Thursday, September 15, 2005

I often feel that I am too hard on Japan

on this blog. I get tired of the Japanapologists---the vast majority foreigners---who apologize and explain away everything that happens in Japan because the Japanese are unique and pure of heart and intent. Japan, like every country and culture has its unique aspects, but it ain't uniquely unique. The Japanese are not always polite, they are not weird or inscrutable. They are not "mysterious," they are not WW2 type imperialists. Many are truly---though unrealistically pacifist. Most especially if it means Japan has to get involved. Some, like blinky Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo are blatant racists. Racism---or racialism as I have heard it described perhaps more accurately---runs beneath the surface of Japanese society. Often it is hidden, but it is easy to find. Apologists will excuse that because they themselves are bigots and believe that no better can be expected of the Japanese. Then again, many Japanese are not racist and are as opposed to it as anyone. Japan is not a crime-free society, nor is it the "safest" in the world as is often claimed. (Show me some figures that support this claim.)

I started thinking this over after seeing a Japanese news program in which they interviewed some foreigners about their beliefs about Japan before visiting here. A few said they had thought that Japan was the most opposite culture to America or England on earth, and were surprised to find this to be untrue.

This is the fault of people like Edwin Reischauer---the Harvard historian and former ambassador to Japan, who wrote some of the most obviously ridiculous nonsense ever written about Japan. Unfortunately, he was very influential in Asian Studies in the US until the old fool kicked the bucket in September of 1990. At that time I was in college finishing a BA in Asian Studies. Japanese who were in some of the classes we used his books in would say, in class, that what he wrote was not true. Too bad the old coot took so long to expire. Most people now understand how idiotic his sugar-coated bullshit was.

Hollywood movies like The Last Samurai, Mr. Baseball, Shogun, Lost in Translation don't help. They push the idea that Japan and the Japanese are weird, or 18th century warriors, or inscrutable. One recurring theme is the dirty, filthy, uncouth foreigner comes to Japan and gradually accepts the Japanese way and in the end is accepted by the Japanese as one of them, and is actually more Japanese than the Japanese. This garbage is so unrealistic as to be comical.

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