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In response to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, CNN posted:
The layer of human turmoil – looting and scuffles for food or services – that often comes in the wake of disaster seems noticeably absent in Japan.

“Looting simply does not take place in Japan. I’m not even sure if there’s a word for it that is as clear in its implications as when we hear ‘looting,’” said Gregory Pflugfelder, director of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University.

Japanese have “a sense of being first and foremost responsible to the community,” he said.

To Merry White, an anthropology professor at Boston University who studies Japanese culture , the real question is why looting and disorder exist in American society. She attributes it largely to social alienation and class gaps.

“There IS some alienation and indeed some class gaps in Japan too but violence, and taking what belongs to others, are simply not culturally approved or supported,” White said in an e-mail. …

“Such social order and discipline are so enforced in ordinary times that I think it’s very easy for Japanese to kind of continue in the manner that they’re accustomed to, even under an emergency.”

The communitarian spirit at the foundation of Japanese culture seems to function even more efficiently under the stress of disaster, he said. The natural American inclination is to operate independently. “So you do everything you can to protect your own interests with the understanding that, in a rather free-market way, everybody else is going to do the same. And that order will come out of this sort of invisible hand.”

More sensibly, Nicholas Kristof blogs for the NYT:

But, having covered the 1995 Kobe earthquake (which killed more than 6,000 people and left 300,000 homeless) when I lived in Japan as Tokyo bureau chief for The New York Times, I have to add: Watch Japan in the coming days and weeks, and I bet we can also learn some lessons. …

Japan’s orderliness and civility often impressed me during my years living in Japan, but never more so than after the Kobe quake. Pretty much the entire port of Kobe was destroyed, with shop windows broken all across the city. I looked all over for a case of looting, or violent jostling over rescue supplies. Finally, I was delighted to find a store owner who told me that he’d been robbed by two men. Somewhat melodramatically, I asked him something like: And were you surprised that fellow Japanese would take advantage of a natural disaster and turn to crime? He looked surprised and responded, as I recall: Who said anything about Japanese. They were foreigners.

Japan has an underclass, the burakumin, and also treats ethnic Koreans with disdain. But compared to other countries, Japan has little extreme poverty and a greater sense of common purpose. The middle class is unusually broad, and corporate tycoons traditionally were embarrassed to be seen as being paid too much. That sense of common purpose is part of the country’s social fabric, and it is especially visible after a natural disaster or crisis.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Japan 
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I finally figured out why the Japanese love to go the driving range and hit golf balls instead of play golf on a course.

It ties into the ancient samurai tradition of practicing for battle by first beheading a bunch of criminals. Beheading prisoners is to war as the driving range is to the golf course.

For example, the 60-something retired samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo said in Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, from the early 17th Century:

Yamamaoto Kichizaemon was ordered b his father Jin’emon to cut down a dog at the age of five, and at the age of fifteen he was made to execute a criminal. Everybody, by the time they were fourteen or fifteen, was ordered to do a beheading without fail.

Last year I went to the Kase Execution Grounds to try my hand at beheading and I found it to be an extremely good feeling. To think that it is unnerving is a symptom of cowardice.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Japan 
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From the NYT:

East and West Part Ways in Test of Facial Expressions


How do you know how someone is feeling? For people in Western societies, it is usually easy: look at the person’s face.

But for people from Japan and other Eastern societies, a new study finds, it may be more complex — having to do not only with evaluating the other person’s face but also with gauging the mood of others who might be around.

The differences may speak to deeply ingrained cultural traits, the authors write, suggesting that Westerners may “see emotions as individual feelings, while Japanese see them as inseparable from the feelings of the group.”

This greater sensitivity of the Japanese to other people’s feelings, this greater discomfort when other people are not comfortable, may help explain the relative lack of recognized geniuses in Japanese culture. In the West, for every nice guy genius like Darwin, there at least one total jerk genius like Rousseau. (And, yes, Rousseau was a genius, pioneering several different ways European culture would head.) Self-absorption is a big part of Western culture, but not Japanese culture, but it helps move the West out of mutual comfort zones that the Japanese tend to prefer dwelling in.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Japan 
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A friend who lives in Japan writes:

Yesterday, all the major national news networks carried a major story concerning this “social problem”. A train arrived at a station in Hokkaido where about 60 people were waiting to get on. A group of high school students got on, but even after being asked a couple times to moves deeper into the interior of the car, they did not. The driver closed the doors and drove off, leaving 26 people on the platform. He informed the railroad of what he had done and the railroad arranged for six or seven taxis to take the stranded passengers to their destination.

This story was carried along with actual video of the station, interviews with local people, and elaborate animated illustrations of the train car showing where the students were standing in the car and where the stranded passengers were standing.

As if this were not enough, this morning’s “wide” shows (news & entertainment), repeated the story in even more excruciating detail.

This story illustrates:

1. how orderly Japan is
2. how sensitive Japanese are to even the slightest social disorder
3. how enormous social pressure is brought upon offenders
4. Japanese attention to detail.

