Young Japanese women like alcohol more than any other age group, almost as much as old men【Survey】

But for many, their love affair with booze doesn’t seem to last.

In general, Japan enjoys a stiff drink, whether it’s an ice-cold beer with office mates after work, a fizzy canned chu-hi cocktail at a cherry blossom party, or a cup of sake from a rural, small-batch brewery. So it’s not too surprising that in a survey by Japanese research company Macromill, the majority of respondents said they liked alcohol.

Breaking down the data, collected from a total of 1,000 participants, by age group resulted in some predictable patterns among male respondents. The percentage of men who said they liked alcohol, whether a little or a lot, was comparatively high for men in their 20s, when a lot of guys are still going strong with their college-days drinking habits, There was a dip in alcohol appreciation once men hit 30, but then a sudden resurgence after 60, when presumably the ample free time of retirement and the financial reserves from a full career allow a man to sit and sip his favorite adult beverage at his leisure.

● Percentage of men who said they liked alcohol a little or a lot
Age 20-29: 67.1 percent
Age 30-39: 62.6 percent
Age 40-49: 64.7 percent
Age 50-59: 59.4 percent
Age 60-69: 75.5 percent

However, the distribution of booze fans looked a lot different for women, starting out with the highest concentration, by far, in the youngest women, followed by a sharp drop and an extremely mild decline afterwards.

● Percentage of women who said they liked alcohol a little or a lot
Age 20-29: 71.1 percent
Age 30-39: 52.6 percent
Age 40-49: 55.3 percent
Age 50-59: 51.5 percent
Age 60-69: 49.1 percent

So why did women in their 20s show such a stronger liking of alcohol? Macromill didn’t offer any theories of its own, but one explanation could be that drinking can be pretty easy on the wallet for young Japanese women. When going out for a gokon (group blind date), it’s customary for the men to cover more than half of the cost of the food and drink, and sometimes they pick up the tab entirely. Likewise, while going Dutch isn’t unheard of for dating couples in Japan, the boyfriend is often expected to pay for fancier or more expensive outings, like dinner and drinks at a fancy restaurant or bar.

But if these women are developing a taste for alcohol that they don’t have to entirely pay for in their 20s, shouldn’t that appreciation of alcohol continue to be fairly strong into their 30s? Not necessarily, because many Japanese women get married and become mothers in their 30s. Even after starting a family, Japanese men almost universally continue working outside the home, which often requires, or at least affords opportunities for, drinking with colleagues after leaving the office but before heading home. Japanese women, on the other hand, often leave the workforce after having children, and take on the vast majority of child-rearing and housework responsibilities (something that’s also often true for working mothers as well).

So while her husband is knocking back cold ones with his boss, a Japanese mother is likely to be cooking dinner for their kids, and by the time she’s done cleaning up he dishes and kitchen afterwards, it’s getting close to time for her to go to bed so that she can get up in the morning to make breakfast. With that sort of schedule, finding time to sneak in a beer can become a challenge, and by the time the kids are grown-up and moved out, it could simply be that a lot of Japanese women who enjoyed drinking in their youth have simply become accustomed to coffee, tea, and other soft drinks instead.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Suits Woman via Otakomu
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Recent study once again ranks Japan as the country that sleeps the least

Japanese men and women seem to sleep as much as one hour less than people from other countries.

In 2014, we shared a study that suggested that Japanese citizens sleep far less than their international counterparts. Four years have passed, and it seems like that still holds true. Using worldwide data compiled through their Polar A370 and Polar M430 model fitness trackers, Polar Electro’s Japan branch revealed that once again, Japan is lacking in the sleep department.

The data compares male and female fitness tracker users from 28 countries all over the world, and reveals that Japanese men and women sleep an average of 6 hours and 35 minutes per night, which is 45 minutes less than the international average, and nearly an hour difference from Finland, whose users seem to sleep the most.

The top five countries where men and women got the most sleep on average were:

  1. Men: Finland (7:24), women: Finland and Belgium (7:45)
  2. Men: Estonia (7:23)
  3. Men and women: France and Estonia (7:23 and 7:44 respectively)
  4. Men and women: Austria (7:21 and (7:36, respectively)
  5. Men: Holland (7:20), women: Holland and Canada (7:41)

▼ They probably wake up nice and refreshed everyday, like this girl.

