After studying abroad in Japan from 2000-2001, I realized there was a common internet fallacy: Most of the Japanese “trends” we hear about actually aren’t trends, but rather a few people doing something weird or interesting that happens to be caught on camera.
The refreshing part of this realization is that there are weird people everywhere. In fact, we’re all a little weird. I bet if a cameraman followed you around for a week 24/7, he’d discover that you do some pretty weird things. If he posted them on the internet, would the rest of the world think that you were demonstrating a common trend?
Probably not. Yet we do that every time we see a funny photo from Asia. “One Japanese man is doing something weird, so everyone in Japan must be doing that same weird thing!)
One of my recent favorites was a Huffington Post article of a few people in China who were photographed dragging cabbages around behind them (ostensibly as pets). Kotaku figured out a few days later that it was part of an art exhibition.
Though this assumptions we make about “trends” are generally pretty innocent, I kind of experienced the negative side effects in Japan. For a long time, I would see someone doing something weird, and I would immediately think, “That must be a normal thing to do here.” That’ a terrible assumption to make when you’re trying to acclimate a new culture.
So these cabbages reminded me that we’re all a little weird, and so we shouldn’t make generalizations about any country or culture based on one photo or one odd encounter.
Also, how cool would it be if people actually took cabbages on walks?!