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This article is about Japanese pop culture influences. For Japan-like stagnation, see Stagnation (disambiguation) and Lost decade (Japan).

Japanification (日本) is the process of becoming or wishing to become a member of Japanese society. It most commonly refers to expats living for an extended period of time in Japan, though it may also be used to describe persons living outside Japan who have a certain affinity to some aspect of Japanese culture. Cultural assimilation could include adoption of Japanese mannerisms, style of clothing, taste in entertainment, and sometimes aspects of Japanese language.

In expats this process often occurs because of a feeling of isolation or desire to conform, whereas outside Japan it may occur because of an especially strong interest in some kind of fan culture based in Japan, e.g. anime, manga, television dramas, music or lolita fashion.

Japanification in popular culture[edit]

Japanese culture has had a strong influence on American pop culture dating back to Japan's defeat in World War II and to the early 1950s when children of the United States were first introduced to Japanese popular culture, such as Godzilla. The Japanese culture also presented itself in popular video games such as Jet Set Radio, a game that has evident references to the Japanese manga and graphic novels. This trend of Japan influencing children’s popular culture continues with well-known icons such as: Astro Boy, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, Hello Kitty.[1] Japanese media is commonly described as Kawaii, a Japanese term meaning “cute” and "comfortable" in English. Alternatively, "kawaii" while positive in Japanese terms, is seen by western cultures as also having the negative sense of something/someone who appears, childish, timid, fragile; or weak: "...kawaii is a nonconfrontational social technique meant to absorb stress symptoms caused by tensioned power relations. Frequently, kawaii and cool behavior arises in reaction to barely repressed violence, so prevalent in overly hierarchical societies." [2]

Reasons for Japanification[edit]

As more and more people became interested in Japanese society, the numbers of students and individuals learning the Japanese language increased. At its height of popularity there was a 10.3% increase in Japanese language enrollments in U.S. colleges and universities between 2006 and 2009, 66,605 in 2006 to 73,434 in 2009.[3] However, the Japan Foundation statistics indicate that the number of people taking the Japanese Language Proficency Test (JLPT) has been steadily declining since the peak in 2009.[4]

This temporary increase in Japanese language learners in the early years of the 21st century was unusual given Japan’s economic gloom and turmoil in the last two decades, but then again it might not be that surprising due to the rising popularity of manga and anime around 2009. Manga and anime was seen by some as a leading factor in reasons why the number of Japanese language learners was increasing, “Over 50% of Japanese language learners surveyed by the Japan Foundation in 2009 cited wanting to learn how to read manga and anime as a key reason for studying Japanese.”[3] Today, we see what many consider is a rapid decline in the global popularity of Japanese manga and anime.[4][5] Some praise the 10% of high quality manga and anime for its initial popularity, and blame its recent decline in popularity on the 90% of low quality material that has been released in recent years.[6] Another possible reason for the decline in sales could be the increase in "Scanlations" which are described in a statement by Japan's Digital Comic Association: "The 36 publishers in Japan’s Digital Comic Association and several American publishers are forming a coalition to combat the “rampant and growing problem” of scanlations — illicit digital copies of manga either translated by fans or scanned directly from legitimate English releases".[7]


In Taiwan, the term 哈日族 is used, which means "the tribe that adores Japan." The term is taken from 哈日杏子 (Hari Kyoko), a female Taiwanese manga author.

Due to Japanese war crimes such as the Nanking Massacre and the atrocities committed in Korea under Japanese rule, anti-Japanese sentiment is much stronger in mainland China and Korea than in Taiwan, where the Japanese colonization is not remembered as bitterly.

Japanification in economics[edit]

In addition to its cultural definition this process can be described as the transformation of an economy into one that follows the steps of Japan. In other words, it is a term used by economists that refers to falling into the same deflationary trap of collapsed demand that caused the Lost decade (Japan). Japanification is an ongoing issue today as the U.S., U.K., and other countries go through similar economic issues.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mann, Jaimy (2010). "The Japanification of Children's Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki". The Lion and the Unicorn. 34 (1): 119–123. doi:10.1353/uni.0.0485. 
  2. ^ "Shades of Cool, Degrees of Kawaii". Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Landsberg, Eddie. "Demand for Japanese language instruction in U.S. skyrocketing". Japan Today. Retrieved 2 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Changes in number of examinees (1984-2013)". Japan Statistics. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  5. ^ Tramountanas, George. "Decade in Review: Trends & Tops of the '00s". Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Johnson, Rich. "More on the rise and fall of manga". Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  7. ^ "U.S., Japanese Publishers Unite Against Manga Scan Sites". Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  8. ^ Fackler, Martin (October 2010). "Japan Goes From Dynamic to Disheartened". The New York Times.