Japanese love their comfort zone, and the cuter, the better


With retro T-shirts, nerd memorabilia, and pop culture nostalgia, adult infants are common these days - but nowhere rifer than in Japan.

In many conversations with Japanese, especially young adults, I am often surprised to learn of their age, though not because of their youthful looks (I'm used to that now) but due to the nature of the conversation. I've taught multiple young adult Japanese women who confessed to believing in Santa into their teens, and they only accepted the discovery kicking and screaming - preferring to entertain the idea of his existence than embrace mundane reality.

Japanese people often have an earnest appreciation of "fantasy." The most extreme example is the almost universal love of Disneyland. Ask any Japanese person why they like Disneyland and the first answer is almost certainly going to be "because it's a fantasy." I don't want to be a joy killer and it'd be strange to actively dislike Disneyland, but the child in me feels a true fantasy shouldn't be something you have to spend money on. Disney isn't a fantasy but it's a product selling the idea of that - and customers in Tokyo lap it up in long 90-100 minute lines. I've met people who go to Disneyland alone dozens of time in a year and many even lose count of the number of visits. The social reasons for this could be explained in various ways but I don't think it's only the rigors of the school system or the eventual chains of working life that necessitate the purchase of Daisy Duck figures.

A lot of young adult Japanese people lack cynicism in regards to their consumption of goods and this can be refreshing at times. You can just go to McDonald's and embrace Mac for the dopamine hit that it is. In many countries these days, McDonald's eating is associated with shame and obesity, but in Japan the brand image that it's simply fun and tasty is enjoyed even for people old enough to know the health concerns.

Many young Japanese appear to live by the notion that it's best to just enjoy life without thinking about it too much. It's not that these people are unaware of the negative points, more that there's an earnest enjoyment of services for their good points in the moment of indulgence, and that's to be admired in one sense as a contrast to overt snobbery. But as Socrates once said, "the unexamined life isn't lived." This lifestyle, I imagine, is fun when you're in your late teens but when this youthful moratorium continues into the late 20s and beyond the future of these young people, it can seem troubling. Are they going to be in their 30s listening to One Direction, going to Disneyland and embracing the latest Mac menu?

The cliché that eventually the bird should leave the nest isn't a concern for young people with families based in Tokyo. Why would people leave home at 18 when they can enjoy free food everyday and save their money on accommodation? It's common for single working women to stay in their parents' house indefinitely as long as they aren't married, and it's rare for people to move away from their parents in Tokyo for the sole reason of the desire to be independent. The idea of coming of age or rites of passage seems lost. The old fashioned ones; leaving the family house, getting married and having children, remain those that enact organic change out of Neverland in Tokyo. Some could call this Peter Pan syndrome but I don't believe young adults want to be the Robin Williams character in "Hook." Regardless of their living conditions many do grow up and get jobs and careers and maybe it's more adult to be pragmatic about the cost of living arrangements.

Yet even those who do get away are often more so in body than in mind. Bizarre as it sounds, I have met multiple 20 something Japanese people who have their meals cooked and delivered to them by their mothers. I knew a guy in his late 20s who was in the process of having his mother organise his passport renewal and he didn't see anything odd about that. The lack of self- awareness and desire for self-improvement is the core of the problem.

There's also an issue of familial co-dependence where many mothers believe the best way to take care of their children is wrap them up in cotton wool. Anything that causes problems for the children of these mothers is automatically categorised as bad. The idea that growth and change as a person, often attained via facing hardships, separations, and adjustment to loneliness, seems wholly lost - and this appears to carry over into the values of their progeny.

One reasonable response is to assume these young people will grow out out of it naturally someday. Yet unless they find it in themselves to push away from their comfort zone, it's difficult to see how.

© Japan Today

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Whatever makes them happy. At least they smile a lot and have fun. Are they not Soviet enough for you?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

At least they smile a lot and have fun.

Yes! Yes! Yes! That's the key to everything. Wonder why I've never thought of this before. If only ISIS would do this. Putin... Netanyahu...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Oh God just when you think it's dead it resurrects:

Japanese are different. We know this because they are! And the reason? They tightly wrapped their babies!

