Before the Lost Decade at the start of The '90s, Americans 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 nerd¥ ). Some even wondered if Japan's military defeat in World War II could have been a farsighted Xanatos Gambit to ensure that the resulting military hegemony of the U.S. would become a drain on its industrial resources, thus giving its disarmed ally Japan a competitive advantage.
The U.S. was prepared, oh yes. A large number of movies and shows set 20 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 manufacturing) 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 superiority of classically group-focused Japanese business models compared to more individualist-minded American ones.
Today, the Western mindset is that China will take over the world. The reason for this belief is somewhat simpler — the advantage of sheer numbers (China has four times the population of the U.S.) 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 an anime trope.note
The Cyberpunk genre was also, in part, a result of this trope, with Japanese technological dominance often playing an important role in early cyberpunk works.
- 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 explicitly named to be Tibet, but is obviously 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. A later book in the series mentions they had a non aggression treaty with Nazi Germany back in World War II.
- 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.
- The Code Geass fanfic I Heard the World is an inversion of the canon, where Imperial Japan colonized North America, conquered China and most of East Asia and the British Isles, named Britannia, where the events happen.
- In the Death Note Cyber Punk AU Alternative Gods in keeping with the fic's whole Cyber Punk theme; lampshaded by Matt when Near tries to hack into the Japanese NPA's server for the SPK and is crushed by the superior skills of Kira and L:
Matt: Yup. N went and fucked with Japan, you don't just go and fuck with Japan. I've been telling you, man. Nobody just goes and fucks with Japan.
- 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-nationalized 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!"
- 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 People's 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 The Santa Clause, Scott Calvin notices Japanese businessmen are occupying a table in the same Denny's restaurant he is dining in, making the all-American Denny's restaurant chain less than all-American.
- 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.
- William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy, beginning with Neuromancer. Japanese culture dominates the world, most of the biggest corporations are Japanese, and the Yakuza is a global player. Consequently, practically the entire subsequent genre of Cyber Punk has elements of this.
- His subsequent Bridge Trilogy, set mostly in the earthquake-ravaged cities of San Francisco and Tokyo, the latter rebuilt using self-constructing nanotech materials, also had quite a bit of this (as well as the China variant), despite having been written during the 1990s. This is partly due to the Tokyo setting, though, and much less pronounced in the Bay Bridge scenes.
- Rising Sun, a novel by Michael Crichton is all about how Japanese culture is allowing them to outperform the West.
- The book version of Sphere heavily implies a very heavy influence between the West and Japan in the time-lost spacecraft's own prior timeline, which would be the future for the world at present in the book.
- Kurt Vonnegut's novel Hocus Pocus.
"[The warden of the prison] worked for Sony. He had always worked for Sony."
- Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor focuses on a war between Japan and the US, instigated by a Japanese corporate executive as part of a plan to dominate the Pacific region.
- Robert Silverberg's Hot Sky At Midnight, also written in 1994. In a dystopian future where the Earth's climate has been damaged beyond all repair, two Japanese mega-corps have taken over the world economy and are battling for supremacy: Samurai Industries, based out of Tokyo, and Kyocera-Merck, based out of Kyoto. Most workers are stuck in their company, hoping for a job that has "slope" to a better grade (as in, pay grade). Positions within the company hierarchy are highly stratified, with one's level of clearance determined by position; asking questions beyond your grade is bad for your career health. These positions are known as "Salaryman X", with X being a number (a lower number means a higher rank). Interestingly, just having a "Japanese" name, or being part Japanese, does not guarantee any favorable position; only the "purest" and most dedicated are worthy to ascend the ranks.
- In Snow Crash, a collapse of the world economy has made Japan (Nippon) a major player in a very fragmented, franchised world government.
- Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle could be seen as both an Ur-Example of this and a sort of inversion; instead of depicting a future of Japanese dominance it shows an alternate present (when the book was written) where the Axis won World War II and the world is split between Nazi Germany and Japan.
- One of the covers from the '80s (very obviously postBlade Runner) has a fantastic punny tagline on a Japanese liquor billboard: "The spirit that conquered the world."
- In Charles de Lint's Svaha, most of the few remaining cities After the End are run by the yakuza and the corporations that they own.
- Part of the backstory of The Sparrow is that Japan is the pre-eminent economic power in the world.
- Ephraim Kishon wrote a satirical story about this. At the end he (the author Breaking the Fourth Wall) feared that they might write better satires than him.
- Eric Lustbader wrote numerous unrelated novels around this concept, including Black Blade and White Ninja
- Kim Newman's Dark Future for the Games Workshop setting invoke this in the form of the GenTech, a Japanese-Korean conglomerate headed by the mysterious Dr. Zarathustra and producing things for virtually every purpose from Paradise, its home appliances and decoration subsidiary through to BioDiv, their genetics and cybernetics research department who can give you bigger breasts, better highs, up to five new dentitions pre-implanted or augment your body to let shrug off bullet wounds and tear open tanks.
- Parodied in Dave Barry Slept Here, where the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was part of a "complex, long-term, and ultimately successful strategy to dominate the U.S. consumer-electronics market."
- Dave Barry Does Japan explores some aspects of the trope. Notably, he readily agrees that Americans could do with the politeness and work ethic the Japanese display (and maybe learn to make some good cars), but the Japanese could stand to loosen up, noting that the edgiest he ever saw Japanese youth were Japanese Delinquents dressed like it was The '50s.
- In The Tojo Virus, a hacker named David Kimura is the point man for a shadowy cabal of Japanese executives who intend to take out a thinly veiled expy of IBM and in doing so dominate the American economy and get revenge for the Japanese loss in World War II.
