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Comment Speaking of clichés... (Score 1) 370

Seriously? The invention is about some Hollywood-cliché Asian "loss of face" thing?

How about this instead: Some researchers experimented with a technology for the sake of discovery, and in doing so, listed potential applications that reflect the researchers' own brainstorming, and not necessarily the opinions or ideas of "the Japanese" (who, I wager, were most definitely not consulted in the matter).

It's a more reasonable scenario than people developing technology expressly to combat "unspeakable loss of status".

(Incidentally, why is Mr Akusake shouting so much, anyway? Maybe he's demanding to know how he got that un-Japanese name. : )

Comment Re:Japanese conversation style (Score 1) 370

I've lived in Japan for 30+ years (hey, I'm here now!), and conversation here is conversation. Silly, contrived anecdotes by self-described "experts in cross-cultural communication", who need to fill their books or speeches with *something*, just make me laugh. "Tennis vs bowling"? Aye yi yi.

I know, you're just repeating what you've heard. No harm there. Just be skeptical of claims, especially those involving unmeasurable, fluffy things like "conversational ballgames".

Comment Re:The idiotic "scared of robots" meme (Score 1) 200

Sounds about right. But for the record, over here in Japan –and I'm assuming you're not here –there are plenty of people who have taken this bizarre idea from the media, and have expanded it into a mini-dogma with unequivocal claims that "the Japanese" have a "special relationship with robots" due to dolls and Shinto religion and Astro-Boy cartoons and whatever else seems to make muddled sense at the moment, and that "Westerners" are literally terrified of robots because of "Christian hang-ups" and yadda yadda. Jump ahead a few years to the present, and it's now being parroted, with no questions asked, by media overseas, print media in Japan (including non-Japanese publications), and even national news broadcasts any time a story related to robots comes up.

That's what my reaction is aimed at: not a single BBC article, but this meme taking strong roots. (It may seem a really obscure topic from where you sit, but it might be one of those things you suddenly start seeing all over, now that it's come to your notice...)

It's pretty harmless stuff. It's insulting to robot researchers and enthusiasts around the world, but trivial all the same. So why bother poking fun at it? *shrug* Because the meme is demonstrably false; that's reason enough. Never hurts to keep in practice with the question, "Wait a sec –is this thing we're hearing *true*?"

That about wraps it up. Cheerio!

Comment The idiotic "scared of robots" meme (Score 1) 200

"In Japan robots are friendly helpers not Terminators."

This idiotic meme just won't die, thanks to eternally lazy reporters. Tip to the BBC: Outside of Japan, robots are not Terminators. The Terminator was a movie character. It's fiction. Get it?

Here in the real world, people and companies outside of Japan are falling all over themselves researching, building, and commercializing robots as home helpers, caretakers, special-needs assistants, workers, and more –the same as in Japan. Sorry, BBC, but if you want to claim there's some magical difference in Japan, you have to demonstrate it, not just assert it.

From my home in Tokyo, where I can assure you the average person has zero daily contact with helper-type robots, I got so tired of this meme I ripped it apart at . The robot-loving "Westerners" I describe should feel mighty familiar to Slashdot readers (who, unlike the BBC, are probably smart enough to get that "OMG robots are evil Terminators!" is the stuff of jokes and movies, not the attitude of real people).

Comment Re:Ack, the misconceptions... (Score 1) 284

Certainly, kanji is one of the difficulties – I name it one of the three things a person would find hard about learning Japanese ( ). It's a heck of a lot of work for Japanese/Chinese speakers, too.

But you're probably familiar with all the points in favor of Chinese characters, such as the vast richness they add to the written language, and even the way they arguably make reading easier and faster (once learned thoroughly enough). I myself vote to keep 'em (but then again, I would vote that way, having put in the time to learn 'em : ).

Comment Ack, the misconceptions... (Score 2, Interesting) 284

I cringe a bit every time a story like this pops up. Here come the myths, the misinformation, the wild exaggerations... Life was easier before the "anime/manga" fans took up their little obsession.

Well, let's be positive: This is a learning & teaching experience, right? So for the interested, a bit of debunking about Japanese:

1) "Kanji" is not a language.
I know, I haven't seen anyone on this page make that mistake, so I'm not pointing a finger at anyone here. Just at people out there who do think "kanji" is the name of the language – like Steve Jobs in his keynote a couple days ago. I had to write a debunking:

2) Japanese does NOT use "three writing systems". (That claim does appear on this page.)
Japanese uses ONE writing system. Precisely one. No more, no less. It contains multiple character sets, including Chinese characters (aka kanji), home-grown "kana" phonetic characters (with two variants, hiragana & katakana), punctuation & typographic symbols (including some from European languages), and Arabic numerals. Those all combine to form exactly ONE writing system.

It's nothing special. English uses multiple character sets, including Latin letters (with two variants, upper case & lower case), punctuation & typographic symbols, and Arabic numerals. All of which combine to form ONE writing system.

I haven't written a post on this one yet, but definitely need to. That "three writing systems" is a really common misconception. (Comment by Moridineas is very much on the right track, pointing out that the jumble of features and origins found in the Japanese writing system is just the normal way human language rolls.)

3) "OMG Japanese is so hard." Well, that's purely opinion, so I won't say it's right or wrong or a misconception or anything. I'll just add that there are learners with precisely the opposite opinion: I call it a wonderfully easy language to learn! There are plenty of reasons; see .

Lots more linguistic debunking at my site. But I'll refrain from further boring the good people here.

So, anyway. Fascinating stuff, and actually it's nice to see so many people take an interest. Let's just watch the exaggerations and stick to reality. (Yeah, like that'll happen. Who am I kidding? : )

Comment WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS? (Score 2, Insightful) 884

I can't believe this - yet another "the iPhone failed in Japan" article with NO SALES DATA to support the claim. Maybe it is selling slowly here in Japan. Maybe flopping miserably. But why make that claim with no numbers to back it up? Get the numbers first!

There are other reasons why Softbank might cut the price. End-of-season (that'd be now) goals. Inventory clearance for a new model. Or the biggest reason of all: a lousy economy. If the iPhone is sluggish in Japan, it's not the only thing; everyone from Toyota on down is bleeding money and laying off workers as sales slump for just about everything.

Even in a good economy, maybe the iPhone wouldn't succeed here. Maybe it would. Sadly, without any data upon which to base intelligent comments, we're still going to get non-stop uninformed punditry about market potential and breathless unproven claims of "cultural differences".

Comment Re:More "we're so different" rubbish (Score 1) 524

"It is - quite clearly - implicit in this claim, from your original post."

Er, no. Not a whit. If I am speaking for someone other than myself - implicitly or otherwise - then here's a simple question for you: Whom do I appear to be speaking for?

Honestly, I can't even guess what person/group you have in mind.

As for responding to all the rest: I fear we're both going to sound like pedantic parodies along the lines of The Comic Book Guy, so let's jump on the point of agreement: Be skeptical.

It's good advice in any field, including "cultural differences" - even when we have a person from Country X making claims about Nationality X. Common sense "show me why I should believe that" should still apply. (Smart observers have called the failure to do so "taxi driver syndrome" - as in, "My East Whatsitian taxi driver told me about East Whatsit poltics/economy/belief systems, so it must be true!")

So does Google Streetview present some special "cultural insensitivity" unique to Japan? We've got the claim, and it very well could have merit, but IMHO the claimant hasn't shown any support for it beyond "I say so". Until that changes, skepticism keeps me from believing it. You, others, and/or Google are of course free to make what you wish of the claim!

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