• Kumenan, Okayama


After reading Gregory Clark’s Feb. 1 article, “A contrarian view of how ‘austerity’ bleeds Japan,” I can’t help thinking that much of the recent journalism about Japan has presented an overwhelmingly negative picture of the situation within the country. With an economy struggling and soon to be overtaken by neighboring China, wistful comparisons to the boom days of the 1980s appear with unerring regularity. An aging population, a cautious and unambitious youth, a struggling education system, and many more worrying trends are all regularly referred to in media stories about the country.

Since arriving here six months ago, however, and living in a small community — in the western prefecture of Okayama — I have found little evidence of these national woes on a smaller scale. Students in the schools where I work are engaging, confident and interesting young people who seem to share few of the negative characteristics written about the nation’s youth as a whole. My friends are likewise confident and outgoing young people — not the cautious types who many say are to blame for the country’s lack of economic stimulus.

Social issues that currently trouble the United Kingdom, such as antisocial behavior and ill health caused by obesity and alcoholism, are problems that confront us as a nation every day. You cannot avoid antisocial behavior in many parts of the country, nor the growing number of obese and heavy drinkers.

In Japan, however, I see far fewer everyday instances of the problems that are supposed to be gripping it as a nation. The media may present one story — of a nation fallen on hard times and suffering the consequences — but from living here myself, I am happy to say that is not at all the case.

jonathan lloyd

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