In the Dec. 18 letter, “Skaters should highlight Japan,” Nozomi Mizuno bemoans an apparent lack of patriotism exhibited by Japanese figure skaters. That Japanese either lack or do not vociferously enough express patriotism in comparison to foreigners is a widely held opinion in Japan. It is also diametrically opposed to reality. The problems in Japan include lack of respect for foreign countries, cultures and people.
I arrived in Japan at the tail end of “the bubble,” after having visited many countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. What really stood out about Japan was the tendency of its people to boast about their own country. For example, I was told that Japan’s economic model was vastly superior to America’s (my country), that Japanese was the most difficult language in the world, and, with no hint of irony, that the Japanese were humble.
The triumphalism of the bubble years has disappeared, but it seems to have been replaced by a more sinister type of nationalism. In this age of globalization, it is in Japan’s national interest to: first, recognize that it has a problem with excessive national pride and xenophobia; and second, start teaching young people to view Japanese history with a more critical eye, and foreign countries with more respect.
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