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X JAPAN minus the X: a review

matsumoto · 1444

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Offline matsumoto

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on: January 25, 2019, 04:30:36 PM
Last December I took the leap and finally decided to visit Japan. And I had a lot of thoughts about it, so here’s 10 things that might be funny, odd, unusual, uncanny or just plain weird about the empire of the rising sun. Enjoy the read!

1. Porn is everywhere!

Say, you can’t sleep and you desperately need a rice ball at 4 in the morning. No worries, my bud, Japan has your back. Many convenience stores in Japan are open 24/7 and their mild-mannered, excessively courteous employees are more than happy to satisfy your fuck o’clock delicatessen cravings. So off you go to the 7-Eleven across the street, but the last thing you expect to find at 4 am on a weekday is a little crowd (3 is a crowd, right?) lurking by the magazine shelves. Do the Japanese have the compulsion to check the next day’s news in the wee hours of the morning and is it strong enough to make them leave their warm, cozy futons? Nope, they’re there for the porn. A whole, 3 shelf-wide selection of porn magazines with something for everyone’s taste.

A nice stash of kinky stuff at 7-Eleven. Tied shut with ribbon so they make sure you buy them before you take a peek at the good stuff.
Image source: Wikipedia

Airbrushed asian models wearing circle contacts to make them look like creepy child-like dolls? Check. Boobs the size of ripe watermelons? Check. Animated characters with furry tails and cat ears? Check. Porn is super popular in Japan. Way more popular than rice balls and Pokemon. You can’t walk two blocks in any popular Tokyo district without being hit in the face by something flagrantly and unequivocally sexual. Hentai, maid cafés, scantily clad action figures, adult movie theaters, love hotels, you name it.

The perfect Japanese wife.
Image Source: Aliexpress

But if sexuality is as ubiquitous as it seems, then are birth rates in Japan so low the government even decided to have employees go home an hour earlier just so they could… well, do the deed more often? The answer is far from simple. Sexuality is a multi-million yen industry in Japan, but it remains a male-oriented industry and in certain ways a fantasy as inaccessible as your dreams of dating an AKB48 member. Japanese men spend scandalous amounts of yen to feed their own fantasies of screwing a big-bosomed animated character, except animated characters only exist in the ether. They gang up with co-workers and go sit at overpriced maid cafés all evening, except you can’t touch the maids. They lurk around the local 7-Eleven buying cheeky magazines, but if a legitimately hot and available Japanese beauty was to walk by, they might not even raise their eyes.

Hentai books in Akihabara.
Image source: Postcards & Places

Does this sound sad to you? It might not be that bad if you’re a guy with some spare cash. Japan cannot comfort your lonely soul nor can it help you deal with your crippling social anxiety, but it has deployed everything in existence to make you forget about it. The Japanese have even coined a term for that: grass-eater men (草食(系)男子), or dudes who are far too busy absorbing virtual sex to even be interested in actual sex at all. But what if you’re a woman? Which brings us to the next point.

2. Boys and Girls Don’t Mix
Can men and women be friends? Armchair philosophers love to ask themselves this age-old question. Gender segregation in school is still a thing in some parts of Europe, but if you walk past any teenage hotspot in the Old Continent (but hey, why would you, old fart?), you’ll notice that boys and girls mingle naturally and that most Westerners tend to have specimens of both genders in equal numbers on their friends lists. Not in Japan, though. If you’re a woman, you hang out with your girlfriends at the nearest shopping centre or bubble tea café. You spend your hard-earned yen on circle contacts to make your eyes look weird, or on odd devices to stretch your face muscles. If you’re extra daring, you go to a cool music hub like Tower Records and ask for a bento with your favourite #prettyboi idol’s face carved on your bento (which will set you back about $50, but whatever makes you happy). Do Japanese girls even put their doe eyes and cherry-chapped lips to good use? Not much. A whooping 59% of women in the 16-19 age range stated that they had no interested in having sex with real-life guys, according to a 2011 poll.

The face of a popular musician carved on seaweed on a bento.
Image source: q.j_mom on Instagram

3. The Arcade Phenomenon or the Boys Playground

My hotel happened to be just down the road from Akihabara. For the non-initiated, Akihabara is otaku heaven. Manga! Anime! Figurines! Maid cafés! Cosplay! Sega arcades!  Endless towers hiding humongous shopping centers where you can buy the most useless crap this planet has to offer! Neverending lines of people waiting to meet their favourite AKB48 member! If you want to live in a virtual universe full of servile beauties with soft voices and gravity-defying curves, or if you feel like you could totally waste your life away playing video games and munching on strawberry-flavoured Kit-Kats, then welcome home. Walking through Akihabara is a little bit like entering a parallel universe where millions of little men in white shirts spend their days furiously tugging at joysticks and PlayStation controllers while their avatars fight, dance, screw, play the guitar or simply live their lives while their unsuspecting players miss out on theirs. And as we pointed out, the blokes who hit the arcade with the same kind of enthusiasm an alcoholic Irish grandpa hits the local Irish pub are lowkey allergic to the XX chromosome. I bet you get a free Pocky if you spot more than three women in the entire 8-floor building during the testosterone peak hours. The chicks on the AKB48 posters don’t count. Which brings us to…

