Monthly Archives: May 2011

Is Japan Losing its Culture? – Part 2: Only One Rising Sun


If Japan is losing its culture, then who isn’t? Practically every country in the world is being influenced by America alone, though essentially everyone is influencing everyone else in some way. And now that we have such widespread internet connectivity (the growth of which is never going to slow), we are gradually becoming more culturally homogenized. Japan is one country that outsiders feel passionately about, probably because they like the idea of experiencing something “exotic.” It is therefore disappointing to some who travel to the big cities of Japan (“they’re all the same around the world – dirty, loud, and expensive”), until they go to the more traditional small-towns or old temples, and begin to feel like they’re in the “real Japan.” However, many of the assumptions held by foreigners about Japanese culture may best be reconsidered.

Posted in Culture, Japan | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Is Japan Losing its Culture? – Part 1: A History of Cultural Adoption

I want to talk about the problem I usually find when non-Japanese people talk about Japanese culture, which is that they generalize too much. They make sweeping statements that are inherently too loaded to be anything but false. This is usually because they approach Japan through the lens of their own culture – the etic approach, in anthropological terms. Japan can only possibly be understood in the greater Japanese context – one that considers its history, and its interaction with other nations. Making a statement like “Japan is very ________, and here’s my anecdote…” is an approach doomed to failure. For example, I often hear complaints that Japan is becoming highly Westernized, or more specifically, Americanized. A big concern is that they’re losing their culture. …But is it true? Is Japan losing its culture?

Posted in Culture, Japan | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rock Star Skepticism

If you thought there was no skepticism in the Japanese rock scene, you would be wrong.

Most people reading this (i.e., English speakers) are probably unaware of just how much music Japan produces. Japan has a rich musical history and distinct cultural sound, not to mention the second biggest music market in the world, right after America. I find that some Japanese bands are able to tap into the sounds of their American counterparts, but not really vice-versa. Regardless, I’m not here to review music. I’m here to introduce you to the award-winning Japanese rock band “Radwimps.” Their music is not only fantastic, but their lyrics are always meaningful and fascinating. My favourite Radwimps song did what so relatively few have done in Japanese history (or mainstream music history in general): They dissed God.

Posted in Activism, Culture, Japan, Skepticism | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

My (animal) Kingdom for a Horse… or bull

Many alternative medicines use parts from various animals, regardless of their actual effectiveness. Animals are also sacrificed for the sake of magic rituals, and there are always buyers somewhere. Unfortunately, that means that such pseudoscience is being funded at these animals’ expenses. We need animals. We eat them, wear them, keep them as pets, use them in medicines and cosmetics, and even stuff or skin them and call them art. This is the way of life most of us are used to, and I’m not going to preach the extremist PETA dogma or pass any judgment. The issue is about wasting limited resources. For example, as I mentioned before, killing a single alpha-male lion disrupts the entire pride, resulting in the death of the slain male’s cubs, as well as all those who try to protect them. So what makes the gradual extinction of multitudes of species truly deplorable is that the demand for these animal parts is highly driven by pseudoscience – the biggest waste of them all.

Posted in Activism, Culture, Legal Issues, Media, Medicine & Health, Pseudoscience, Skepticism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment