Stuff you'd like if it were Japanese

People have accused me of only liking things because they‘re Japanese: "If an American made this you’d have zero interest." I deny this, but of course it‘s secretly true to an uncomfortably high degree. I can point to non-Japanese stuff I have obsessed over, and even Western stuff I at some point liked (which for the most part is over 40 years old), but there are so many boring Japanese cultural products/detritus that I have spent/wasted countless hours on that I most certainly wouldn’t have were they not Japanese.

Perhaps we can analyze what the dark psychology is that brings this about later in the thread, but for now, as an exercise that others can join me in, I want to start thinking of things I'd probably like if they were Japanese (and maybe if we're lucky I'll convince myself to actually like them).

What specifically inspired me to start this thread was [All About That Bass](, which I realized is similar to a lot of the [Japanese]( [pop]( that I manage to semi-enjoy in that hearkens to older styles of music, but in a way that is (often pleasantly) anachronistic and not really at all how the music that "inspired" it actually sounded. This is of course not at all a tendency reserved for Japanese musicians, and even as a person who doesn't listen to American pop music at all, I can think of many similar American [pop]( [songs]( [Bruno Mars]( has probably been the king of this over the past 10+ years (maybe Bruno Mars is the Gen Hoshino of America? (Another thread idea: "The <Some Japanese Celebrity> of America")).

I also didn't realize All About That Bass was about how cool it is to be fat until I heard it today and actually listened to the lyrics. I think it's a very common experience for people who have learned a little Japanese to one day realize a song they heard years ago is actually about something completely different than what they imagined. (There must be at least one super popular body positive Japanese pop song, right? I can't think of any right now.)

I highly suspect that if some of these jazz/funk inspired American pop songs were Japanese, I'd at least look the songs up the first time I heard them and listen to a handful of other songs by their artists, and perhaps even put them in a personal playlist that I listen to at least once every 3 months -- all of which is worlds beyond the level of engagement I actually have with American pop music.

Anyway, I'll continue to update this thread with other examples/analysis of this weird Japanese ethno-nationalism (?) that I've absorbed (which unfortunately is not the only foreign ethno-nationalism lurking inside of me (maybe someday I'll make a thread about the other one, which is much more complicated to talk about)), but in the mean time I'm curious if others have related experiences/examples!

(To be clear, I know there is a much simpler name for my condition: being a weeaboo. But I feel like there's some unwritten rule that you're not supposed to use that word on this forum.)

just say “women” and get it over with

@“yeso”#p86552 men too!



1 hit KO

I keep thinking I should listen to rap/hip-hop, which is the only American thing that I can really imagine myself liking as much as I like 70s/80s Japanese prog/synth rock (which is I guess is what I consider “my favorite music”). Though I highly suspect I‘d also feel a similar kind of weird if I liked rap too much as a white guy. I am sure the fact that I’m even thinking of music this way reveals there is something horribly wrong with my brain (perhaps related to never being a part of a scene/only listening to music alone in my room/not really understanding the music or the forces that created it/turning it into a meaningless aesthetic rather than a means for communicating with other human beings/etc.)

I‘d flip the question on its head. Does liking something that isn’t made domestically make you more open to a more diverse take on said cultural form? Does only liking things from your home country make you a nationalist?

From my experience and perspective, if a Japanese studio made, say, Assassin's Creed _exactly_ as it is made by Ubisoft then would I like it on the basis of it being Japanese? No, I dislike plenty of things that are Japanese. Would I like Assassin's Creed if it was made by a Japanese studio and I perceived it to have been made with the design values that I normally expect from a Japanese developer based on my experience growing up in the late 80s and early 90s; polish, tightness, modesty, focus and without any sort of superfluous elements then I'd be more likely to like it but I'd probably be more indifferent than anything. Modesty and tightness are perhaps the things I'd value most in any sort of media.