Japanese dudes doing a great job at protecting their virginity.
Source: Flickr

4. What the hell is AKB48?

Not to be confused with AK-69, Toshi’s rapper friend. Can you even explain modern Japan without first explaining AKB48? You can’t. AKB48 is the elephant in the room. Long story short - one day in the early 2000s a Yakuza dude thought: how can I make a shitload of money off of young, sexless and horny Japanese folks who still believe in unicorns? He soon had a genius idea. He recruited a ton of young, pretty, docile and submissive girls, clad them in schoolgirl outfits, made them sing, dance and entertain. A magic recipe that has stood the test of time. So what’s so unusual about just another idol group that sells imaginary sex? The guy recruited so many of them, there’s always some AKB48 available to greet the average otaku at Japan’s most average otaku hotspots. And don’t worry, when there’s no more AKB48 left, they recruit some MOAR AKB48! And just a side note: AKB48 are not allowed to date, smoke, drink, go clubbing, have social media accounts, get tattoos, sun tans, new haircuts or develop a personality at all. When they hit 30, they “graduate”, a funny metaphor for getting the sack. And if they cross the line, that counts as “graduation” too. Example, that one kid who got the sack because someone leaked a purikura of her and her boyfriend. And that one other who shaved her head and filmed a tearful Youtube video apologising for the fact that tabloids reported that she had a boyfriend (omg! capital sin! behead her!).

In Japan, dating is bad thing. 
Image source: Google

Oh, and fun fact? AKB48 are mostly underage girls who sing bubbly, light-hearted songs about school, love and their friends. You’d expect their fans to be somewhere in their age range. But wrong you are, you rookie Padawan. I walked by their theatre during their evening show on a weekday and I swear a good bunch of fans were well into their fifties, if not sixties. And judging by the way they anxiously elbowed each other when the doors opened, they were not there with their kids. Another fun fact? AKB48 are not allowed to have boyfriends or lovers but their photoshoots are frequently featured on the Weekly Playboy (a Japanese porn mag not affiliated with Hugh Heffner’s Playboy). It’s a strange world, huh.

AKB48 selling sexy to to sexless guys while being sexless in the land of sexlessness.
Image source: AKB48

5. Maid Cafés and Host Cafés are a thing

I skipped the maid café thing altogether because I’m too cool for mainstream stuff they’re so ubiquitous. There sure are high-profile maid cafés worth the detour, but since I didn’t want to break the bank, I chose the maid café’s aspiring third cousin, the host club. A host club is supposedly just that - a bar where cute guys serve their female clientele with pomp and pageantry. Except it’s not just that. Host cafés are all about delusions, competition and milking uncommitted, slightly cyprian ladies of as many yen bills as they possibly can. And they’re willing to go great lengths for that.

A host accessing how many yen bills he’ll make you spend.
Image source: Tokyo Creative

For starters, you’ve got a ranking of the hosts outside - the café I picked in Shibuya had 10 waiters, ranked #1 to #10. Number 1 is the guy who’s better at making ladies order far more cocktails and delicatessen that they can stomach. As I walked in I was informed that I was allowed to buy the hosts drinks if I wanted to chat with them longer and that I would have to pay an extra fee to be served exclusively by my favourite host. Fine, I picked one randomly and went to sit at the back with a guy whose hair was so fried from bad dye jobs and straightening irons it made him look like a your average aspiring visual kei it-boy. The guy informed me, using a mix of broken English and sign language, that if I also ordered a side dish, he would give me a hand massage. Wait. What. You read that right. Side dish = free hand massage. What happens if I ordered everything on the menu? Bad luck, I’m too poor to find out.

Monthly ranking of hosts outside a host club for the world to see.
Source: SCMP.com

The hand massage was nice and it was fun to watch my host pretend to sip his wine - hosts are not allowed to get drunk - but otherwise the experience was quite uneventful. But hey, since we’re here, let me tell you another odd thing. The host café business is actually so huge they have celebrity hosts. Japan’s most famous host is a guy called Roland, a.k.a the guy who milks the most ladies of the most yen bills. Roland is, for a lack of a better description, an amalgamation of a really jacked body with the head of an animated character with spaghetti hair. I don’t know why Jap chicks dig that either, but he makes six figures and gets editorial spreads in every single fashion magazine, every week. Guess we should all learn business from Roland.

