Asia: beyond the Japan obsession

23 Apr



I’ve been traveling in Kyoto this week. It’s been a great experience. I’ve seen some gorgeous temples, eaten amazing food, and practiced my Japanese language skills. Kyoto’s temples are gorgeous and numerous, and soon I’ll be writing about the top ten.


A lot of people I’ve met, both at school and on my travels, seem to be obsessed with everything Japanese. It often starts with an anime/manga obsession, and then they start learning about other aspects of Japanese culture as well. That is fine. I don’t have a problem with that (as long as they don’t turn into weeaboos who think everyone in Japan obsesses over anime). But there’s something I wish more people around the world would realize.


Just as there is more to Japan than Anime, there is so much more to Asia than Japan.


I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that many other Asian countries are just as interesting as Japan. I do think Japan has a particularly rich culture in some ways, due to its centuries of isolation in which its culture thrived. But I wish more people I knew would open up to an interest in other parts of Asia as well. Not only are there other asian countries with a culture that’s rich and fascinating, but many other asian countries are more ethnically diverse. China and India especially are both far more diverse in language and regional cultures than Japan.

Also, Japan is great, but like any country, it’s far from perfect. There’s plenty of things I truly dislike about it. It has some very conservative aspects to its culture, like sexism (though it is not as bad in this regard as some other parts of the world are) and its opposition to immigration. 

One other thing I despise about Japan is how many of the once-beautiful rural landscapes have been ruined and butchered, now overrun with power lines and ugly developments (it’s not just due to population density. Corruption in politics and corporate power are part of the reason too). I’ll just be honest: Japan is, in many places, a very ugly country. It has some beautiful national parks, but in the valleys and in the flatter rural areas, the imprints of human activity stand out more than they do in most countries. I also don’t approve of Japan’s practice of whaling.

Even so, Japan’s redeeming qualities, such as its food, sights, and culture are easily good enough to make it a must-see travel destination. But my advice to many people is this: when you’re interested in an “exotic”, Asian country, don’t fixate only on Japan.





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