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Japanese and Germans are thought by some “Anglo-Saxons” to have many similar qualities, including a lack of a sense of humor and a tendency to take themselves too seriously. I don’t think the former is fair; the latter is closer to the mark.

A recent letter in a major English daily paper was given the headline “The Japanese would do well to laugh at themselves a little more.” My immediate reaction was to wonder whether Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is capable of laughing at himself. I guessed that his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, could. To foreign eyes, Abe looks wooden and dour, whereas Koizumi with his bouffant hairstyle and direct manner, seemed more in tune with the 21st century.

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