The Kids are All Wrong

The Kids Are All Wrong

The cover story in the February issue of Takarajima 『宝島』 is titled 「バカ化する若者」— “Youth are Becoming Idiots.” The small print above the title states 「”ゆとり”チルドレンが日本を滅ぼす!」You see, our idiot Japanese children — spoiled by the less rigid “yutori” education established in the early 1990s as a way to bolster individualism and creative thought — are ruining Japan. Tough to be a kid in Japan these days: you are not only stupid, you’re a traitor.

Takarajima, however, is hardly broaching a new topic. Earlier this year, Japanese critic Uchida Tatsuru‘s latest book 『下流志向──学ばない子どもたち、働かない若者たち』」 (my trans: Aiming Downward: Kids Who Don’t Learn, Youth Who Don’t Work) got some attention, another in a long series of “下流” titles about the (semi-voluntary) descent of middle-class kids into the pits of lower-class hell. The basic idea that the younger generation has failed “society,” however, goes back even further — one of the few constant themes in 20th century Japanese social criticism. Maybe the radical young soldiers in the 1930s who assassinated liberal politicians and demanded greater power for the Emperor proved themselves good kids in a warped sense, really living up to the ideals of the Imperial Rescript on Education. But ever since then, young people have basically dropped the ball generation after generation: juvies, hippies, bikers, consumerists, whores. Youth of the 1980s were derisively christened 新人類 (shinjinrui, The New Breed) — almost as if to say, these kids’ rotten values must be the result of genetic dysfunction and devolution, like overbred mini-chihuahuas.

So like every cohort in the past, the current batch of Adults are ripping into their own offspring, regretting the Whitney Houston Principle that “Children are our future.” The cast of guest authors at Takarajima, however, are not suffering from mere moral outrage. They have objective measure on their side!

Famed management consultant Ohmae Kenichi starts things off by noting that Japanese 20-somethings do not sufficiently feel urges for material things. They no longer desire cars (this is supported by lots of data and a panicky auto industry). They do not buy computers, and their share of total web users has dropped from 23.5% in 2000 to 11.9% in 2006. They are not interested in international affairs apart from the occasional vacation abroad. They have low expectations for the future, nil ambition, and not enough wrath to make any challenges to an economic system that puts all the nation’s assets into the hands of their elders. With such low salaries and pitiful future earning potential, young men find it too sadistic to ask for their girlfriend’s hand in marriage — especially when women can live a life of luxury under their parents’ auspices.

Ohmae makes a particularly good point that the weakened consumer power of youth in Japan has forced manufacturers to re-gear their marketing and merchandising to suit older customers. (This is evidenced already in the fact that almost no youth-oriented products made the “Hit Products of 2007” guide in Nikkei’s newspaper Marketing Journal.) Since most material needs are manufactured or at least greatly influenced by the commercial complex, companies ignoring youth essentially amplifies the problem of their insufficient materialism.

In the next article, Ritsumeikan professor Kageyama Hideo blames the less rigid “yutori” education revolution of the early 1990s — which stressed “individuality” (個性) and reduced total teaching time — for creating the current generation of NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) and furiitaa (chronic part-time workers). Once the envy of the world, Japanese standards in math and science now drop year after year. In a statistics section, we learn that Japanese 20-somethings do not save their money, do not like alcohol or beer or cigarettes, do not give blood, are highly susceptible to pyramid schemes (マルチ商法), do not send new years cards, groom their eyebrows, and when compared to the U.S., China, and South Korea, have little interest in attending top-tier universities.

What is most interesting about this latest jeremiad against youth, however, is the lack of moral panic about actual morals. Oh, how easy it was to demonize thinner-huffing Bosozoku motorcycle gangs, Ganguro runaway part-time prostitutes, and truant rock’n'roll dancers in Yoyogi Park. Kids these days are not even “up to no good” — just up to very, very little. I never thought I would ever see grown-ups pulling their hair over the fact that kids aren’t smoking and drinking enough. They don’t have a new and mysterious pharmacopeia of illicit drugs. (How naïve and unaware is this article on the current “rise” of amphetamines in Japan, as if speed was not the single government-condoned way to get high for the last 50 years.) Japanese youth aren’t having crazy orgies, and you hear less about strings of “sex friends.” Their preferred style of music is the highly-formulaic seishun punk and ska (or judging from declining music sales, silence). Youth are obsessed with “feel good” banter with friends, the act of communicating on phones without much emphasis on the content and building fragile communities of electronically-mediated acquaintances. They are not even destructive — just retracting into their shells and failing to report for the single pre-determined path into the social hierarchy.

