Friday, October 15, 2010


from conversations this week:

"I'm worried that foreigners will think Japan was wrong (on Senkaku) because we gave in to China."

"I think Ozawa, Hatoyama, and Kan are terrible. They gave in to China. We need to show the world Japan's 'will.'" (Discussing Senkaku).

"If China had done that to the US, I think there would have been a war." (Senkaku dispute.)

"I think there should be mandatory military service in Japan to bring patriotism to the young." (US born, LDP supporter. Very "patriotic" who admires the US. Unfortunately, he has an often simplistic or outright wrong view of the US. Decent guy, not a nut. I would say he is simply politically conservative.)

"All Americans have to go in the military if there is a war."

"America is very important for world peace" A reply to my statement of fact that the US cannot continue funding it's current contribution to "world peace" via the military. Time for the "peace country" to show us how it is done?

"We Japanese promised the world we would have no more wars." Same conversation as above. (Was that the US written article 9 he was referring to?) Bottom line: the US is forever supposed to "protect" Japan.

"We shouldn't have to go in the military because we would lose time for learning job skills and foreign languages." (Perhaps Japanese are just as ignorant about the military as Americans. I suppose the lack of opportunity to learn a foreign language is more accurate for the SDF, but folks who work on F-16s might just have a few skills. They surely as hell have more marketable and practical skills than some goofball who majored in such things as Asian Studies).

Gee, nothing totally insane this week. Just enough to reinforce my opinion that most Japanese whom I know---nah, in general---haven't the slightest clue of what the US is or is not.* And little attention is paid to possible repercussions of Japan showing it's "will" or saying "no." Just the mere act of Japan doing so, will somehow impress the hell out of the rest of the world, and Japan will then...ummmmm...what? Win?

Several years ago there was a CM on TV with a popular comedian---I forget his name, but one of a pair who often appear on TV---who was at a meeting full of non-Japanese. He was in some disagreement with them and stood up and shouted in English "No!" The foreigners were taken aback that this Japanese fellow could say "no." A common fantasy that goes no further, it seems.

The US media does a terrible job covering Japan. The Japanese media is little better as far as the US is concerned. I am often amused by folks who claim that Japanese know much more about the US than Americans (US) do about Japan. Yes, people may be familiar with the names of all of the states, some US history (The One with Whom I Share a Mansion is extremely knowledgeable about US history and was even before she attended a US university. She is a rare case though), but as the unquestioning acceptance of Fujiwara Masahiko's book of pure horsepooky proved, most haven't a clue.

What a slow week. It might improve tomorrow as I go drinking with The Oz Lady.

*after nearly 11 years here, neither do I.

1600: Edited to add a few more that I remembered.


  1. Europeans see the US as the most serious threat to the world peace as well as Israel (at least in the Bush era).

    Japan is a peace-seeking nation which supported US invasion in Iraq.

  2. "...most Japanese whom I know---nah, in general---haven't the slightest clue of what the US is or is not.

    Actually, I think that most of the world doesn't know what America is and is not. Most people get their idea of what America is from distorted media coverage. The problem is that the situation in America is far more complex than most people realize, or care to understand. The fact that people ask questions about what things are like in America as if the entire country were the same, from weather to law to crime rates, is the first hint that they don't have a clue what America is. What it is foremost is a place which operates quite differently than any other country in the world due to the way in which the states have been given power and freedom. It's like 50 little countries, not one big one. Understanding that is the stepping off point to getting to know America, not viewing it as some powerful, scary monolithic entity.

  3. Masa: Oh, I know very well about what many think of the US. That is why I believe we should withdraw as many of our forces from overseas as possible---most actually---and get out of the "Save the world from itself" business. Let other countries take care of their own affairs.

    Orchid64: I always appreciate the fact that we are expected to explain the US in a simple, easy to understand sound bite.

  4. Jeffrey6:24 AM

    I second Orchid64. There is no such thing as a "typical American" (just as there is no such thing as a typical Japanese, Chinese, Canadian, etc.). But it goes beyond the simple fact that we are all individuals. The U.S. is just so big geographically and has had so much immigration over the last 150 years that a sense of commonality beyond the superficial is laughable.

    Sixty years after the beginning of "the single most important bi-lateral relationship in the world," the lack of real interest or understanding between the U.S. and Japan is pathetic. But then, considering how ignorant so many 'merkans remain even about Canada, it's not particularly surprising.

    And I couldn't agree more with D that we need to "bring the boys (and girls) home." Given what modern warfare and national security have become, the need for "forward positioned men and material" is just short of stupid, unless you think that spending hundreds of billions of dollars for keeping troops at the ready all over the globe is a good use of tax dollars. And what is so bizarre about this is that the majority of Americans who will lecture you about how much money the government wastes still think that a military budget, approaching $700 billion a year (about 23% of our total annual budget), is sacrosanct. We could literally not spend a dime on new weapons for a decade and still have the most lethal military on Earth. In fact, doing so would probably make the Chinese and the Sovie, er, I mean the Russians think twice about their comparatively paltry expenditures.