Frank Rizzo comments

Posted in: Abe to become Japan's 7th PM in 6 years after landslide LDP win See in context

As Warispeace (several posts above) correctly pointed out, this was essentially a referendum on whether or not Japan should continue nuclear power. And, guess what? They chose nuclear power. This is right after the world's worst nuclear disaster just ruined the country's agricultural heartland and consigned thousands of people, many of them children, to cancer. I mean, do you realize that the LDP was actively mocking the DJP's anti-nuclear stance? And the Japanese people just elected the LDP by a landslide. To say this idiocy boggles the mind is wild understatement.

Oh, and let's not forget that the LDP also proudly boasted during the run-up to the election that they would continue with wasteful public works projects of the sort that has Japan sinking in unimaginable debt.

And I won't even go into the fact that the LDP has also hinted that it's going to take a hard line with China, which is a boast about as foolish as Saddam Hussein promising to give the US military "the mother of all battles" (not that I was ever in favor of the invasion of Iraq, mind you).

One thing that really puzzles me is these vast swings in public support for the parties. It all seems so scripted. I recall the runup to the previous election: it was like it was announced in advance that the DJP were the going to win and therefore everyone voted for them. This time, it was basically announced that the election would go to the LDP and, voila, the LDP wins in a landslide. Truly, the people are simply following directions.

Well, as several posters above have pointed out: the Japanese have made their bed (dug their grave?) and now they must lie in it.

I'm happy to say I also voted. I voted with my feet about two years ago to leave Japan. Today confirms that it was the best decision I ever made.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Posted in: Ishihara, Hashimoto announce 'third force' in Japanese politics See in context

One would do well to remember Alex Kerr's comment about Japan: It is a country without any brakes.

Somehow, I'm not reassured by the single-digit support these men enjoy. The thing about Japan is that the country has a nasty habit of allowing itself to be bullied and dominated by small groups (to wit: the yaks, the folks whose ancestors formed the outcast in Edo period, the bosozoku, the uyoku, and before that, the military fascists). If these men play their cards right, you'd be surprised just how far they can go. Once they reach a critical mass (far smaller than you might expect) they might be unstoppable, due to the fact that Japan is not a place where people will stand up and say, "Stop!" If you think I'm wrong, just reflect on how not one major media outlet in Japan has the guts to call Ishihara to task for causing over US$100 million in damage to the auto industry and bringing the country to the verge of war with a much stronger foe.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Posted in: If at first you don't succeed... See in context

He looks really clever. He's got that unmistakable stamp of genius and deep intellectual curiosity on his visage. Thank god Japan is continuing its unswerving policy elevating the best and brightest to positions of power. This guy looks like he travelled the world to seek out the best minds and practices before returning to Japan to share them with a society hungry for knowledge. Just have a look at the picture at the top of the article. You can't help but agree.

And how about that slogan? Nihon wo tori modosu (Bring Japan Back). That's a great idea. Let's not change anything. Let's just try to recreate an earlier Japan by a Herculean act of will. Let's all just try to be more JAPANESE! That's the problem, after all, people in Japan just aren't Japanese enough. They've forgotten what it means to be Japanese. This is a great slogan for a guy who was already prime minister and almost single-handedly remade Japan with far reaching reforms to every aspect of the society. You could hardly recognize the place when he was done.

My money is on Japan! How can they go wrong by putting a guy like this in as prime minister again?

Don't let anyone say that Japan is incapable of radical change! Not hardly! Some have even said he'll wear a different necktie when he gets sworn in.

Quick! Fast! Invest in Japan! Move to Japan!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Posted in: Critics ask if Abe learnt from mistakes when he was PM See in context

The naivete of folks here is truly amazing. Folks: It doesn't matter who is PM of Japan!

Don't people know that the ministries, in cahoots with industry and industrial groups like the Keidanren, control Japan? The ministries decide on the budget and the Diet rubber stamps it. Furthermore, the ministries write about 90% of the laws in Japan. The fact is, Japan doesn't have a democratic government. They are ruled by an unelected and unaccountable coalition of ministries, who work hand-in-glove with industry to line their own pockets. It doesn't matter if AKB48 were chosen as "group prime minsters"! Japan wouldn't change (well, the government would be easier to look at, but...).

It should be noted that even among the ministries, there is no true power center of Japan - power is shared across several ministries. Why do you think they couldn't respond effectively to the crisis at Fukushima Dai-Ichi? People, please read Karel van Wolferen's "The Enigma of Japanese Power."

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Posted in: Some convenience stores may remove adult magazines from shelves See in context

About time. As the father of young children, I can tell you that Japanese convenience stores are very unwholesome places to bring children. And it doesn't stop with the porn: The wall of cigarettes behind the cash register, with their weak and ineffectual warning labels, is even worse than the porn. Japan is so behind the times on this. Even in some developing countries in Southeast Asia, there is no porn on display and the cigarettes are hidden behind shutters.

