The common image of Japan abroad is of a high-tech country — a place of robots and flashing neon lights and the latest beeping gadgets in everyone's hands. As a British person living in Japan, I regularly get comments from people back home like: "Wow, Japan! What a high-tech world you must live in."

Well, no. In fact, I will hazard a claim: The U.K. is a considerably more high-tech country than Japan. And please, before anyone mistakes this for just another attack on Japan, I urge you to read right to the end of the article.

Granted, Japan may have the most robots in the world, including the much-trumpeted Pepper from SoftBank, which is even supposed to be able to read human emotions. But even in these areas, Japan is falling behind. The Robotics Society of Japan notes that up until 2000, Japan produced around 90 percent of all robots in the world, but that the figure has now declined to only about 60 percent.