Of course, Japanese youth did not get together at a national conference and take a vote to follow this path to blandness and futility. They are rational actors in a harsh environment. There has been an evaporation of traditional incentives and rewards that guided earlier youth through grueling study routines, regimented career paths, and surveillance-based management methods. As a result, convenience store clerkship has become an equal value proposition to life as a second-tier white-collar suit. Education in Japan has always been organized around socialization (creating “good Japanese”) and talent-location (separating “good students” from the chaff for escalation into the bureaucracy) rather than actual self-actualization or intellectual enlightenment. (If the latter values were important, why would Japanese universities allow students to graduate without lifting a finger and companies hire students solely based on their pedigree rather than their grades?) So when Japan’s Fordian education factory loses its guiding light, kids no longer have any idea why they are memorizing obscure English grammar rules and techniques for multivariate calculus. When only the top elite of society can make it through the narrow door to jobs where the wages actually increase over time, those standing silent on the peak of the Bell curve are probably more willing to consider the values of their non-fun-deferring classmates a few standard deviations behind. The conservative critics, however, believe that attempts to make the education system less of a device for nation-state building has only produced dumber kids. They may have a point: if the entire economic and employment system still rewards those that excel at the older goals of the education system, the “yutori” changes have only given them false hopes that they will be valued for their individuality and creativity.

For those less invested in the continuity of the Japanese nation-state, youth delinquency can be a visual treat and a new source of alternative cultural creation/proliferation. The problem with the 21st Century Kids, however, is that they’ve failed to meet expectations in this arena as well. Japanese youth of today are as bad about being bad kids as they are about being good kids. There has been no major youth fashion movement since the Kogal in the mid 1990s. Current kids are “conservative,” but not in the sense of actively protecting stable social mores. As Uchida explains in Karyuu Shiko, they simply lack the cultural or intellectual curiosity to tolerate things they do not understand. They are sad puppies, moping instead of channeling and sublimating anger into productive action.

The youth generation coming to age directly after the war had a political and spiritual mandate — mostly under the flag of radical Marxism — to change society and move Japan away from its failed imperialist project. This extended to art and literature; in the speech “Japan’s Dual Identity: A Writer’s Dilemma,” Ōe Kenzaburo stated that from 1946 and 1970, writers produced a “literature that set out to deal squarely with the needs of intellectuals.” Terayama Shuji‘s work broke formalistic grounds in the theatre and film as part of this political mission. The self-destruction of the Left at Asamasanso in 1972, however, essentially ended this philosophical driver for art and youth culture. With rising prosperity, materialism easily filled Marxism’s spiritual void and became the guiding ethic of the next four decades. Writers like Murakami Haruki, Yoshimoto Banana, and Tanaka Yasuo provided “literature” that did not just comment on consumer culture but built artistic meaning around capitalist logic. Most of the significant artistic and creative movements of the 1980s and 1990s — especially the fashion of Ura-Harajuku-kei and the music of Shibuya-kei — were basically attempts at curated consumption within the realm of art. Materialism not only guided yen towards products but gave youth a very obvious way to express themselves on personal, social, and “political” levels.

Materialism in Japan seems to be in its last throes now — or at least, beaten back until it can mutate into a new form. Youth not only lack money, but have little understanding of the incredibly inflated standards for conspicuous consumption from the 1980s and 1990s. But this is the sad irony of Japanese youth today: they are post-materialists in a society where culture has been construed as an empty vehicle for commercial transaction. With education and popular art both robbed of intellectual content to serve the goals of the political economy, post-materialists are reduced to using culture in its socializing role of bringing people together. This explains why young Japanese seem to like “heartfelt” music in extremely standardized forms. If culture is about building broad bridges and not differentiation between groups, innovation and organized rebellion are low on creators’ priority list.

