The Japanophile Without Japan

Whenever we talk about the japanophile (or the wapanese or weeaboo or other terms), the rhetoric is that this person discovers anime (or something), starts to believe Japan is a superior country and culture to the one they currently live in, and if they stop believing, it’s because they realize that the ideal Japan of their imaginations does not match up with the truth. The assumption here is that because Japan is not simply the land of anime and Pocky, or ukiyo-e and sushi, that it trivializes the japanophile’s beliefs because there is this contradiction with reality. But what if we removed “Japan” from this process?

It makes logical sense for the japanophile to discover Japan, create a modified image of it in their head, and then desire it as a “superior” culture, but what of that potential for desire in the first place? Does Japan trigger this desire to be a part of a different culture, or is that sentiment already there to some degree, and that it takes Japan (or anywhere) to allow a person to focus those desires on a concrete example with a relationship to reality? As intelligent and visionary as human beings can be, there tend to be limitations as to how far we think or consider imaginary or hypothetical situations, and maybe this is just one version of that

If we remove “Japan,” then what we’re left with is a person who desires for a better culture and environment than the one they currently live in, where better means one more understanding, one which reinforces their beliefs and their wants. Whether that is out of some progressive vision or simply a venue to live out fantasies without consequence, I’m not stating any moral or intellectual prerogative to such feelings, but I almost find it to be a sort of utopian mindset.

2 thoughts on “The Japanophile Without Japan

  1. The Japanese themselves are not above promoting (and believing) the idea that theirs is the superior culture on the world stage. But then again, Japan is hardly alone in this. Russia has a major “world savior” complex (much to the annoyance of their Central & E. European neighbors) and it goes without saying that the United States thinks of itself as #1 in everything (actual facts on the ground notwithstanding), commonly known as “American Exceptionalism”. (I reject American Exceptionalism).

    I like Japan, but I also think there are some things about Japan that are pretty f*cked up…interesting, but f*cked up. I am very Germanophilic myself and feel very “at home” in German speaking countries, even more so than some English speaking countries (I feel so damn awkward as a Yank in the UK, for example)…but at the end of the day I’m still an American and I’m actually glad not to have the emotional, historical, and cultural baggage that a true German identity carries with it.

    There is also the opposite extreme that is the flip side of this X-ophile coin, and that is the complete rejection of one’s own cultural background and heritage…and in my own case I nearly completely reject and despise the Southern U.S. milieu I was born into and grew up in, the only saving grace of which being that my parents both hail from a “border state”, Missouri, and had ancestors who actually fought for the Union in the Civil War. I can’t escape being a Southerner, but I don’t have to like it or validate it.

    I think circa 2004 I was an extreme Canada-ophile, but over time I’ve realize they’re not perfect either, but I still think they do a lot of things better up there and I’m envious that their politics seem to be less dysfunctional.

    I’d like to visit Japan someday but I don’t think I could ever get used to living there as a foreigner. Likewise, it’s been my experience that many Japanese students doing study abroad in America have trouble adjusting to a culture so alien to them, and they sometimes have to interrupt their studies and return early to Japan.


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