Quote Japan

Interesting, odd, outrageous or informative quotes about Japan

Shutting Out the Sun inaccuracies

– “South Korea exhibits few of Japan’s social symptoms- the high level of male suicide, the rapidly shrinking population, the record-low birthrate, and the mysterious syndrome known as hikikomori”pg 223.Only the last is true, and even that is echoed by the Korean addiction to computer games.

– He uses Korean football’s use of Guus Hiddink to suggest their openness to outsiders (pg 226), but Japan also had a foreign coach in 2002 (and most of the time since)

– “…or in an older neighborhood like Kanda, it is common to see red-faced drunks in expensive suits” pg 215. That would make him the first person to ever be struck by how expensive suits are in Kanda, rather than how cheap and tacky

– “In Japan, committing suicide can also have the salutary effect of cleansing a family’s name. Once you die, the thinking goes, the neighbors will stop saying bad things about you” pg 196.

That he could possibly think the Japanese are so different from other humans that they wouldn’t gossip about a neighbor’s suicide says a lot about this author. A book I read recently that describes funerals of people having who have committed suicide suggests, unsurprisingly, that the additional shame and tradegy are exactly what they would be anywhere else. What’s more, every fictional suicide I have seen was followed by the family moving out of the local area.

– He concentrates on suicide caused by mental problems in seemingly normal, well off and/or sucessful people, whereas the largest and fastest growing groups are the elderly, sick,and people in debt

– He takes the LDP being more popular than ever (when he wrote the book) as a sign of the country’s resistance to change, whereas the reason why Koizumi reversed the electoral decline of the LDP is exactly the opposite- proof that people would vote for someone who was more reform minded than the opposition (pg 115)

– “Japanese might endlessly refine the tiny motors that power disk drives… but they could never master the revolutionary architecture of the Pentium microprocessor or the software to run it”

No Japanese never?? Would that mean there are no Japanese working in Silicon Valley then?? I might also ask how someone who apparently spent a year talking to psychologists in Japan got to be such an expert on the intricacies of technology and the technology industry

– “…when the United States imposed democracy on the Japanese people…they did not enter into it willingly” pg 123.

Easy to prove or disprove this one- what was the turnout in the first postwar election?

– “the Japanese worship many gods, not one”pg 124

Just like Northern Europe, the Japanese worship none. Going through the motions of praying for 2 seconds twice a year is not worship

– “as saffron-robed monks chant sutras…”

Japanese monks don’t wear saffron robes. Their robes are black, white and/ or grey.

– “[in] the period after 1863… a de facto ban on Christian practice remained in place” pg 125. As many famous people in that time including politicians, academics and novelists were Christians, I don’t see how this can be true.

– “The only religious practice indigenous to Japan, the animist Shinto…” pg 127. As many Buddhist sects and cults originated in Japan and animism predates the arrival of humans in Japan and existed everywhere, this hardly seems a useful distinction.

– “Hegel never arrived on Japan’s shores” pg 126 Given the Marxist domination of post war academia, I very much doubt that is true- for better or worse. Unless of course his point is that in the West all ordinary people have been touched by Hegel…

– “…the rise of Internet blogs… developments that Japan, with its rigid organisational style, could never embrace” pg 135. I recently read that Japan has the highest per capita number of blogs in the world

– “This palpable expression of ‘membership’ and the need for ‘belonging’ differs markedly from how Westerners often tend to use fashion” I publically challenge him to find one single sociologist that agrees that Westerners don’t also “often tend to” choose fashion for those reasons.

– “airports are made inconvenient to discourage foreign travel”

As Narita was kept small due to the protests of leftwingers and local farmers and against the plans of the government, I can’t see how it could be a nationalistic plot…

– “Foreigners who come for a visit find it hard to enjoy a country where relatively few natives speak passable English, and few signs, maps, or menus are available in Roman script” pg 144.

In my experience, 90% of foreign visitors are delighted with Japan, at least in part because the language is so exotically alien but it doesn’t matter when there are pictures on menus, people will take you all the way to the right platform etc. I hate to think what his friends are like… Also, in 2006 when this book was published most maps and signs in stations and streets included English, and I am often annoyed at being automatically given an English menu. If however these things are more bilingual where he comes from (the USA), then I will accept that as a valid criticism

– “Identifying an Enron protagonist as ‘Jeffrey Fastow’ (merging Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow) – see p. 101 of the paperback” From an Amazon review

– “When writing of South Korea’s ‘386 Generation,’ Zielenziger assumes they’re named as such due to their technical savvy, i.e., that the moniker refers to Intel’s processor. While it’s a play on that, the ‘386′ number is a formula referring to those Koreans who were in their 30s when president Roh Moo Hyun was elected (the ‘3′), went to university in the eighties (the ‘8′), and were born in the sixties (the ‘6′)” From a review on Amazon.com

– “He claims foreigners will have trouble in Japan because “few signs, maps, or menus are available in Roman script.” That is simply untrue! Even the subway ticket machines have a button to press for English!” From a review on Amazon.com

– He says Omiya is one hour West of Tokyo. It is about 40 minutes North on the North-South Keihin Tohoku line

– “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

“(1) The claim in Shutting Out the Sun that there are more than one million hikikomori in Japan is known to be the fabrication of a publicity seeking shrink named Saito Tamaki.

(2) In 2002 the BBC aired a special taking the line that hikikomori was a syndrome peculiar to Japan. Numerous UK viewers protested that their children or they themselves fit this “uniquely” Japanese pattern.

(3) Korea has a higher suicide rate and a lower birth rate than Japan. The gap between those with secure jobs and good benefits and those with insecure jobs and no benefits is much larger than for Japan. The government has recently been calling attention to the alcoholism problem in Korea.”

From a comment on the Chicago Boyz blog

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