This cultural malaise may be temporary as the internet and new social forces create unforeseen incentives for creative activity, eventually restoring motivation among those outside of the upper middle class/white collar career path. For the moment, however, youth are trapped between two systems, expected to take on cultural and social values that no longer have any relation to the current economic structure and their own lifestyle possibilities. Hopefully soon they will find a new way to creatively irk their parents and impress foreigners: eyebrow grooming is just not enough to tide over social critics and fashion fans.

W. David MARX
January 9, 2008

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

49 Responses

  1. Robert Says:

    Great article and summary of the several popular items. Love the graphic too.

    Do you have any ideas on what the direction is for the future of Japan’s youth? Will it continue in this downward malaise?

    Do you have solutions? Does Japan want solutions? As an outsider are you frustrated by the apparent disengagement?

  2. St. Ranger Says:

    Fascinating article. It reminds me of a lot of commentary in the US in the early Nineties about “Slackers.” I’ve gotta say, though, that creating and maintaining many social networks isn’t such a bad activity, especially in times of financial pain. Living a life devoted to treating people well (which is an essential underpinning of spinning those social webs, of course) is inherently more gratifying than one spent accumulating material goods.

  3. W. David MARX Says:

    I think there are both positives and negatives in these “value” changes. Most people would be hard-pressed to praise materialism and commercialism, but unfortunately, without a vibrant consumer culture, pop culture in Japan is having a hard time retaining its relevancy.

    Predictions for the future seem hard, and I have been trying to abandon my “terminal decline” pessimism, but demographically, youth will continue to be a smaller slice of society. Fewer people, however, may mean more options to work at “real jobs” but it’s unclear if they want that.

    I am not sure what the easy solutions to this problem are. I’d love to say, “Make the education system about education and increase the non-material value of culture,” but how do you actually do that without a massive realignment of values that cannot be brought about through planning?

  4. John Says:

    Hmm. “Ohmae Kenichi starts things off by noting that Japanese 20-somethings do not sufficiently feel urges for material things.”

    Wow, has Kenichi-san been out shopping in Tokyo lately? Just because the cool kids aren’t buying cars anymore doesn’t mean they don’t think twice about spending ¥20000 on a designer t-shirt or a underground label. I think they are just as materialistic as ever, they are just buying different stuff. In fact they are probably spending so much on clothes and apartments in Aoyama that they just can’t afford to buy cars.
    So what, they don’t smoke as much anymore, they still don’t blink when it comes to paying ¥8-9000 to get into a nice club or some VIP. The money is out there, consumers are doing more than their fair share, and young people still make up a huge percent of this (probably one of the few things working in the Japanese economy since young kids spend like fiends and don’t save like their parents).

    Also, I don’t think it matters much that things they like, or “their products” aren’t on the “hot list” this year. New trends among young kids are about underground not mainstream. When something is popular, its already over, these kids don’t want to be a part of any movement unless its one know one knows about yet. The things they like don’t reach the broader culture because they don’t want them to. The coolest stores go from packed to empty in a span of a week. Uknown labels are famous and then tired in less than a year. Young consumers are eating this shit up and spitting it out.

  5. W. David MARX Says:

    Wow, has Kenichi-san been out shopping in Tokyo lately?

    Tokyo youth shopping is still dramatically more dynamic than other cities. Compared to previous years, however, it is definitely losing steam. The numbers don’t lie. Between consumer surveys and apparel industry outlook, the narrative you describe does not appear to be real.

    Spending ¥20,000 on an underground t-shirt feels way more ’96 than ’08. Not to say no one is buying stuff at Loveless or something, but I think sales are much lower for the under-30 crowd.

    I know why you feel the way you do about what you see as “Japanese” behavior, but it’s mostly anecdotal and the macro numbers tell a different story.

    For example,

    New trends among young kids are about underground not mainstream.

    True in theory, but this is pretty much meaningless unless you can illustrate how a specific item had a large enough youth audience to make a splash but then quickly dissipated. I think your narrative is the way we’d like to think things are happening, but I don’t think the youth are secretly so trendy it’s impossible to see what they are up to. It’s a nice thought though.

  6. Aceface Says:

    I can’t believe Takarajima has changed soooo much that now they have articles entiltled as「バカ化する若者」— “Youth are Becoming Idiots.”.

