Here some sunday writing on issues about Japan. My apologies for not writing this in Japanese, but this is not possible with my level of Japanese. Rather than just lost meanings, I am not capable. At the same time the Japanese language cannot be direct to thought without offending some readers. Writing this article in normal Japanese will also dilute the urgency of action and polite language will leave open gray areas to different interpretation.
I have been in Japan for a long time now since my return from Hong Kong. Also I have not taken my monthly trip abroad for such a long time. As economy continues to weaken, it’s citizens are in denial to the problems and as a result uninterested or ignorant to the solutions it needs to implement to repair the damage.
Why does it fail? The Japanese operate on non confrontational rule in every slice of life although their agenda might be different. To achieve something, the society requires in depth formal meetings and discussions and back channel niceties to gain same foot on the ground. This is time consuming where modern day economic decision are made at the speed of light. Many refer to this as “tatemae and honne” or “surface or fake or traditionally correct thoughts or feelings” vs. “real thoughts and feelings” .
Thus it’s citizens are subservient to many suggestions by the ruling and unlike Orwellian workers do put up with contradiction by teaching it’s thought process to agree or worse yet pay dead to reaction. Such is prevalent in politics and consumerism.
Japan has lived with LDP for over 50 years or one party rule. There really have been never given a choice but to live with the grand design left by GHQ and MacArthur. Although the parties have changed now, all old rules apply where bureaucrats and politicians play give and take to balance the “leave no man behind” pyramid scheme.
After loosing manufacturing to Taiwan, then Korea and to China, Japan’s creed to develop global standard technologies have also failed again and again since it tries to export Japanese implemented standards which is slow to evolve though red tape, does not take into consideration for locality and arrogantly implemented financial model to payoff local involvers first.
Japan fails to realize quick action to local public, national and international issues as politicians and bureaucrats rant on media about narrow 15degrees of issues and leave the reaming 345degrees out of citizens eyes. This is easily done as the 5 major Japanese media does it’s best to support advertisers and leave out any meaningful information and news about the world we live in.
One reason for the demise of Japan’s economy is it’s inability to face the facts by it’s citizens. The single handed factor causing this non-involvement are the Japanese media and social values. Grab a copy of FT (Financial Times) and Nihon Keizai Shinbun, watch NNN news and BBC news and you will see the difference. Japanese media fails to report anything meaningful in all aspects of social, political and economic issues. Why ? Because anything that causes a stir is not worth reporting as prices to pay for such “individualism” and “topics not interesting to consumerism and masses” are dire.
The Japanese television is even worse, as all TV shows are now run by talent agencies and product advertisers with very little or now meaningful documentaries or international news to be viewed. Grow up in this consumer suggestive environment and you grow up as a “no think” or “non-confrontational, follow the masses” adult. Television in Japan for sure is destroying it’s future. Yes Japanese do argue about issues on TV and blogs and newspapers, yes they are PHDs and politicians who make Obama’s speech look pale by comparison, but none of them act or have different agenda than fixing the mechanism because they know they cannot succeed.
A daily dose of Japanese television consist of the following :
- am — wide shows — news about stars and people’s private lives
- noon — wide shows — same as am with some Korean drama and Samurai drama choices
- afternoon — wide shows — same
- evening — owarai — weird comedy and quiz shows and specials
- night — movies runs and low budget TV series
- midnight — brainless talk and comedy shows and if you are lucky some meaningful drama.
Only NHK, the Japanese national TV produces world award winning documentaries and is highly budgeted. Most stars on TV are recurring as in any country, but they all belong to the very few production that control the content of the shows as well. The culture of “talent manager” resides within the agency as a maid and never an independent manager of a talent as you would find in Hollywood. Stars are run by the system, that is the Japanese Geinoukai or translated directly Talent World. A barometer of this may be involvement in AID and Charity to the needy. Unless there is a TV show planned and thus a revenue stream, no starts do charity here until they become independent. The agencies will not allow any of such “individual thoughts” to come first.
