Japan

The land of anime, dank sushi and drunk salarymen (white collar workers) passed out on trains. Despite spending some time in Japan growing up, the land of the rising sun never ceases to amaze me with its eccentricity. The social conventions in Japan can sometimes seem very strange in the eyes of anyone who did not grow up there. Different settings call for very different acceptable behavior. They include close to complete silence in the workplace as salaryman stare intently at their computers, constantly considering the age hierarchy and showing deference to anyone more senior, and a strange acceptance of grown individuals reading adult publications in a little marked out area in comic book stores. The entertainment options ae perhaps even more bizarre. They run the gamut from themed cafes that involve prisons, hospitals and trains, casinos where majority of visitors play a slot machine game that resemble a vertical pinball machine, and bizarre services where you pay to cuddle or talk to high school girls (yea, you heard me).

The apparent contradiction between the incredibly strict and hierarchical traditional culture in Japan and its modern eccentric culture has mesmerized many a visitor to the island nation. I believe that these two seemingly diametrically-opposite sides to modern Japanese culture are causally linked. Since Japan’s economy rose rapidly after World War 2, salarymen (white collar workers in large bureaucracies of huge corporations or government offices) were seen as the backbone of the economy. They were subject to very long working hours and strict discipline within the workplace. It was as if corporations adopted the stern disciplined lifestyle of the military. These working conditions persist even today and many salarymen toil hard in their offices from morning till late at night. Family time is severely curtailed as compared to Western societies, and leisure time is thus a great luxury. It is against this backdrop that the entertainment industry flourished. To maximize the leisure time for busy salarymen and students with insanely packed schedules, the entertainment industry had to constantly innovate and evolve. In some ways, it appears that escapism has really spurred this industry to boom. I have always found discussions of this nature (how cultural paradigms shape different industries) fascinating and would love to hear more insights from anyone willing to share.