    Back in the 80′s,it was basically a youth-culture magazine in the spirits of “kids are alrgiht”.
    Ohmae Kenichi? What ever happened to those never ending coverage on Johnny Thunders?

    Takarajima was one legendary magazine in the 70′s and 80′s.
    Did you know that it’s original editorial staffs were gathered for faiiled attempt to publish The Rolling Stone Magazine Japan in 1973?
    http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%AE%9D%E5%B3%B6_(%E9%9B%91%E8%AA%8C)

    These are the moment I feel 諸行無常..

  7. W. David MARX Says:

    Thanks for discussing the background on Takarajima for those who don’t know it. There are some great collections of early 70s issues with all sorts of countercultural knowledge on smoking “grass” etc. Takarajima was also the magazine that made Fujiwara Hiroshi into a subcultural hero and gave voice to Flipper’s Guitar. Then it became a bikini idol magazine, right?

  8. Aceface Says:

    And to young 20something salary man magazine.
    I have the first issue of Takarajima that I purchased in Jinbocho about 5 years ago.Cost me 20000 yen.

  9. M-Bone Says:

    Great analysis. I think that most of your conclusions are spot on.

    “With education and popular art both robbed of intellectual content to serve the goals of the political economy.” Don’t think that this applies in lots of cases but I can’t say that it doesn’t apply perfectly to many as well.

    I also think that really, really low wages for 20-somethings needs to be looked at with some more historical perspective. During the “high growth” years, 20-somethings were always paid very poorly (often to the point that they were forced to live in company dorms). The difference was that they joined companies and embraced the culture of work because they saw a more prosperous future. Young Japanese now see low wages and low prospects and many decide that they would honestly prefer to sit around all day playing “Stairway to Heaven” on a used guitar than work 17 hour days.

    The writers’ references to PC sales (and things that you see from time to time like falling manga sales) are not looking at the big picture. People go to net cafes now. They read manga that they buy for 100 yen at Bookoff. Its not like the popular engagement has declined, just sales of new items because of the explosion of used (everything) stores in Japan over the past 15 years. I’d also be interested to see if they are looking at total units sold or yen figures. PC prices have fallen by half in Japan in the past few years.

    I also think that it is worth noting that just after I read this article here, I spotted an AP piece on how Nintendo systems are selling like mad in Japan. Video game sales (hardware and software) are actually streaking after a few low years in the early 2000s. Consumption is diversifying and the potential for sales spikes of some popular media is certainly still out there. Not sure if 20,000 yen t-shirts still have a future, however….

    Finally, I really get the sense that Takarajima just tries to be controversial for the sake of being controversial. They have recently had seperate volumes attacking the “New History Textbook” (seems far left) and about “Foreign Crime” (seems far right). I think that they are just trying to tap every conceivable audience to see what works – they even have a huge otaku range.

  10. W. David MARX Says:

    I also think that really, really low wages for 20-somethings needs to be looked at with some more historical perspective.

    When I caught up with my former kouhai from Keio, I was surprised to see how many were living in the company dorms. The rent, however, can be anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 yen, which means it’s almost as cheap as living at home. Not especially the most “grown-up” way to live, but paying half your salary on rent makes it a lot harder to get by as a 20 year-old wage slave.

    I think the wage issue (which is still a product of the “seniority promotion” system [年功序列] that hasn’t quite died off) is why most of the elite college graduates try to work at foreign firms. Entry wages are much better and they will be rewarded much more quickly for their talents. A friend of mine at an American consulting firm in Tokyo was making the wage level of a 40 year old at a big Japanese company only after two years.

    The writers’ references to PC sales (and things that you see from time to time like falling manga sales) are not looking at the big picture.

    I am not sure I agree with you here. PC-based skills are also apparently falling. I think PC sales are down AND PC-based web usage for 20 year olds is also down. Some may be made up by net cafe usage, but this is nothing like what is seen in South Korea, for example.

    They read manga that they buy for 100 yen at Bookoff.

    What you are suggesting is that there has been an offset of “culture sales” to free cultural usage, and why this is partially correct, this has a huge impact on the way culture is created. Since the industries are short on hits, they are cutting all the possible projects/products with appeal to niche audiences. This is very evident in music. Sony is no longer interested in putting out small, innovative bands that will impress taste-makers but not make high sales. There is no room for them.

