Fukuro Matsuri Ikebukuro (Tokyo), groupe of gaijin and Japanese wearing traditional festival outfits

The Wapanese Complex

⏱ 7 minutes

We could not help noticing that each time we published an article related to the news or a somehow "sensitive" issue, some readers expressed criticism on Kanpai either being too "pro" or too "anti" about the topic that was brought up. Such contradictory views are symptomatic of an increasingly polarized society and the fear of misunderstanding the world in the pandemic times. The social networks’ algorithms and the viral spreading of fake news reinforce this phenomenon. We are resented for either:

  • Being infatuated with Japan and praising it excessively, and therefore implicitly deprecating our own country,
  • Criticizing and belittle Japan on some subjects, whereas our own country does not do any better.

The absurdity lies in the fact that these contradictory attacks often target the very same article!

Naturally, most of our readers are moderate and we are happy to talk with them in mutual respect, as long as discussion is based on verified facts and that each of us tries to acknowledge the differences in reasoning.

🎌 What is a Wapanese?

We understand "Wapanese" as a non-Japanese person, especially an expatriate, who decided to adhere to Japan’s customs 🛂 and traditions to the point of shunning their culture of origin, and even any culture foreign to Japan. To put it simply, one might say that they are trying to become more Japanese than the Japanese themselves. These Japanophiles will, sooner or later, face the greatest disappointment when they find that being fully integrated is impossible in Japan, first and foremost because of their ethnicity, even though it is far from being the only reason.

We are thinking here of these specific people, but also of the "weeaboos" who only know Japan from outside. They only know the archipelago through the filters of Internet 📶 or TV, on which they built an idealized image of the country and will not tolerate the slightest criticism about it.

They are victim of a reasoning bias called cognitive dissonance: "when two actions or ideas are not psychologically consistent with each other, people do all in their power to change them until they become consistent. The discomfort is triggered by the person's belief clashing with new information perceived, wherein the individual tries to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce his or her discomfort."

Naturally, they are more noticeable and more numerous nowadays as Japan’s borders are still closed, and that very few travelers, meeting very specific criteria (mainly residents, "half" / bi-nationals, Japanese nationals’ spouses) and a handful of working visas holders (who may develop a superiority complex) are admitted entry. Times are also favorable to bitter trolls happily harassing on the social networks and the Internet, prudently hidden behind their computer screens.

👺 Are we Wapanese?

As you may know, Kanpai-Japan is an independent (and non-journalistic) information website about Japan with a focus on traveling in the archipelago, and working with many local partners. We have always striven to deliver checked and sourced information, while always keeping our independence on the interpretation of said information and the opinions we delivered.

It goes without saying that we love Japan: part of our team is living in Japan and if Kanpai has been able to publish several articles per week for 21 years already, it is thanks to our unyielding passion for the Japanese culture.

Notwithstanding the country we are living in, we all have Japan in our hearts, and if we are sometimes directly impacted by the country’s evolutions or decisions, we are striving to keep our head cool and provide information and analysis that are as honest as possible.

Japan is evolving, sometimes faster than some may think or wish, and constantly challenging oneself is necessary to exchange with confidence and bring up consistent analysis in relation to this wonderful country.

We are also clearly distancing ourselves from the ossified Japanese approach of the information, in which institutions can disclose nothing before the information is officially confirmed multiple times, and without the explicit green lights from their Japanese hierarchy to update their website. That is the case, for example of the Embassy, or of the Japan National Tourism Organization, who deliver information officially, but often with a delay compared to sites such as Kanpai, that sources intel from journalists’ pools close to the Japanese authorities, among other places.

😡 Examples of Wapanese stances toward Kanpai

We have been pondering writing about "Japanophiles" for quite a long time, but several consecutive realizations have led us to deliver an analysis of the Wapanese / weeaboos phenomenon. Since the beginning of the Covid 🦠 crisis, we have been increasingly criticized for either:

  • Being too optimistic when assessing the reopening of the borders, therefore serving the interests of the tourism industry lobby,
  • Being too pessimistic on the borders’ reopening, whereas prospective travelers and expatriates were barred from entry and forsaken by Japan,
  • Serving the Japanese government regarding the actual number of Covid cases, underestimated due to the overall lack of conducted tests, or,
  • Being a lackey of our own government, who is considered failing in the protection of its population.

Even when just stating facts, without analysis or opinion given, Kanpai can be subjected to reproaches or spiteful remarks.

In the same way, some readers even deride us for not using a word or a term they think is better, without considering we do our best to use the more appropriate wording, check the correct meaning so as to deliver the more accurate information. One of them even unsubscribed from our newsletter over such a disagreement!

Lastly, in the end of August 2020, we reported that working and students’ visas holders would be granted permission to enter Japan in early September. Beside the many enthusiastic reactions and comments generated by the good news, we have also received invectives and accusations of spreading false rumors, especially on the SNS. A few days later, the same vocal people were quite silent when the Japanese government, via its Embassy, finally made an official press release confirming the information…

We are pretty sure, however, that we will face again such sad accusations when Japan reopens to tourism in the next months!

🇫🇷 Where Japan is better than other countries and vice versa

Our idea here is not to establish a definitive list of the fields in which Japan is better than said country, but rather to agree on examples showing which country undoubtedly best the other in said area and vice versa. We want to demonstrate we are not in a binary system, and that each country has its advantages and inconveniences, strengths, and weaknesses, and overall, that talking about it is not deriding.

Therefore, it is not exaggerating to say that Japan is usually more efficient on the service side (for example: postal services, the JR train 🚅 networks, and generally the customer service as a whole), on punctuality, safety, cleanliness or on the civic mindedness that was developed on a much higher level and the capacity to live as a society.

Other countries have the advantage of a global flexibility, especially in the work environment, more critical thinking, the culture of difference and individualism, gender equality, press freedom or even Internet or mobile phone subscriptions that are way less expensive!

Lastly, it is impossible not to mention Japan’s poor crisis management after the Fukushima and Covid crisis. About the latter, the country boasted good statistics without lockdowns or curfews and without repressive measures against its population, but Covid tests were always made at the testee’s charge and were long very expensive, with access difficulties to prevent a rise of the cases numbers. The vaccination campaign was particularly badly managed (with a considerable delay for starting the injections and by making the appointment system complicated up until now) and overall, the global difficulty to access healthcare in the country is not something to be proud of.


The Wapanese posture is attractive for the comfortable binary thinking it offers, somewhat reassuring in a world full of uncertainties. Let’s accept the differences of each country as they shape their respective characteristics. We are all for exchanging nuanced views and striving for the more objective vision possible while setting aside fascination.

Updated on November 10, 2021 Le complexe des tatamisés du Japon