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Encouraging, not comparing, accomplishments

by Amy Chavez

Aging Japan. We hear this phrase all the time. The question is, what are they talking about — the infrastructure? The people? Four Roses whisky?

Everything ultimately ages. Even newborns age. So perhaps to defy “aging Japan,” we need people who age younger, or at least slower. Maybe we should look to the insect world. In the vast insect world, there must be an insect that is born old and gets younger with age. But even if we do find an insect elixir, do we really want to get younger? If we don’t get older, we’ll never get wiser.

Despite the problems with aging Japan, it seems like being elderly is the “in” thing to be. Old people have pensions, they travel, they’re healthy. They climb mountains. In the meantime, the young people are looking for jobs, making paltry incomes and scraping by.

“Fewer elderly people are living with their offspring,” announced a newspaper headline, as if the offspring are loathsome to live with. You have to admit though, who’d want to live with something called “off spring?” Not only does it sound like something mechanically gone awry, also makes you think you might have to make several trips to the hardware store every month to fix it. But I wonder: Is it really true that fewer elderly people are living with their offspring? Or is it that fewer offspring are living with their parents?

As the retirement age goes up, the amount we have to pay into the pension system increases while the outgoing pension payments decrease. It’s the young people who’ll be renting ditches and bus stops to live in when the current pension scheme they pay into runs out. In addition, the young people have less opportunity to work and less job security than their parents did.

Yet from what you read, you get the feeling that Japan disdains their young people. They are isolatos who seem only interested in themselves, video games and anime. They are “freeters” who move from job to job but still find time for leisure activities. They don’t want to get married. And worse, much worse than that, they are not reproducing. Those crazy lazy youth! Makes you wonder who raised these kids.

And now, another blow to the crazy lazy youth: “Eighty year old Yuichiro Miura has become the oldest person to scale Mount Everest,” his management office said. I cannot imagine scaling Mount Everest at 80 any more than I can imagine having a management office. Will the youth ever catch up to these hyperactive octogenarians?

Mirua-san has taught us that we can achieve great things at an advanced age. After all, he first scaled Everest at 70 years old. Perhaps my new ambition should be to scale Mount Everest. That means I still have 20 years to train for my ascent.

Actually, I have been a fan of Miura-san’s for a long time. I was first impressed with his speed skiing down Mount Everest’s South Col in 1970. I was 8 years old at the time and thought, “Cool! I want to do that.”

But now that I’m older, I’d prefer skiing down Mount Fuji, a place that is a little closer to home and where the air isn’t as thin. Miura-san has already done that too. And, I’ve always wanted to ski down the Hyakumeizan (the 100 famous Japanese mountains). If I timed it right, I could still be doing it at 80 and follow in Miura-san’s footsteps to become an octogenarian role model. Should I even live that long.

But no doubt, compared to Miura-san, I am lazy. I skied down a few mountains this year. But did I climb them? No way! I took a helicopter to the top. At 49, I sailed from Japan to the Philippines, but thousands of people before me have done so — since ancient times! At 37 I ran 900 miles, but even that sounds blasé nowadays with 100-mile ultra-marathons becoming de rigueur. And none of those comes even close to scaling Mount Everest.

Miura-san is an exceptional athlete. He is an advisor for North Face Japan and helped make the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji 100-Mile Ultra-marathon possible.

While he may have summited Everest at 80, young people should not despair. It was they who came up with the technology to make the advanced high-tech equipment that Miura-san used to be able to climb Everest at 80. It was also they who supported Miura-san, cheered him on and made him their hero.

I think Mirua-san would agree that we shouldn’t lose site of the fact that even our small accomplishments should be applauded.

Just because he scaled Everest at 80 doesn’t mean everyone should. A 90-year-old woman working in her vegetable garden in 40-degree heat, tilling the soil with a hand plow, is also great. A child who studies hard for years and makes an excellent grade on the TOEFL test is also admirable. A person who faces a terminal illness is just as brave. And a young person absorbed in video games and anime may become the one who finds a cure for cancer. Or aging.

So while Miura-san’s feat is a boon to octogenarians around the world, let’s hope that his accomplishment shows not just what people can do in old age, but what we can all attain in life’s hard climb to the top.

We should not compare our accomplishments, but encourage accomplishment.

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    You can’t encourage accomplishment by adding more rules, regulations, and taxes, which is where Japan has steadily been going for decades. In response, you necessarily get more “lazy youth” since so many doors have been shut for them, so much creativity or innovation has been constrained, and so many risks have been made too risky by the presence of endless bureaucracy, fees, and obligations — both legal and cultural.

    What do the retired care? They are least subject to these factors since they are no longer working, and are the one’s who sanctioned all this in the first place. The unstated message following their announcement of “Time for my Fuji climb!”, is “…because it’s your problem now!”.

    While the implication of this article is correct (that young people still have a choice), the choice was never as superficial as comparing or not comparing accomplishments. The choice is what to do in the face of steeper decline than ever before. The choice is how to respond to a culture that is attempting to guilt you into accepting their pre-fab world that you harbor doubts about. Your choice is to fight against the decline…or enjoy the decline.

    The government, at the sanction of your elders who outnumber you, is pillaging everyone’s savings by inflating the yen: adding road fees and upping tax rates: the diet just passed system where every resident will be assigned a “number” to track them: the birthrate is still in a downtrend despite this year’s minor increase: it’s more and more difficult for women to get married as more men opt out of marriage (another risk made too risky), as a result there has been an increase in single mothers, which has led to an increase in whining about “social services” in order for those mothers to obtain the paycheck they couldn’t wrangle away from unwilling daddy/replacement daddy, and so on and so forth.

    If people are going to continue to make these irrational, self-destructive decisions, and you are not one of those people, the choice is clear: stop propping up the broken system that has been foisted upon you, refuse to inherit the debt the elderly have saddled you with — it was never your burden to carry. It’s their decline, and it’s your life. Stop trying to “achieve”, embrace what they try to shame as your “laziness”, and enjoy the decline. It’s the fastest way to regain the birthright of your freedom, freedom that had been stolen from you before you even had a choice.