Episode 1: Japaneur


Welcome to the show. This first episode is an introduction to the Japaneur podcast. More than just sharing what I think you'll get out of the show, this episode is also a self introduction of sorts, and covers why I'm doing this podcast. I also cover how you can use the podcast and blog together to learn about Japan.

Listen to the episode on iTunes or Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Download the mp3 to your computer here.


Show notes

There is probably no other country simultaneously more interesting, more attractive, and more alien than Japan. It's approachable, yet at times seemingly unknowable. I recently heard Tim Ferriss describe walking around in Japan as akin to a fever dream. Go to Japan for the first time, and you'll see what he means.  Japan is wonderful on so many levels.

If you're Japan-curious, want to learn more about Japan, or if you're preparing for any kind of visit to Japan, this site and the podcast are for you. Japaneur is the quintessential insiders guide to Japan, with an outsiders perspective.

I've spent 25 years exploring Japan, its language, culture and customs. My goal in Japaneur is twofold: 

First, I want to share what I've learned. I think learning about Japan is frustrating, or can become frustrating, because most of information available in English is either bipolar or is unnecessarily exclusive.

A Google search on anything Japanese usually pulls up information from newspapers and social media, including a few popular blogs. Both of these channels favor news or trivia about Japan that, to a Westerner, has "wow" factor. The trouble is, to really understand what's going on in Japan, you need to go deep. You need context. And the context isn't just more of the story, it's an understanding of the deep cultural and historical reasons the Japanese think or act like they do. And this is where unnecessary exclusivity comes in.

I remember being told numerous times that it's not possible to truly speak Japanese natively, or to understand the Japanese as well as they understand themselves. I was even told this by a university professor while studying Japanese language and literature. I won't get into it in depth here, but one of the belief systems prevalent in Japan is that of homogeneity, that the Japanese

Next, to keep learning.

, and to learn more.  Learning about Japan was like setting a series of dominos in motion. Japan is complicated. Trying to understand anything in Japan is like peeling back dozens of layers of an onion. But Japan is mesmerizing. You want to keep peeling. Think of it less as a series of dominos, and more like the complex systems set in motion in Pitagora Switch.

I'm thoroughly convinced that the only people who think they understand the Japanese are the Japanese themselves.

I have been involved with Japan, its people, language, culture and customs for over 25 years. Initially I just wanted to learn the language so I could communicate and better understand the Japanese. 

Every culture is unique, but nothing comes close to Japan. It has completely transformed itself twice: Once during the 19th century following a 250-year period of isolationism (鎖国, さこく, sakoku), and again in an incredible economic boom during the decades following World War II, called the Japanese Economic Miracle.

I get into how I got started with Japanese and why I'm fond of Japan.

But Japan has some serious problems.  It's in an extended economic recession, a population that's not only upside-down with a top-heavy gentrification, but one that's also shrinking. 

Japan Restored by Clyde Prestowitz

Japanization by William Pezek

Listen in

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