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It is my experience in Japan that there is a common tendency of people to make mountains out of molehills and to complain about things that are practically nothing at all. It’s not universal, of course, but it is common enough that I think it must be a deliberate strategy to manufacture an excuse to pursue an action that people are otherwise at a loss to defend reasonably.

Such is the case with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s inquisition of city employees about their body art and his claim that “If they want to have tattoos, they should quit working for the city.” I don’t view the decision to have tattoos as an ethical measure of a modern person, and so talk of a “code of ethics” for Osaka public servants targeting this issue is a wind that doesn’t blow my skirt up.

It’s true that the checkered reputation of body art in Japan gives it an infamously suspicious place in the public mind. But that is largely the product of overactive imaginations. It’s disappointing that the moral depravity of gross and deliberate stupidity — especially by public servants — does not generate the same infamy.

Japan is not unique. There are populist politicians the world over who spout the ridiculous, the shocking and the offensive amid the mundane. They are sometimes annoying, sometimes dangerous, but always entertaining. Maybe it is their entertainment value that partly accounts for their ability to keep their jobs. In any event, they are not my problem.

My problem is the ridiculous, shocking and offensive drivel from populist politicians here, where I pay my taxes and I can call Japanese public servants my employees.

An Osaka personnel official is quoted as saying “I believe it is unacceptable to make the public unpleasant.” On that I can agree. Mayor Hashimoto has to go on the basis of his unpleasantness.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

grant piper

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