Japan, also known as The Land of The Rising Sun is the pride of Asia. Japan is a massive archipelago of 6,852 islands. The largest of them are Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Hokkaido. Japan is home to over 127 million citizens and is the 10th most populous country on Earth.
Japan has captured the hearts and minds of many with their unique culture and society. Centuries of isolation and development helped create the country all too synonymous with Asia. Japan has become a model country for many in the poorer parts of the world and remains a world leader in many fields. No other country in the Far East has as many fans as Japan does.
Everyone, say konichiwa to Japan !
Full name : Nippon- koku ( Japan )
Capital : Tōkyō- to ( Tokyo Metropolis )
National Language : Nihongo ( Japanese )
Area : 377, 944 square kilometres
Population : 127,960,000 ( 2011 estimate )
Status : Developed country
Points of Interest : 3 ; Japanese Cars, Japanese Media/ Culture, Japanese Language
Japanese cars have always been among my most favourites, especially the big boys like the Nissan GT-R ( pictured above ). Japanese cars are well-known as highly durable, economical and affordable machines, making them a popular choice for many young and mature drivers alike worldwide. The Japanese are masters at making true people carriers. However, the Japanese do get bored every now and then and build monsters. These monsters have been my personal favourites since I was a little kid. They are the Nissan Skyline GT-R, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra, Honda NSX and Subaru Impreza series of high- performance cars. There are still many, many more cars that I would love to list down here but these 6 families of monsters are the real deal. To many automobile enthusiasts, these cars are very much modern supercars. One may think that they are no match for the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini, but think again, because you will be surprised as to what these Japanese monsters are really capable of …
My most favourite of these 6 monsters ? As you may have guessed, that award most certainly goes to none other than the Nissan GT-R ( pictured above ). Absolutely stunning on the outside, yet a totally different beast on the inside, the Japanese nicknamed her Gojira ( Godzilla ), after the infamous Japanese movie monster. Under the hood you will find a 3.8 litre twin turbo V6 engine which will pump out 530 horsepower at 6,400 rpm. Furthermore, it is loaded with high- tech electronics which essentially transforms the GT-R into a PlayStation on wheels. Not surprisingly, the multifunction displays in the cockpit ( yes, I said cockpit; it feels as though you are in a jet fighter ! ) are designed by Polyphony Digital, the company behind the critically acclaimed Gran Turismo videogame. The GT-R was caught in the limelight after beating the Porsche 911’s lap time on the Nürburgring curcuit in Germany during the official launch in 2007. At roughly half the price of it’s rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo S, the Nissan GT-R truly is the supercar for everyone.
I personally fell in love with the GT-R the moment I had set my sights on it. It is difficult to describe in words exactly why, but if I were to sum it up in several words, it would probably be because of it’s pocket rocket distinction which sets it on par with all other supercars in the world. Of course, it’s beautiful, modern and edgy- yet- fluid looks played a major role as well. It is my personal dream to own one of these masterpieces, or at the very least, be able to drive one in the near future. I believe every car enthusiast should consider adding the Nissan GT-R to their list of All Time Best Cars.
The Japanese, like the Europeans and Americans, started mass producing cars and motorcycles in the early 1900s. At first, they were small, functional and cheap little machines. Over time, they started to mature into beautiful and brash pieces of art. At the forefront of the Japanese automotive industry were Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, Daihatsu, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Mitsuoka. Most Japanese automobiles in the early years were just your average people carriers. The first truly famous and successful Japanese car came in the form of the Toyota Corolla in 1966. It was affordable, functional, durable and had 4 seats, what more could anyone have asked for ? To date the Toyota Corolla has been sold in almost every single country in the world and remains one of Japan’s most successful cars. Since then, hundreds of best selling cars were to be made in Japan.