The U.K. also ranks fairly highly, eighth for men and eleventh for women, while the U.S. ranks a bit lower, sixteenth for men and thirteenth for women. The five bottom countries, where men and women got the least amount of sleep, with five being the least, were:

  1. Men: Colombia (6:49), women: China (7:11)
  2. Men: Brazil (6:47), women: Colombia (7:10)
  3. Men: Israel and Hong Kong (6:42), women: Hong Kong (6:59)
  4. Women: Israel (6:51)
  5. Men and women: Japan (6:30 and 6:40 respectively)

Chinese men also slept little compared to other men, with an average of 6 hours and 52 minutes per night, but Japan takes the cake for both sexes barely surpassing six and a half hours of sleep per night. In fact, only seven countries’ men and three countries’ women averaged less than seven hours per night, which makes Japan’s short sleeps even more significant.

▼ Our guess is that this guy isn’t from one of the top five.

What’s interesting is that, despite Japanese workers’ infamously long commutes to work, they’re not getting up any earlier than most of their counterparts. They are, however, going to bed much later. Men in Japan on average go to bed later than those in almost every other country except Hong Kong, Brazil, China, and Spain, and the only women who went to bed later than Japanese women were from Hong Kong and Spain. However, women slept more and went to bed earlier than men in all of the countries, though about half woke up earlier than men.

These results don’t include the age or occupation of the participants, and it’s important to keep in mind that this is also a group of presumably fitness-minded individuals, judging from the fact that they own and regularly wear a fitness tracker. They could be making more conscious efforts to sleep longer than others, so these results may skewed, and should be taken with a grain of salt. That might also be why this group of Japanese men and women has slept more than the group analyzed in the 2014 study, though without a control group, it’s hard to say.

▼ It is probably why you can often see people sleeping on the train in Japan, though.

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting collection of data, and despite the differences with the 2014 group, the study still came to the same conclusion: Japanese people sleep less than other people. That might give cause to wonder why Japanese men and women go to bed so late and sleep so little, and naturally the first thought that comes to mind is that the Japanese work very long hours, with lots of stress that can result in lack of sleep. Social obligations after working those long hours, like company drinking parties, which are an integral part of Japanese work culture, may also be why Japanese men and women are going to bed so late.

On the other hand, there are plenty of ways to catch a snooze during the day in Japan, like on the train, at a sleep cafe, or even with a magical sleep-inducing massage. It could be that all of these little snoozes throughout the day are making up for Japanese workers’ lost sleep in the end.

Source: IT Media News via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso
Images: Pakutaso (12, 3)

10 ways being an anime otaku was different 30 years ago

Japanese fans sound off on things that used to be a normal part of the otaku life, but aren’t anymore.

With its casts of youthful characters, fresh-faced attitude, and unabashed love of new trends, it’s easy to think of anime as a constantly modern medium. But the history of Japanese animation stretches back decades, and like any part of culture, fan culture also changes with time.

Japanese Internet portal Goo Ranking recently polled 500 men and women between the ages of 20 and 39 about aspects of the otaku lifestyle that were indicative of being an otaku during the Showa era of Japanese history. While that period technically ran from 1926 to 1989, otakuism wasn’t really a social phenomenon until the 1980s, so you can think of this list as a look back on anime fandom in the ‘80s and very early ‘90s.

10. There weren’t nearly as many cosplayers as there are now (38 responses)

Cosplay is now so big that there’s even a professional talent agency that specialize in it, but back in the day, it was really a minor side attraction. Before the rise of the Internet, not only were you pretty much on your own as far as tips for putting together your outfit (unless you were a classically trained tailor/seamstress), without social media and blogs there was no easy way to share the visual results of your work with anyone other than the limited audience that showed up to the same event you wore your costume to.

