Mariko Nihei’s comments in her June 6 letter, “Study in Japan is good enough,” are at best shortsighted and, at worst, symptomatic of the perils of choosing to look inward.

It isn’t about access to materials. It isn’t about access to information. Both are available on the Web wherever you are. It isn’t even about language ability, and it certainly isn’t about a fear of cultural imperialism, which will never happen.

Whether a nation heads toward nationalism is frequently a result of the contact, or lack of contact, with those from another nation. From my own experience as a non-Japanese in Japan, I have long been convinced that the principal hurdle between achieving a greater understanding with the Japanese is the intrinsic “us and them” attitude — the attitude that suggests that there are Japanese and then there is the world outside.

How can Nihei suggest that people can become rounded thinkers if they have no interest in taking the opportunity to see how others live, how others think and how others live their lives — not just as foreigners in her country.

If more Japanese took her advice, there would surely be an increase in ignorance of the world at large, and we’d be subject to ever more cliches and stereotypes.

darren beach

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