- Somewhat downplayed, but present in near-future military thriller Victoria, where Imperial Japan is more of a first-among-equals on the international scene than a truly hegemonic superpower—but still far more powerful in both relative and absolute terms than it ever was in real life, with the world's foremost navy and nuclear arsenal, a booming economy and major political influence among the American successor states.
- Ray Stevens, mocked this in the 1991 song "Workin' for the Japanese":
Were all working for the Japanese
Little cars and color TVs
Sending all our money overseas
To the Eastern sphere
One day were gonna lose our roots
Wear Oriental jeans and boots
And drink nothing but Kawasaki sake, Honda wine, and Mitsubishi light beer
Chrysler fights for survival
So does General Motors
Ford perseveres with better ideas
And, everybody drives Toyotas
Sony owns the Rockefeller Center
And the Hawaiian archipelago
We buy Seikos, walkmans, TV's, and minivans
And wonder where the money all goes...
- 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 subverts this. While Japan is easily one of the most powerful nation states in the near future, with Zaibatsu-like megacorporations having a hold in all markets and vast corporate armies protecting Japanese assets, European Economic Community is the dominant superpower both in terms of their economy and military. The EuroDollar has replaced US Dollar as de facto global currency and EEC also operates a giant rail gun on the moon, that is capable of annihilating any potential threat to them without the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction, guaranteeing military supremacy over other nations.
- 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 Complete History Of America Abridged gives this a wink and a nod:
Rock: "Well, thank goodness we won this war; otherwise, the German and Japanese economies would dominate the world."
(The boys can't believe this is right. They all check to make sure that their scripts are correct.)
Rock: Hmm... a terrifying thought.
- 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. Even today, many of the most prominent video game franchises (Super Mario Bros., Pokémon, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda) are Japanese, as are two of the three companies that still make video game consoles (Nintendo and Sony).
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a Period Piece set in The '80s 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" in Grand Theft Auto III, which is apparently able to seat 12 people, as well as being amphibious and equipped to travel across arctic tundra. Similarly, in Grand Theft Auto 2, 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.) However, it makes a satirical point here: Japan has exported the worst parts of its economic system and cultural prejudices to Beyond Coast, and the social problems caused by this are some of the main obstacles the characters face. It's also ironically amusing that the protagonist is shown to be racist against the Japanese...
- 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 complete the trope in their campaign ending.
- 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). This is due to Japan leading scientific progress in the mid-21st century onward, making it the common tongue for Earth. The various alien species also adopt this "Neo-Japanese" from humanity as a trade language. Translation Convention makes the player hear them in whatever language the game is set to. Curiously enough, the game is not a Japanese product: the designers are German.
- 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 Japanese 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.
- Played straight in Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest as the player takes control of the Zipang/Japan army before embarking on the titular world conquest.
- Nintendo Wars has a Japanese-styled faction, who use WWII-looking vehicles that are no less effective than their modern versions (and in Kanbei's case, are more effective).
- Prominent in many propaganda cartoons from World War II: Tokio Jokio, Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips, The Ducktators...
- Family Guy: In "Road to the Multiverse", Brian and Stewie visit a universe where Japan dominated the world after World War II.
- The Simpsons
- In "Last Exit to Springfield," a worker from decades ago warns Burns' grandfather about the rise and fall of unionized America (the latter courtesy of Japan):
Worker: One day, we'll form a union and get the fair and equitable treatment we deserve! Then we'll go too far, and get corrupt and shiftless, and the Japanese will eat us alive!Grandfather: The Japanese?! Those sandal-wearing goldfish-tenders? Bosh, flim-shaw!
- There's this line from the episode "Colonel Homer," where Homer is approached by an agent from a Country Music label.
Agent: I'm from Rebel Yell Records, a division of the Tokasagi Corporation.
- The famous episode "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk" was originally going to be about Mr. Burns selling his power plant to a Japanese corporation, but the writers felt it would have been too obvious given how common such transactions like that were at the time. They ended up going with a group of German businessmen instead. One of the German investors still looks Japanese, for some reason.
- In "Last Exit to Springfield," a worker from decades ago warns Burns' grandfather about the rise and fall of unionized America (the latter courtesy of Japan):
- Hell in the Ugly Americans universe is owned by a Japanese Mega-Corp and run by businessmen.
- South Park: This plot is used in the episode "Chinpokemon" where the Anime show is just camouflage for Japan's real intention to take over the world by brainswashing all infants into become Nippophiles note .
- 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, though Japans ambitions at the time did not expend farther than the Pacific Rim and Southeast Asia. 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/guerrilla/etc wars....
- Subverting this trope even more is the fact that Japan currently has no place on the United Nations Security Council. 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.
- During the 1970s and 1980s, American motorists switched to small Japanese economy cars in the wake of the 1970s oil crises. Detroit's Big Three car makers, used to the "bigger is better" mantra, were caught off guard and lost significant market share to Japanese car makers. This led to massive job cuts at the Big Three and the phenomenon known as "Japan-bashing" which lasted until the Japanese bubble burst of the early 1990s. Additionally, Japanese car makers later invested in numerous factories in America to produce vehicles tailored to local tastes.
- 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). The highest-grossing media franchise in the world is Pokémon, and many of the franchises on this list are Japanese. 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.
- 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 Japan's low birthrate and resulting rapidly aging population in decline.
- 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.
- 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 computer hardware manufacturer's 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.
- Capacitors from Japanese manufacturers appear to still dominate the hi-fi market, with the opinion that if it doesn't have something from Nippon Chemicon or Elpida, forget about it.