Roland, Japan’s no. 1 host
Source: a shit-ton of Photoshop

6. Your backside has never been this clean

But hey, Japan is not just an alien, sexless country. They have some awesome stuff too. So why don’t we start with the one thing that all of us a humans have in common: POOP! According to a Japanese study conducted in 2018, 100% of humans poop and 90% of those who poop would rather poop on a really clean throne. So what did the Japanese do? They invented smart toilets, y’all! It’s not just a urban legend - 90% of all Japanese toilets come with that awesome seat-heating and butt-rinsing function. Note that this applies even to railway stations in the deepest of rural Japan. Now, why is this such a big deal for me? Ever been to a public toilet in France? Good luck, mate.

It rinses your butt! Dries your butt! Warms your entire butt! Plays music while you poop!
Image source: China Daily


So by now we’ve had our sense flooded by porn, we’ve hung out at XY-chromosome-only arcades, flipped through Hentai magazines at 7-Eleven, watched Japan go crazy for a bunch of girls in schoolgirl outfits and won a free hand massage from a random dude. Can things get any weirder? Sure. How about going to the famous Hakone hot springs with a bunch of co-workers… naked?

"Let's talk about work, Hitomi?"
Image source: Teplis Travel

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of onsens, they’re bath houses with super steamy hot pools where people supposedly go to relax. Like in many saunas across the world, from Sweden to the Middle East, you’re supposed to go in naked. No bathing suit allowed. It took me a while to find a bath house in the Hakone area that accepted people with tattoos (note than in Japan tattoos are associated with the Yakuza and are generally considered “dirty” or a sign that you’re into some really fucked up shit). But don’t you fret, it was fairly easy to find and no one gave a damn about my awesome inkz. So eyeing the empty onsen, yours truly sheds the yukata and gets into the water praying no one will come in and judge her for having the body of a couch potato who lives on a diet of frozen pizza. Ten minutes later and just as I’m about to tick this one off my bucket list, a group of about ten women walk into the room and settle together at the far end of the pool. My Japanese being very basic, all I could understand was that the said ladies were co-workers on some sort of company trip and they were sitting there talking about...work. Naked. Thumbs up if you dream of chilling with Bob the IT guy, Rob the accountant and Slob the sales rep in an onsen... naked. Yeah man, that’s weird. 

(In)famous musician Gackt at an onsen with friends… naked.
Image source: Gackt’s Instagram

8. The rule of kawaii

You know why Japan is dealing with a huge economic crisis? Because the Japanese spend all their cash on useless crap. And just to be clear, I mean useless kawaii crap. Stuffed animals! Scented stationery! Lolita outfits! Stickers! Bunnies! Unicorns! Alpacas! Yey! There goes your paycheck, but if you have to starve anyway, better starve under a pile of kawaii crap, right? Eugh, wrong. I guess no one can deny that the Japanese have a peculiar penchant, not to say a full-blown weird fetish, for juvenile paraphernalia. Grown-ass women spend a good portion of their waking hours practising their babytalk and naive allure in the mirror. This includes frantically buying all kinds of odd devices to stretch your face muscles, blur out imperfections and make the eyes look bigger and more baby-like. If in the West women are supposed to be forever 21, in Japan they’re supposed to be forever 6. And to be frank both standards are equally disturbing, but the Japs take the cake here. You can’t walk one yard in Shinjuku, Akihabara or Shibuya without headbutting into some sort of purikura photo booth, plushie vending machine, bystander in lolita attire or cartoon-like candy shop. I might not be entirely off the mark if I say that the kawaii industry clearly outperforms the car and tech industries over there. Everybody. is. wasting. money. on. stuffed. freaking. cats.

Women in Akihabara spending their hard-earned yen on stuff originally designed for six year olds.
Image source: Airbnb

9. Sleeping on public transport is a thing

No, by sleeping I don’t mean closing your eyes for a few minutes while you convey satisfyingly vivid images of your boss rotting in hell. By sleeping, I mean slumping on your seat and going into full-on REM-action. Who cares if you snore, drool and end up leaning on whoever’s sitting next to you - they’re probably asleep too! And that’s how it happens in Japan. I was very amused and mildly shocked when I saw a young lady fast asleep on the metro from Shibuya to Ueno. She sat by a window, leaned back against it and began to snooze without a care in the world. If you did this in Paris, by the time you woke up your phone would be gone and there would be a creepy guy hovering over you  trying to stick random body parts of his into random orifices of yours. But not in Japan. In Japan not only it is normal to snooze on the go, you’re even allowed to fall asleep on whoever’s sitting next to you. I think I never saw so many people falling asleep on unsuspecting strangers (who might also be asleep themselves). Two people fell asleep on me on separate occasions. Both fell sideways into my shoulder, snored, then roused and got up without a word. Hey… hope you enjoyed your gaijin cushion?

