November 15, 2008 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Meet Chikan. He likes to touch young women in the crowded subway of Tokyo. Meet Chikan, Otaku, Pachinko, Yopparai Salaryman, and yes, even Geisha at 51 Japanese Characters.

An aesthetically appealing and culturally enjoyable project by Visual Communication Design student Peter Machat.
posted by redsparkler (30 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
WOW! This is a really neat post. Thanks for the link.
posted by vito90 at 11:03 AM on November 15, 2008

This is pretty awesome. Attractive and informative!

Whereas, if you would like the opposite of pretty awesome, but are still into all kinds of Japan and anime.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:06 AM on November 15, 2008

Ok I see the parasite single, but I demand hikikomori! Freeters 4 eva.
posted by dgaicun at 11:06 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

The one he calls "Yamanba", I thought that was called "Ganguro".
posted by Class Goat at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2008

He likes to touch young women in the crowded subway of Tokyo.

Talk about Mr Everyman!
posted by rokusan at 11:42 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Skeptic at 11:42 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Machat missed my wife - she manages a small school, likes to cook and enjoys a beer with dinner, and likes reading. She also likes yoga and talking on the phone.

Machat also missed creating a character that describes a friend of mine, who runs an import business, plays handball, and enjoys doing home renovations.

Not as cool as these characters, but a little more representative of folks living in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:45 AM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

KokuRyu, are there standard names for those two kinds of people? I think that Machat was listing Japanese stereotypes, not "folks living in Japan".
posted by Class Goat at 12:12 PM on November 15, 2008

Stitcherbeast, I've seen that video before, and I think the consensus at the time was that Reita-chan is some kind of ungodly super troll who is also an otaku so she has all the props and knows what buttons to push. Or at least that's what I tell myself to sleep better at night.

As far as the OP's post goes, it's awesome. I agree with people that 51 is kind of an arbitrary limit and it feels like its missing a couple of stock characters that I can't quite put my finger on at the moment, shrine maidens and Japanese baseball fans probably could have been included for instance, but the hot spring monkey one really made me giggle.
posted by CheshireCat at 12:15 PM on November 15, 2008

What Wikipedia (and the DSM) has to say about our friend Chikan

Excelent post, by the way.
posted by captainsohler at 12:19 PM on November 15, 2008

posted by stinkycheese at 12:27 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

It reminds me of a much better-designed Flame Warriors. Great post.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2008

Could someone point me to some information that discusses phenomenon he calls むけっこんせだい ("the "non-marriage generation," 無結婚世代?) that is briefly mentioned for one of the dolls?

I've tried Googling for the kanji and the hiragana, but I'm not getting anything substantive.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:03 PM on November 15, 2008

One thing missing is the small business / family business owner/worker. The vast majority of Japanese work for corporations employing less than 100 people. Family owned restaurants, bars, etc incredibly common. Yes, there's chain restaurants, but in Tokyo anyway the hole in the wall type place is at least as common as the chain, maybe slightly moreso. And, it should be mentioned, generally a lot better quality food.

But, if you're looking for stereotypes, they left off the Harajuku fashionista. Which would be a bit hard to draw an icon for since the fashion they embrace tends to change on a weekly basis, but still they're one of the most easily identifiable "types" you'll find in Japan. If you see someone walking by who looks like they could be a character in a Square game odds are they're one of the Harajuku tribe. Most of the cult-fashions from Japan (loli-goth, etc) came from them, but the true Harajuku fashionista isn't part of any identifiable fashion sub-culture, they cause them, unintentionally, and then move on to the next interesting way to dress.
posted by sotonohito at 1:21 PM on November 15, 2008

その ウェブサイト は すばらし です, ありがとございます.
posted by baphomet at 2:37 PM on November 15, 2008

ethnic stereotypes are HILARIOUS.
posted by modernnomad at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

I don't know, the visuals are pretty but even granting the issue KokuRyu points out (i.e. these are stereotypes; do we need still more stereotyping?) I don't really feel like he's presenting much information that anyone with an interest in Japan wouldn't already have. I notice that a lot of the comments here are from people calling out the stereotypes they recognize with fondness, or would have wanted included as well. The overall effect is like a really accomplished and faithful cover of a Beatles song.

On the other hand, maybe he actually is presenting a bunch of deep and important information and I just can't access it because he chose to present it as a sluggish ball of Flash. I guess that is pretty true to the Japanese web though.

Class Goat: Ganguro refers to the general style of making your skin really dark with tanning + foundation. Yamanba is a subset within the set of women who are ganguro. (I think to be a Yamanba you also have to have your hair done a certain way or something.) Obviously the further you get from that subculture the less precisely those terms will be applied though.

Sangermaine: I don't think they're often actually called the 無結婚世代 in practice. 結婚しない世代 is more common. 負け犬 is a related term (from the title of a book) that was thrown around constantly a few years ago but seems to be going out of fashion.
posted by No-sword at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2008

It's a cute site, but yeah, the stereotypes grate just a touch. I would like it a lot more if rather than presenting the types as the personification of the type, (i.e. "Matsuri. He wears...") the costume and reason for it was just explained ("Many areas have Matsuri, which means "festival," and people who take part in them often wear happi coats...")

That, and some of the things, they're just not around much. Mixing so many of the things you don't see anymore gives an impression that they're still around, I think. Take out ninja, samurai, stuff like that. I mean, if you're going to have characters like that, why not tanuki?

