Thursday, February 13, 2003



In my decades as a resident of Japan I have often heard or read criticisms of Japan by foreigners who lived here; such can be heard in and regarding every country in the world. But early on I realized that the more vitriolic of such criticisms are in fact outwardly directed self-loathing, in individuals who feel trapped in positions they hold here (for which they are so thankless) and take it out on their surroundings, looking obsessively for the bad and of course finding it, as one can anywhere if one is unhappy enough to waste life in looking for it.

But when these rants are offered abroad as legitimate criticisms of this country, it is a cultural crime. Perhaps not surprisingly, in the West such drivel is often treated as legitimate perception, when to any rational long-term resident of Japan it is clearly a view from a pathologic eye. Such views are usually put forth by individuals who have been here for a few months or years, often teaching English with all the joy of a sliver in the soul, having no true appreciation of or interest in the culture, history or people except to the extent that it feeds their own malignancy. Another hallmark of such individuals is their claim that the host society persistently thwarts their wishes, their right to happiness-- their malignant anger, like their plight, being entirely the fault of the country-- yet these persons are deemed experts on Japan by editors abroad who have never been to this inscrutable land in the far-off orient. Some time ago I read such a diatribe on an internet site renowned for its intelligent commentary, by an individual (I'll name no names as not wanting to give even the slightest publicity to such shallow malevolence) who claims to have been here for quite a long time, and I was staggered that this individual was considered an expert on anything about his host country, let alone his own unhappiness. It is a profound pity that such may be seen elsewhere in the world as true perspectives on Japan.

By way of rebuttal to these pitiable individuals, I submit that the Japanese people in general are no more or less decent than any other people on earth, no more or less just, hard-working, religious, intelligent, attractive, no more or less historically or genetically pure. To seek in these qualities, or in many others, reasons to defame an entire people is to imprison one's mind within oneself, thereby making it as small as possible. In this way such individuals acquire sufficient density to take themselves seriously. Unfortunately, editors of no taste too often do the same.

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