    Manga and magazines can be read for free to a certain degree, but I am not sure that this is true for movies or DVDs etc. Are rental figures UP to make up for the LOSSES in sales? Nothing I have seen suggests this. With less revenues, cultural industries are drastically changing the content of what they produce. Manga has the advantage of not having much capital expenditure to try out new artists. This is not true for music.

    I spotted an AP piece on how Nintendo systems are selling like mad in Japan.

    This is because non-youth are buying them. That’s the story.

    Finally, I really get the sense that Takarajima just tries to be controversial for the sake of being controversial.

    The idea that “Youth Are Becoming Idiots” is not controversial! I would argue that it’s close to the conventional wisdom.

  11. Mulboyne Says:

    Interesting piece and good points made in the comments.

    It’s curious that Takarajima believes younger people are susceptible to pyramid schemes. Do they mean out-and-out frauds or Amway-style pyramid selling? Amway is just about on the right side of legal but there are a number of consumer product companies and religions who have operated similar networks for decades so it wouldn’t appear 20-somethings especially favour them compared with previous generations. It is possible that people growing up with keitai and mixi have more communication channels open for this kind of activity. Most of the pyramid scheme frauds appear to have targeted the middle-aged and elderly because that’s where the money is.

    The young have lost out to aggressive sales tactics by eikaiwa and the like but these aren’t pyramid schemes as such. Also, they have a counterpart in something like the vanity publishing business which targeted all generations but found particular favour with older people. It seems those companies are in trouble now if the bankruptcy of Singpoosha is any guide.

  12. W. David MARX Says:

    The stat Takarajima uses to make this claim is the number of calls to consumer hotlines nationwide. Apparently, 20-somethings are most concerned with asking about multilevel marketing. This is probably not very good proof that they are actually investing more in these schemes, now that you mention it.

  13. M-Bone Says:

    “This is because non-youth are buying them. That’s the story.”

    Should not believe AP so easily.Its the story and its also only partly correct. The article ignores how many of the recent hits have been youth oriented games. I guess its was mostly old ladies who were rushing to buy Monster Hunter 2 and a new PSP to go with? That was one of the big stories in Japanese games last year – certainly the big surprise for those sticking with the consumer decline narrative.

    “Some may be made up by net cafe usage, but this is nothing like what is seen in South Korea, for example.”

    No. And we really, really don’t want to see that. In any case, “computer use” has fragmented among phones, portable gaming devices (which offer net access), music players (which have a very high user base).

    “Since the industries are short on hits, they are cutting all the possible projects/products with appeal to niche audiences. This is very evident in music.”

    And it is the exact opposite of what has been happening with manga which has seen its figurehead products decline in sales and its niche titles take up a bigger chunk of the market. I also don’t like how some have been using the recent dip in US anime sales as a reason why Japan’s cultural pull is on the wane. Manga is up, especially in Europe.

    On the movie front, more quality projects are getting funded now than in the 1970s. Things like “Out”, “Tasogare Seibei”, “Keimusho no Naka”, Nakashima Tetsuya’s movies, etc. In the past decade, Japanese movies have also started to stack up better against foreign releases in the domestic market. Sen to Chihiro aside, things like the Odoru Daisosasen movies made lots and lots of money and more recently, “Always” has been beating out big Hollywood releases. Compare that to the depressing situation in the early to mid 1990s when Japan’s top tens were padded out with the twilight of the Otoko ha Tsurai yo series and Tsuribaka making between 10 – 15 oku. I don’t think that there is a need to be pessimistic about movies.

  14. Julián Ortega Martínez Says:

    As usual, great article. I thought about this Economist article on salarymen, because I find this NJ piece a great complement.

  15. John Says:

    >>>”I think your narrative is the way we’d like to think things are happening, but I don’t think the youth are secretly so trendy it’s impossible to see what they are up to. It’s a nice thought though.”

    First of all, I don’t know if you’re trying to undermine what I’m saying by referring to it dismissively as a “narrative” but if thats what you want to call it, fine. Certainly I am using “anedoctal” evidence because I’ve seen indulgent consumerism and maniacal materialism with my own eyes, its evidence, if not the “macro” kind. Admittedly, the 20 somethings of today don’t have the spending power they once did, but I don’t think this makes them any less materialistic, it just means they are more broke more often.

