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What Makes things Popular in Japan

What are you a fan of?

By 3 min read 3

In the past I’ve written about stereotypes about Japanese people and how many of them simply are not true or grossly misunderstood. I am absolutely a proponent of making sure that cultural differences are understood, not misinterpreted. However, it does stand to reason that sometimes stereotypes do have a certain level of truth to them.

Homogeneity is one of the larger stereotypes about Japanese society that tends to get blown out of proportion. Japanese people supposedly all think alike, look alike and act alike. This of course, is not true. There is definitely a particular prevailing culture and way of thinking in Japan, but every country has this dynamic.

One of the biggest stereotypes about Japanese people that does have some truth to it is the tendency to follow along with whatever is popular. Most certainly, this is not everyone. However, much of the population tends to follow along with particular trends, fashion, movies or even words.

Let’s look at a few examples.

To me, probably one of the most puzzling popular things in Japan is the 流行ってる言葉 (hayatteru kotoba or “popular words”). The phenomena first hit me a couple months ago when I noticed that in the school I work at many of the children were saying the same thing I was hearing around my own house coming from my own wife.

Many of you probably already have heard Nippon Erekiteru Rengo’s “dameyo, dame dame” (It’s no good! No good, no good!”) catchphrase that has been so popular in recent months. Let’s face it, you could scarcely go out anywhere in public without hearing the phrase being used at least a couple times.

More recently, Kumamushi, another popular comedy duo, became very popular with their “attakaindakara” (literally “because it’s warm”) in the form of a musical little ditty. These words are also picking up speed in being used frequently out in public.

The movie “Frozen”, or “Ana and the Queen” depending on where you’re from, was an incredibly popular movie the world over. Of course, Japan was no exception to this. However, the popularity of the song “Let it Go” has been arguably much more intense Japan-side. The song is played in several supermarkets, multiple times a day. It has sat in the top five charts at most karaoke establishments for the past several months. Many people fill in their own words along with the tune out in public. This song is hugely popular.

It is apparently even decided what breed of dog is the most popular to own, and this frequently changes. Apparently all at different points, Miniature Dachshunds were popular, as were Toy Poodles, Chihuahuas, French Bulldogs and of course, Shibainus.

Who or what even decides which of these breeds is the “popular” one to own? The answer actually may not be as complicated as you think. Commercials are in fact a very large deciding factor in what is popular, not just in reference to dog breeds. Be it food products, liquor or simply what a famous person in a commercial was wearing, if it’s in a commercial you can wager that it will probably strike someone’s (or several thousand someone’s) fancy.

Let’s be clear about one very important thing in regards to popularity: what is popular will always change. However, what has remained unchanged in Japan for quite some time now is the tendency for many people to take whatever is popular and make sure that is said, worn, eaten or otherwise had during its period of popularity, and with great fervor at that.

While taking all of this into consideration, it should also be said that while popular trends are very pervasive and there is a lot of pressure to do, wear and have what’s popular, some people still don’t. Even with the great deal of pressure to follow what’s popular, there is still individuality in Japan. “Many” does not mean “all”, and you should never judge a book by its cover.

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  • Tess de la Serna says:

    Very good article. It reminded me of my American husband’s complain while we were in Cebu, Philippines, “You guys play songs to death!!!” When a song become popular in the Philippines, for sure you will hear it everywhere played so many times a day. v(^_^)v

  • Defalterman says:

    Fucking LOL every shit of this is for real XD dameyo dame dame!!!!

  • Mohd Yusof Ahmad says:

    Now i know, the truth about this. Japanese people…..many things we still not sure about them.



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