Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

New York Times on the Finnish character and comment about similarity to Japanese. So why do these are these two cultures full of repressed emotion, alcoholism and suicide also (sort of) lead the world in mobile phones? What's the connection? Hmm...

via Gen Kanai


Because with texting you don't have to talk to someone. And with phones, you don't need to see them.

Perfect social avoidance tools.

Anger is a serious problem in Finland, since they have the highest rate of domestic violence in Europe. 40% of Finnish women have been victim of domestic violence (

Actually for me the far more interesting question is how some of the most wonderful design in the world can emerge from this sort of environment. For example Alvar Aalto is one of my personal heros, a giant. Heck, I even put together my own personal shrine to a jewel of a building he did here in Reykjavik:

The Finnish and Japanese effortless flair for elevating the simple to the sublime is untouchable.

Something to do with allowing for space, both physical and existential. Silence of course is important, so that ones senses become more attuned to the possible, the invisible.

How the heck does it happen? How do those stoic Finns, God bless 'em do it. Dunno.

How's this? The Japanese are the British of Europe and the Koreans are the Italians. I'm saying this even though I've never been to asia so hope I haven't offended anyone.

And don't forget Tsurunen-san. He is the first and only member of the Diet who is not of Japanese descent. He's Finnish and is a naturalized Japanese citizen.

Duckling - The Koreans are not like the Italians. Sorry to be so touchy, but what do you expect from me? I'm Italian. :)

I do seem to recall a high suicide rate for the Finns - but not for the Japanese. In fact the Japanese suicide rate is about in the middle of the OECD. (See the parent document.) It's a commonly held perception that the Japanese suicide rate is high - probably because so many Japanese people seem to commit suicide in ways that cause a lot of social disruption (like jumping in front of trains, stopping the underground for some time.)

Of course, in New Zealand, for example, the youth suicide rate is very high, but lesser for older people, whereas in Japan it seems that men aged 30-50 seems to be the main source of suicides. (The link above proved that in every country surveyed, three times as many men kill themselves as women.)

Strangely, Japan seems to have a lot of suicides using firearms (guns) - despite the fact that (as far as I know) it's basically illegal to own a gun in Japan.

It's curious that in Japan, where the social pressure not to bother others is so high, suicides often seem to bother others a lot, (despite the overall low rate) - whereas in New Zealand at least, where the youth suicide rate is very high, suicide methods are most often unobtrusive, and don't bother other people.

A note of caution - it's always possible to hide suicides as accidents (some Japanese readers might remember Hide from X-Japan, who supposedly died 'practicing' a suicide role for some TV show or movie - and has a coincidental name), so the true suicide rate is always hard to measure, as police/school administrations etcetera hide what really happened for various reasons.)

Repressed emotions? It is my experience that both Finns and Japanese can be very expressive emotion-wise, but only among friends. It is impolite to display your feelings publically, as it might disrupt others.

Finns have traditionally had a high rate of technological adaptation. Our quick embrace of modern technology (before WW2, we were still mostly an agricultural society) and especially mobile technology is seen as a point of national pride.

My guess is also that the educational system helps - both Japanese and Finns tend to be rather proud of the high literacy and education.

I assumed you were referring to the well-known similarities between the two languages, e.g.:

Sorry Mike. :) I was thinking of their innate sense of style and love of family. (Having said that I've only ever met one Italian who agreed with me) :)

I don't think Koreans are like Italian at all; where did the idea come from? If you compare Japan as England, Koreans are totally Irish people, of course. What do You expect? My personal impression toward both of them have many things in common in that sense.

If anything, the Italians (and other latin-influenced countries) are much more like China or Taiwan... Italy and China are the preservers of ancient culture to the Western European and Eastern Asian regions.

I think that the Koreans are much like the Germans in that both countries have a strong sense of nationalism (perhaps too strong at times) that comes from frequent invasion throughout history. Yet, despite the nationalism, both countries have shown signs of progressive thinking.

Of course, don't need to outline how the Suoma and Nihon cultures are similar because that's the topic of this thread.

