Japan Takes Over the World
All together now: BANZAI!!!
"Pearl Harbor didn't work out so good, so we got you with tape decks."
Before the Japanese Economic Crash at the start of The Nineties
, the U.S. pretty much expected that Japan
would be their new Overlords in a decade or two. They were seen as hardworking, and proficient in technology and business to the point of being inhuman; it's as if they were an entire country of supernerds
. (It was only later we learned about their brand of nerds
The U.S. was prepared, oh yes. A large number of movies and shows set Twenty Minutes into the Future
or later had the U.S. adopting Yen, or all businesses owned by the Japanese.
A somewhat Discredited Trope
now, as the Japanese Economic Crash deflated the view of inevitable invulnerability (see Analysis
for more details). On the flip side, however, several given American industries (especially automobile manufacture) have come under Japanese dominance so thoroughly by the end of the first decade of the 21st century as to give credence to at least some of the trope's original inspiration, that of the potential superiorities of classically group-focused Japanese business models to more individualist-minded American ones.
Today, the Western mindset is that China will take over the world
. The reason is somewhat simpler: the advantage of sheer numbers, and the economic and industrial power that comes with it, as well as a work ethic that, like Japan, is heavily influenced by Confucianism
. With this in mind, it is of note that India is gaining on them, and has already begun pulling ahead in numerous high technology races. And the American economy remains the largest in the world, even after the late-2000s "Great Recession."
This is a Western trope, not
of Take Over the World
. See also Americasia
, Yellow Peril
, China Takes Over the World
and America Takes Over the World
genre was also, in part, a result of this trope, with Japanese technological dominance often playing an important role in early cyberpunk works.
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- Crash (the Iron Man graphic novel by Saenz).
- And in Marvel 2099, Stark Industries has become Stark-Fujikawa. This was later toyed with in Present Day Iron Man, most notably with Love Interest Rumiko Fujikawa, whose father briefly owned Stark Industries while Tony was believed dead.
- The Secret of The Swordfish (the first book of the Blake and Mortimer series) has the Yellow Empire as antagonist. It is explicitely named to be Tibet, but is oviously an expy of Imperial Japan, with red sun banner, soldiers wearing Japanese-like uniforms, and using German weapons. They even manage to conquer most of the world in the beginning of the story.
- In one chapter of The Sandman, Dream has been given the key to Hell, and envoys from multiple pantheons approach him to obtain dominion over it. The Japanese envoy is Susano-o, who presents it as a corporate takeover (their pantheon apparently runs multiple hells, the Christian one would be a sizeable addition).
- Buck Danny: Many of the early albums are very pro-America and anti-Japan, though granted they were made just after World War II.
- Alien: The un-named Mega Corp. referred to as 'the Company' is named "Weyland-Yutani," a fusion of a Western and an Eastern name. Apparently it was originally meant to be Leyland-Toyota, representing the merger of Britain's then-nationalised motor industry (British Leyland) with a Japanese giant. This was changed later on for trademark reasons.
- In Back To The Future Part II, Marty works for a man called Fujitsu and calls him "Fujitsu-san."note The filmmakers state on the DVD that they based their vision of 2015 in part on the assumption that Japan would take over the world and heavily influence American culture. In the third film, 1950s Doc Brown is incredulous when Marty tells him "all the best stuff comes from Japan."
- Ridley Scott's stylish but dubious 1989 action film Black Rain, in which a tough New York policeman is sent to Japan after capturing a rogue Yakuza in New York. The film includes an exchange in which a Japanese cop tells his US counterpart, played by Michael Douglas, that "We make the machines, we build the future, we won the peace." Douglas' character retorts "And if even one of you guys had an original idea, you'd be too up-tight to pull it out of your ass!"
- The movie Blade Runner, though it was a more general "Asia takes over the world." Noodle shops litter the street and gigantic animated Coca-Cola marquees feature smiling geishas. Word of God says that this was supposed to show that most of the more affluent (i.e. white) population of America had already left Earth for the offworld colonies, and a lot of poor Asians who had also been left behind had subsequently immigrated.
