Summary of “The United States of Japan”

Consider the fascination with “The Japanese art of decluttering.” Its guru, Marie Kondo, lives in Japan.
Why should Americans be so compelled by one from Japan? Close to twenty years ago, the answer would have been “Because Japan is the global imagination’s default setting for the future,” as the author William Gibson wrote in 2001.
“The Japanese seem to the rest of us to live several measurable clicks down the time line.” Gibson was referring to a Japan of trendy gadgets and services, such as high-tech cell phones and robot sushi bars, the flashy products of a hyper-consumer metropolis that inspired the creators of such films as “Blade Runner” and “The Matrix.” But what Gibson wrote about products was just as true about other, less visible trends in Japanese society: economic stagnation; a plunging fertility rate; a dramatic postponement of the “Normal” milestones of adulthood, such as getting married or simply moving out of the family home; a creeping sense of ambivalence about what the future might hold.
We don’t buy into Kondo’s life-changing magic just because we think Japan is cool; we also buy because our country is, in many ways, increasingly like Japan.
A cynic would point out that the life-changing Japanese magic of tidying up is a ploy to divest ourselves of all the Walkmans and Tamagotchis and other tchotchkes that Japan convinced us to buy in the first place.
At the time, some Western reviewers questioned its plotline: “Isn’t there something odd about a 22-year-old man being so utterly clueless?” the Japan Times asked.
In what Japan calls its bubble-economy years, when high-flying investors were bagging international trophies such as the Rockefeller Center and Columbia Pictures, the otaku’s infantile, inwardly-focussed tastes became a societal embarrassment.
The British writer John Lanchester summed it up in a column for the Times Magazine: “As Japan shows, us there are worse things for a society than calmly growing old together.” Or, to paraphrase Marie Kondo, all our futures, individually and collectively, depend on finding the things that spark joy in the midst of the inevitable, inexorable trend of old age.

The orginal article.