Two tales are often told about Japan. The first is of a nation in decline, with a shrinking and ageing population, sapped of its vitality. The second is of an alluring, hyper-functional, somewhat eccentric society—a nice place to eat sushi or explore strange subcultures, but of little wider relevance to the outside world. Both tales lead people to dismiss Japan. That is a mistake.

I've found a meaning that says "characterized by excessive activity". But It seems unfit in this context.

  • It's not clear to me either (native English speaker). I assume it is using functional in the sense of "In good working order", with hyper- as an intensifier.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 11, 2021 at 13:27

2 Answers 2


Alternatively, from the definition you found "characterized by excessive activity" it may be interpreted as the work ethic of many of the Japanese, the "salary men", who work long hours. Or the alleged competitive nature of the education system where the students also work very hard to get the best grades and improve their chances of good jobs.


"functional" means that it functions well.

Hyper is a productive element (you can freely add it to other words to create new words) that has the sense of "extremely" or sometimes "too much".

So to say that Japan is "hyper-functional" means that it functions extremely well or even that it functions too well (?!).

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