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Japan Times readers sound off on courtesy, blackface and education

A selection of letters about recent stories on the Community pages.

Japanese exemplify courtesy

Re: “In Japan, rarefied manners abound but courtesy is less common” by Mark Gottlieb (Foreign Agenda, Dec. 6, 2017):

I am writing to you to protest vehemently against the unbelievable article about Japanese “discourtesy.” I was astonished because it directly contradicts one of my most vivid experiences during my visits to Japan.

And this is that, no matter how many people come against you in the constant stream of pedestrians in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka (but definitely in Tokyo), nobody — absolutely no one — ever bumps into you. On the contrary, not only have people a sort of sense of “gliding” past you without touching, even with a very strong density of people on the sidewalks, but also, when one bumps into them, it is the Japanese who immediately say sorry, even when it is plainly not their fault.

This was one of the things that immediately won my heart in Japan, the other being that people actually stop whenever you are trying to take a picture in the middle of the street. Many times I have observed this, to the extent that I eventually became self-conscious about raising the camera to point it at anything.

This is quite contrary to what happens in many other countries, and these examples are readily observable evidence of the incredible level of courtesy that you find everywhere in Japan.

So, I found this article untrue, incorrect and most unfair. In my opinion, it could only be written by an American, insensitive and pushy as they are in their vast majority, to say the least.

I can imagine two reasons for this person to have written such a thing:

He purely and simply invented it;

He himself bumps unceremoniously into people, as it is almost the norm in a city like New York.

Now, if there is one area where I find that the Japanese people are ripe for criticism, it is in their inexplicable inclination and even “admiration” towards so many things American.

It is a clearly marked contrast to Europe, where this uncritical attitude also existed in the past, but has been fading away constantly over the years, most noticeably since the beginning of this century, and has certainly accelerated over the past year.

JOSE FREDERICO SOARES
Goes, Netherlands

Dire outlook for education

Re: “Teachers and schools in Japan brace for icebergs in 2018” by James McCrostie (Dec. 27, Learning Curve):

Education in Japan will become a consumer market. Universities will be fighting for a smaller and smaller population of students or consumer base. Marketing will be the key, not necessarily quality of classes. Educational standards will decline even further. China and the USA will benefit from Japan’s decline in classroom excellence.

NAME WITHHELD

Contentious: Comedian Masatoshi Hamada courted controversy with a New Year
Contentious: Comedian Masatoshi Hamada courted controversy with a New Year’s Eve TV appearance in blackface. | BAYE MCNEIL

Blackface was OK for Downey

Re: “Time for Japan to scrub off that blackface — for good” by Baye McNeil (Black Eye, Jan. 10):

I understand where Mr. McNeil is coming from, and the Japanese program in question seemed pretty stupid (I didn’t watch it), but I think his grievances are misguided.

My question is why nobody got upset when Robert Downey Jr. wore blackface in “Tropic Thunder”? It was a U.S. film and He even got an Oscar nomination for it! His performance was amazing in that film and he deserved the nomination. Actors and comedians make their living pretending to be other people. There is nothing wrong with that.

But what is so wrong with Japanese comedians impersonating a black person, when Downey gets an Oscar nod for doing the same thing and making people laugh?

The only difference is that Downey is an international household name while the Japanese comedian in question is not. In regards to Mr. McNeil, It’s hypocritical at best and racist at worst.

Maybe there are bigger issues in Japan that need discussing than a childish Japanese television program that was only taking cues from the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Maybe the world, in its current condition, would be a better place without Twitter and social media so people can stop overreacting and posting outrageous accusations without due process.

Who needs courts when we have Twitter? The judge and executioner, all with the click of an app.

CHRIS
Tokyo

It’s cheaper in Canada

Re: “Why don’t more Japanese study abroad? The cost and the hassle, survey shows” by Michael Hassett (Learning Curve, Jan. 24):

I read this article with interest. The solution is simple: Go to a Canadian university. Do the math!

I recommend universities in the Maritimes, particularly Nova Scotia.

DERMOT VIBERT
Konosu, Saitama

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp