The Japanese have historically been known for copying things and making them better, call it reverse-engineering if you like. In fact, one of the main reasons they started learning English was to understand scientific journals for this very purpose.
This trend extends to fashion in which brands such as Louis Vuitton are so popular, it seems everybody here owns an LV bag or purse. No-one seems to mind having the same thing as everyone else, which in my opinion defeats the purpose of spending so much money on something which should be unique.
Of course, every sports team needs an American-style nickname such as the ‘Giants’ or the ‘Dragons’; new houses are designed like their western equivalents; and if you don’t dye your hair brown, well you’re just not… erm… Japanese!
The list goes on and on, and I guess there’s no harm in adopting other cultures as part of your own, but this trend of mimicking others has a twisted side…
The Japanese media, as with most countries, thrives on bringing bad news to the public’s attention, but sometimes I find the level of detail alarming. I first noticed this a few years ago when I watched a report about a growing number of burglaries. The report told viewers when the robberies were taking place, typical buildings which were targeted, why they were targeted and how the burglars gained entry. I watched and thought…”Blimey! These guys are geniuses!” If I had any desire to, I could have used that advice to start my own crime syndicate!
Recently in the news there has been a spate of child suicides. School children, mostly elementary and junior high students, who have taken their own lives as a result of bullying. I’ve talked about the lack of discipline in Japanese schools before, and this latest news highlights the possible affects of a lack of punishment. What is striking of course is that after the first suicide got national media attention it was quickly followed by similar cases occurring across the country. Sure, it could be coincidence, but I doubt it.
The dilemma here is that the problem of bullying needs to be made public, but there is always the risk that people will copy what they see on the news, and with a population of 128 million people, there will always be someone who does.
Last week, an anonymous student wrote a letter to the minister of Education threatening to commit suicide on school premises on November 11th if bullying wasn’t stopped at his or her school. With no way of determining which school that student attends, the whole country is waiting anxiously for an update as the deadline passes.
Needless to say, a few days after that letter was sent, the Education minister received another similar letter from a different student! Hmm… I wonder where that idea came from.
All I can say is I hope the Japanese media don’t hear about the 22-year old man in England who tried to set off a firework from his bum, only for it to backfire and cause serious internal injuries! I wouldn’t want to see copycat cases of that!If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!