This is quite literally pre-World War II garbage.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Huh. No, I can't imagine what that must be like, familial co-dependence I mean. I've more or less been self-sufficient and independent since I was 8 years old. Aside from keeping a roof over my head and (usually) food on the plate, my family weren't really there for me. I'm now almost 24, and seem to be providing just as much for my mother as I am for myself. I just can't picture what it must be like to be wrapped up in cotton wool, to believe in fairytales like santa into the teenage years, or to want to go to Disneyland repeatedly as an adolescent. It's an alien concept. I didn't realise that this kind of behaviour was common in Japan either. I'd heard that Japanese people tend to stick to their comfort zones rather than being adventurous, but that's about all. Interesting.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Hate that quote from Socrates. For those of us that choose not to spawn (i.e. have kids), what exactly is the point of "examining"? Give me my next dopamine hit!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Some people, even authors, obviously never understand that Japan is different from their home country, no matter how long they have been here. They can't get their mind into the mentality of Japan (applies to many commenters on JT as well btw).

8 ( +9 / -1 )


welcome to peter pan country! if you don't like it, that's the door.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Some people, even authors, obviously never understand that Japan is different from their home country, no matter how long they have been here.


The problem is how different Japan is made out to be.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So he taught English to a few people and now he has Japanese people figured out. I've heard this story way too many times.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Haha I liked this blurb, after 2+ decades here there is a surprising amount of truth in what he writes! Yeah sure he apes it up some & tries to make it entertaining............with varying amounts of success.

BUT its true that a lot of people here take a long time to grow up if they do at all, my wifes friend died of cancer & her husband who works at IBM returned home to mommy(& mommy was way to involved even when his wife was alive) as he cant cook, cant use a rice cooker & forget about a washing machine & they guy was over 40.............

I seen stuff like this A LOT in Japan, yes its Japan yada yada, but the country would become stronger if young people were more literally KICKED outta the nest & made to fend for themselves. And only when its really needed then you can lean on family for some help, no shame in that, but far too many here simply don't want to grow up & that is also a factor in the demographics here.

I find Japan great, interesting, & they can do what they want, but I think this guy is basically right people like he describes are NOT a small percentage here, just sayin!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

its true that a lot of people here take a long time to grow up if they do at all,

Really. And what do you mean by 'grow up'? They have the lowest rate of intentional homicide in the world. They have one of the best infant mortality rates.

They have a functional national health program.

My country, the US, is full of a bunch of whining babies in comparison with these metrics.

Prey tell, which country do you come from? How do you measure "grown up"?

1 ( +3 / -2 )


I gave an example above, there are legions of men in Japan who cant operate house hold appliances, cant really cook much of anything, many with mommy complexes of varying degrees. Don't do much of anything around the house except take out the trash.

When you look at politics & business very few take much if any responsibility for their actions, if they are brave enough to even act. I have worked with some people(people that I pay to do things for me) & even after doing things for over a decade they still have serious trouble taking much initiative & these guys are in there 40-50s they aren't new to the workplace, I figure I waste about 30% of my time leading people through work(again that I am PAYING them for) they should KNOW what to do but I have to babysit them to truly ridiculous amounts some times.

Like I said above its not everyone, BUT there are a lot who don't really want to be independent, have trouble deciding what to do, actions to take etc etc

I am a Canuck, pretty good place to grow up, aint perfect but seems to rank pretty high as a place to live & I would say people there tend to "grow up" quicker than here in Japan, got two nephews ones almost finished Uni & he takes summer jobs at the other end of the country most summers & lives on his own, doing well, his younger brother only 16 works as a life guard from 6-8am 2-3 mornings a week making big bucks, hell last summer up at the cottage he jumped in the boat, drove around the lake & snagged a bunch of jobs cutting grass for people, them to pay in advance! And he made sure he was around to do the job. He did ALL on his own when he was 15, kid is growing fast & learning a lot!

As I said above Japanese can do as they wish, but I think many could do a lot better for themselves if they were interested.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )


So, "growing up" means the men need to share domestic duties and be more individualistic.

IOW, they need to have your values. If not, they are not 'grown up.' I trust you see the problem here.

Look, I am American. I value equality of the sexes and individual initiative. But I do not view Japanese as children because they have different values. I view them as wrong.


1 ( +1 / -0 )


Growing up in the world about 80-90percent of it is pretty similar worldwide, the rest culture related, but I still think many Japanese could do with MORE growing up, but like I said its the individuals choice, their loss or gain, as we have been seeing for 20+yrs is more & more on the loss side of the column & imo ever so correct opinion young people of late are not growing up as fast as they used to. Heck even lots of Japanese say the same, but hey.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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