Back then in the early 1900s, Japan was among the few countries to build cars and motorcycles which fell under the global/ budget automobile category. The Japanese automobile manufacturers we smart in the fact that they wanted to make cars and motorcycles available to everyone. They accomplished this by localizing their cars in various markets in and outside of Japan. Cheap products equals more customers and that equals more profit over time. In the early days, only the wealthiest upper and middle class citizens were able to afford cars. Today, anyone with a decent job could own a car. The average citizen could now drive to work instead of taking the bus or train. We can partly thank the Japanese for this. They were among the first to get the global car right. They had succeeded where the Americans and Europeans had previously failed. Where in the mid- 1900s, American ( Ford, Dodge, Pontiac etc. ), cars were big, stylish and powerful, they were also terribly inefficient and largely suited for the local American market only. The Europeans ( Germany’s BMW, Mercedes- Benz, Volkswagen, Audi / United Kingdom’s Mini / France’s Renault, Citroen, Peugeot / Italy’s Fiat … etc. ) arguably made some of the best cars in history, well balanced in almost every aspect. The only problem was that many of them were still too expensive for citizens in poorer countries outside of Europe, primarily in Asia, Latin America and Africa ( Volkswagen’s Golf and Beetle were among the few exceptions ). This was where the Japanese cars came in. The Japanese were among the first to take advantage of the budget car market. Japanese cars were to dominate the automobile market by the turn of the century. Their popularity in Asia Pacific had become indisputable by the 80s and 90s. Japanese cars had also been localized in the United States to meet Western demands ( Honda’s Acura, Toyota’s Lexus, Nissan’s Infiniti etc. ), where they grew in popularity over the years.
In today’s world, Japanese cars have become the cars of choice for many. They are affordable, functional, durable and well respected machines. However, many new contenders have entered the field in recent years. The challenge to build the better global/ budget car has become harder than ever. One such example is South Korea’s Hyundai, Japan’s fiercest rival. South Korea is home to Hyundai, Kia, Daewoo and several other automobile manufacturers. South Korea has been tailing Japan for the past few decades and is currently attempting to beat Japan at their own game. Hyundai- Kia has raced from nothing to the top of the world in less than half a century. South Korean automakers today are doing exactly the same as their Japanese counterparts; making budget cars for the people. The only major difference is in that they are making it even more affordable and even more economical than their Japanese rivals. Besides South Korea, Japan has many other smaller rivals who pose a threat to their long reigning dominance of the budget car markets. Malaysia’s Proton and Perodua have been following in Japan’s footsteps since the 80s and 90s to build budget cars for the Malaysian automobile market, which is currently dominated by Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi and Nissan. India’s Tata has been gaining global popularity in the last few years after the launch of the new Tata Nano, arguably the world’s cheapest car. Not to forget, China has been developing their automobile industry in the last few decades in hopes of making cheap cars for their own market. Furthermore, lately there have been numerous manufacturer recalls, primarily from Toyota over design defects in their cars. This has damaged the Japanese automakers’ reputation in recent times over the production of reliable and durable cars.
All in all, Japanese automobile manufacturers face some stiff competition and obstacles ahead. Either way, I will always love Japanese cars, especially the monsters like the Nissan GT-R. I guess it’s just second nature for me having grown up in a country half- dominated by Japanese cars. I see them everyday. I’ve grown to like them over the years. They will always have a place in my heart.
Japanese Media & Culture
Japan is famous for their media. Everything from anime to video games to J- Rock, Japan never fails to amuse and entertain us. Personally, I’m not that much of an anime fan or J- Rocker, but I can’t help but give Japanese media second glances at times. Japanese media is unlike any other. It is unique in a sense that it captures the Japanese culture, society and lifestyle in a very interesting way.
Well, I’d like to be honest with you guys; I do not read any manga. Not even a bit. However I do watch a little anime from time to time. The drawings and storytelling certainly impresses me more than often. The drawings especially, are totally unique to Japan and leaves much to be desired. Myself being a casual artist would know just how difficult it is to draw in such a way. I can safely say that the Japanese are the masters at drawing good looking characters. I cant think highly enough of Western drawings. The Japanese art of drawing characters alone makes me think very highly of Japanese media, and to an extension, Japan itself.
I cant really say much about Japanese music either. However, I know the Japanese pioneered Japan Pop, abbreviated J- Pop which became mainstream media in several countries in the past. Today, J- Pop has lost popularity to Korean Pop, abbreviated K- Pop which has succeeded J- Pop as one of Asia Pacific’s most popular music genres. J- Rock ( Japan Rock ) however is a different story. J- Rock is still very popular internationally especially in parts of Europe and North America. It is not however, popular in the Asia Pacific region. To be honest with you, I’m not a big fan of mainstream music, whatever it may be. The kind of music I listen to is mostly instrumental, orchestral and techno/ electro. The only Japanese J- Pop band I’m familiar with is AKB48, abbreviated Akihabara ( a district in Tokyo where they originated from ) 48 ( that’s how many members there are in this band ).
