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Lafcadio Hearn (pictured), an early Western Japanophile, introduced much of Japan's culture and history to the West.

Japanophilia is a strong interest in Japanese culture, people, and history.[1] In Japanese, the term for Japanophile is "shinnichi" (親日), with "shin ()" equivalent to the English prefix 'pro-' and "nichi ()", meaning "Japan" (as in the word for Japan "Nippon/Nihon" (日本)). The term was first used as early as the 18th century, switching in scope over time. Its opposite is Japanophobia. The study of Japan is Japanology.

Early usage[edit]

The term Japanophile traces back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which was before Japan became more open to foreign trade. Carl Peter Thunberg and Philipp Franz von Siebold helped introduce Japanese flora, artworks, and other objects to Europe which spiked interest.[2][3] Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish-Greek author who made his home in Japan in the 19th century, was described as "a confirmed Japanophile" by Charles E. Tuttle Company in their forewords to several of his books.[4] Others may include Jules Brunet, a French Army officer who played a famous role in the Japanese Boshin War.

20th century[edit]

In the first decade of the 20th century, several British writers lauded Japan. In 1904, for example, Beatrice Webb wrote that Japan was a "rising star of human self-control and enlightenment", praising the "innovating collectivism" of the Japanese, and the "uncanny" purposefulness and open-mindedness of its "enlightened professional elite." H. G. Wells similarly named the élite of his A Modern Utopia "samurai". In part, this was a result of the decline of British industrial productivity, with Japan and Germany rising comparatively. Germany was seen as a threat and a rival power, but Japan was seen as a potential ally. The British sought efficiency as the solution to issues of productivity, and after the publication of Alfred Stead's 1906 book Great Japan: A Study of National Efficiency, pundits in Britain looked to Japan for lessons. This interest, however, ended after World War I.[5]

General José Millán-Astray, the founder of the Spanish Legion, stated that the samurai warrior code Bushido exerted a great influence on him. Defining Bushido as "a perfect creed", Millán-Astray said that "the Spanish legionnaire is also a samurai and practices the Bushido essentials: Honor, Valor, Loyalty, Generosity, and Sacrifice", and added that Spain would become a great power like Japan by adhering to the code's principles.[6] He also made a Spanish translation of Inazo Nitobe's book Bushido: The Soul of Japan and a prologue to it.[7]

21st century[edit]

In the early 2000s, derogatory slang terms were created to refer to people who are obsessed with Japanese popular culture. The term "wapanese" (from "white Japanese", or possibly also "wannabe Japanese") first emerged in 2002 as a derogatory term for a non-Japanese, particularly white, person who is obsessed with Japanese culture, particularly anime, manga, visual novels and light novels. The term "weeaboo" (often shortened to "weeb") came from the webcomic The Perry Bible Fellowship, in which the word had no meaning other than something unpleasant.[8] According to an unpublished Master of Arts thesis, an administrator on 4chan added a filter on the site to change "wapanese" to "weeaboo," but users on the site quickly picked up the word and applied it in an abusive way in place of the already existing term "wapanese."[9][better source needed] The terms "weeaboo" and "weeb", while originally derogatory, have also been reclaimed by some of those to whom they originally referred, seeing increased usage by fans of Japanese media to refer to themselves in an ironic or self-deprecating fashion.

Kim Morrissy of the media company Crunchyroll wrote that the use of the word otaku (person with consuming interests) in anime fandom can be hindered by the belief of some Westerners that its use constitutes cultural appropriation and that it can only refer to a Japanese person.[10]

In a blog post on Anime News Network, Justin Sevakis argued that there is a difference between a weeaboo and someone who simply appreciates Japanese culture, saying that there is nothing wrong with loving Japanese culture, but that a person becomes a weeaboo when they start to be obnoxious, immature, and ignorant about the culture they love.[11] Matt Jardin from the Alaska Dispatch gave his opinion that weeaboos blindly prefer things from Japan while looking down on anything else, despite obvious merit.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Japanophile". Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster. 200. Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2016. one who especially admires and likes Japan or Japanese ways
  2. ^ William R. Johnston (1999). William and Henry Walters, the Reticent Collectors. JHU Press. p. 76. ISBN 0-8018-6040-7.
  3. ^ Robin D. Gill (2004). Topsy-Turvy 1585. Paraverse Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-9742618-1-5.
  4. ^ Hale, Heather (September 1990). "Lafcadio Hearn". Japanfile, the Website of Kansai Time Out Magazine. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  5. ^ Bruce Cumings (1999). "Archaeology, Descent, Emergence: American Mythology and East Asian Reality". Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American-East Asian Relations. Duke University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-8223-2924-7.
  6. ^ Jensen, Geoffrey (2002). Irrational Triumph: Cultural Despair, Military Nationalism, and the Ideological Origins of Franco's Spain. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press. p. 150. ISBN 0874174813.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Beeby, Allison; Rodríguez, María Teresa (2009). "Millán-Astray's Translation of Nitobe's Bushido: The Soul of Japan" (PDF). Autonomous University of Barcelona. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 July 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  8. ^ Chris Kincaid (30 August 2015). "Am I a Weeaboo? What does Weeaboo Mean Anyway?". Japan Powered. Archived from the original on 30 August 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  9. ^ Davis, Jesse Christian. "Japanese animation in America and its fans" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  10. ^ Morrissy, Kim (22 August 2016). "Feature: Found in Translation - The Evolution of the Word 'Otaku' [Part 1]". Crunchyroll. Archived from the original on 24 August 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  11. ^ Justin Sevakis (22 August 2014). "Nobody Loves the Weeaboo". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 24 August 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  12. ^ Matt Jardin (29 September 2016). "Going to Senshi Con this weekend? Here are 5 terms to know". Alaska Dispatch. Archived from the original on 1 October 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2017.