“I think I’m just gonna take a quick nap, Kiyoshi, that 7pm meeting totally wrecked me”.
Image source: presumably Kiyoshi, employee of the month

10. I’m not ready, honey, I want to wait until marriage beer

They’re incredibly polite, they work long hours, they don’t hang out with the opposite sex, their only passions are arcade games and AKB48 and they’re into some hardcore zen buddhism mind-numbing chill pills. So do the Japs ever get rowdy? Like, really loud and boisterous and inappropriate and whatnot? Yes, they do. But it takes some liquid courage. Veer off the most scenic routes and off the beaten track, search for the hidden basement clubs and offbeat bars in Mitaka, on the last floor of a nondescript high tower in Taito, dare to enter the shady pubs on a gloomy Yokosuka street and you’ll find them. And it’s a little bit like seeing the ugly face of Japanese society without the skin blurring filter, the kawaii fluff, the lolita ruffles and the gleeful solicitude. These are the guys who work 16+ hours a day, the guys who fall asleep on public transport because they don’t sleep at night, the guys who desperately want to succeed and hang themselves when they fail, the guys who spent so much time learning maths they forgot to learn how to interact with other humans and so they resort to maid cafés and cuddle cafés to get a taste of the intimacy they crave but can’t get and so on and so on.

Drunk dude. Good luck riding that hungover.
Image source: Lee Chapman

You can only bottle up so much before cracks begin to show in your steely composure. Or until you feel like getting shitfaced is the only way to dodge The System and the robotic grip it has on you. And so you hit the saké bottle like there’s no tomorrow. Give those uptight businessmen some shochu and their subservient female counterparts some tequila and you’ll see what happens. They get loud. They tell jokes. They shriek hysterically. They shout random stuff in English across the bar to the casual gaijin bystander. But is Japan still worth it? Yes, definitely. 10/10. Will do it again.


Coming up next: I went to a concert in Japan and it was weird so I wrote some stuff about it.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2019, 04:37:04 PM by matsumoto »

Woah, I can haz admin colour.

Offline magucathy

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Reply #1 on: January 25, 2019, 08:21:34 PM
Wow! You nailed it!  ;D ;D

Offline LuXxy

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Reply #2 on: January 26, 2019, 06:27:27 AM
Oh Japan♡  very fun to read, thX ♡ ....and I'm curious about the concert...  :D

Offline Kasumi

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Reply #3 on: January 26, 2019, 11:07:09 AM
Haha!  ;D I laughed a lot reading about your Japan adventures. You stumbled across some funny stereotypes there. I wish sleeping in the train would be totally normal here to. People react really weird here in Germany when I fall asleep. They wake me up, because they are worried I might miss my station or they look at me very amused as I wake up! I am just sleeping. Everything is normal! Pretend you didn't see anything please.  :D

There are areas around Tokyo that are a bit more zen and less nerd-culture. It's the mix that makes Japan so freaking interesting imo.

Anyway thx for giving us a taste of all the craze. I enjoyed it very much.  ;D

While I'm away, read this line again...

Offline nb

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Reply #4 on: January 26, 2019, 12:43:20 PM
haha, loved it.

But to be fair it's not everywhere like this. You was at the most nerdy places in tokyo.
We stayed in Shimokita-zawa and Shinjuku. Veeery normal and nice there.

thx for sharing  ;)

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Offline matsumoto

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Reply #5 on: January 28, 2019, 10:21:33 AM
Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed it!  8)

Geez, don't take this seriously, though. I visited lots of amazing places that were NOT massive freak hubs (nope, not everyone in Japan is a total perv obsessed with AKB48 and stuffed cats). I picked the weird bits for the sake of lolz.

Need to work on that concert review though. It's gonna be a fun one too.

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Offline Kasumi

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Reply #6 on: February 05, 2019, 12:43:04 PM
Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed it!  8)

Geez, don't take this seriously, though. I visited lots of amazing places that were NOT massive freak hubs (nope, not everyone in Japan is a total perv obsessed with AKB48 and stuffed cats). I picked the weird bits for the sake of lolz.
Haha, yeah it was fun. But don't worry we are not taking everything seriously. :D

Need to work on that concert review though. It's gonna be a fun one too.
Really looking forward to that. :)

While I'm away, read this line again...

Offline pt_93

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Reply #7 on: February 07, 2019, 03:05:15 AM
I still don't understand AKB48 tbh, I gave up trying a long time ago, I just accept it now LOL All I know is that Toshi covered one of their songs and it was lovely.

Anyway, it was a very interesting read! Thank you, this makes me want to go to Japan even more haha seems like the stereotypes exist for a reason... they are real lol