The true Japanese musicians that I’ve come to love so dearly are music composers Keiki Kobayashi, Junichi Nakatsuru, Tetsukazu Nakanishi, Hiroshi Okubo, Asuka Sakai and many others. They are the men behind the soundtrack of various Namco video games. These guys make my life easy. Whenever I’m listening to something from these talented men, I am surely in a very ecstatic and relaxed mode. Their music never gets old. I could listen to any mainstream song and it will simply fade from my interests in a matter of days, but I’ve been tuning in to the great works of art from these guys since I was a little kid. If I were to give a rough contrast on the type of music I listen to on average, over 50% of it would be music from Namco’s music crew alone. Call my taste in music bad if you wish, but my love for this superb art will likely remain for the foreseeable future.
Japanese music is very different from Western music. I can definitely tell the difference between something from the famous German composer, Hans Zimmer ( the man behind the Batman Begins soundtrack ) and Japanese composer Keiki Kobayashi ( The Ace Combat video game soundtrack composer ). The styles are very different. It is incredibly hard for me to explain why in words. Whatever it is, Japanese musicians have their very own unique style and approach when it comes to making good music. They have something to call their own and be proud of. That, is exactly why I respect Japanese musicians, or to be more specific, those talented composers mentioned above.
That brings us to video games. Now, let me make it very clear to you guys; I’m not a hardcore gamer, nor am I a casual gamer. I’m somewhere in between. To tell you the truth, gaming is not really my thing. Yes, I do play a lot of video games, but my time spent playing video games have shortened considerably over the years. I just play for fun now. Everybody likes to play video games right ? They’re great fun after all, and today’s video games are so realistic, it’s like you’re watching an interactive movie! Some are even health beneficial. Video gaming has good and bad points, and so does everything else in our world.
In my honest opinion, Japanese made video games are better than most mainstream American and European made video games. Japanese video games are very, very different from their Western counterparts. You might not realize this if you’re not a gamer yourself. Just like their music, Japanese games have their own unique traits which set them apart from the others. The J- RPG ( Japanese Role Playing Game ) is one such example. An example of a J- RPG is the Final Fantasy series. I have, unfortunately, only played one Final Fantasy game so far. I can’t even remember which one was it, I was only a little kid when I played it. Hence, I cant really say much about J- RPGs, but I nevertheless respect the J- RPG genre very much because it is iconic of Japan and their video game industry.
However, Japanese developers make more than just J- RPGs, they make conventional mainstream video games just like Western developers as well. They range from FPS ( First Person Shooter ) genre games such as the Time Crisis series to Racing genre games like the Gran Turismo series and everything in between. On the outside, they look just like your average video game but they harbour many crucial Japanese traits, be it in the form of gameplay, characters, presentation and/or storytelling. For example, the Ace Combat series, which is among my most favourite is developed by Namco’s Project Aces division and published by Namco- Bandai. It is one of the best in it’s genre, that is, the Flight- Simulator genre. I have to say the Ace Combat games have struck a chord in my heart, a chord which no other video game has managed to strike since. You have to be an Ace Combat fan to know what I mean.
For those of you who do not know, Namco is the developer behind the legendary Pac- Man. Namco has over 50 years of experience in the video game industry and has pretty much seen it all. The Gran Turismo series, the famous Racing- Simulator game from the minds and hearts of Kazunori Yamauchi and friends, developed by Polyphony Digital and published by Sony Computer Entertainment is arguably one of history’s most successful video game franchises. By the way, it was the Japanese who first started the video game trend in the 70s and 80s. Eventually, this spilled over to the United States and the rest of the world followed. Today, Japan’s video game industry is slowly losing out to their American and European counterparts. However, the Japanese gamers continue to support their own products and video game companies. The Japanese video game market has been proven to be the most hostile market for foreign companies. Why? It’s because of the incompatibility of Japanese and Western gaming styles and culture. The Japanese video game industry is truly unique in that sense. Its hard to comprehend all of this at times but the reality is that Japanese made video games are just better, in my honest opinion. Therefore, I’d like to say Japan makes the best video games.
