Think the world is becoming a smaller place?
You may be right, but why is Japan for most people just as remote and inscrutable as it’s always been?
Japan has twice the population of either France or Great Britain, roughly 50% more people than Germany, and nearly as many people as Russia.
It boasts the world’s second-largest economy and a GDP almost double that of third-ranked China with one-tenth the population.
Its cultural traditions have fascinated, delighted, and puzzled the rest of the world for centuries.
Yet Japan is not accorded the baseline respect received by these countries. The Japan presented by most of the world’s mass media bears little or no resemblance to the country I see with my own eyes every day. They portray a place that seems to exist only in the minds of reporters who seldom know the language, live for short periods in the foreigners’ enclaves of Tokyo—if they live here at all—and patronize with an offhand smugness a country and a culture that for them is still lost in translation.
In the English-speaking world, blogs often arbitrage this discrepancy between agenda and reality, but the authors of most English-language blogs about Japan seem to enjoy indulging themselves in a comic book vision of the country that depicts Nippon as the Goofball Kingdom of East Asia.
I have a different objective for this website. I have lived in Japan since 1984 and have been a self-employed Japanese-to-English translator and interpreter since 1990. I present a picture of Japan sono mama—as it is. As in any country, the people and their customs range from the sublime to the silly, but this site will not be informed by the fashionable irony and ill-concealed sense of superiority that too frequently infects the foreigner’s view of Japan.
This is Japan from the inside out. I hope you enjoy reading about the country and its East Asian neighborhood as much as I enjoy writing about them.
– Ampontan (AKA Bill Sakovich)