Quote Japan

Interesting, odd, outrageous or informative quotes about Japan

Michael Zielenziger- Quotes from Shutting Out the Sun

NB. You will quickly note that most of the quotes below are chosen to show up the inaccuracies and melodramatic use of language in the book, as most of those quotes have my comments after them. I did find the occassional thing of value in there, though, so there are some quotes of things that were well stated or that taught me something too. 

“nothing in [the Japanese system]… seems to inculcate fundamental tolerance and compassion”

 Shutting Out the Sun pg 121. I don’t know where he’s been living, but I’m on my 8th country and have yet to find a system that is based on tolerance and compassion.

“sixty years after the end of World War Two, it is startling to realize how little Japanese values really have changed”

?? Surely it would be more startling if a country did change its fundamental values in only 60 years, especially 60 successful ones. Seeing as how Japan has almost completely lost Emperor worship, bullying by mother in laws, real religious feeling in weddings and funerals, respect for civil servants ,fear of the police, Marxist domination of academia ,and a desire to have an army and an empire, that makes for more of a change than any other country I know. But of course he doesn’t mean “changed”, he means “become more like us”

“[My] perceptions were reinforced… by conversations with Japanese who understood their society far better than I could”

Shutting Out the Sun pg 122. So, the proof that they understand better is that they agree with him? Or else all Japanese people agree with him, in case the whole argument of his book breaks down. It’s a great trick (shared by Dogs and Demons) of using both the fact that some Japanese people don’t agree with you and the fact that most don’t as support for your argument

“people in this nation are not happy, not happy as individuals. They try to be happy as a group, at the cost of the individual, which is the contradiction. You have to be happy first as an individual.” Hisako Watanabe, a child psychiatrist at Keio University Medical Centre, quoted in “Shutting Out the Sun” pg 88. If only life really was that simple…

 “This man literally did not take one step outside his room for four years. He would occasionally talk through the door to his parents, but they had not set their eyes on him in all that time” Shutting Out the Sun pg 90

“The very first hikikomori was Ameterasu oomikami” Sadasugu Kudo, head of the Tamejuku support centre for hikikomori, Shutting Out the Sun pg 92

“If industrial policy is a matter of ‘picking winners and losers’, then the essence of Japan’s malaise is that it gradually shifted from promoting winners to protecting losers” Economist Richard Katz, quoted in Shutting Out the Sun, pg 105. As someone living in Tokyo rather than looking at graphs from abroad, I would say it is exactly the protection of the weak companies etc that is stopping Japan slipping into the malaise that the UK is in, at least in the short term

“Shutting down scores of bad borrowers and throwing millions of people out of work would violate the nation’s sacred social contract, and cause bankers to lose credibility” pg 106 (believe it or not, that is supposed to a criticism because they didn’t do so!)

“their existence continued to distort the market by keeping wages higher and prices lower than they might otherwise become” (high wages and low prices? Oh dear, what shall we do??)

The Japanese government decided to use a “gentle, Japanese-style clean up”(rather than a harsh Anglo-Saxon -style one,I guess he means

“it would pursue a policy of forbearance rather than inject…$700 billion…”pg106 (how someone can criticize a government for trying to find a way not to spend $700 billion, I really don’t understand!)

“juku, or private “cram schools”, where students often study until ten or eleven o’clock every night” Most Japanese kids do not have juku 5 nights a week (let alone the 7 nights that “every week” could mean), if only because few parents could afford it. Needless to say, you do not see trains full of returning teenagers that late at night either.

“These young adults depend on their parents after they grow up, and really live in a parastic state. Even at thirty or forty years old, the parents support them. This state is very specific to Japan. It doesn’t exist anyplace else in the world.” …apart from Italy,Greece,Spain,most of Latin America, not to mention the well documented recent trend in the USA and UK.Tamaki Saito, quoted in Shutting Out the Sun. I still haven’t worked out whether Michael Zielenzieger’s tendency to accept such statements and wildly inflated statistics plucked out of the air like 1 million hikikomori is due to his obvious ignorance about Japan orjust the more general human tendancy to accept anything that supports what you already believe

“Neither bullying nor acute trauma can really be blamed for Hiro’s social withdrawal. In fact, I could find no single trigger for his decision to drop from the world’s view. He simply ran out of the energy Japanese youth are expected to have for the obstacle course ahead of them.” Shutting Out the Sun pg 39

“At age five Hiro was packed off to juku, or cram school, like other children” This misleadingly suggests that most Japanese 5 year olds go to cram school, whereas it is actually a tiny minority, probably far fewer than the American children submitted to flashcards before than can talk. One of many examples of inaccuracies and colourful language where none is needed in “Shutting Out the Sun” pg 35

“I felt different in a country where the buses don’t always run on time” A 30 year old hikikomori, on the relief in his symptoms on getting out of Japan and visiting Thailand

“Half the people don’t know how bad things are, the rest are in denial” Shutting Out the Sun pg 13

“Sixty years after the end of World War Two, contemporary Japan is at peace, but everyone who lives there knows that something is wrong” Shutting Out the Sun pg 2.

