The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information

 TeasersiSteve Blog

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS
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.

• Tags: Japan 
🔊 Listen RSS

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.

• Tags: Japan 
🔊 Listen RSS

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.

• Tags: Japan 
🔊 Listen RSS

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.

• Tags: Japan, Kids These Days 
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.

The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?