This story nearly wiped out the previous big story which was a fatal accident on a roller coaster. The story was presented night-after-night with elaborate engineering models of the wheel and axle structures, illustrating exactly where the axle had broken, along with interviews with various professors of engineering explaining in detail what metal fatigue was and how it can be detected. That was followed by actual visits to testing labs so we could see sonographs and other equipment in action on real bars of metal, with and without faults. That was followed by a review of the safety rules for roller coasters and the actual documents needed to complete the safety checks. That was followed by visits to *every* amusement park in Japan to determine when and how they overhaul the wheel and axle assemblies.

This of course was followed by scenes of the owner of the amusement park visiting the family and apologizing for the trouble he had caused, while they wailed “give us back our daughter.” Interviews with the victim’s friends revealed that she was a very cheerful girl who everyone liked, and who was always willing to help her mother in any possible way.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Japan, Kids These Days 
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Sofia Coppola, who owns a fashion business in Japan, recently captured the best original screenplay Academy Award for the movie Lost in Translation—making her the fourth Oscar-winning member of the Coppola dynasty, after her father Francis, grandfather Carmine, and first cousin Nicolas Cage. Bill Murray stars as a morose and mordant American action movie star who finds himself washed up in a Tokyo Hyatt.

The hotel seems dispiritingly like every other downtown luxury hotel in the world. But its Japanese idiosyncrasies make it subtly disconcerting.

Japan refuses to import millions of Third Worlders, so the Japanese have robotized many service jobs. This takes Murray some getting used to. His drapes fling themselves open in the morning. In a hotel gym devoid of personal trainers, he finds himself in the clutches of an unstoppable and hyperactive exercise machine shouting indecipherable and no doubt deranged commands.

But, of course, it’s the puzzling uniqueness of Japanese life that helps make Lost in Translation so entertaining. You leave the theatre thinking that a trip to the Orient would be disappointing if it wasn’t alittle disorienting. Isn’t travel more fun when other countries are different from your own?

In a lot of small ways, Japan is indeed very different. Consider professional nail care. Here in the U.S., you can head down to your local inner city and find dozens of storefront nail salons. The first thing you’ll notice is, to paraphrase Aretha Franklin, the sisters are not doing it for themselves. No, even though there are plenty of unemployed women in the neighborhood, the salons are staffed by East Asian ladies who have come all the way across the Pacific to paint the fingernails of the black lady customers for less than cousin LaQeesha would charge.

Now that’s diversity!

Except that, one of these days, you’ll be able to go to any formerly exotic place on earth—Zanzibar, Istanbul, the Galapagos Islands, it won’t matter—and see the same old thing: Korean, Chinese, or Southeast Asian immigrant ladies polishing nails. Yawn.

But not in Japan. The Japanese voters think their islands are crowded enough already without importing human nail polishers. And the Japanese government is mysteriously inclined to enforce the will of its people.

So the Japanese have done something that by our standards is weird, even comical. They’ve invented yet another kind of vending machine, this one for doing your nails. You stick your finger in, and it gives it back (you hope) with the nail painted to your specifications using inkjet printer technology.

New York Times reporter James Brooke was recently shocked,shocked to discover that the Japanese people’s famous fascination with robots and automation stems from their “xenophobia.” [Japan Seeks Robotic Help in Caring for the Aged Mar. 5, 2004 NYT ]

The labor-saving device that gave Brookes the willies was Sanyo’s new clamshell-shaped automated bathing machine. It allows frail people confined to wheelchairs to roll in dirty and roll out clean and dry.

Shivered Brooke:

“Futuristic images of elderly Japanese going through rinse and dry cycles in rows of washing machines may evoke chills.”

Yet the machine doesn’t seem to give the shivers to its users. Toshiko Shibahara, an 89-year-old resident of a Japanese nursing home told Brooke, “You don’t get a chill. You feel always warm.” Likewise, Kuni Kikuchi, an 88-year-old in a wheelchair, noted, “It automatically washes my body, so I am quite happy about it. These bubbles are good for the massage effect.”

It’s easy to imagine other advantages. A roll-in machine means that attendants don’t have to manhandle the elders’ wizened naked bodies into the tub, which must be a relief to all concerned. Greater automation means bathing times are less dependent on the staff’s work schedules, which can be a blessing to old people struggling with incontinence. Finally, as this kind of technology progresses and becomes cheap enough, the elderly can stay in their own homes longer before finally being bundled off to nursing homes.

But the NYT can’t be bothered with what a bunch of old ladies want, not when it has important brow-furrowing to do over the dark urges behind the Japanese drive to empower their elderly. Brookes writes:

“But [these bathing machines] also point to where theworld’s most rapidly aging nation is heading. Leaders ofthe Philippines and Thailand … suggest a different route: granting work visas to tens of thousands of foreign nurses. But that is unlikely in a nation that … in the last decade has issued about 50,000 work visas a year… Building on such xenophobia, Japan’s nurses’ unions successfully lobbied lawmakers of the governing Liberal Democratic Party in late February to block the admission of foreign doctors and nurses.”

My question: doesn’t the uniqueness of Japanese culture add to the diversity of the world?

And aren’t we supposed to celebrate diversity?

Oh, excuse me, that’s the wrong kind of diversity. We are supposed to celebrate the right kind of diversity—the kind where each country becomes so diverse in population, its culture so diluted by immigration, that all countries are eventually the same.

How silly of me to forget that the ultimate goal of “diversity” is global uniformity—and monotony.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Immigration, Japan, VDare Archives 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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