That is ultimately a positive shift in opinion but if Ubisoft were to do away with their design framework and build the next Assassin's Creed with the same sort of principles as Breath of the Wild, for the lack of a better example, then I probably would like it more because it adhered to certain design choices that I am more favourable of. But then, philosophically, would it still be an Assassin's Creed game?


@“saddleblasters”#p86544 (To be clear, I know there is a much simpler name for my condition: being a weeaboo. But I feel like there’s some unwritten rule that you’re not supposed to use that word on this forum.)

I don't know if it's so much an unwritten rule as just not really applying to anyone here. To unashamedly skip right to arguing about semantics, I don't think a weeaboo is just someone who consumes a lot of Japanese cultural products and/or admires or has learned about Japanese culture. I would say the term is specifically used as a pejorative towards someone who does so with a lack of self awareness and a whole lot of self absorption, with understandings that might encompass a lot of factoids or an encyclopedic knowledge of specific things but which is shallow and lacks a holistic understanding, which confuses mass market media and exported goods and the tourism industry with an invitation to be "of" that culture or at least in some kind of greater position than an outsider rather than simply to consume or experience it, or perhaps to summarize and/or to speak on the worst extremes, which is objectifying, romanticizing, and fetishistic. I mean, a weeb is the sort of person who wouldn't even be able to handle hearing this sort of thing, and I sincerely doubt anyone here is going to take issue with this description on any other level other than to say that they disagree that's what a weeb is, because I think we can all definitely agree non Japanese people who do obsess over and romanticize and fetishize Japanese culture are definitely out there. I just don't think you, @"saddleblasters"#300 , are one, and I don't think this is really the kind of environment that is hospitable to this sort of behavior or attitude.

I can't remember who brought him up on the forums before, but is that [Canadian guy who speaks Japanese, lived in Japan, and did an apprenticeship in the traditional comedy performance style rakugo]( someone you could call a weeb, according to my definition? I mean, maybe he _was_ a weeb at some point, but, I mean, it's not like he bought his apprenticeship or copied his routine and style from rakugo performances on YouTube without permission (or... at least... he didn't _only_ do that). I think the difference in being a part of a cultural practice, rather than being an intruder, appropriator, or voyeur, depends a lot on how much you actually interact with it in a direct and living way, and as well how meaningfully you as an outsider seek an invitation or permission by insiders. I mean, with something like anime, the invitation is implied in it being mass market media, but it's not an invitation to feel a sense of belonging or ownership over the culture, it's just an invitation to consume it only. Seeking out and actually receiving an apprenticeship in a traditional art form in the traditional way is, well, a level of dedication I don't think someone you could call a weeb would really be capable of. Or, perhaps, to be more generous, I don't know if someone could fake-it-till-you-make-it indefinitely, belonging into a cultural practice taking more than the downloading of a torrent or the consumption of media products would probably eventually become intolerable for a weeb, or, maybe, it would naturally teach them the error of their ways, too.

As for the topic of this thread, it's something I think about a lot, 'cause, like, I guess it's pretty hard to avoid consuming a whole lot of Japanese cultural products if you like videogames (or at least if you like a certain kind of videogame and especially if you have liked them within certain time periods). I don't necessarily think anyone is wrong when they point out that there are different characteristics to it, although, I'm often hesitant to say that there is a demonstrable difference in quality, on average. Or, even if there is, it has historical context that makes it make sense--I don't think it's too much of a stretch to point out that, say, among the main reasons we in the west get a lot of Japanese cultural products is because of a purposefully executed economic strategy. The global distribution of mass market media is an excellent example of something very good coming out of globalization, and at least as I cursorily understand it, like Hallyu in the Republic of Korea, in Japan it was intentionally pursued (and in many cases this implies support if not even subsidization from government programs or tax breaks or whatever) even more so to diversify the economy as a response to the Asian financial crisis. One side effect of that, though, is that because localization requires time, resources, and specialized skills, and will be competing against domestic mass media too, there will always be a filter that will favor the best (or at least the most economically viable, which at least sort of implies successful or popular) cultural products to make available in other regions. I don't quite know how much all of that factors in to the perception that certain stuff is just "made better" in Japan, but it's not nothing.