9. You watched your favorite anime recorded on cassette, over and over, until the tape itself wore out (39 responses)

Yep. Not only was anime something that fans primarily enjoyed on physical media, if you recorded something on VHS off of TV broadcast, that physical media featured several moving parts. It was a sad day when you started being able to hear the creaks and squeaks when you played your favorite cassette, and a sadder one still when the tape warped or snapped.

8. You had to rush home, because anime was shown in prime time (40 responses)

TV anime used to be shown during prime time, so if you didn’t want to miss the new episode of your favorite show, you had to give it priority over any other social engagements after work. Otaku now have the opposite problem: trying to stay up late enough to catch anime in the late-night blocks where it airs now (though they digital recording and on-demand streaming means they can bypass that inconvenience too).

7. Idol singers didn’t make it publicly known that they were otaku (43 responses)

This is a bit of a multi-layered response. While the idol and anime industries have a very cozy relation these days, that wasn’t always the case, as their marketing and talent pools used to be largely separate. The otaku culture boom has coincided with the second golden age of idol singers, though, and now there’s plenty of crossover with a number of idols loudly proclaiming how much they love anime (how much of that is playing up to their target market is another topic, though).

6. On the back cover of dojinshi, you’d see the real name of the person who drew it and their actual address (44 responses)

This kind of sensitive personal information used to be slapped on the back of dojinshi, independently produced comics often featuring copyrighted characters from existing series engaged in myriad sexual acts. So why was this the case? Because…

4 (tie), You’d purchase dojinshi by postal money order (46 responses)

If you’re selling dojinshi now, and you’re not doing it in-person at an event like Comiket, you can handle the transaction digitally. Before the rise of online banking and e-commerce, though, the easiest way for an individual creator to process those economic transfers was by postal money order.

4 (tie). When you told people you liked anime, they’d give you a strange look (46 responses)

Granted, even today if you mention to someone that you can tell the difference between each and every Gundam model, or launch into a detailed dissertation as to why Sailor Jupiter is vastly superior to Sailor Moon during lunch with your coworkers, you’re probably going to raise a few eyebrows. But anime has never been a more prevalent part of mainstream entertainment in Japan than it is today, and even people who don’t watch any animation at all often enjoy anime franchises indirectly through the numerous live-action movie and TV drama adaptations of hit series.

3. People didn’t call themselves “otaku” (47 responses)

“Otaku” often gets translated into English as “geek” or “nerd,” and much like those words, it’s undergone a major change in tone over the last 10 to 20 years. Originally, otaku was a pure pejorative, and so not something that people usually called themselves, especially when speaking to people outside the fandom (animation studio Gainax’s 1991 anime Otaku no Video notwithstanding). Nowadays, though, passionate anime fans will casually refer to themselves as otaku the same way as someone in the U.S. who’s really knowledgeable about computers might good-naturally call himself a “tech geek.”

2. It wasn’t “BL,” it was “yaoi,” and they weren’t “fujoshi,” they were “dojin onna” (52 responses)

Stories of male homosexual love in anime and manga are now collectively called “boys’ love,” abbreviated to “BL,” whereas their core fanbase are “fujoshi,” literally “rotten girls.” But in the past, the more common terms were “yaoi” and “dojin onna” (while “yaoi” still gets used overseas, it’s pretty much been supplanted entirely by “BL” in Japan).

So why the change? As mentioned above, independently produced manga are called dojinshi, and before boys’ love was something that professional anime studios would produce, the genre was primarily present in dojinshi, and dojin onna (dojinshi women) meant a woman who enjoyed reading dojinshi featuring male-and-male couplings.

As for yaoi, the word’s roots lie in an abbreviation of Yamete oshiri ga itai, literally “Stop, my butt hurts.” As boys’ love has grown in narrative complexity beyond simply “One dude does another dude from behind,” it’s only natural that a less explicit term gains favor as well

1. If you liked anime, people assumed you were gloomy (68 responses)

This is sort of a surprise to find at the top of the list, since in the ‘80s hot-blooded anime heroes were the order of the day. Conversely, modern anime seems to be always ready to place a character who’s introverted, emotionally conflicted, or otherwise psychologically “weak,” by traditional masculine standards, front and center.

