Japanese Lies

A book review via The Gude. I say ‘book review’ but it is really more of a heartfelt diatribe:

And yes, I did see the islands of Matsushima the second time around. The skies were clear. I listened to the guide explaining the splendid sights. The tourists around me didn’t seem to be paying much attention to what she said. Well, well, I thought, Japan has changed. Then I realized they were all Chinese.

Having read it i have no idea if the books being reviewed are any good, and will have to resort to buying them to find out. That said, i have a great deal of sympathy with the tone of said diatribe, and recommend reading it.

Do let me know if you’ve come across either of the books, and can make a case for them being purchased / avoided. In theory i’ve had my fill of westerners having a japanese navel gaze.

Lack of Willpower…

Unable to resist posting this.

My evidence for my theory that optimism is the modern disease:

One of Britain’s most closely watched economic indicators has heavily overstated the quantity of high street sales over the past two years, the Office for National Statistics admitted on Friday.

Britain’s supplier of official statistics conceded that since the financial crisis began in August 2007, it has overstated the volume of retail sales growth by 56 per cent.

Well, i suppose there is always the possibility of hiding behind incompetence… and besides, it’s not like anything is based on the income generated from VAT, or measures of disposable income.

Boundless Optimism!

The worst is over! Or, the end is nigh! I have no idea, but suspect i’m in good company…

U.S. employers cut a smaller-than-expected 539,000 jobs in April, the smallest amount since October, according to government data on Friday that hinted at some improvement in the labor market and the recession-hit economy.

March’s payrolls figure was revised to show a decline of 699,000, compared with a previously reported drop of 663,000. Job losses in February were bumped up to 681,000 from the previously estimated 651,000.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast non-farm payrolls dropping 590,000 in April.

Despite being out in their estimate by not much more than the previous months numbers were revised, this change of rate of decline(!) “hinted at some improvement”.

Here’s another idea: with the jobless rate at a 25 year high, the number of jobs that can be immediately axed without damaging the long term health of enterprises is fast approaching. All the fat, the reserves for future growth, are being trimmed away, and what follows will be more akin to weightloss via amputation.

Delicate Balance

Living in Japan is a delicate balance for me. There are aspects of this society that i find repellant, difficult to cope with, and wish i could change, but know that i can’t. This results in the construction of a fairly complex set of interrelated “justifications” that make life bearable. This set is far from being consistent, not only in terms of my world view, but within itself. 

Consequently when events occur that upset this delicate balance the whole lot comes crashing down. This usually leaves me in turn, confused, angry, resentful, deflated, bitter, and finally… well, i don’t really know where i am when i’m back at peace. Denial? I sense a nasty cycle here somewhere…

This process isn’t unique to living in Japan; it was the same in England, and certainly in America. What seems to be hard to cope with when living outside of the anglo-saxon sphere is that the balance of societies actions does not always flow in my direction.

Is this how a black kid in Brixton feels when the police stop him every week for walking down the street? Or how Pakistanis in Birmingham feel when their idea of the law does match up with the reality of the british justice system? A migrant worker in L.A? A North African in Paris? A Turk in Hamburg?

None of those things have ever effected my on a personal level – by which i mean that  they have an impact on me, but not directly. They are aspect of those societies that offend my sense of justice, but they are someone else’s battle. This seems reasonable to me, other people are civil right organisers, fighters for equality, etc.

In Japan things get much closer to being personal. Whenever one of these ‘unbalancing’ events happens around me, the frustration drives me to want to get organised, fight back… there is a reason that the 在日韓国人 can get a better deal from the government than other permanent residents – they are organised.

For right or wrong (mostly the later) racial relations in Japan are more complicated than simple racism. There are certainly aspects of simple minded xenophobia, nationalism, racial hatred, and yes, it is institutionalised in the bureaucracy, police, justice system, but my daily experience in Japan isn’t a barrage of abuse, threats of violence, or even prejudice…

This cycle always ends with me thinking that i could always leave and start again somewhere else… but that’s eventually going to lead me to a similar but different set of justifications as i understand a new aspect of man’s behaviour towards man.

And here we are, back to constructing the structure of stupid generalisations, and half-truths that let me stop ranting and get back to work.