- September 23, 2003 at 12:00 am #10898
I have been many places in the world. An observation I have made puzzles me: On several occasions, Japanese people have asked me to snap a picture of them with their cameras. Be it at the Grand Canyon, Pompeii, Niagra Falls or Tulum, I am handed a camera and take a picture of them standing in front of the attraction. I always politely comply with the request and always am politely thanked. I often browse online photo albums. The albums posted by Japanese very often seem to focus on the individuals rather than what I would consider to be the focal point. Browsing some of the folders of photographs, the same group of Japanese are simply standing in front of world-class attractions smiling, present in every photograph. What is this obsession with self?
User Detail :Name : John29321, Gender : M, Age : 48, City : Cincinnati, State : OH Country : United States, Social class : Middle class, June 13, 2004 at 12:00 am #14502
Nobody in my family is Japanese, but they’re quite the same way when it comes to pictures. The way I see it, it’s easy to buy postcards (and sometimes cheaper, too) if you want a picture that just shows where you have visited. So we give our photographs personal significance. Putting oneself or one’s family in the picture, showing people enjoying the sights, is one way to make them more personal.
User Detail :Name : Matt, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Christian, Age : 25, City : Oxford, State : GA Country : United States, Occupation : Engineer, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, June 13, 2004 at 12:00 am #15166
They are tourists with that ‘We were here, hooray!’ mentality. I used to get the same request from American tourists who visited London or Hong Kong. It’s a group of people, having fun, visiting different places and wanting to remember that yeah, they were all there.
Then again, there’s a slightly more complex answer involving the isolationist nature of Japan, the supposed freedom of being able to leave an island where 60-hour workweeks are the norm, and the desire to keep memories of their ‘escape’ as handy as possible, but I think the professor who taught me that is full of it. Seriously, I can’t think of a set of vacation photographs I’ve seen where the vast majority of the photos weren’t of my friends (Asian or otherwise) in front of various locales. If I want pretty scenic pictures, I’ll buy a postcard. Sometimes, a rose is a rose, yeah?
User Detail :Name : Juno, Gender : M, Race : Asian, Religion : Orthodox Christian, Age : 21, City : Richmond, State : VA Country : United States, Occupation : Student, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, June 13, 2004 at 12:00 am #33637
I have studied Japanese culture, and when I first read your question I knew there was an answer. So I thought about it, and it’s quite simple. The Japanese are strictly taught to act as a group; those who stand out are frowned upon. They are to sacrifice individuality to please others, and live in an everlasting reciprocation. Every person tries to maintain individuality by any way possible, whether it be dressing outlandishly trendy after school, or by having photos of THEMSELVES taken. If you think about it, if you have a picture of yourself, it reminds you that you are your own person. The whole photo fascination is just a way to be themselves.
User Detail :Name : Julie, Gender : F, Age : 16, City : Lombard, State : IL Country : United States, June 13, 2004 at 12:00 am #42493
I can’t speak for Japanese people, but I am Asian and our family takes photos just like that, as well as almost every other Asian family that I know. It’s basically to prove that you’ve been there at the particular attraction. First, you want a picture of the attraction, because you may never see it again, and might want to know what it looks like later. Second, you want a picture of yourself with the attraction, because if you only get a picture of the attraction, you could’ve just bought a postcard from anywhere, and can’t prove that you were really there. The whole point being so that many years down the road, you can look at a picture of yourself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, say ‘See, I’ve been there!’ and check it off your list of things to do in life.
User Detail :Name : Ed, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Asian, Religion : Christian, Age : 26, City : Milpitas, State : CA Country : United States, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #18230
Due to a completely different social structure in that country, holidays are extremely rare. They take the pics to take home and show friends and family that they really did go and for a memory that will last them a lifetime because for many it will be the only chance they get to get out of the country and have a good holiday. At least that’s how it was described to me by a Japanese girl I met in Malaysia.
User Detail :Name : Josh29137, Gender : M, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 25, City : Melbourne, State : NA Country : Australia, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #19752
When I lived in Hawaii, it was a very common occurence to have perfect strangers walk up and try to communicate their wish to take a picture with Americans. It was sort of amusing when this happened, with their not speaking English, our not speaking Japanese. Why would anyone want a picture of someone they did not know?
User Detail :Name : Pam, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 30, City : Topeka, State : KS Country : United States, Occupation : CEO & President Domicilia, Education level : 4 Years of College, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #24528
Having traveled to many places throughout the world, I can tell you that it is not just the Japanese who ask people to photograph them at attractions. Everywhere I’ve gone, including places here in the States, I’ve seen people of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds–Americans too, myself included–very casually and politely ask a stranger to photograph them at an attraction. It ain’t just the Japanese. Besides, have you ever seen a people more self-focussed than us Americans?