    >>>”True in theory, but this is pretty much meaningless unless you can illustrate how a specific item had a large enough youth audience to make a splash but then quickly dissipated.”
    No, I don’t believe that trends are so secret that we no one knows about them, thats obviously ridiculous. My point is STILL that Japanese youth are simply not any less materialistic than they used to be. Just because they aren’t making a showing in top products doesnt mean they aren’t spending money, there is a difference.

    >>>”I think your narrative is the way we’d like to think things are happening…”
    I don’t have any preference for how I’d like things to be happening either way, just call it like I see it.

  16. Global Voices Online » Japan: Aiming Downward Kids Says:

    [...] Marx from Neojaponisme has a great article about Japan youth culture. Share [...]

  17. Aceface Says:

    Marxy to Aceface:

    Check today’s Ikeda Nobuo blog.

  18. Aceface Says:

    correction.Aceface to Marxy,Ofcourse

  19. Catoneinutica Says:

    Europeans attacked the kidz of the 1790s for not wearing powdered wigs and for dancing the contredance, not the minuet. Plus ca change…

  20. Yuuya Says:

    Very interesting article, Marxy!

    Most contributions to the whole youthbashing debate have one underlying problem in common: they see young people as one undifferentiated, homogeneous group which really they’re not.

    A majority of young people is still able to attend universities or vocational schools and enter the career track system, even if it doesn’t seem as attractive a path as in the 1970s or 1980s anymore, now that things like lifelong employment and high salaries/wages are no longer things they can expect to be given automatically. And of course, there’s still a number of young people who come from a wealthier, more privileged background. Their prospects for the future are probably as bright as ever.

    These young people are as materialistic consumers as ever. It’s just that their number itself is declining.

    But then you have those young people who are the “true” target of the criticism of the older generations – the growing number of young people from less privileged families. Maybe their fathers (mostly salarymen) were laid off or maybe their mothers now have to work part-time to support the family. Whatever the circumstances may be that makes them choose to become freeters, their parents are much less able to support them financially than they were in the 1990s when families could balance difficult economic situations (temporary unemployment etc.) through their savings. They could pay for the food and consumerist needs of their NEET kids with no income at all or their freeter kids with a very low and maybe irregular income.

    Now the parents’ economic situation might be more severe, they might not be able to support their children on such a large scale as in the 1990s.

    These less-privileged young people might just have adapted to that situation in which money isn’t readily available to them in large sums. Not smoking or not drinking, not buying cars or PCs but going to net cafes or reading comics in manga cafes or in stores, or buying used goods might just be a strong indication for that. From my own experience, I think that they are still very materialistic, it’s just that they simply don’t have the money to buy stuff, especially nothing overly expensive like high-end consumer electronics or cars.

    I don’t know what’s making a large of them so passive and unwilling to change their situation… maybe it’s a lack of intellectuals who put things into perspective for them or who inspire them to become more active. Maybe they’re just giving in to this social climate of anti-youth sentiments. You know, if no one obviously expects them to do any better, why should they get their asses out of their parents’ houses and stuff?

    Still, I think it’s a mistake to generalize and won’t help improve the situation for those young people who’d really need some assistance (economically, financially, socially, intellectually etc.).

  21. W. David MARX Says:

    These young people are as materialistic consumers as ever. It’s just that their number itself is declining.

    I think I should explain what I mean by “materialism,” because I think there absolutely has been a change in young people’s feelings towards consumerism.

    Although maybe not the most official definition, I would say that the Japanese in the past have been “materialistic” in their (A) desire to collect lots of stuff as both a hedonic activity and a way to demonstrate sophistication (B) judgment of themselves and others by (high-priced) items owned. In the case of (A), everyone agrees that kids these days – even otaku – seem less concerned with actually owning all the things they want. They can read manga for free at Book Off instead of owning it. In the fashion world, kids may lust after Raf Simons but they can only afford one single piece (compare this to the 80s where it was literally head-to-toe Y’s or CdG). The desire may still be “materialistic,” but without funds to actually indulge, they can’t “play” or create lots of social meanings through the act of consumption. Materialism in thought, but not in action.

