Why are the Japanese getting more nationalistic?

A recent survey covered in the Japan Times had the seemingly contradictory results of young Japanese becoming more nationalistic and more young Japanese being unhappy with their lives (in Japan). I think there could well be a link between that unhappiness and nationalism. A recent BBC radio programme said that there is a link between depression and religious fanaticism in a way that there isn’t with experiencing prejudice and deprivation that most people seem to expect in the history of people joining ISIS etc. I very much expect the same is true of people searching for some certainty and purpose in their life through nationalism. In some ways they are both rational responses to the increasingly crappy world that we are living in…

I really do think that unhappiness is probably the biggest cause, but other possibly relevant factors include:

  • More nationalistic education, as left-wing teachers have less and less influence in schools, and the LDP are less and less interested in consensus and middle ways
  • More generally, the 60s leftwingers are fading out without another substantial generation of opposition to the ruling consensus having come along to replace them
  • Education spending even less time on opening students’ minds and getting them to think for themselves as it becomes even more focused on exams (despite many predictions and plans suggesting Japanese education was heading in the opposite direction)
  • More news and opinions coming from the internet, where the influence of the always most vocal rightwingers is even more obvious than when it comes to the protests, forcing the cancelling of events etc that they already dominate (in contrast to the many countries where those things are mainly left wing tactics)
  • Attacks on the vaguely liberal leanings of NHK and Asahi Shimbun meaning that they lose their influence
  • A reaction against globalization
  • Encouragement of nationalism by politicians who want to distract people from issues like increasing inequality
  • A reaction to the similar swings in South Korea and China, especially when that turns into anti-Japanese feelings

Why is the Japanese parliament called the Diet?

Not only have I always wondered this, I’ve had my Japanese students asking me. However, only now got round to researching it. I did already know most of this Wikipedia entry:

“The word diet derives from Latin and was a common name for an assembly in medieval Germany. The Meiji constitution was largely based on the form of constitutional monarchy found in nineteenth century Prussia and the new Diet was modeled partly on the German Reichstag…”

but that still leaves open the question of whether foreign commentators invented the expressions (like “bullet train”) or if the Japanese people setting the Diet up chose the description of it in English (the Japanese expression “kokkai” always being used when speaking that language).

In either case, I wonder if they didn’t choose the word “parliament” because they didn’t want it to sound like a real parliament, given the powers of the Emperor and in the case of Westerners perhaps their unwillingness to accept that an Asian country could run a real democracy.

Why does political campaigning in Japan mainly consist of waving hands in white gloves from vans?

It’s mainly because so many other kinds of campaigning are restricted. No knocking on doors or ads are allowed, online social media campaigning was banned until this election, and even the number of leaflets one candidate can post is limited. The fact that it is usually just accompanied with “Vote for (name)” with no policies at all from the van’s loudspeaker makes me think that those things actually suit the politicians with their complete lack of ideas of how to improve Japan, but it also of course might have contributed to the lack of actual policies.

According to yesterday’s International Herald Tribune, the white gloves stand for clean government and the laws restricting campaigning were meant to level the playing field between rich and poor candidates.

Why do Japanese farmers have so much electoral power?

Believe it or not, it’s the Americans’ fault again:

“disparities in Japan’s election system have long favored conservative rural districts over urban ones by giving them a disproportinately large number of representatives in the Diet, Japan’s Parliament. Those inequalities… date from U.S. occupation policies after World War II aimed at turning farmers into a powerful anti-Communist voting bloc”

From this weekend’s International Herald Tribune

Why do the Japanese say “national language” (kokugo)?

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.

Why is the gaijin card system changing twice in one year?

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…

Why are Japanese politicians so useless?

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…

Why do the trains stop so early?

 “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

Why does NHK call the Korean language “hangul”?

…ハングル being, properly, only the name of the Korean alphabet.

 “There is no politically neutral way of describing the Korean language in Japanese, and NHK feared criticism from South-leaning Koreans if it described the language as Chosen-go… or from North-leaning Koreans if it called it Kankoku-go…” Read the rest of this entry »

Why are the Japanese names for North and South Korea so different?

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

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