So odds are the respondents who chose this didn’t do so as a reflection of anime’s themes, but of anime’s fans themselves. 30 years ago, even in Japan it wasn’t easy for fans to find one another. If no one in your met-in-person social group was into anime, let alone the same specific series you liked, your experience with a show pretty much began and ended with watching it alone.

With the rise of the Internet and social media, though, finding someone else to discuss whatever series you’re following only takes a few keystrokes, clicks, or taps. Not that all online fan interaction has a positive effect, but it’s definitely done more good than bad in helping otaku become part of a vibrant community.

That in turn has caused a ripple effect where even the places otaku like to go have become more energetic. It wasn’t that long ago that Akihabara was a drab part of Tokyo where otaku shuffled into shops to buy whatever merch they wanted, then shuffled back out and went home to consume their media in solitude. Now, though? It’s one of the most energetic places in the city, and otaku gathering places are showing up in other neighborhoods and towns as well, which is why anime-themed dining is now a legitimate part of the Japanese restaurant scene.

Put it all together, and even if not non-otaku don’t share their enthusiasm for anime, they know that plenty of other people do, and that being an otaku means having a common interest with a very big group of people, and probably more than a few good friends within that community.

Source: Goo Ranking via Otakomu
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Under 35 percent of middle school English teachers in Japan meet government proficiency benchmark

Numbers for high school teachers aren’t much rosier in recent study by education ministry.

Despite a reputation for overall academic excellence, the quality of Japan’s English education programs is a common target of criticism (and chuckling). Despite English being a compulsory subject in both middle and high schools in Japan, and often part of the elementary curriculum as well, Japanese students tend to show far less English-as-a-second-language proficiency than their counterparts in many other countries.

What’s more, a study by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is showing that even the country’s English teachers themselves aren’t meeting the desired benchmarks. Though it stops short of making it an outright requirement for a position, the ministry recommends that teachers of English in junior and senior high schools have English skills equivalent to the Eiken English proficiency test’s Pre-1 Grade (the second-highest level of the exam). Nationwide, the ministry says it’s aiming for 50 percent of middle school English teachers, and 75 percent of high school English instructors, to acquire such expertise.

However, a survey of 52,000 teachers found that only 33.6 percent of middle school teachers’ English abilities were at the Pre-1 level. High school teachers fared a little better, but were also below the target with 65.4 percent having Grade Pre-1 skills. This marked the fifth consecutive year for both groups to fall short of the benchmark.

While you might expect the highest ratio of benchmark-meeting educators to be found in cosmopolitan, internationalized parts of Japan, it’s actually largely rural Fukui, part of Japan’s northside coastal region of Hokuriku, that had the most Pre-1 level junior high teachers, at 62.2 percent. Fukui also tied with Kagawa, another primarily rural prefecture, for the highest percentage of Eiken Pre-1-level high school teachers, 91.3 percent (whether the figures represent the percentage of teachers who have actually taken and passed the Eiken Pre-1 test, or is based on other criteria, is unclear).

While the temptation may be to point the finger at teachers for being as lazy as a shiftless student sleeping through class, Rikkyo University professor Kumiko Torikai, one of Japan’s foremost interpretation and linguistics experts, says that teachers’ existing workload is a factor. “Classroom teachers are so busy that they don’t have sufficient time to devote to researching English teaching methods,” she says. “We need to make adjustments to educators’ work environment.”

In addition, some would argue that having a skill yourself isn’t always a guarantee of being able to teach that skill to others, as any native English speaker who’s taught English in Japan and struggled in crafting effective lesson plans knows. Still, there’s at least some correlation between personal ability and capacity for explaining a language, so it’s understandable that the ministry is disappointed with its study’s results.

Source: NHK News Web via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso

Japanese advertising agency breaks tradition by recruiting people who got held back in school

When a company ensures that everyone deserves a second chance, it’s a company worth working for.

Students who fail a grade and thus repeat the same year remain rare in Japan, but the ones that do (referred to as ryunen,  meaning “repeaters”) find themselves at a huge disadvantage upon stepping out into the working world, where distinguished academic records and the willingness to put the company before all else are the norm.