- In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, the Japan of the 23rd Century is described as an economic monolith that not only buys out other countries, but also entire continents. The action of the film is driven by three time travellers who go to mid-Nineties Japan to erase Godzilla from history, put a more destructive monster in its place, and reduce Japan to a nuclear slag heap before it can rise.
- Gung Ho, where Japanese businessmen are portrayed as cartoonishly repressed and professional, while Americans are cartoonishly undisciplined and ineffective. Michael Keaton makes a speech toward the end stating that Japan was "kicking America's butt," but the film ultimately pushes an Aesop of compromise and working together.
- In Moon, Japan does not take over the world. Korea does.
- In Other Peoples Money, Lawrence Garfield, head of Garfield Investments, said he was encouraging his employees to learn Japanese out of fear of the trope.
- The film adaptation of Rising Sun has Sean Connery's character is constantly talking about how Japanese culture is superior to the West, and a Japanese takeover of a large American corporation sits at the heart of the plot. The story also portrays powerful Japanese businessmen as shadowy, decadent and corrupt.
- In RoboCop 3, the Omni Consumer Products Mega Corp. gets bought out by a Japanese corporation.
- This trope was invoked while designing the USS Excelsior for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The Excelsior was a brand-new bleeding edge prototype that threatened to replace the Enterprise, her crew, and her Iowa-born-and-bred American captain as Starfleet's finest. In order to give off this feeling, it was designed to look as if the Enterprise was designed by the Japanese.
- In Max Headroom, the Zik-Zak corporation, which more or less runs the world, is Japanese. Late in the series, its Board of Directors are revealed to be Yakuza.
- Due to the major influence of Cyber Punk, Shadowrun is set in a world where this is sometimes true. The "nuyen" has become a global currency, Japan reestablished its imperial family and expanded its territories by force (including the Philippines and a significant portion of the California Free State), and at any given time, Japan is home to a disproportionately large number of megacorporations, including the very first one. There are forces and setbacks keeping it from truly ruling the world though, like a rebellious general, a Great Dragon, natural disasters, and a megacorp moving its headquarters to Russia, but there are plenty who dream of global domination as a realistic possibility.
- Cyberpunk 2020 also has Japan as the (economically) most powerful country of the near future, with Zaibatsu-like megacorporations having a hold in all markets and vast corporate armies protecting Japanese assets.
- This was popular enough for a while that GURPS decided to play with it; one of the alternate earths in ''GURPS Alternate Earths I" was Shikaku-Mon, whose Japanese had taken over the world militarily rather than economically (after converting to Catholicism early and becoming a colonial power), but which still invoked many of the standard Cyber Punk tropes.
- TORG dealt with multiple dimensions, each representing a different genre, invading different parts of modern-day Earth. Japan was invaded by the "Nippon Tech" realm, which conducted its invasion through economics and espionage rather than the military invasion conducted by some of the other realms. Basically, the Nippon Tech realm was a direct invocation of this trope, and was heavily influenced by movies such as Blade Runner and Black Sun.
- Kind of used in BattleTech. Japan as a nation (along with pretty much every modern day nation) no longer exists, thanks to the rise of interstellar empires, but the most powerful military belongs to the Japanese influenced Draconis Combine. Also of note is that said power comes from the nation's military, rather than economy, and culturally, it's closer to feudal Japan than modern day Japan.
- The Video Games industry can be seen as a microcosm of this trope, as Japan pretty much dominated the worldwide video game industry throughout the 1980s to 1990s up until the early 2000s.
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a Period Piece set in The Eighties and invokes this trope as a historical reference in an in-game commercial of a compact car called "Maibatsu Thunder" and then with another commercial telling people to buy true American muscle instead of Japanese compacts. On the other end of the scale is the "Maibatsu Monstrosity", which is apparently both amphibious and equipped to travel across arctic tundra.
- Similarly, in Grand Theft Auto II, the largest of the various organizations the player can take missions from is Zaibatsu (presented as the name of a specific Mega Corp., not a generic noun).
- While it is a Japanese game developed by a Japanese team and written by a Japanese writer, the treatment of the Tokugawa Corporation in Policenauts is obviously supposed to resemble the way this trope was used in American action movies of the era, rather than Creator Provincialism. (The game is a pastiche of American buddy cop movies.)
