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Technologically advanced, with a reputation as a world leader in consumer electronics, robotics and the automotive industry, Japan is also a nation steeped in centuries of tradition and a rich cultural heritage. Here, on this chain of islands, in the country I have called home for the last four years, signs of the past and layers of history are evident not only in the physical environment but in the language, traditions and everyday behaviour of the Japanese people. As a sympathetic gaijin (foreigner), I’m interested in how Japan, with one foot in the past and one in the future, confronts the ongoing challenge of Westernization while preserving its unique cultural traditions, and what that process looks like.

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