Committed to dispelling the negative image associated with being held back in school, advertising company Tokyu Agency holds recruitment sessions catered to repeaters, with helpful input from veteran employees who once failed grades themselves. For people such as Twitter user @kotaroishungry, this turn of fortune just made his day.

“This is fantastic! They’re recruiting repeaters! Tokyu Agency! Thank you! Thank you very much! As expected of Tokyu! I love Tokyu!”

The company’s recruitment page states that “Repeaters are assets”, with a stirring message to prospective employees hoping to get a second chance at life:

“Repeaters are considered terrible by many companies. However, we do not think so. Most of them eventually complete their grades. Whether it’s studying abroad, putting their everything into part-time jobs, starting businesses or pursuing knowledge. They challenge everything they see and become engrossed in things. As for results, getting held back in school makes them special and they’ll be able to use it as an asset. There are no other individuals like them. They’ll brainstorm and work closely with people who have gone through the same. At Tokyu Agency, we have begun to recruit repeaters.”

▼ It’s like pressing continue at the “Game Over” screen.

Looking at Tokyu Agency’s history, recruitment numbers have been steadily increasing for the company with 30 new recruits expected to join their ranks this year. Although these aren’t guaranteed to be all repeaters, it’s a significant step towards forging a much more accepting society in a country where academic performances dictate one’s future.

It’s good to see Tokyu Agency tapping into a population that is still discriminated against, but if companies could also start easing the frustrating job hunting system for foreigners, Japan would inevitably change for the better.

Source: Tokyu Agency via Kai-You, Hachima Kikou
Top image: Pakutaso
Images: Pakutaso

Is pachinko headed for extinction in Japan? Studies reveal huge drop in players, hall operators

A grim mortality rate for pachinko parlor management companies shines a light on the poor health of the industry.

I’ve lived in the same neighborhood of Yokohama for more than a decade now, and right across the street from my train station is a pachinko parlor. I’ve never gone inside, and a recent study suggests that I’m not the only one for whom the allure of bouncing metal balls holds no strong allure.

The Tokyo-based Yano Research Institute recently released the results of its analysis of the pachinko industry, and some of the numbers don’t look so good . At the end of last December, researchers counted 10,258 pachinko halls in Japan, and while that’s definitely a lot, that’s how many were left over after 420 shut down during the year, meaning that roughly one in 25 pachinko halls closed their doors for good in 2017.

Even more startling is that 177 companies that manage pachinko parlors went out of business in 2017, with the remaining 3,244 meaning there was more than a five-percent mortality rate for pachinko operators during the year.

▼ A pachinko parlor advertises its batch of newly installed machines.

So what’s causing the drops? One thing researchers point to is the rapidly expanding number of entertainment options that people in Japan have access to. While the country was slow to embrace Internet surfing via PCs, smartphones have quickly become the norm, providing people anywhere in the country access to a nearly unlimited amount of reading material, video content, and games. This especially changes the entertainment landscape in rural areas, where massive pachinko halls used to often be just about the only leisure providers to be found.

There’s also the fact that no matter how many anime and video game franchises pachinko machine manufacturers license in an attempt to appeal to those hobbies’ younger fanbases, pachinko is widely seen as the pastime of stodgy middle-aged and older men. Japanese survey site Shirabee asked 235 men and women, all who said they enjoyed gambling, whether or not they felt like the money they’d spent on pachinko and other games of chance had been a waste, and 62.5 percent of respondents in their 20s said it had been, as did 63.1 percent of those in their 30s. Those numbers contrast with 48.8 percent of respondents in their 40s, 54.3 percent of those in their 50s, and just 46.5 percent of those 60 and above.

▼ Ads for pachinko machines featuring characters from the Evangelion and Maison Ikkoku anime series

That gap in attitudes suggests that convincing younger Japanese people that sitting in a pachinko parlor is a fun way to spend the day is an uphill battle. Granted, some would argue that all of the randomized loot box microtransactions of wildly successful smartphone games are just as much a form of gambling as pachinko, but others would counter that at least in that case, the buyer knows he’s going to get some sort of video game goodies, whereas an unsuccessful pachinko session will leave you without even enough balls to trade in for a box of crackers, let alone the trinkets that you can secretly exchange for cash around the corner.

