When Big Pharma wanted to open up the (huge) Japanese market to antidepressant sales, they first had to create the concept of “depression” in a culture and language where it previously did not exist. There were words for profound sadness and grief, but these would not be things the Japanese would be open to taking pills for – they’re spiritual affectations that the individual must work through by her/himself with the help of family and friends. In a much more collectivist culture, happiness of the group is valued over personal happiness.; the individualist, somewhat secretive act of pill-popping, was not a natural thing to incorporate into Japanese culture. I cannot find the image right now, but in a pop-psychology magazine that was sitting in a doc’s waiting room or cast aside at the library one day, I found a cartoon of one sad fish surrounded by many happy fish. When Americans were asked if most of the fish in the tank were “happy”, the answer was a resounding “yes”. In Japan, the answer was a resounding “no” – if one member of the group isn’t happy, how could anyone else be happy, despite the expressions on their faces? It is the job of the other fish to take care of the sad fish – why aren’t they?
Maybe his soul has caught a cold, and thus s/he can only seek help from a doctor. To market antidepressants in Japan, a new word was created by the pharmaceutical industry, or rather a new term – “kokoro no kaze”. The literal translation of the expression means “one’s soul/heart has caught a cold”. This kind of sickness can be treated like a cold – by taking a pill to get rid of “symptoms”.
The concept of “kokoro no kaze” (???), a previously non-existent term in the Japanese language, caught on quickly. A flurry of self-help books on the topic, and ads for antidepressants followed.
Kokoro no Kaze – original book on the new condition
I couldn’t find any ads with images of men, so this appears to be a “disorder” marketed towards women, although I’m sure many a Japanese businessman relies on psychopharmaceuticals of some sort.
The ads look shinier somehow, compared with North American ads.