User Detail :Name : Michael, Gender : M, City : Falls Church, State : VA Country : United States, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #27239
Japanese are not obsessed with themselves – they just want a picture of themselves in the place they have visited. Probably they ask you to take a picture of them next to the landmark and probably take pictures of just the landmark themselves – which doesn’t require help from a passerby. I have MANY Japanese friends and they love taking pictures, but i don’t think there’s any narcissism involved!
User Detail :Name : Jay31087, Gender : M, City : New York, State : NY Country : United States, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #27661
Hi..I am not Asian, but I strongly prefer to take snapshots of people than of just a monument or scenery. I think the real quandary is why so many American DO NOT like to have pictures taken of themselves. I like my pictures to be special and the easiest way to do that is to have someone I know and/or care about IN the picture. Perhaps the Japanese and others want to capture the moment with the members of their party, i.e. facial expressions, clothes, the weather…the EXPERIENCE…
User Detail :Name : Ben23352, Gender : M, City : Orlando, State : FL Country : United States, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #31874
I don’t know how much of what the pictures end up looking like has to do with race, but I think at least some of it has to do with who is taking the pictures or what you consider the focal point. I’m not Japanese and I’ve asked people (or they’ve just offered) to take my picture a few times while on vacation. For me, my friends and family and I are the focal point as much as what we are standing in front of. My main motivation for posting pictures on the internet is to share them with friends and family. If I have a limited amount of space, I will probably put up the pictures that contain people first. They are more personal. I’ve noticed that most of the responses that I’ve read have focused on the meaning of the people being in the pictures (after all that WAS the question). I found it interesting that my first thought was ‘why are the pictures all the SAME?’ I think my opinion may offer some insight. If you are average and someone hands you a camera and asks you to take their picture, you are probably going to do your best to center the people and the attraction in the viewfinder, press the button, and hand the camera back. I went to school for photography, and most, if not all, of the freshman started out taking picures this way. One of the things that my professors definitely got accross to me is that these snapshots, while they may not be ‘art’, serve an important purpose. They capture a memory. Like you, I’ve also had people approach me on the street and ask me to take their picture. Usually I’ll ask them if I can take two. Most people have been okay with it. The first one is what they are expecting. The people are front and center, standing in front of the attraction. For the second picture, the people are in it, but I try to emphasize what you are calling the focal point as the subject of the picture. I don’t know if people actually like these second pictures but I hope so.
User Detail :Name : Dani, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Atheist, Age : 27, City : Boise, State : ID Country : United States, Occupation : Engineer, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #35479
I have never asked that question myself and I work for a Japanese company. I am Filipino and from my mother’s perspective the picture should always be taken of yourself near a sign of your location. My mom hates it when I don’t take a picture near a sign. She says that it shows that you have been at a certain place and you have the picture to prove it. So I am sure when those people go back to their country and show their friends the picture, the sign proves that it’s not a big fish story. Last picture I took was at Niaagra Falls and mom made sure to tell me that the picture wasn’t close up enough to read the sign!
User Detail :Name : Janet20959, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Other Pacific Islander, Religion : Catholic, Age : 38, City : Conover, State : OH Country : United States, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #39704
I don’t think this a particularly Japanese phenomenon, nor does it necessarily imply obsession with self. When I went to Europe on a student trip, my friends and I tried to take as many pictures as possible with us in the picture. A picture cannot possibly capture the beauty of whatever it is you are looking at unless you are a gifted photographer – which I am not. Instead, for me, a picture captures a memory, often a memory of a very beautiful place, as do my pictures of my trip to Europe. When the pictures have people in them, the memories are more vivid, and I can better recall the beauty of what I saw. Also, when showing people my pictures, because I cannot capture the beauty of the experience in a picture, the pictures are not interesting to people who weren’t there unless they have people they know in them. So, if I am interested in sharing my pictures, and perhaps talking about some of my memories with someone who wasn’t there, to avoid boring them (and perhaps succeed in amusing them!) the pictures are better with me and other familiar people in them.
User Detail :Name : Jessica, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Bisexual, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Agnostic, Age : 23, City : Huntsville, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : Student, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, December 28, 2006 at 12:00 am #44216
In my opinion, it is to show everyone that you were there and you enjoyed yourself. I dont think it is a focus on ‘self’. I also dont think this is a Japanese trait at all. It is really personal preference. I know lots of people of different nationalities who always take pictures that include themselves when on holiday. In fact, I am originally from Ohio, and I cant think of anyone I knew there who wasnt shocked that I didnt take pictures of myself while on vacation.
User Detail :Name : Krista Yabe, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 23, City : Nagoya, State : NA Country : Japan, Occupation : Housewife, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class,
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