. In Japan the people are like one big community where everyone cares about each other, they also do things for the greater good, not just only for themselves. In the western countries everyone admire good leaders and businessmen that step over anything just for their own good, but intelligent and just nice people are ridiculed for their lack of "manliness". In Japan people admire diligent, hard working and intelligent people. The pop-culture (including the music) in the western culture is all about money, drugs, sex and fame. In Japan the pop-culture is more like the western pop-culture in the 80s and 90s only more modern.

Well, that is why I am obsessed with Japan. :)

By the way, isn't the "obsession" with Japanese language and culture just a hobby and there are just some people who take it too far?
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Mike Cash » Sat 12.31.2011 11:02 pm

soldieroH wrote:There are also things that I like about the Japan that I have heard and read about that are better than in the western countries (if I am wrong on any of these then feel free to correct me :D ). For example, in the western society the general way of thinking is "every man for himself" - nobody really cares about you, everyone just do things for their own good not caring about what others might say or how it might affect them. In Japan the people are like one big community where everyone cares about each other, they also do things for the greater good, not just only for themselves.


That's the image Japanese would like to believe about themselves, and is probably something you have encountered in pop culture materials such as anime/manga.

The reality is quite different.
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Shiroisan » Sun 01.01.2012 12:45 am

Mike Cash wrote:The reality is quite different.


Well, we are all human, and humans inherently look out for their own well being. However, it's at least refreshing to hear that it's at least a goal on their minds.
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Hektor6766 » Sun 01.01.2012 2:00 am

I think the horrific outcome of World War II and the subsequent uniquely demilitarized rebuilding under the Marshall Plan into a period of global economic growth and consumerism produced a tangible external charm offensive and internal kawaii culture that appeal to many, both inside and outside Japan. Of course, this behavior of national image cultivation is not peculiar to Japan, but I think their image is more oriented toward persuasion than coercion, as it is with some other countries.

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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Mike Cash » Sun 01.01.2012 6:37 am

Hektor6766 wrote:I think the horrific outcome of World War II and the subsequent uniquely demilitarized rebuilding under the Marshall Plan into a period of global economic growth and consumerism produced a tangible external charm offensive and internal kawaii culture that appeal to many, both inside and outside Japan.


What did The Marshall Plan have to do with Japan?
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby soldieroH » Sun 01.01.2012 6:46 am

Mike Cash wrote:
soldieroH wrote:There are also things that I like about the Japan that I have heard and read about that are better than in the western countries (if I am wrong on any of these then feel free to correct me :D ). For example, in the western society the general way of thinking is "every man for himself" - nobody really cares about you, everyone just do things for their own good not caring about what others might say or how it might affect them. In Japan the people are like one big community where everyone cares about each other, they also do things for the greater good, not just only for themselves.


That's the image Japanese would like to believe about themselves, and is probably something you have encountered in pop culture materials such as anime/manga.

The reality is quite different.

Well, the reality might be different, but at least you have a feeling that there is a place that might be better in some ways. :)
But still, don't you find interesting that Japanese have made an image like that? If you compare that image to that made by western pop culture, where the "right" way of life is having a lot of money, being famous, "partying hard", consuming "non-harmful" drugs, like marijuana, having sex with everyone, disrespecting your anyone else etc., doesn't it make you think about where the western culture has gone wrong? In my opinion, it is the idea that counts and if in reality Japan isn't better, then at least their way of thinking how it is supposed to be is better.
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby furrykef » Sun 01.01.2012 10:55 am

soldieroH wrote:where the "right" way of life is having a lot of money, being famous, "partying hard", consuming "non-harmful" drugs, like marijuana, having sex with everyone, disrespecting your anyone else etc., doesn't it make you think about where the western culture has gone wrong?

Hey, not all of those sound like bad things to me. :P

Anyway, there are plenty of Americans who want the same things you ascribe to the Japanese. Both America and Japan fail to meet those ideals pretty hard (though they don't necessarily fail in the same ways). For instance, want to live your life without anybody judging you by the color of your skin? Can't be done in either country.

But all cultures have their good and bad points. If you insist on finding a perfect country to live in, you'll quickly find yourself without a home.
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Hektor6766 » Sun 01.01.2012 1:22 pm

I thought the post-surrender policy in Japan was part of the Marshall Plan. My bad.

My point is still that the demilitarization and re-industrialization in consumer products generated a charm offensive.
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Shiroisan » Sun 01.01.2012 1:42 pm

Hektor6766 wrote:charm offensive.


What cynical terminology...
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Ongakuka » Sun 01.01.2012 5:29 pm

What does 'charm offensive' actually mean? I've never heard this phrase before :)
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Forgetmaenot » Sun 01.01.2012 7:41 pm

Social Misfit,possibly...or inundated with boredom from seeing the same cookie cutter rubbish. But hey I've also studied German and other languages. People always say I'm crazy or weird yet they still hang around. Start over... neah its too late for that...just want to enjoy all life has to offer. Maybe its just a conscious choosing to be different at least for me anyhow. I don't want to fit in anywhere I just want to be... me.
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby Hektor6766 » Sun 01.01.2012 9:16 pm

A charm offensive is an effort to make a favorable impression to gain support or agreement from others. Nothing cynical about putting a good face forward to gain friends and customers. It's better than the other type of offensive.
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Re: Why are some Japanese learners obsessed?

Postby TheEnglishKnitter » Fri 02.03.2012 5:32 am

This discussion seems to have moved on from the original debate.
But I wanted to say that the children's story about the '3 billy goats gruff' who always thought the grass was greener on the other side of that bridge with the troll living beneath seems a bit appropriate. It's got nothing to do with learning Japanese, it is just about being human. I know plenty of people learning Italian who have never set foot on Italian soil who are thinking this is the place to live out their retirement (an even more unrealistic dream given the current economic climate). Given that this feeling is dealt with in a popular childrens story, I think it is a fairly common experience throughout society.
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