by Max Barry

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What is Hatsunia?

"Japan often feels like a country that rushed to embrace an exciting high-tech future decades ago, and then abruptly stopped when boom turned to bust in the 1990s, leaving islands of older technologies like stranded relics...

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."

"In a country where warehouse workers use Linkmechanized exoskeletons to lift heavy packages and a chart-topping Linkpop singer is a hologram, many in Japan are frustrated and perplexed by the government’s insistence on using old technologies for a wide range of bureaucratic tasks."

What if it never stopped? What if a country like Japan wasn't held back by "ingrained" harmful traditions and was still leading the way to a high-tech future?

Welcome to LinkHatsunia.

(Kerbal LinkSpace Program - modified Real Solar System. This takes place in a parallel universe, in which the landmass always looked like this.)

What Hatsunia is about:
Semi-seriously creating a Linktechno-Linkprogressive country that addresses various criticisms of Japanese society, didn't go down the same path as Imperial Japan, and isn't hindered by Linkconservatism (resistance to change and innovation).

The Japanese economy Linkmissed the Linksoftware revolution. Hatsunia embraced it. Thus, it is inspired by a personified Linksoftware whose name means "the first sound of the future."

What Hatsunia is not about:
waifu body pillows, hentai, being all about anime

"Isn't this just how weebs expect Japan to be?"
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)

LinkAnti-weeaboos love to Linkpoint out Japan's problems. "There is institutional Linkxenophobia and Linksexism." "The work culture is Linkoppressive and Linkinefficient." "I would visit Japan, but I would never live there."
In the 1980s, people expected that Japan would economically Linktake over the world (albeit with Linkxenophobia Linkagainst Linkthe Japanese). Now, people Linkcomplain 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 "Linklag behind" other developed countries. This is the kind of country that would rank high in the LinkWorld 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 Linkwasn'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 Linkracial 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 Linkdescend into militarism during the Great Depression. It joins the Allies during WWII against an LinkAxis 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 Linkinsular 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 Linkrestrictions, Hatsunia can Linkinvest more in electronics and aerospace technologies, including more Linkpractical 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 Linkkanji.

Today, Miraito develops the latest in software, personal computers, and smartphones, and its companies are Linkglobally competitive (although not too powerful, this isn't cyberpunk). Government and private services have mostly become Linkpaperless (no Linkhanko required, just digital signatures), and the Linkcybersecurity minister is more knowledgeable about computers. One advantage Miraito has over Silicon Valley is that it isn't Linkafraid to build higher density housing. The growth of the tech industry has encouraged the construction of a few arcologies, such as the LinkSky Mile Tower.

In the 1960s, Hatsunia is not a leader in the space race, but doesn't have a Linklate 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 Linkthis) 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 Linkspace hotels and Linklunar bases being built by Link2020.

With well-established IT infrastructure and services, Hatsunia is more than prepared to Linkhandle the economic impact of a pandemic.

Work culture in Hatsunia is based on merit, innovation, and productivity instead of Linkrigid hierarchies with Linkseniority, strict adherence to outdated traditions like fax machines, and overwork. Social institutions also have a greater emphasis on Linkracial and Linkgender equality (thus attracting more Linkforeign talent and supporting higher Linkfertility rates), and a Linkbalance between individualism and collectivism.

"Hatsune Miku, due to her nature, tends to attract those who are tech savvy. Myself included. Shoutout to fellow tech-savvy Miku fans!"

"Since living in Japan the reality of day-to-day life isn’t really any more tech or futuristic than it is in any other developed city or country. But in my photography, I try to create the illusion that it is some kind of digital future world that lives up to my childhood expectation of the place."

"Going digital is a global trend in such places as the United States and Europe. If Japan continues to stick to traditional practices based on paper and hanko [personal stamps], I think it won’t be able to do business internationally."

"Silicon Valley attracts talent from around the world, whereas Japan keeps tight limits on immigration... 'To get some sense of the impact of immigration in high tech, imagine what would happen to Silicon Valley if every U.S. tech company fired all their foreign-born workers,' said [David] Weinstein, who teaches about the Japanese economy. 'U.S. leadership would collapse.'"

"What is Cool Japan? Manga, anime, Japanese food — cool, but hardly the economic lifeblood of a nation whose cutting-edge technology, world-leading research and fierce work ethic could be setting the world on fire.

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?"

The State of Hatsunia