The Oct. 29 front-page article “Declining Japan loses once-hopeful champions” must be seen partially as U.S.-style debunking of the Democratic Party of Japan for being less servile to the United States than the Liberal Democratic Party had been when it was in power.
Notwithstanding the Socialist Party’s departure from the coalition over the DPJ’s caving in to the U.S. on its promises to Okinawa, the DPJ is a bit less servile within the scope of the lingering “occupation” of Japan, at least of Okinawa, by the U.S. armed forces.
Pessimism as truth can come from Japan’s Buddhist heritage: Look hard at the worst to avoid evil surprises, as everything changes. The economists cited in the article by The Washington Post apparently have never studied Japanese religion.
Take the example of a recent NHK program on the future of Japan, which began with a lament for the increasing number of young homeless or “hidden homeless” males. This might have been to encourage the young to work harder for fear of homelessness or to propose that politicians alleviate the problem.
It certainly fell into the trap of referring to “[psychic] depression” as “the national disease” (a Nagoya University Hospital psychiatrist’s half-true joke!). I, for one, tuned out, but the wabi-sabi gloom (Japanese worldview centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection) might have deceived the economists.
I have lived in Japan for 27 years. I was late to learn the language, but I’m trying to acculturate as Harvard sociologist Ezra Vogel (quoted in the article) apparently declines to do. Perhaps Jesper Koll also has no time for extra-economic study or field work.
Personally, after viewing the fire damage from vehicles in the tsunami of the 3/11 quake, I would propose retreating from the car boom — along with the young who prefer cell phones.
Can’t Japan do something new?
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.