A better title for the Jan. 9 editorial “An embarrassment of riches” might be “An embarrassment of inequality” — to underscore Japan’s obsession with glorifying its past at the expense of the many social services that are in serious financial trouble.
The money that has been poured into exhuming and preserving pieces of pots of dubious worth might have better served those Japanese in very real peril. This misguided and outdated thinking about where to invest people’s taxes, itself a relic from long years of conservative political dominance, is in urgent need of restoration.
Successive Liberal Democratic Party leaders earmarked excessive funds for beautifying the false image of Japan’s past while allowing essential public services to deteriorate. To this end, even now conservative Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara is preventing the development of a more internationally minded Japanese young generation by making flawed Japanese history a compulsory subject at the expense of a more balanced worldview.
Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi started a hatchet campaign against assisting those in most need of financial support, while his successor, Shinzo Abe, squandered funds on shoring up the image of pre-1946 Japanese values.
The fallacy of automatically viewing the past as more important than the present may be one of the reasons that Japan’s population already has one foot in the grave, and why few people want to risk having a family. (What’s the point of doing so in an embalmed environment?) Before building a new condo complex or parking lot, compulsory excavation for archaeological finds is commonplace, always with a high price tag and rarely with any tangible finds.
Some Japanese archaeologists have even pushed the envelope by “finding” relics that weren’t there to begin with! Meanwhile, the originally conservative consumption tax still haunts consumers. While most countries confine this kind of tax to luxury items, even food becomes a luxury in Japan when a tax is levied on it, and the monopolistic utility companies continue to overcharge with impunity.
In this situation, the pots that we use here today may become the rare and sought-after relics of a soon-to-be extinct race, and be worth far more than the uncertain smithereens of some illusory Byzantine Japan!
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