And yamamba are like a varying degree of ganguro. It has to do with the hair (blonde/dyed so much it's whitish and nasty) and makeup, enough so that, as the website says, their name comes from the idea of a mountain witch. The garu/gal subculture, while mostly dying out these days, had so many variations. Worth looking up, or making a post about...
posted by Ghidorah at 4:32 PM on November 15, 2008

I mean, if you're going to have characters like that, why not tanuki?

Because of their huge balls.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:35 PM on November 15, 2008

They all seem to familiar to me, I'd like to see a similar one for a country with less exposure in US, like Nambia or Ecuador.
posted by afu at 5:21 PM on November 15, 2008

Not only were Soaplands named "Turkish Baths" until some Turkish people complained, but according to wiki, the new name came about as a winning entry in a nation wide contest, to rename a type of illegal brothel.

This is surreal to me.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:33 PM on November 15, 2008

I mean, if you're going to have characters like that, why not tanuki?

Because of their huge balls.

When I used to live in Japan, my favorite thing about tanuki was purposefully confusing them with other mythical creatures. Sure, that's a pretty cute-looking kitsune, but where are his gigantic testicles?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:14 PM on November 15, 2008

Where's the little brown guy with the teeth who's always chasing cats?
posted by GuyZero at 11:45 PM on November 15, 2008

So I'm going to assume the people complaining about stereotypes would also be complaining if someone made up a list of common groups found in America? Something like: Businessman, Cowboy, Nerd, Jock, Bellhop, Construction Worker, Hip-Hop, Emo, etc., etc.?

Seems kind of silly to me...the complaining.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:38 AM on November 16, 2008

Yeah I agree with P.o.B. These are not stereotypes, but just prominent images in Japan. Aside from the random ones like samurai or ninja of course. The countless times you've seen the drunk salaryman passed out in the train station or the countless nerds in Akihabara. Japanese people also use these terms for each other. "oh he's a total car nerd", or "that guy looks like a host". The site isn't saying Japanese people fit into these groups, it's just showing the various images of Japan. I think this guy missed the bohemian/hippie crowd though. But perhaps they're not distinctly Japanese images.
posted by vodkadin at 2:45 AM on November 16, 2008

paisley henosis wrote "illegal brothel"

Actually, Japanese law is a bit odd (from an American standpoint) on the topic of prostitution. Yes, its technically illegal. But I say "technically" because the law only specifically forbids selling penis/vagina intercourse, anything else is not addressed by law.

"Brothels" are also illegal, but again the law defines a brothel using the Japanese traditions (where the women working there were essentially slaves owned by the brothel) rather than simply defining it as a place where sex is sold.

Also, the law only applies to *selling* penis/vagina sex, not buying it, which means the Johns are in no danger of arrest or even inconvenience if they are caught. As a result Pink Salons, Soaplands, Fashion Health Clubs, etc are all perfectly legal as long as they limit themselves to oral, anal, manual, etc sex and don't practice slavery.

Because of this interesting combination of laws the Diet recently (er, well, within the past decade recently) passed a law prohibiting anyone from buying sex of any sort from children. This was following a wake of stories in the Japanese media involving businessmen and high school girls hooking up for "compensated dating" using various internet services.
posted by sotonohito at 3:50 AM on November 16, 2008

Very interesting, thanks sontonohito.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:55 AM on November 16, 2008

Fascinating link, thanks! And awesome input from MeFites, as usual. I concede the point that anyone with more than a passing interest would be aware of these stereotypes already, but sometimes people with passing interest don't have the time to hunt down cultural archetypes at their leisure. I for one certainly appreciate this collection, and will be using it as a springboard for future research, not as a bible on Japanese culture. I imagine I'm not the only one.
posted by Phire at 10:47 AM on November 16, 2008

Being a gaijin in Japan, I tried to lift the curtain and shed some light on the areas of Japanese society that are often perceived as being mysterious and closed.

Puh-lease. Why does every random foreigner in Japan suffer from Marco Polo Syndrome?
posted by alidarbac at 6:02 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Guyzero, that's domokun.

you may have recently spied him plastered all over target, for their halloween campaign (YTube link, pepsi blue, etc.).

speaking of Marco Polo...
funny story about domokun - I travel every other year or so. save up and go to a place I'd not been before. while there, I try to pick out something for the folks back home. To give them a taste, or a peak. (the japanese call it omiyage. you may be more familiar with tchotchke and that's the point of difference - I try to find something... original. unique. found. yet not costing so much.) visiting Japan, domokun was my pick a couple of years ago seeing as toro sushi doesn't transport well. But the stuffed animal things are irresistibly cute, if ubiquitous. even if you don't like stuffed animals, they likely have one for you. I had yen for the little beady eyed guy ever since the "every time..." meme. smirk.
Only now I find he's at target. great. so much for trying to distinguish myself through consumerism. (but wait, when has that ever worked?)

five years previous I returned from italy. brought back the best beans for cappuccino I'd ever had. a symbol of taste in europe. creamy. thick. luxurious. Got a little tin can in milan from a corner shop before getting on the plane back to Texas. upon landing I take a friend to a coffee shop to impress him with, presumptively, my imported beans. (what. some of us don't have espresso machines lying around.) I ask sheepishly if the barista wouldn't mind using mine instead of the house brand and offer to share. it's from italy just this week and all. sure she says and turns to a coworker to extend the offer. come the terse reply - "naw, I've had it. you can get it at williams sonoma."
as in - the mall.

I felt about 'this' big.
but the cappuccino was still excellent.
and domokun is still cute.
(cafe brand name withheld to protect the innocent, so that you too, may explore and discover something in the world and have it be your own. for a day or so.).
posted by ilovemytoaster at 11:10 AM on November 17, 2008

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