In Language and Society in Japan Nanette Gottlieb argues fairly persuasively that it is mainly used by nationalists for nationalistic reasons, and that more neutral and leftwing people prefer the term “Nihongo”. As the school syllabus still uses “kokugo” but NHK uses “Nihongo”, I think that one word gives quite an insight into where Japanese society is right now.
Just had my gaikokujin torokusho (the fabulously translated “alien registration card”) updated to one with some kind of chip in it. It was a reasonably simple operation, despite the pain of having to go back to the ward office years before my old card was due for renewal, and was pleasantly surprised to see 2016 written on the new one. I was downright shocked, however, to be given a piece of paper saying that in the middle of this year said gaijin cards are being phased out. I still won’t have to do anything more until my visa needs renewing, but can you imagine a worse use of government money than introducing a new high-tech ID card 7 months before the whole system is being scrapped???
Anyone know how this happened? I’m imagining government agencies not talking to each other…
Not that I can point to any country which would set a particularly good model, but here goes being specific about Japan anyway…
“No major country has such a capacity to produce nonentities as prime ministers as Japan, but the problem is not so much the individuals as the political structure. Traditionally in postwar Japan, economic affairs were run by bureaucrats in the government ministries, and foreign and security policies were determined by Washington, so there was not much for politicians to do except to take bribes from construction companies and build bullet train lines in their home districts”
Thunder from the East page 87
I’m not convinced that is the biggest factor. Most of the Japanese elite are not attracted to politics because it is not a high status job (due to scandals etc), and also doesn’t have the much sought after job security and peace of mind (anzen-anshin). Then it got stuck in a vicious circle of worse people reducing the status of the job even more.
The public sector did attract the elite because it was a well-paid job for life and had high status due to, amongst other things, getting most of the kudos for the postwar expansion of the Japanese economy. As scandals hit bureaucrats too, pay lagged far behind the private sector, and the bureaucrats seemed more of the problem in the economy etc than the solution, the elite job became a well-paid job in a big Japanese company instead. And as the ability of the mandarins decreased, so did the pull for others to work in the same jobs, etc.
I’m not saying these factors are exclusive to Japan, just that they push in different directions at different times in other countries. If you were a computer whizzkid moving to a startup in the 1990s, you’d probably swear that it was just due to improved job satisfaction. So the fact that everyone thinks it is really cool and the wave of the future, and that people stuck in middle management in IBM are being teased stupid by their friends is just coincidence, is it?? Who knows, more scandals and downsizing reducing Toyota etc in the public esteem and the same thing could happen in Japan. Perhaps…
”The taxi lobby is incredibly powerful in Tokyo. The government should run one train per hour through the night, like they do in New York City, but the Taxi Association gives the politicians so much money that they voted to shut the stations down” Japanland pg 227
See the Japanland page on http://quotejapan.wordpress.com more quotes from this book
Kita Chosen (北朝鮮) is supposed to be just a geographical name, and therefore to save giving the North Korean government the same legitimacy as the “Country of Koreans” (韓国 – Kankoku) in the South
August 14, 2008 at 12:24 am (Japan and the Olympics, Japan FAQs and SAQs, Japanese language, Japanese nationalism, Japanese pronunciation, Japanese sports, Kanji (Chinese symbols), Uyoku rightwingers)
It’s Nippon (an alternative pronunciation of the same kanji as Nihon, 日本- the source of the sun) for uyoku rightwingers as well, but there might be no connection… It could just he that the /p/ sound is more impactful and so easier to chant than the /h/ sound, kind of like the“Ingerland ingerland ingerlaaaaand” of my fellow British football hooligans, with its mysterious extra syllable. I’ve read that the Nippon version is more masculine sounding, but I would have to understand what that means before I could agree or disagree.
“Partly this is because Japanese regulators, with more than 14,000 drugs listed for government-funded medical benefits (Australia has about 600), demand more stringent proof that a new drug is not only safe, but more effective than those already on the market. But there is more than a suspicion that this is just window-dressing for a government policy designed to protect Japan’s fragmented and backward pharmaceutical industry from foreign competition” Read the rest of this entry »
Japan is a small country
One theory is that the “change will chain office workers to their desks until 10 pm or later, since no employee will dare leave while the sun shines” Shutting Out the Sun pg 206. More importantly, there is a knee-jerk nationalist reaction against something that was imposed by the American occupation authorities and then scrapped.