    If we look at “luxury brands” as the ultimate in conspicuous consumpion available to young people (who can’t buy houses or cars or yachts), fashion magazines for women under 30 are vastly reducing their coverage of these brands. There is still some preliminary coverage of LV in “ultra-materialistic” CanCam, but for the most part, the articles are on Moussy, Alba Rosa, PrideGlide, Cecil McBee, etc. These are cheap, functional brands and cannot be used for conspicuous consumption. I would argue that even the luxury handbag has seriously lost its edge: Coach and Samantha Thavasa are everywhere, and these are hardly “luxury” in the 80s sense of the word. When you see Goyard and Bottega Veneta, I think it’s mostly women in their late 20s or early 30s.

    For teens and those in their 20s, I just don’t see a complete and total organization around buying stuff and showing off like was the standard in ’86 or ’96. No society is completely unmaterialistic, but the Nikkei survey of 2007 showed that those in their 20s are concerned with savings and staying home a lot more than ever before. With less money to spend and the stakes higher for conspicuous consumption (thanks to the rise in a super New Rich), youth have re-construed their own defining ideology to reduce the pangs of materialism. You don’t see young women bitter about having to wear all brands bought at Ginza Printemps: they are happy to wear “real clothes.” The entire commercial complex has realigned to lower the materialist standards. Popeye is now about “Elegant Casual” – a look that uses Uniqlo and Hare as much as Dior Homme.

    But then you have those young people who are the “true” target of the criticism of the older generations – the growing number of young people from less privileged families.

    I think this is absolutely true. Kids graduating from the Economics department of Keio have no problems getting job. Unless they are accidentally Korean or something.

  22. M-Bone Says:

    Do you think that the decline in owning could lead to more creating? Couldn’t help but notice that the share of amateur stuff in Japan’s otaku market is pretty meaty -

    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-12-18/report-2007-japanese-otaku-market-is-187-billion-yen

  23. Global Voices Online » Japan: A new car? No thanks. Says:

    [...] doing too well, with sluggish car sales apparently causing a major drag. Who is to blame? Some say the kids, who have apparently lost their urge to buy material [...]

  24. outsider Says:

    “As an outsider are you frustrated by the apparent disengagement?”

    How dare you. Marxy is the ultimate gaijin insider! He wants readers to feel shock and awe at his knowledge among gaijin in japan! Get his books from amazon!!

  25. W. David MARX Says:

    Good one.

  26. Aceface Says:

    “I think this is absolutely true. Kids graduating from the Economics department of Keio have no problems getting job. Unless they are accidentally Korean or something.”

    I graduated Keio in 1994,said to be the years of”employment ice age”.
    My zainichi Korean friend in Commerce Department had no problems getting job.
    (I think that was SEKISUI HOUSE or something)

    It was me,Literature department graduate who had hard times getting his job.

    M-Bone:
    Back in my days,owning car was meant for one thing.Dating.
    Those Otakus who don’t have any girlfriends,spend all of there money on their dream girls in the celuroid form.

  27. M-Bone Says:

    >Those Otakus who don’t have any girlfriends,spend all of there money on their dream girls in the celuroid form.

    Yeah, nobody is denying that most of that dojinshi is…. aaaah…. Google it if you are curious.

  28. W. David MARX Says:

    If only Americans were so creative as to produce fan-based comic books about Ross and Joey from Friends having sex.

  29. M-Bone Says:

    If you bring up lack of engagement and Americans in the same discussion someone might mention how a few years ago 80% of high school students couldn’t name the vice president.

  30. W. David MARX Says:

    The U.S. has a Vice-President? Now I’ve heard everything!

  31. nate Says:

    okay, you’ve passed 30 comments. time for a new article!

  32. W. David MARX Says:

    It’s taking a bit of time getting the team back together after the holidays… Lots of content in the pipes though…

  33. Global Voices amin´ny teny malagasy » Japana : tsy hividy fiara vaovao aho Says:

    [...] Japoney, ary ny fihisatry ny varotra fiarakodia no antony lehibe miteraka izany. Iza no omentsiny ? Ny ankizy, hoy ny sasany, izay tsy mazoto hividy zavatra azo [...]