Yeah I find it very strange that some people only ever listen/watch/read/play stuff from their country of origin.

The thread topic kind of reminds me of this essay I wrote last year about Shutoku Mukai. There is a certain sense in which the mystique of a foreign language can make commonplace sounds seem a lot cooler. Particularly with Japanese (and I think the cultural exposure as a result of certain economic tendencies that @“Gaagaagiins”#429 mentioned is certainly a part of this), just a Japanese person using some innocuous English phrase can be somewhat amusing, just because we know that they (and their audience) understand what they're saying a lot differently than we do.

In a similar vein, a relatively cliche or trope-filled story will be more appealing to you if its your first exposure to anime, just because all the dressing around it is so unique. But, if you've seen 10+ anime, you'll start to see the ways in which it's not quite as unique as you thought. Some people react by giving up on the medium; some people take this as an opportunity to dive deeper, to pick at the similarities and find the historical and cultural through-line there.

But also, a part of this effect is also simply the nature of poetry: I appreciate when [Shutoku Mukai]( or [Shintaro Sakamoto]( just kind of talk to me about stuff, even when I couldn't understand a lot of what they're saying. However, I also like when [Isaac Brock]( or [Neil Young]( do it. I know a lot of people (including myself) who stopped interacting with English stuff for a while simply because we got a bit tired of it, and wanted to hear from someone else, someone with something slightly different to say, or at least a different way of saying it. But I think, after a while, one comes to appreciate both the familar and the new in a more balanced manner.

For example, when my wife moved out of her parent's house, she only ate Korean food, because she liked it better, and she liked K-pop and K-dramas and all that sort of stuff. It was the only food she knew how to cook, and she cooks it well. But then, as she got used to cooking and wanted to branch out, she began making the middle eastern food she ate as a child (slightly modified to be vegetarian). I often joke that by the time we're retired I'll just be eating toast with marmite, baked beans on toast, and shepherd's pie for every meal while she eats shakshuka, fuul, and etc. I think there's that sort of tendency to gravitate back to what you liked as a child when you get older and just want what you know.

Not really sure where I'm going with this. I don't have a specific answer to the question, because I obsessed so hard with Japanese during my teens and early twenties (to the point of going there and learning the language and all that) that I eventually burned out on that too and ended up returning to a lot of English and American music. And now I listen to
a lot of Arabic music because that's new and different from everything I knew before. So it's a bit of a journey, I suppose.

@“saddleblasters”#p86568 If you‘re into 70s Japanese prog, have you tried listening to King Crimson? Most of the Japanese prog I’ve heard (and, granted, I haven‘t heard enough, if you’ve got any recommendations let me know) had a sound that felt more influenced by King Crimson than by any other prog band of that era (also I think King Crimson was fairly popular in Japan). I know Bi Kyo Ran at the very least started as a King Crimson Tribute Band.


@“Gaagaagiins”#p86570 in Japan it was intentionally pursued

Yeah, this is one of the many things that bother me. By being a foreigner who likes Japanese stuff too much, I feel like I'm one small cog in the machine that is advancing the Japanese state's agenda. I am already advancing the American state's agenda via taxes etc!

