“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.”—Elisabeth Howard West
Look, we all get it: other countries are super silly. Koreans consider live octopus a delicacy while Canadians are known to enjoy repurposed urine called “Molson.” Most men in Bali wear skirts and fittingly most women wear pants. No, just kidding, they wear skirts too. What do you think this is, anarchy? Even our closest blood relative, the British, call french fries “chips” and you don’t even wanna know what they call chips (“yumyumchompers”). And once you manage to order some fries the waiter will charge you for “catsup.” I know times are tough but come on, man, this isn’t even the real thing.
However, we have to be forgiving of our differences. Over the course of history, each country develops a culture unique to themselves through homogenization, societal drift, and whatever Urban Outfitters sells there. Any of these peculiarities should be taken in the context of a diverse global landscape. Even our own United States can probably seem a little funny at times. For example, we claim to be a bastion of freedom yet we have the largest prison population in the world. Also we park on driveways and drive on parkways!
Still, there is one country that truly stands out as the zaniest bunch of crazy birds on this bucket of carbon we call Earth. That country is Japan. We all know that Japan has some world class quirks like super crowded bullet trains, bizarre game shows, and a nearly 100% literacy rate. But beneath all of those eccentricities, there are real gems of elegant absurdity. The following are three completely true facts about the Land of the Rising Sun that will make you say, “Huh, well I don’t about all that but they sure make a heckuvah a sedan.”
Some of us more prudish and SOPA-inclined might think that this is great news. But for anyone born with a boner after 1983 knows that this is the height of hypocrisy. The same country that gave the world:
also brings us:
In Japan it is illegal to create or release uncensored live action pornography because it has been deemed “injurious to public morals.” Until recently they even went as far as censoring pubic hair and genitals shown in dramatic films (re: all the good parts). However, this catch-all law doesn’t manage to include the seemingly endless amount of fantastically insane animated pornography produced and distributed in Japan every year. The cycling combinations of girl on guy on monster on tentacle on smoke deity on manbaby that is anime porn has received the clear to be produced and distributed. I’m not here to judge anyone who enjoys these sorts of online videos — that is what your IT guy at work is for. But it seems more than strange that regular pornos are deemed “injurious to public moral” while a pantheon of pairings that only Rick Santorum could imagine as reality are cranked out for crank outs.
2. The Japanese are obsessed with an invisible crime problem.
Anyone who has been to Japan knows that you can buy almost anything in a vending machine. Soda, beer, ties, umbrellas, lobsters, and even used school girls panties. As such, the streets in many cities are lit aglow with lines of these machines. Keep this in mind. Now another interesting fact about Japan is that it has one of the lowest crime rates in world. They have the second lowest homicide rate and other violent crimes are similarly rare. Nevertheless, Japanese women tend to be acutely or, arguably, irrationally afraid of crime. So much so in fact that they have developed a uniquely Japanese way of evading these hypothetical criminals.
For $800, you can purchase this beauty: a skirt cum soda machine. The idea being that as a woman is pursued on the streets by an invisible man she can easily slip around the corner, unfurl her skirt, and seamlessly blend into her surrounds thusly:
In the United States, many women carry pepper spray to protect themselves from attackers and/or Wall Street occupiers. However, in Japan this must have seemed overzealous, as they don’t have any real problems with crime and/or capitalism, so they went for a more elegant solution.
Japan and the United States have the highest rates of adoption in the world, but with one major difference. Only 2% of Japanese adoption is of children. The other 98% is of 25-30 year old male college graduates, a.k.a. the least disenfranchised people in the world. And therein lies the reason: franchises — or rather businesses. Japanese run businesses are some of the most successful in the world and some of the biggest — Toyota, Suzuki, and Kikkoman — have been family run for many generations. Their secret: perfect sons. But when a family doesn’t have a competent heir apparent, the family doesn’t just hand their company off to a corporate board. Instead, the CEO will basically crash an MBA graduation and legally adopt a graduate into their family to run their company.
Not only does this chosen carpetbagger completely disown his former family, he is often married off to one of the new family’s daughters in an omiai marriage, which I’m pretty sure is Japanese for “barely not incest.” There are a lot of winners in this formula; the family gets to keep their business and the adoptee gets to be in charge of a company/sisterwife. However, one of the hardest conversations any father has to have with his son is explaining that he is giving his inheritance to a stranger who he loves more and who will now be nailing his sister.