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Japan Zone - I think the title conjours up one of two impressions of what the site is about. One, it provides a detailed, in-depth profile of a country which, while having a profound influence on the late twentieth century, is still shrouded in a cultural mist for many people; getting to the heart of this corporate behemoth, it shows you what makes it tick, guiding you through its murkier cultural waters and generally bombarding you with an avalanche of superfluous metaphors.

Or perhaps it runs deeper than that. Perhaps the title refers more to the idea of having a zone in your mind or in your life that is occupied - preoccupied, even - with Japan. Maybe you only want to enter Japanese cyberspace and have your curiosity satisfied there. Or you may want to spend some time 'in-country' - and survive with your body, sanity and dignity intact. For some people, the time they spend in Japan is like a prison sentence. Restrictive of mind and body, unyielding in its rules and regulations and constantly reminding you of your 'outsider' status, life in Japan can take its toll. You can go it alone or you can look to the veterans to help you out.

Because you see, those poor souls who didn't survive the ordeal in one piece didn't have what you have - access to an authoritative Web site on this fabulous, frustrating, frivolous and oh-so-foreign country. That's what Japan Zone is - a mix of both of the above. A trusty guide with enough healthy cynicism to make sure you get through the Far East Experience and come back for more.

Of course I accept absolutely no liability for anyone who, having read these humble pages, still gets deported kicking and screaming in a straight-jacket.

Mark McBennett (you really want to know more about me?)

Japanese usage
The usage of Japanese words in English can cause some confusion. This comes from the fact that some sounds in Japanese cannot be correctly, or clearly, represented with the English alphabet. This site does not use Japanese text (except in graphics) and has not made a particular effort to represent Japanese words "correctly". The exception is the language sections, which give a rough introduction to the Japanese alphabets and some useful expressions. The correctness of the Japanese included really only becomes an issue when it is spoken, and the teaching of correct Japanese is not within the scope of this site.

Example of Japanese text

Japanese people's names are given in the standard form used in Japanese: the family name first, followed by the given name. There has been some discussion over the years in Japan as to whether the western approach should be adopted when representing names in English. Opinion remains divided. I adopted the traditional approach as I think it gives a more "Japanese" feel to the names.

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