Everyone???? Does he mean not one person in the country has a doubt that the country is screwed? If so, funny that he should then go on later in the book to say that the government is acting like they believe everything is okay…

“[Japan is] a place for people unable to comprehend the moral coordinates of right and wrong as anything other than a rebus for ‘I feel good'” artist Takashi Murakami, quoted in “Shutting Out the Sun” pg 9

“people in this nation are not happy, not happy as individuals. They try to be happy as a group, at the cost of the individual, which is the contradiction. You have to be happy first as an individual.” Hisako Watanabe, a child psychiatrist at Keio University Medical Centre, quoted in “Shutting Out the Sun” pg 88. If only life really was that simple…

 ”This man literally did not take one step outside his room for four years. He would occasionally talk through the door to his parents, but they had not set their eyes on him in all that time” Shutting Out the Sun pg 90

“The very first hikikomori was Ameterasu oomikami” Sadasugu Kudo, head of the Tamejuku support centre for hikikomori, Shutting Out the Sun pg 92

“If industrial policy is a matter of ‘picking winners and losers’, then the essence of Japan’s malaise is that it gradually shifted from promoting winners to protecting losers” Economist Richard Katz, quoted in Shutting Out the Sun, pg 105. As someone living in Tokyo rather than looking at graphs from abroad, I would say it is exactly the protection of the weak companies etc that is stopping Japan slipping into the malaise that the UK is in, at least in the short term

“Shutting down scores of bad borrowers and throwing millions of people out of work would violate the nation’s sacred social contract, and cause bankers to lose credibility” pg 106 (believe it or not, that is supposed to a criticism because they didn’t do so!)

“their existence continued to distort the market by keeping wages higher and prices lower than they might otherwise become” (high wages and low prices? Oh dear, what shall we do??)

The Japanese government decided to use a “gentle, Japanese-style clean up”(rather than a harsh Anglo-Saxon -style one,I guess he means

“it would pursue a policy of forbearance rather than inject…$700 billion…”pg106 (how someone can criticize a government for trying to find a way not to spend $700 billion, I really don’t understand!)

“juku, or private “cram schools”, where students often study until ten or eleven o’clock every night” Most Japanese kids do not have juku 5 nights a week (let alone the 7 nights that “every week” could mean), if only because few parents could afford it. Needless to say, you do not see trains full of returning teenagers that late at night either.

“These young adults depend on their parents after they grow up, and really live in a parastic state. Even at thirty or forty years old, the parents support them. This state is very specific to Japan. It doesn’t exist anyplace else in the world.” …apart from Italy,Greece,Spain,most of Latin America, not to mention the well documented recent trend in the USA and UK.Tamaki Saito, quoted in Shutting Out the Sun. I still haven’t worked out whether Michael Zielenzieger’s tendency to accept such statements and wildly inflated statistics plucked out of the air like 1 million hikikomori is due to his obvious ignorance about Japan orjust the more general human tendancy to accept anything that supports what you already believe

“Neither bullying nor acute trauma can really be blamed for Hiro’s social withdrawal. In fact, I could find no single trigger for his decision to drop from the world’s view. He simply ran out of the energy Japanese youth are expected to have for the obstacle course ahead of them.” Shutting Out the Sun pg 39

“At age five Hiro was packed off to juku, or cram school, like other children” This misleadingly suggests that most Japanese 5 year olds go to cram school, whereas it is actually a tiny minority, probably far fewer than the American children submitted to flashcards before than can talk. One of many examples of inaccuracies and colourful language where none is needed in “Shutting Out the Sun” pg 35

“I felt different in a country where the buses don’t always run on time” A 30 year old hikikomori, on the relief in his symptoms on getting out of Japan and visiting Thailand

“Half the people don’t know how bad things are, the rest are in denial” Shutting Out the Sun pg 13

“Sixty years after the end of World War Two, contemporary Japan is at peace, but everyone who lives there knows that something is wrong” Shutting Out the Sun pg 2.

Everyone???? Does he mean not one person in the country has a doubt that the country is screwed? If so, funny that he should then go on later in the book to say that the government is acting like they believe everything is okay…

“[Japan is] a place for people unable to comprehend the moral coordinates of right and wrong as anything other than a rebus for ‘I feel good’” artist Takashi Murakami, quoted in “Shutting Out the Sun” pg 9

This book is so bad I gave it its own anti-blog- Shutting Down the Bullshit

2 Comments»

[…] list of true and made up negatives about Japan like “Dogs and Demons” and “Shutting Out the Sun” get […]

[…] 2, 2008 at 6:13 am · Filed under 1 The worst book I have ever read about Japan, Shutting Out the Sun, has more or less made up for the dental work I need from gnashing my teeth while reading it, by […]


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