With more than 10,000 halls still left, it’s not like pachinko is going to disappear overnight. However, it’s estimated that the number of active pachinko players in Japan has dropped from 30 million in 1994 to just 9.4 million now, and if that trend continues, pachinko parlors might meet the same fate as sento (public baths), going from a ubiquitous part of Japanese cityscapes to a legitimate rarity.

Source: Niconico News via Jin, Gambling Journal
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“Asking some Americans to give up guns is like asking Japanese people to give up miso soup”

American-born Japanese celebrity Pakkun’s comparison doesn’t go over well, but one commenter has a better food analogy.

With public violence and private gun ownership both extremely rare in Japan, the country is consistently shocked by high-profile mass shootings in the U.S. Each incident receives widespread coverage in the Japanese media, including this week’s shooting at YouTube’s headquarters in California.

In the wake of the April 3 attack, in which shooter Nasim Najafi Aghdam injured three people before killing herself, Japanese online news channel AbemaNews discussed the startling string of gun violence in America. Among those on the panel were American-born, Harvard-educated Patrick Harlan, better known by his stage name Pakkun, who’s made a name for himself in the Japanese television world as a comedian, news commentator, cultural ambassador, and all-around media personality thanks to his affable, relaxed demeanor and fluent Japanese.

▼ Patrick Harlan, a.k.a Pakkun

Gun ownership has never been a constitutional right in Japan, and so a common response to news of mass shootings in the U.S. is to ask why the American government doesn’t simply take all guns out of the hands of civilian owners (which would in some ways parallel the “sword hunts” of Japanese history, when the peasant population was forcibly disarmed following the most intense period of civil war in the late 1500s). Harlan, who grew up in Colorado before moving to Boston after graduating high school, attempted to give the rest of the panel a sense of the issue’s complexity by way of analogy, saying (in Japanese):

“Regulations have been tightened on the east and west coasts of America…but in the interior states…But to people living in the interior states, guns are closely related to their personal identities. If guns are criticized, they feel as though they themselves are being denounced. To them, it’s like telling a Japanese person not to drink miso soup.”

Harlan went on to say that in his parents’ home there were more than 20 guns which were used for hunting.

It’s pretty clear that in drawing a comparison to miso soup, Harlan is trying to give a sense of just how ingrained gun ownership is in certain rural American communities. Many Japanese people see miso soup as a symbol of Japan’s traditions and values, drinking it every day and considering it something that deeply enriches their lives. Harlan asserts that in the minds of certain Americans, guns account for a similarly integral part of their lifestyle, and so asking them to give that up is not something they’re likely to easily acquiesce to.

Online commenters in Japan, though, weren’t entirely convinced that Harlan’s analogy was entirely accurate, with reactions including:

“But dude, you can’t kill someone with a bowl of miso soup.”
“So do they squeeze off a few rounds every day?”
“I’ve got no problem going without miso soup. Now if someone told me I couldn’t use soy sauce…”
“Wouldn’t it be more like asking the samurai to give up their swords, like they had to do in the Meiji Restoration?”
“I think it’d be more like telling people not to jerk off.”
“Pakkun’s analogy is waaay off-target.”

Perhaps the biggest logical disconnect is because while gun ownership is something many Americans feel strongly about, it’s also a starkly divisive issue. Meanwhile, Japanese people’s feelings about miso soup generally tend to be either “I love it,” or “Yeah, it’s all right, I guess.”

▼ Miso soup: Loved by many, hated by just about none

A better food-based comparison was suggested by another commenter: mochi, particularly the super-stretchy style that’s eaten at New Year’s in Japan because it’s considered to represent longevity. The New Year’s mochi tradition goes back centuries, and many Japanese people couldn’t imagine celebrating the New Year without it. Every year, though, a number of people choke on it and die, providing food for thought about whether or not the established custom is something worth continuing.

Source: Abema Times via Itai News, Jin
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