There is the Japan of bullet trains and humanoid robots. And there is the Japan of printed documents, humming faxes and an economy still largely dependent on cash. Its bureaucracy lives with at least one foot in the past, with a deeply ingrained desire to do things as they have always been done."
Welcome to Hatsunia.
(Kerbal Space Program - modified Real Solar System. This takes place in a parallel universe, in which the landmass always looked like this.)
Semi-seriously creating a techno-progressive country that addresses various criticisms of Japanese society, didn't go down the same path as Imperial Japan, and isn't hindered by conservatism (resistance to change and innovation).
What Hatsunia is not about:
waifu body pillows, hentai, being all about anime
At first glance, it definitely looks that way. But there is a purpose to this.
"Weeaboo" originally meant the kind of person who idealizes and wants to live in Japan for the anime/pop culture, while ignoring the social issues there. Of course, there's more to a society than anime.
(actually, it didn't mean anything originally; it was a nonsense word from the webcomic "Perry Bible Fellowship," then used as a replacement for "wapanese" [white/wannabe Japanese] on the imageboard 4chan)
Anti-weeaboos love to point out Japan's problems. "There is institutional xenophobia and sexism." "The work culture is oppressive and inefficient." "I would visit Japan, but I would never live there."
In the 1980s, people expected that Japan would economically take over the world (albeit with xenophobia against the Japanese). Now, people complain that the Japanese economy is outdated and uncompetitive.
Hatsunia represents an informed idealization of Japan's missed potential and room for improvement, made with the awareness of often-criticized social and economic issues in Japan.
What would really make Japan a better society to live and work in? With an economy that could say "the world is mine"? What if the society was less xenophobic? What if workplaces were more tech-savvy, and less toxic?
It doesn't have to be perfect either, it just needs to not systemically "lag behind" other developed countries. This is the kind of country that would rank high in the World Happiness Report (and not at #62).
(This is not meant to dismiss all Japanese culture or people as inherently "backwards" either.)
(Disclaimer: This is pseudo-alternate history, and wasn't meant to diverge from actual history or be a highly-realistic scenario.)
The history of Hatsunia mostly parallels Japan up until the early modern era. Instead of following an isolationist "sakoku" policy, the government adopts a non-interventionist policy, in which it engages in seafaring trade around the world (which is also encouraged by the island geography) but doesn't colonize anything either. The result is that racial supremacist sentiments don't become entrenched. There is more foreign contact, and the society gets used to it. Instead of militant feudalism lasting until the mid-19th century with an abrupt transition into a modern society, a more gradual transition is had.
Social reform movements in the 18th century lead to the development of a modern constitution in 1868 with less feudal baggage, and a civilian-controlled military. Western-style democracy is emulated, but not discriminatory colonialism. The only exception would be the purchase of Micronesian (pronounced with a mee-) islands from Spain in the late 19th century, but the inhabitants are also given equal rights. Natural resources are gained through trade rather than annexation and oppression, which averts all the resentment people would have had.
Because democracy, liberty, and social equality have stronger roots, Hatsunia does not descend into militarism during the Great Depression. It joins the Allies during WWII against an Axis China, and leaves the war mostly unscathed (Germany was nuked instead). After the war, the Mutual East Asian Cooperation Union is formed, becoming a sincere version of the so-called "co-prosperity sphere," and reflecting a more globalized and less insular outlook.
An information technology industry forms in the capital city of Miraito, known as the "Silicon Metropolis." Without having to recover from embargoes and nuclear bombings, and without post-war restrictions, Hatsunia can invest more in electronics and aerospace technologies, including more practical robotics systems. English is made an official language in 1967, which benefits the burgeoning IT industry as early computers are not powerful enough to handle kanji.
Today, Miraito develops the latest in software, personal computers, and smartphones, and its companies are globally competitive (although not too powerful, this isn't cyberpunk). Government and private services have mostly become paperless (no hanko required, just digital signatures), and the cybersecurity minister is more knowledgeable about computers. One advantage Miraito has over Silicon Valley is that it isn't afraid to build higher density housing. The growth of the tech industry has encouraged the construction of a few arcologies, such as the Sky Mile Tower.
In the 1960s, Hatsunia is not a leader in the space race, but doesn't have a late start either. As Hatsunia's economy reforms and becomes more digitized and connected to the rest of the world, a fully reusable heavy launch system called Mikumaru (in a similar role to this) is able to be developed in 2007. It enables a low-cost revolution in space access, with the first humans landing on Mars in 2016, and space hotels and lunar bases being built by 2020.
With well-established IT infrastructure and services, Hatsunia is more than prepared to handle the economic impact of a pandemic.
Work culture in Hatsunia is based on merit, innovation, and productivity instead of rigid hierarchies with seniority, strict adherence to outdated traditions like fax machines, and overwork. Social institutions also have a greater emphasis on racial and gender equality (thus attracting more foreign talent and supporting higher fertility rates), and a balance between individualism and collectivism.
By 2050 cars will be driving themselves; 3-D printers will be coughing out products as blithely as 2-D printers today cough out words and phrases; robots will be doing so much for us that we risk finding ourselves with nothing to do for ourselves — and Japan to be stuck in manga- and anime-land instead of leading this charge into the future?"