NOTE : I like American and European made video games too, just not as much as Japanese made video games. I hope I made myself clear.
In my opinion, the Japanese language is among the most interesting languages in the world. It is spoken in a continuous, fluid and somewhat rushed manner which makes it a very difficult language to pick up if you wish to learn Japanese as a second or third language. It is linked to both Chinese and Korean in one way or another. The Japanese language is made up of 3 different scripts; the Chinese characters, called kanji, and 2 modified Chinese scripts called hiragana and katakana. The Latin alphabet ( a b c d e f g etc. ), romaji is also used, especially in modern Japanese. If you want to learn Japanese and you can already speak good English, your first step is to learn and practice romaji. It will teach you how to verbally pronounce Japanese words correctly and it give you some positive exposure to the Japanese language. Romaji is easy to learn because it consists of borrowed English and other languages. For example, internet is spelled intaanetto and pronounced ene-tah- ah-nat-toh, if I’m not mistaken. I like how Japanese is spoken. It feels really soft on the ears. Girls who can speak Japanese often sound very cute. I don’t know about the guys though, I suppose they would sound kinda hot as well ( no homo ! ). I am not however, a fan of the Japanese accent. In my opinion the Russian accent is one of the best, if not the best, as mentioned in my previous article.
More than 99% of Japanese citizens speak Japanese as their first language. Many Japanese people choose to pick up other languages as well. Unfortunately, many Japanese people just cannot speak fluently in foreign languages such as English, French, Spanish etc. because of the different styles and manner where Japanese and European languages are spoken in. Many Japanese people who know English do pretty well in the grammar half, but almost always find it difficult in the vocal half. This explains why most Japanese students and youth can read and write some basic English at least but are unable to speak it fluently.
As for myself, I do not speak much Japanese. I only know some of the basics and a little romaji. I managed to pick up a little Japanese by watching Japanese anime and socializing with Japanese people online. As of writing, I have no plans to learn advanced Japanese. Either way, after continued exposure, I managed to pick up the crucial verbal cues that are present in the Japanese language. Now, I can differentiate between Japanese, Chinese and Korean, something I previously could not do. My advice for all of you interested in learning basic Japanese is to expose yourself to Japanese media and make some Japanese friends if possible. It doesn’t take much effort but it will inevitably take you a long way. For those of you who intend to learn advanced Japanese, you must train yourself to become highly motivated and hard working; Japanese is arguably one of the hardest languages to learn and speak, even for the native Japanese people themselves. It is supposedly second only to Chinese in terms of difficulty, but once you master Japanese, you would have picked up a very valuable trait which would undoubtedly come in very useful in the future. The language barrier is one of the toughest barriers to overcome in Japan, but once levelled, you will be open to a multitude of life- changing options.
On that note, we have come to a conclusion. Historically, Japan has always been a major player in the Asia Pacific region. Japan may be moderately small, but it has the mental strength of many. The Japanese people have done the impossible; they have built a unique and advanced culture on a remote stretch of islands in near complete isolation. I think Japan is a great country which is rich in almost every aspect, whether it’s their history, culture or their gifted individuals, Japan remains high on my list of most favourite countries.
I’d like to apologize for being late once more. It was the examination period on the first/second week of March and I couldn’t find enough time to write another article. The day after the exams were over, Japan was struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the worst in their recorded history and was hit by a massive tsunami which claimed thousands of lives and set off devastating chain reactions in their economy and infrastructure. I had to deal with a little emotional unrest for a couple of days following the disaster in Japan and could not find the heart and mental will to write this extensive article. I finally pulled myself together and I present, to you, this much awaited article. I took the liberty to extend this article to almost twice the average length. I hope this makes up for the previous 2- 3 weeks. I hope you, my dear readers, will understand. I tried my best.
This one goes out to all those individuals who lost their lives in the March 11th disaster and all of those who were affected by it. May all the best be bestowed upon us in the wake of this unjust disaster.
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