Do you remember cult scifi movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Well, the NYT piece made me think about what the film director (Siegel) said about the POD CONSPIRACY:

"People are pods. Many of my associates are certainly pods. They have no feelings. They exist, breathe, sleep. To be a pod means that you have no passion, no anger, the spark has left you…of course, there’s a very strong case for being a pod. These pods, who get rid of pain, ill-health and mental disturbances are, in a sense, doing good. It happens to leave you in a very dull world but that, by the way, is the world that most of us live in. It’s the same as people who welcome going into the army or prison. There’s regimentation, a lack of having to make up your mind, face decisions…. People are becoming vegetables. I don’t know what the answer is except an awareness of it. That’s what makes a picture like Invasion of the Body Snatchers important."

I think it's because of the i, o and k in the languages :D

hugh! The Japanese are nothing like the English - how is this? The English are rude, crass, drunk "lager louts" and "football hooligans" without their own cultural identity, being that most people there dress like Americans (infact England is part of America is it not!?), and are increasingly becoming a fat and obese nation, their number one cultural dish is Indian (though this is a positive - yummy yummy!)and have no social etiquette to recall or adopt.

Why do you say Koreans are like Italians? I don't think at all that Finnish are British of Europe! If you speak with a Swedish guy, he would think in an opposite way. I think that each Country has its own good things and it's no use to tease each other. No use to say than when in Italy Galilei was discovery Jupiter satellites, in Finlad people had grass-made shoes. Please, be kind and you get kindness in return.
Best wishes.

Why do you say Koreans are like Italians? I don't think at all that Finnish are British of Europe! If you speak with a Swedish guy, he would think in an opposite way. I think that each Country has its own good things and it's no use to tease each other. No use to say than when in Italy Galilei was discovering Jupiter satellites, in Finlad people had grass-made shoes. Please, be kind and you get kindness in return.
Best wishes.

Are Finns related to Asians? Where can I
get more information?

I myself am a Finn, and let me tell you, most Finnish men are jerks. Especially when they are drunk. The violence that occurs during these times is very shocking to foreign eyes, but it still isn't all that simple. You shouldn't see the fact as that, since not all women have been treated violently, and it mostly occurs only with older men. I'm not trying to make it a small thing, but it really isn't A PROBLEM. What I can tell here, is that the violence will most likely stop. This is a new era we're living in, everyone should accept each other the way we are. Of course there are exceptions, like Alvar Aalto, but we're not all the same still... So, I, as a 14 year old Finnish boy, tell this to you people: Finland is the best country ever to live in. We have such a gorgeous landscape here, and the people are not comparable to each other. Finns differ from other Finns too! I just don't see any similarity to the Asian. Maybe our language may sound like Japanese, to some ears, but we differ very much from Japan and Finnish differs from Japanese. We are a unique country, come visit us! Take care,


I think that finnish people are just missunderstanded... There are lot of this so called missleading infomation of finnish people. To understand finnish people you should meet one or two and became friends.

Also not all finnish people are violent or use too much alcohol. I admit that many finnish males are jerks and immature, but this in only 1/3 of finnish males.

And yeah you wont get good image of finnish people before you meet one and become friends with him/her. Finnish people does not tend to running around and yelling I love you, lets dance, whoo hoo hoo. (I myself tend to do this alot..., but still)

And I think that finnish people are proud of many things. And I think that they should be. We have many wonderfull things in here Finland.

I suggest that you come and see yourself, if you don't believe. Also don't believe everything that you read or heard of finnish people.

And yes I am finnish male also...

And I am out...

When I visited the History Museum in Helsinki, I was struck by a map of the world seen from the North Pole, showing the various folk groups, mostly very small ones, strung out along the northern edge of Siberia, from the Sami and Finns and Estonians (all related culturally and linguistically in clear ways) to Samoyeds, etc. From there it is less of a jump to Korea and Japan, somehow related peoples and distinct physically from the Han Chinese and Tibetans, than it is,say, from the Turks' original homeland to Istanbul, or from the Malayo-Polynesian homeland to Madagascar. People get around and their languages change as they do so. Still,
Japanese question : = + "ka" to the verb / Finnish question = + "ko" to the verb
Inugoya = dog house (J); koja (F) a hut
maybe : J: byoki "ill" parallels F: pjåkig brought into Swedish.
1 = ichi (J) / (F) yksi
I am looking for more parallels.