I don't really think I know anything about Japan. I've never been there, and the only long-term Japanese friend I've had is in her 50s, has social anxiety, rarely leaves the house, and so is as much (or even more) distanced from 2020s Japan as I am from 2020s America. (I should also say that I'd describe myself almost in the exact same way, other than the age of course. My social anxiety is maybe a tiny bit better than hers, but I have other problems with my brain that more than make up the difference). Instead I've just accumulated a bunch of knowledge about Japanese cultural commodities (music, games, books and movies, but not anime (I'm sorry, for some reason I don't like anime)). Those aren't really culture I think, they're removable from it (thus their mass-marketability). As I get older, I start to wonder if only engaging in commodities from a cultural context outside of my own, that I don't really understand (often literally, when it comes to, say, song lyrics), is limiting to my development as a person. If I were really into American rap instead, well I was born in the society that created that, I am surrounded by people who were deeply impacted by rap and hip-hop. Rap is as removable from its cultural origins as a lot of the Japanese stuff I'd like, but my being so much closer to that original context would perhaps make it a much better tool for communicating with others, understanding others, understanding the music itself, and actually getting something meaningful out of it beyond the feeling of "wow this is so cool."

@“saddleblasters”#p86576 I think there‘s an extent to which sharing your emotional reaction to the sort of obscure art you like can foster genuine human connection just as well as existing in the exact same cultural moment can. Liking popular music from your home country allows you to do things like go to concerts or clubs, sing along and share that sort of experience with people, which is deep and interesting in its own way, but also somewhat fleeting. On the other hand, most of us are familiar with the ways in which Tim uses obscure Japanese media to connect with people via his writing and his videos. It’s not about the media being cool (although that‘s a part of it) as much as it’s about sharing semi-universal human experiences and feelings. Most people watching the videos have never even played or heard of the game in question, and yet, by the end, they feel a deep emotional connection not only to it but to Tim himself.

Coming on to this forum and talking with everyone here deeply about the ways in which art affects us, even if we're not all coming from the exact same foundation, and don't all have the same taste, is valuable and interesting and fun in its own way.


@“AlecS”#p86575 have you tried listening to King Crimson

This is of course the exact thing I'm talking about! I have listened to (and enjoyed!) King Crimson, but not nearly as much as the Japanese bands it influenced -- and only because I knew from Wikipedia articles that it was an influence on a lot of Japanese musicians. (This is also the main reason I've listened to the Beach Boys at all beyond the songs everyone knows).

Maybe part of the issue is that I always end up approaching these Western influences as homework for more properly understanding Japanese music. I'm not sure how to get out of that mindset, though it seems like an important first step.

@“wickedcestus”#p86577 You‘re absolutely right, though I think it takes a lot more initiative and perhaps a level of eloquence and introspectiveness that Tim has and that I don’t (though that I‘m always working towards). I also feel like obscure stuff leads to a selectiveness of who you connect with (e.g. this forum is populated by a very certain type of person). When I worked at a 7-Eleven, all my coworkers were youngish immigrants from all over the place. Most of them (or at least the ones I shared shifts with) liked American hip-hop a lot, which (from a distance at least) seemed like a lingua franca, since it was something all of them talked about, and they assumed I liked it as well. We connected in other ways (much of which was discussing/puzzling over the behavior of weird customers) but I always kind of felt "Why don’t I like hip-hop? Why do I just like old Japanese music?"


@“saddleblasters”#p86576 Yeah, this is one of the many things that bother me. By being a foreigner who likes Japanese stuff too much, I feel like I’m one small cog in the machine that is advancing the Japanese state’s agenda. I am already advancing the American state’s agenda via taxes etc!

Ah, well, I think having it bother you is probably a bit overthinking it. Even if, perhaps in the imagination of an office occupying right wing Japanese nationalist, westerners thinking Goku could beat up Superman is going to shield Japan from foreign (or domestic) condemnation for forming a standing army again, I don't think that is really how it all ends up working in the end.

The much more dour reality is that it mostly advances the agenda of media corporations and their shareholders than the state itself. But it would be overly too cynical to say that domestic creative industries aren't created out of this and that they can't produce good work. I also don't think media can be inherently propagandistic, or even that they can be subliminally propagandistic without the text or subtext containing much or any of the ideology itself. [That'd be a weird way to produce propaganda...](

^ had to rewrite a few sentences up there


Stuff you'd like if it were Japanese

Oh I thought of a real answer to this question



@“Gaagaagiins”#p86583 The much more dour reality is that it mostly advances the agenda of media corporations and their shareholders

well that too lol

hmm this is an ornery multi-topic that might be tough to engage with in a satisfying way on all of the possible levels, but let me try and share a few connected thoughts.