  34. W. David MARX Says:

    I’ll admit it: I had to look up where they speak Malagasy.

  35. Aceface Says:

    Madagascal.

    Had I told you that one of the most toughest fighter from the battle of Yasuda-Kodo in 1969 is now a researcher of an endangered lemur called Aye-Aye and awarded medal of le Chavalier from the president?

    M-Bone:
    I guess this could be the reason why otakus don’t want to spend money on that particular part of the economy.
    http://animeanime.jp/review/archives/2008/01/2008_dvd1.html

  36. M-Bone Says:

    “The U.S. has a Vice-President? Now I’ve heard everything!”

    I love how the tone of some online comments is just impossible to read. Were you making a hyphen crack? Apparently they officially like their vice separately.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/

    As for anime DVD hitting the wall, it seems like ALL DVD is hitting the wall. People have their collections at this point. The Wild West days of rampant DVD buying of 2003 are far in the past….

  37. W. David MARX Says:

    I love how the tone of some online comments is just impossible to read

    I think the joke was based on the model of: “There’s a New Mexico?”

    The Wild West days of rampant DVD buying of 2003 are far in the past…

    Here comes Blue Ray!

  38. M-Bone Says:

    What’s this about a NEW Mexico? Next thing they’ll be telling me that there is a NEW Zealand or something.

    “Here comes Blue Ray!”

    I, for one, am very anxious to re-buy all of the movies that I have bought over the past five years…. Seriously, what I’m really looking forward to are more $5 DVDs….

  39. Aceface Says:

    M-Bone:
    Check this Yamanaka Sadao DVD it’s only 1000Yen!
    http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B000ZIL04M?ie=UTF8&tag=sanngatushobo-22&link_code=as3&camp=767&creative=3999&creativeASIN=B000ZIL04M

    I’ve been telling everyone that this director is the best Japanese director of all time(died at the age 29,in Chinese front) and there are only three films left.Two of them have become DVD in 2004 from Nikkatsu but now we can get them for only 1000 yen.Buy it!

  40. W. David MARX Says:

    This seems related.

  41. M-Bone Says:

    Thanks for the link Ace. I saw that on VHS when I first went to Japan. I got it (and loved it) after I noticed that it was the one film pretty much unheard of in the English-speaking world that was a staple on Japanese top 10 or 20 all time lists.

    Since I first saw all those Hollywood classics kicking around bookstores for 500 yen each a few years back, I’ve been waiting for someone to do a (copyright expired) Japanese film series. I’m buying the whole lot.

    The article that Marxy linked is interesting but I can’t help but think that some of those researchers mentioned are also narcissists who are basically foaming at the mouth to get mentioned in “the press”….

  42. Aceface Says:

    M-Bone:

    At first they were trying to put all the public domain works of Akira Kurosawa,but Kurosawa production is now claiming the copyright belongs to the individual Kurosawa(and his families)but not to the company.Weird logic,but now all the Kurosawa films from this series are now gone.

    small attempt to put the subject back on line.
    No more “Yutori” for kids.
    http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20080117-00000130-jij-soci

    http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20080117-00000130-jij-soci

  43. Aceface Says:

    No more “yutori” for kids,Says Central Education panel.

    http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20080117-00000130-jij-soci

  44. Aceface Says:

    OOps.

  45. M-Bone Says:

    “Weird logic,but now all the Kurosawa films from this series are now gone.”

    Yeah, as much as I love the “Auteur Theory”, it is hard to say that those movies belong to Kurosawa and Kurosawa alone. In any case, I already have those so….

  46. Giovanni B Says:

    Great and really interesting piece.
    I’d like to translate in Italian and publish it on my blog (linking the original article and citing the author, of course)

  47. W. David MARX Says:

    No problem as long as you link back to the original.

    Thanks.

  48. Neu-Thinking » Blog Archive » Preparation for re-immersion Says:

    [...] best, I am doing them a dis-service. This is my motivation for my 2nd practice. Images from:  Néojaponisme » Blog Archive » The Kids are All Wrong [...]

  49. Giovanni B Says:

    Translation published!
    http://tokidoki.splinder.com/post/15582435/I+ragazzi+sono+tutti+sbagliati

    Thanks again.