Reading in Japan

Japanese are voracious readers. The literacy rate of the country is among the highest in the world, and for good reason. The school system is based largely on the teaching of kanji and with so many years of practice I can’t help but think that Japanese people take that love of reading (or at least looking at) Japanese and carry it through their lives.

Reading is a big part of Japanese culture. It’s not abnormal to witness droves of young men and teenagers at the convenience store on a Saturday night standing around doing nothing but reading magazines and comics off the shelves. As I am writing this I am in a Starbucks and the bookstore is full of people standing around reading. It’s Saturday afternoon and it would seem many young people have nothing better to do than stand around in a small bookstore and read.

As you may have seen even Japanese TV has not escaped this aspect of the culture. Almost any Japanese show has subtitles throughout. These are part of the program and there is no way to turn them off. Imagine watching the nightly news or your favorite reality show with giant English subtitles and no way to turn them off. I feel like this would drive many of us crazy.

What do Japanese people like to read? Many young people tend to like manga. For men this may or may not wane as they get deeper into their 20s and older. Women seem to outgrow manga sometime around the college years or shortly thereafter. That’s not to say no adults read manga; however, I’ve always gotten the impression Japanese people view manga as something for kids. Adults tend to like novels, magazines, and biographies.  Many times I get the feeling people just want to read something and set about reading whatever they can.

Despite being such prolific readers Japanese people have not adopted the e-reader as a fixture. I’ve never seen one here. They only just recently started selling the Kindle and it’s such an unpopular item it retails for almost 50% off what Americans pay. As I’ve mentioned many times, the stereotype that Japanese are much more technologically ahead of the curve has been completely to the opposite in my experience. They are about 10-15 years behind in most things; e-readers are not an exception.

So, when in Japan grab yourself a book and get to reading.

 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. divinelawrence
    Mar 09, 2013 @ 15:37:43

    It’s so true about how much the Japanese read. But it’s also interesting that you mentioned about technology. Even I’ve observed that the Japanese aren’t actually that technologically advanced as the outside world makes them to be!!

    Reply

    • roaminsticka
      Mar 09, 2013 @ 17:10:34

      I always tell people, “Most of the 12 year old students don’t even know how to close an internet browser window.” My GF is 28 and doesn’t even know what a mouse scroll wheel does. Outside of Tokyo it’s really amazing how behind they can be.

      Reply

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