Back in the Néomarxisme days, I described Japan as an “orthopraxical” society. In other words, the metaphysical underpinning to Japanese daily life draws influence from the Confucian ideal of “correct practice” (rather than the Protestant Christian emphasis on “correct belief.”) Orthopraxy-worldview manifests in pressure on individuals to flawlessly execute social rituals, and more importantly, a strong sense of detail-orientation — a trait that often confounds most goal-oriented Westerners who do not care how something is done as long as the task is successfully completed. In Japan, the process is often more important than the result.
If this broad cultural categorization is true, modern Japanese internet culture must also rest upon orthopraxical and detail-oriented values. And indeed, a quick glance at Japanese web addresses alone will reveal this philosophical disposition.
When the “World Wide Web” first arrived in Japan at the end of the 20th century, almost all foreign websites contained the letters “www” to reflect a connection to this new medium. Once Japanese companies started to enjoy their own internet dominions, the “www” became an integral part of the address. They may have changed the “.com” to “.co.jp” to reflect national identity but the “www” remained intact!
Now the Japanese belief in the perfect replication of “www” addresses has become so strong that removing the “www” from an address will render it completely useless. The “www” is not optional, but a crucial detail in the proper web surfing ritual. For example, one can only access rental chain Tsutaya’s website — http://www.tsutaya.co.jp — through a perfect typographical recreation of the official corporate address. http://tsutaya.co.jp, my Western barbarian friends, would offend the Confucian order of the universe, and therefore, cannot bring you inside the temple’s sanctum.
Skeptical naysayers may believe this is all just a DNS problem: Japanese companies are merely failing to record an A record (IP address) for their domain name without the “www.” Patching this problem would take around two minutes and zero yen to fix. But such an economical and rational solution fails to properly respect the heart of Japanese culture. No matter how easy Westerners believe such a patch to be, the “www” is the way Japanese people have always typed and registered web addresses. How dare we ask for them to adhere to the (oppressive) global standard.
Some inspiring examples of culturally-proper internet web addresses from leading Japanese companies: