Kenichi Tanaka: Japan-A Strange Country

UPDATE: English VO version found on youtube! Thanks for the info, tvp.

Kenichi Tanaka made this thesis piece to show his countrymen that things that take place in Japan, ‘isn’t that normal’. So the tale was told from a foreigner’s viewpoint rather than a Japanese’s, but he begs ‘please don’t call me racist, because I am one of short, small eyes Japanese ;P’. This is a smart and insightful piece because of the cultural self-awareness of its maker. Definitely a significant contribution to the world of visual essays.

We are not sure why it’s not available in English, (see English VO version link at the top) but to those of you who don’t speak Japanese, watching this humorous infographics animation while not understanding the VO, somehow adds another layer of complexity and heightens the uniqueness of the viewing experience. To find out more about the piece, be sure to visit Kenichi’s blog, here.

Thanks for the tip, Boca & Bran!

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About the author

Lilian Darmono

Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lilian moved to Singapore and eventually Australia for her studies, eventually graduating from Swinburne NID in Prahran, Melbourne. She then worked in print design before deciding to switch to the field of Motion Design in late 2003. Her obsessions include travelling, illustrating, and cats. She is currently in the London leg of her 'Mograph Tour Around The World', and calls Melbourne home.



I have to say that as much as nice graphics and animation, the message and information was very disappointing and rather upsetting.
I have no doubt in his talent: however, the message here is quite distorted and one-side point of view. It shows the number but it is not comparing to the other countries, nor enough/rounded information to study what that number means.
It seems to me rather propaganda than info-graphics: the information here is somewhat manipulated to create the point of view that indicates many negative side.
I just cannot stand to think that any uninformed person sees this video and think that is Japan. Very disappointing and sad, to know that it is created by Japanese person.
Sure, freedom of speech, but I personally find this very disturbing and highly offensive.

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

I think most people watching this understand that the point of view is skewed, and I believe that that is part of Kenichi’s goal. On his blog: He mentions wanting to make a “sarcastic” motion graphics piece using some of the stereotypes of Japan. I don’t think his intention for those stereotypes to be taken literally, but I could be mis-reading it.

Most of us here don’t speak Japanese, so aren’t completely sure what the whole message is. However in terms of telling a story graphically, through an economic use of illustration and animation, this piece really is wonderful. We’ve asked Kenichi for the English language version of this piece.

Lilian Darmono

Hey Good General,
I think you raised a very very interesting point. We’ve contacted Kenichi and hopefully he’ll be able to respond accordingly to the issues you’ve raised.

On the whole, I think cultural identity and how it’s expressed in design, animation and fillm is a very interesting subject matter—especially in this area, where the film-maker is responsible for the ‘message’ and/or perception he/she is sending out via his/her creation to those unfamiliar with said culture. I hope this is the start of a good discussion regarding this.

Lilian Darmono

Having watched the English language version, I think maybe Kenichi removed it for the reason that Good General pointed out..”I just cannot stand to think that any uninformed person sees this video and think that is Japan.”—maybe it was precisely to avoid this from happening.

Also–yeah a number of ‘negative’ things portrayed here also happens in other industrialised nations, eg. the criticism about food waste and importing bottled water….

Just my 2 cents..


Great video. But I was suprised to hear there wasn’t an english version, while i saw the english version 2 weeks ago ;)

For those interested, you can watch it below:

edit: I just found out he took the english version offline :'( Maybe it will come back someday?


interesting visual discourse but not understanding a word (from the vo) made it even stranger for me :)


@GooodGeneral, whether it’s sarcastic social commentary or just social commentary from his point of view, it’s his country, his race, his culture and thus his prerogative if he wants to make comments or statements about it, of any nature.

For your peace of mind I’ll confess that I love Japan, its people and its culture. That said, having watched the English version, which is on YouTube. I get what he’s saying and why he’s saying it.

Lilian Darmono

In my experience, sarcastic portrayal (taking the piss) of your own culture, doesn’t always go down well with your fellow countrymen, as is the case here. It’s up to the individual, I guess. Similar example that comes to mind: do you get tired of Russel Peters (very famous British comedian of Indian descent) making fun of his own heritage? Some find it funny and spot-on, some find it tiring and a tad lazy…..


You were right about watching it in Japanese :) i think the english translated version would have sounded much better with a Japanese accent, something akin to Hiro Nakamura.


Hi, I’m Kenichi, creator of this video. First of all, thanks for selecting my final thesis piece. I’m a big fan of Motionographer, so I couldn’t believe what’s happening.

About my video, basically I created it for Japanese audiences. And non-Japanese audiences who live in Japan. So I selected to spotlight just negative side of this country, since we can see more positive side of information, and many of them are already known.

I wanted to inform. To fix something wrong, that we can change. I selected sarcastic way, because I thought that’s the strongest way to tell, compared to academic info-graphic, or saying “You should do this, and that, and…” something like that.

Since this is not an academic video, but my personal project, I emphasized my side of opinions using numbers, and I purposely make it edgy. My goal was, to make viewers think, or make them discuss about the topic, even if they hated my work.


That’s my personal concept behind this video.
But, Yes. I know. It’s been criticized really hard, all over the place. I received hundreds of thank you emails, but also received hundreds of fu*k you emails, both from Japanese and non-Japanese viewers. I’m happy to know lots of different perspective of view, however, be honest I’m confusing. I couldn’t expect this.

As some of commenter already said, now I also think it’s bad idea to show this video for those who don’t have any background knowledge about Japan. That’s why I deleted English version from Vimeo. (I will request to remove from YouTube mirrors as well.)

At the end, I still think this project itself was quite valuable, however, it was risky. And I was careless, I have to apologize about that. So, I’m planning to re-design entire video, hopefully next time I can work with some staffs who are good at statistics and scripts. Then, maybe more people can naturally listen what I want to tell.
– How do you think?


Lilian Darmono

Hey Kenichi,

thanks for taking the time to respond. I don’t think you have much to apologise for. The fact that you attracted criticism or negative comments prove even more that you’ve said something important, unpleasant it may be to those who got offended.

I personally think that to truly love one’s country and culture, one needs to be able to see both the bad and the good sides. Like you said, this is important–to acknowledge the bad, so we could improve it.

Yes, maybe in the future, you could make sure you’re representing accurate statistics, and clearly lay out where you get them from, but I think that isn’t as important as making sure you’re utilising your chosen medium to engage your audience effectively, and spark a debate about the issue. Which again, you’ve successfully accomplished.

I hope you’d reconsider deleting the English version. To those who don’t speak the language, watching the Japanese version may be entertaining and surreal and unique in its own way, but only when we watch the English language version that we fully understood your intent and the message behind this video.

Thanks again for responding, and for creating this piece.

Best wishes,


Hi Lilian,

Thank you for your quick reply, and your warm message. Your response was really relief for me. I still feel like I have to change something, but for now, I leave YouTube mirror one for while. I might add some note in the beginning of the film, to avoid miss reading the concept behind it. I will try to revise English version, and well, I will put it up on the web someday in the future. Good point is, there is no deadline for this project, so I guess it’s time to think deep again, before re-editing it.

Anyway, thank you very much for this opportunity,


What i noticed about Japan is that a lot of Japanese people love to reinforce their own negative stereotypes. The animation is great, but the content is toe curlingly apologetic.

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