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Japan's World Happiness Ranking: A Tale of Subjectivity and Perception




Keywords and phrases:

renowned: famous

objective: based on fact

subjectivity: based on personal opinion

bias: a misleading presentation of data; prejudice against a particular group that causes unfairness

per capita: per person

equate to: the same as, equal to

humility: the quality of having a modest or low view of one's importance

in the end: after all

contentment: a state of happiness and satisfaction



Hello friends.


Japan is a nation renowned for its rich cultural heritage, technological advancements, and high levels of public safety, hygiene and services. Despite its strengths, I am often surprised by its relatively low position on the world happiness ranking according to the World Happiness Report (WHR). While the data behind these rankings is presented as objective, the underlying criteria used is subjective and raises questions about biases that negatively impact Japan's ranking. However, the ultimate truth remains that those living in Japan find happiness not in the rankings but in the comfort of our daily lives.


The WHR is published annually and ranks countries based on factors like income, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, trust, and generosity. Though these criteria appear objective, they are subject to interpretation and cultural context. For instance, the importance of social support may vary between societies, and the definition of “happiness” is not universal. Japan's emphasis on hard work and societal harmony, for instance, may lead to lower scores of the overall happiness rankings even though they greatly contribute to well-being in Japanese society. We also know that a high GDP per capita does not necessarily equate to individual happiness. This calls into question the universality of the criteria used in ranking individual countries.


To make things even more complicated, part of the ranking includes subjective satisfaction, which means Japanese people are asked to scale their own level of happiness. Well, as you know, Japan’s high regard for humility will not allow choices in the extremes; therefore, Japanese people tend to choose numbers that are around the middle no matter how happy the really are.


In the end, those living in Japan know that it is a happy place. We are surrounded by safety, convenience, punctual deliveries, amazing foods and people that take pride in their work. What I feel and observe every day in Japan is contentment, which reminds me that true happiness lies beyond numbers and rankings. Living in Japan is a pleasure that must be experienced to really understand, and, in my humble opinion, is arguably one of the happiest countries in the world based on the criteria that is important to those who live here…and let’s just leave it at that.


Wishing you health and happiness, always.


Mark Tofflemire

Tailor Made Inc.

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