Friday, November 03, 2006


Back in the mid/late-eighties when I was in college and Japan's economy was peaking, there were all kinds of "the sky is falling" stories about how much better educated the Japanese were than nearly anyone else in the history of the universe. We knew this was true because they consistently had high scores on multiple-choice paper tests. We never noticed that Japanese education is heavily weighted towards memorizing huge quantities of "facts" for little other reason than passing tests. Few noticed that a Japanese university education is a joke---little to no studying takes place in a Japanese university for the majority of "students." Foolish non-Japanese professors who come to Japan to "teach" at a university have found out about this tradition of non-study when they were asked by the fine, polite, obedient Japanese, "Why do we have to study? This is a JAPANESE university." But the idea of a superior Japanese education fit in well with the unique Japan myth.

We get to see this superior education every day. We poorly-educated non-Japanese are often shocked by such facts as "Japan is the ONLY country with four seasons." One could wonder how anyone with any basic understanding of seasons, or climate, or the earth could think this, but that would be because one is too dumb and foreign to understand Japan.

I was talking to a guy (an engineer with an American company in Tokyo) the other day and brought up male colorblindness (the tendency of many males to have some degree of colorblindness to some greens/reds. Naturally, with his superior education and strong belief in nihonjinron, as well as the knowledge that all non-Asians have blue eyes and can see in the dark like a cat, informed me that this was because of our blue eyes. Strangely enough, I never said that this was a characteristic of only blue-eyed non-Japanese, but he figured it was. I was foolish enough to believe that Japanese males were members of the human race like everyone else, but I forgot that they were different, special, unique, and much better educated.

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