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Japan Diary

October 25, 2009

Japanese Society has changed

(This is an old article dated Oct. 2005, before this site was opened. It was sent out by e-mails.)

Murmur No.1:
--- Japan may be becoming a country which is "worth defending" in the eyes of the public for the first time since W.W.Ⅱ
(Observations below are without statistics. If you need any figures which endorse my views, please let me know. I will send them to you.)

I have been wondering for one year. Japan has become foreign to me during eight years of my stay abroad.
I realize that almost everyone in commuter trains is younger than I. That is a sad revelation that my generation (I was born right after the war, forming the most numerous generation) is now being out of charge of the society.

These younger generations do not read newspapers (they get information via the Internet), and yet are politically rather knowledgeable because the tax and social insurance burden is constantly growing. It is they who caused the dramatic victory of Koizumi in the last election. The younger generations, which are usually apathetic, came to voting this time to express their antipathy to the old guard politicians, who today look so alien on TV.

The popularity of baseball and Sumo-wrestling is constantly going down, and the people's favorite today is soccer games, because they are more dynamic and fast.

Since the bubble economy burst in the beginning of the 90s, college graduates have been finding difficulty in getting a stable life-time employment, and the unsuccessfull youngsters became so-called "neat", who neither work nor associate with others, mostly staying home with parents. However, the larger part have become more independent from corporate-thinking. They manage to survive individually, finding part-time jobs. Even those who found a stable job do not mind quitting it, when they are not satisfied. Japanese atheletes are not playing for the fame of the state any more. They simply challenge the limits of their own capability.

Culture in Japan is now in full blossom. Probably thanks to the cyber-ticket selling, no matter where I go, concerts, theater performances and exihibitions are full of public. The standard has become very high. Be it Western classical music performed by Japanese orchestras, be it "modernized" Kabuki performance, be it contemporary art, the level is higher than in most other countries. And here, too, those "strange" younger generations fill the seats (please imagine to yourself my despair).

 Freedom of speech is fully guranteed. All what used to be holy are now subject to a thorough investigation by the public. Old-type politicians, high-ranking government officials and even public broadcasting (revenue of NHK has drastically decreased) have lost their authority in the past. All in all Japan has become a country which it is confortable to live in and therefore is worth defending. The Japanese youth are still very pacifist, but a natural and largely healthy national pride may be in the offing. And that is a remarkable change, because my generation's attitude toward the government has been rather synical.

I assume that your society is undergoing a similar change. In a sense we are now witnessing a formulation of a new "East Asian civilization", which is based upon traditional aesthetics and is tinted by Western pop-culture.

Japan has been concentrating on economic reconstruction. Now that it is almost over, Japan should again embark upon more active diplomacy. The social change as stated above should be reflected in her foreign policy. For example, Japan should see to it that the mainstays of of her policy toward Eastern Asia is the maintenance of status quo (We are neither militant nor aggressive), maintenance of freedom and assistance for building a prosperous, free and egalitarian society. The society which consists mainly of the middle class is an achievement which East Asian countries can be proud of. Also, the USA should not be repulsed as a foreign force, but should be co-opted for our own benefit as a guarantor of maintenance of the status quo, freedom of speech and economic well-being.
30 October, 2005
Akio Kawato


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