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Pearl Harbor didn't work out so good, so we got you with tape decks.
—Mr. Takagi, Die Hard

Before the Japanese economic crash, the U.S. pretty much expected that Japan would be their new Overlords in a decade or two. They were seen as hardworking to the point of being inhuman, and proficient in technology and business; 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 of the 1990s 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. 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...

This is a Western trope, not an Anime trope.

Sub-Trope of Take Over the World. See also Yellow Peril, China Takes Over the World and America Takes Over the World.

Examples of Japan Takes Over the World include:


Comicbooks

  • 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 a Tibetan expy of Imperial Japan, with soldiers wearing Japanese-like uniforms and using German weapons. They even manage to conquer most of the world in the beginning of the story.


Fanfiction

Film

  • The movie Blade Runner, though it was a more general "Asia takes over the world." Noodle shops little 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. So this is more a case of "Asia takes over the world because no one else wants it".
  • In Back to The Future 2, Marty works for a man called Fujitsu and calls him "Fujitsu-san." 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."
  • 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.
  • The adaptation of Rising Sun basically tells us that scary Japanese businessmen are coming to get us.
  • All There in the Manual: The un-named Mega Corp 'the Company' in the Alien franchise 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 copyright reasons.
  • Godzilla vs King Ghidorah has this as the reason why the time travelers try eliminating Godzilla from history in favor of their monster King Ghidorah. Despite his rampaging, Godzilla doesn't seem to affect the Japanese economy too much apparently.
    • The cast does realize, until Mecha King Ghidorah arrives that Japan is screwed thank to Godzilla. Any specialized weapons were destroyed in the last movie, and Big G just leveled the HQ of a major Japanese corporation. Also, the 90's Godzilla movies didn't see any giant robots until Mecha King Ghidorah's severed robot head was reverse engineered.
    • Lampshaded in Godzilla vs Megaguirus which states that Japan moved the capital to Osaka after the government realised the economic implications of kaiju regularly trashing Japan's capital city.
  • 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!"
  • In RoboCop 3, the Omni Consumer Products Mega Corp gets bought out by a Japanese corporation.
  • In Moon, Japan does not take over the world. Korea does.
  • In Inception, the protagonists are hired by a Japanese businessman to bring about the destruction of a large, monopolistic corporation to which said businessman's company is the sole competitor. Also, he bought the airline (It seemed neater.).
  • 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.


Literature

  • William Gibson's trilogy beginning with Neuromancer. Consequently, practically the entire subsequent genre of Cyberpunk 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 considered a Trope Codifier in this respect
  • 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. Notable because it was written in 1994, well after the economic crash. It concludes with a Harsher in Hindsight in which a rogue Japanese pilot crashes an (otherwise empty) commercial airliner into the Capitol building after his son was killed. Oh and it was a joint session of the House and Senate.
    • With the President, Cabinet, and entire Supreme Court present for the confirmation and inauguration of Jack Ryan as VP.
  • 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 favourable 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.
  • Phillip 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 Germany and Japan.
  • 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.


Live-Action TV

  • 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.


Tabletop Games

  • The Shadowrun Tabletop RPG had the entire world converting to "Nu-Yen" as a global currency. Japan also controls a significant portion of California Free State, and seems to have fingers in a lot of pies.
    • The sourcebook "California Free State" describes the city of San Francisco as basically an overseas territory of Japan after the a politician asked the Japanese Self-Defense Forces for assistance in the state of California's struggle for independence. What happened was that japanese troops promptly took over San Francisco to protect the significant holdings japanese megacoporations have there.
  • 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 Cyberpunk tropes.
  • The early 90's game TORG by West End Games 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.


Videogames

  • 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 2, the largest of the various organizations the player can take missions from is Zaibatsu (presented as the name of a specific megacorporation, not a generic noun).
  • While it is a Japanese game developed by a Japanese team and written by a Japanese Troll 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 and 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.
  • 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.


Real Life

  • 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....
  • 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.
  • 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.
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