Most if not all TV variety shows in Japan were originally copies of western shows, and evolve over the years to become distinctively Japanese. Many Asian countries imitate Japanese shows now, considering it a well evolved system to attract views. Scantily dressed junior high girls showing their panties and singing will be considered a crime elsewhere but not here where it drives mass consumerism. Unmarried men idolize these types and search for similar girls to be their wives. I have noting against this and do watch show as such sometime since I understand that this has nothing to do with sex or perversion. Kawaii is more sexless and a state of mind, allowing you to forget the ugly world and indulge in innocents by dipping into a reality distortion created by the production companies.
I am no different to any typical Japanese as I consume thru these wide-shows and meaningless programs on certain occasions. It leaves me sedated and worry less as I move on with my life. Buying the trendiest gadget, eating at the highly rated ramen joint or going to a Hakone Onsen consumes me. However faced with the ever sinking Japanese policies to mend things to normal, I am disgusted by the daily rantings of “address all issues but do nothing” politicians and news commentators and citizens. Such could be a prelude to dangerous totalitarian times ahead if economy goes bust and a charismatic and active politician manipulates the masses.
Japanese need to learn the word “collateral damage” as made obvious by policies from Bernake and Oabama. In reality in any country, there is not TBTF. In Japan, “Too big to fail” only fails when all in the food chain cannot sustain life without hiding major public discrepancies. More banks need to fail, more public corporations need to fail but are delayed to “pretend the norm” here. These pretensions accumulate bang effect as decisions to kill them are laid off for the future. All wounds need to be out on the table and decided if they are to save the brain and body, but this is not the case here.
Japanese governments are pouring in “funds” they do not have for political reasons and supporting unqualified companies as they stay afloat like zombies until they die prolonged and agonizing death. At the same time, the government does little to help large corporations like Korea does. Where was the Japanese government int he Toyota affair? Why does it tax so highly on returning profits from overseas arm of local corporations? Why does it not invest into national technology development? Why does it not protect valued intellectual assets before loosing them overseas? Why does it have laws to discourage developments of new technology standards?
Yen intervention is unlikely as China continues to act to inflate Japanese currency at the same time Japanese government sells bonds to China to fund it. The political talk by Kan and finance officials are all lip service to the public. They simply are funnels of overseas cash.
Here in Japan no one wants to be responsible for anything in society, politics and business. Since decision is a responsibility, Japan chooses to collectively cover a decision, so the possibility of coverup is high. Add to this the fact that the bead crumb chain spans the bandwidth of elected officials, policy maker, bureaucrats, special interest groups, manufacturer and consuming public.
Japan could and should hire specialists and PHDs to make policy as it did with Mr. Takenaka. However the games needed to play politics is too de-meaning for any intelligent academics unless a new more suitable atmosphere for specialist can be created. Pushing out the old boys who keep each other in bureaucratic positions to received the crumbs from national budget will be a nightmare as GHQ and subsequnt laws of political-bureaucratic structure was installed so to negate any grand policies. It is not the Japanese politics that made Japan great international economic power after the war, but companies like Sony, Panasonic, Toyota, Canon and many others that made this country great.
In analogy this is similar to the world when 98% of all operating system was Windows. No one wanted to make an alternative or accept one for the longest time. We got no Steve Jobs here, or one that might come close, Mr. Masayoshi Son of Softbank get continually bullied by government and bureaucrats, but succeeded because he was more determined, brought in international and local new finance and out smart them all by playing on innovation and international smarts.
Japanese government operates as “privileged operators doing favors” for it’s citizens compared to “service entity” like in Singapore. It is weak to social criticism of the mass media as it changes policies and long term decision overnight.
Many talented individuals and corporations from Japan who know this too well have left Japan to find home elsewhere as they refuse to get stagnated by the pace and method of Japan. I am here to stay as I myself fall victim to non action and rants as I did here with this article.