Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

The Emperor

The Japanese monarchy, also known as The Chrysanthemum Throne, is the oldest in the world. Japan also has the world's only remaining Emperor. The Emperor has always been a revered and influential ...

Yakuza

The yakuza is one of the most famous and most romanticised criminal groups in the world. Traditionally seen by many Japanese people as a modern incarnation of the samurai, the yakuza were tolerated for a long time. They are distinctive for extensive tattooing, missing pinkie fingers and hairstyles 20 years out-of-date. In 1991, ...

Uyoku dantai (Right-wing extremists)

The uyoku dantai are deranged right-wingers who ride around in black jeeps, play marching music and yell imperialist slogans. An embarrassment which most people ignore, they possess a surprising amount of political influence through yakuza connections and bribery. Their campaigning centers monotonously around increasing Japan's military, kicking foreigners out, and making the ...

Homelessness in Japan

The parks of urban Japan have become the home of its increasing homeless population. Most homeless people maintain remarkable dignity in their discreet cardboard homes, wishing only to keep out of the way. These homes are regularly cleared by police when concerned locals complain. These people have also become vulnerable to violence ...

Boso zoku (Biker gangs)

Japan's urban soundtrack wouldn't be complete without the blaring and whooping of the passing boso zoku (motorcycle gangs). Supposedly introduced by adventurous Hell's Angels in the 1950's, boso zoku membership reached a peak of 40,000 in the 70's. With total disregard for Japan's timid police, the gangs' favourite trick is to cruise ...

Fake priests

There are over 700,000 weddings in Japan every year. Western style weddings are increasingly popular, usually conducted in expensive hotels or special wedding centers. The centerpiece is sometimes a Christian wedding ceremony, transporting the bride and groom to a magical Hollywood fantasy. Few of the guests understand what the foreign minister ...

Hikikomori (Reclusive shut-ins)

Hikikomori are young people (estimated at 1 million) who withdraw from society completely, shutting ...

Ganguro

The ganguro look intentionally flies in the face of conventional Japanese aesthetics. Inspired by tanned Okinawan singer ...

Kogals (Materialistic schoolgirls)

Kogals (or "kogyaru"), Japan's teenage urban subculture, have become one of the country's most powerful consumer groups. Forced to wear plain high-school uniforms, they accessorise them with short skirts, Burberry scarves, and long, white, baggy socks ("rususokusu") that make their legs look like tree trunks. Although most of them don't have jobs, ...

The Bubble Economy

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, Japan achieved one of ...

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