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 has the Empire of the Rising Sun as one of three playable factions, and arms them with easily the most advanced and versatile, albeit expensive, technology and weapons among the three.
- They actually do this in their campaign ending, but the Uprising expansion revealed that it was non-canon, and canonically the Allies won.
- The Mishima Zaibatsu in Tekken.
- In The Orion Conspiracy, the One Nation Under Copyright that the main characters (who are mostly British, aside from the Irish protagonist) belong to/work for is called Kobayashi.
- Rise of Nations: You can accomplish this by playing as Japan in the basic campaign mode.
- Just about half of all Real-Time Strategy games set in the modern era has this as a potential ending.
- The lingua franca of the X-Universe is a variation on Japanese (spoken with the words in reverse order for whatever reason). Even the aliens speak Japanese. Translation Convention makes the player hear them in whatever language the game is set to.
- It is implied that at the very least, Japan will rise to a permanent seat in the Security Council of the UN in one of the endings of Devil Survivor. Justified, as demon power would imply a major power shift in global economics.
- You can play as Japan in the Civilization series and literally take over the world by means of a Conquest or Domination victory. The game encourages you to do it, especially in V, where your soldiers attack at max strength even when damaged. Their Samurais are also a threat.
- Subverted in Earth And Beyond. The Japanese took over Jupiter.
- In Japan Bashing, a strategy game for the PC-98, the player must prevent Japan from taking over the U.S. by deploying anti-Japanese propaganda. Since it's a game made by Japanese people for Japanese people, it's all Played for Laughs.
- One of the two endings to Killer7 results in Japan leading the United Nations in a war against the U.S. Given that the game was made by Suda51 (and runs heavy with the theme of eternal and inevitable conflict between eastern and western cultures), we can safely presume this is not meant to be a "good" ending.
- The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and Japan's aggression against China and the rest of southeast Asia before and during World War II. A case of Truth in Television. Well Japan did not 'hold' its territories for a long period of time, as the US military pushed out the Japanese from the pacific holdings and the rest of the allies were fighting conventional/guerilla/etc wars....
- Subverting this trope even more is the fact that Japan currently has no place (some would say allowed no place) in the United Nations Security Council, which consists of countries considered to have the greatest military strength within the global community.
- On the other hand, Japan is currently tied with Brazil for holding a seat on the Security Council the most number of years (20) in its history outside of the five permanent members (the major Allied powers of World War II and their successors). Most of this, though, is with the assistance of the United States.
- Look around you. There's a strong chance that more than half of the appliances around you have Japanese names. Furthermore, if you're a member of Generation X or Generation Y, you've been exposed to (if not an outright fan of) something with Japanese roots (Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, Pokémon, any other anime and many video game series). Japan may have never had an actual empire like the British or Spanish, but should Japan just come to a screeching halt, most other countries would feel it.
- They DID have an actual empire. Just not for very long...
- "Should Japan come to a screeching halt..."
- One could argue this is ultimately going to be a Subverted Trope. Japan might become a cultural powerhouse, but nobody will give a damn what it thinks.
- Of course, as of 2014, it is still the third or fourth biggest economy in the worldnote , and the yen was considered a major currency as late as 2008 when it went strong compared to the US dollar and the euro during the Global Financial Crisis. Of course just how long this will last is entirely another matter, though, given the aging population and the resulting population decline, and debt-per-GDP ratio higher than Greece and even Zimbabwe (as of 2012; see the other wiki)...
- The rise of the Hodo-Hodo Zoku (So-So Folks) phenomenon where young Japanese workers refuse promotions and put less effort into their jobs also contribute to the discrediting of this trope.
- Inverted in July 2012 when U.S. DRAM chip manufacturer Micron bought Japanese DRAM manufacturer Elpida, giving Micron 25 percent control of the world DRAM market.
- But played straight when Toshiba bought out OCZ Storage Solutions, which has a sizable chunk in the SSD market.
- For a while motherboard and power supply manufacturers were touting their boards were fitted with "Japanese capacitors". It wasn't that Japanese capacitors were somehow superior in every way shape and form, but their original suppliers allegedly stole a formula for capacitor electrolyte and made a faulty version of it. More about it can be read at this forum post.