1) @"yeso"#385 lol.

2) i'm honestly having trouble thinking of things i Do Not Like which would be rendered likeable by simply somehow becoming Japanese (which is a process that, you must admit, is pretty hilarious to imagine). things i Do Not Like include: professional wrestling, gory horror films, jangly guitar-based music with lyrics about how much love and sex are painful to experience, anything with pork in it. Japan is good at all of those things, but so are other countries. i have experienced many countries’ takes on all of them, and think they’re all bad.

3) here are the things i like the most: novels and comics about normal people in bizarre situations, rap and jazz music, curry, 16 and 32 bit video games, basketball, baseball. Japan excels at all of these things (except basketball, and rap is debatable), and is the only country that has ever made good 16 and 32 bit video games (a Proven Fact). however, i don’t think i like any of these things _because_ they’re Japanese, and the Japaneseness of my favourite examples of any of these things, when it occurs, seems incidental at best.

4) i am Canadian in origin, and relocated to Japan 12 years ago. while i do enjoy a great deal of Japanese entertainment and culture (including food), i must tell you that, living here, the 90% rule still applies. that is, 90% of the cultural output i experience in Japan, just like everywhere else i've been on this planet, is complete bullshit (to me).

5) while i currently do enjoy a great deal of Japanese culture and entertainment, a significant percentage of the stuff i like the most right now seems to be coming from The Good Ol’ USA, England, and India. this includes books, podcasts, food, music. i seek it out because i am surrounded by Japanese stuff and experiencing only Japanese stuff would quickly drive me insane. it's hard to say the same would have happened in Canada because there is so little "Canadian stuff" (it's mostly stuff made by folks from other places), and so when i lived in Toronto (which was most of my life), i both intentionally sought out stuff that was not "from Canada" but also constantly encountered stuff that was, thankfully, obviously not from Canada, without trying, because it was everywhere. back then, enough of the not-from-Canada stuff that i enjoyed came from Japan (largely but not entirely for geo-economic reasons beyond my control) to convince me to invest effort in getting good at Japanese and then coming to Japan.

5.5) i do love a lot of new, and new-to-me, Japanese stuff! i also still fiercely cherish the Japanese stuff that impacted me in my impressionable years.

6) maybe what it boils down to is: when you’re immersed in a culture (which all of us always are, unavoidably), there is a certain natural tendency to look outward, and see what else is out there. when your default culture is North American, you’ve got a few non-North American culture options presented to you without investing tremendous effort, some of which are major economic world powers. it's very easy to be exposed to Japanese, British, Chinese and (i think depending on if you’re in certain parts of America) Mexican cultural exports. plus if you have a direct family member that comes from another, different culture, then that culture also applies. they all offer great things to experience! it's pretty normal to latch onto aspects of any or all of them! i think until recently it was just really easy to accidentally get immersed in Japanese culture because Japan a) used to be the second biggest economy in the world, b) adopted and exploited the internet early, c) produces an unreasonably large amount of entertainment, much of which is just recognizable enough to North Americans to be different-and-interesting.

7) i mean look at younger kids nowadays: they still get exposed to some Japanese stuff, but less than i did! Minecraft, k-pop, Fortnite, TikTok... these are identifiably not-Japanese things, and Japan is already feeling the effects of less interest from weebs abroad.

8) i guess i wonder whether it's "Japaneseness" that is appealing, or whether it's really the "different from my culture" + "cool on an aesthetic level" + "extremely competently produced on a technical level" + "initially easily available _and then also_ rewarding to pursue as a fan/enthusiast/completionist" combination that spellbinds so many of us.