Let's not even get into the guys prowling around on the main streets in large shopping districts carrying sandwich boards saying things like: "Fantasy Three-Way Only Y10,000!"

Sadly, the conbeni is just another way in which Japan is shockingly behind the times. For those with children I say: Get out. It's not going to get any better any time soon.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

Posted in: Japanese universities in crisis - what they can learn from Europe See in context

Sorry, I meant: "By the time they arrive at university."

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Posted in: Japanese universities in crisis - what they can learn from Europe See in context

I suppose that theoretically speaking, Japanese universities could change. But realistically speaking, they won't change in any significant way. The reasons are almost too numerous to name, but let's start with the biggest: Education systems reflect the wider society of which they are a part, and therefore, why should we expect Japanese universities to suddenly become international and progressive when the society at large is anything but? Ain't going to happen.

The professor talks about the open give-and-take of ideas that happens in Western universities. Well, that sort of conversation doesn't happen in Japan, where students are passive, intellectually deadened and simply tired by the time they arrive in Japan. Also, the hierarchical nature of society and the overarching tendency not to want to stick out or rock the boat is a huge damper on free conversation.

More importantly, the Japanese just don't have the language skills to operate in English. They place LAST in the world on the speaking section of the TOEFL IBT test. That's right: LAST. So how can we expect that overnight, or in a decade or two, they can suddenly get their language skills up to the point where they can hold useful discussions in English? As any professor of mixed Japanese and foreign students will tell you: When you institute a discussion or debate section of the class, the foreigners quickly outshine the Japanese students and the Japanese students either just clam up or drop the class.

And there's no way we can realistically expect foreign students to learn enough Japanese to study in Japanese. Just learning the written language is a minimum two-year commitment. Few students other than those who already have a script-based language background will attempt this.

But more generally, as anyone who has any experience with Japanese higher education will tell you: The quality of the teaching, the level of discussion (or lack thereof), and the intellectual curiosity of the students at Japanese universities is just horrendous. Why on earth would a smart student with a variety of choices choose to study in Japan? Especially when one considers the grim economic outlook of the country, the opaque and arbitrary immigration system of Japan, and the racist and xenophobic nature of the society? Why indeed, when they can choose from schools in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

12 ( +17 / -5 )

Posted in: Cartoon bird warns Fukushima children of radiation See in context

Good Lord! You can't make this stuff up!

If you ever needed material evidence that Japan was sunk, this is it. A cutesy character to tell kids: stay away from puddles, grass, drains, downspouts, tree roots etc. For God's sake, if you can't go near any of those things, what on earth are people doing living in the area?!

They don't need a cutesy character, they need some sort of skull and crossbones symbol that says: Run! Run for your lives and don't look back! They could place it all around the borders of Tohoku.

If Japan really wanted to help people, they could create some sort of blood-curdling character that would warn people of the dangers of the corrupt ministers and their corporate henchmen who run Japan. They could put it outside the major ministries in Tokyo and in front of the head office of TEPCO. Let's name it: Kanryo-kun. He could be oily, fat, drunk, smoking and with his hand on the backside of a hapless hostess. And his pockets would be overflowing with Y10,000 notes.

But, I'm not holding my breath. Remember, Kibitan was brought to you by the same people who brought you

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Posted in: Osaka to reintroduce Saturday classes for elementary schools See in context

Tmarie is spot on: The folks on this thread who claim that Japan has a good education system have never set foot in a Japanese school. Nor have they met or spoken to the products of Japan's "education" system. Okay, so they can memorize a lot of facts, but can they THINK? And, if Japan's education system is so great, how come the graduates of Japan's school place LAST IN THE WORLD on the TOEFL IBT speaking section? Come on, they place last out of over 100 countries and you're going to tell me the education system is good?

Why don't you try teaching in a Japanese school at any level? Why don't you sit down and talk with Japanese university students or recent graduates? Then, come and try to tell me with a straight face that Japan's education system is good.

There is a persisten myth that schools in Japan are good. I encounter it all the time. It's widely held outside Japan by people who have never visited Japan. They imagine schools filled with serious students doing rigorous studies taught by good teachers. One day in any Japanese learning institution is more than enough to disabuse anyone of this totally risible belief.

Of course, I'll get flamed by the rose-colored-spectacle-wearing Japan apologists and a gang of people who have never set foot in Japan, but those on this thread who have actually experienced the Japanese "education" system know that I am right.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

Posted in: Osaka to reintroduce Saturday classes for elementary schools See in context

Just what they need! More bad education.

Japan seems unable to do anything but double down on their old failed policies and strategies.

What they need is to teach smarter, not longer. Alas, people who have been educated in Japan, under the present system, are not able to understand how less could be more and smarter could be better.

So, the net result of Saturday classes? Graduating students will be just a tad more passive, a tad less creative and a tad less likely to be the sort of people who will lead Japan in a better direction.

So it goes...

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Posted in: Japanese car sales in China plunge 59.4% in October See in context

@ Herefornow:

You are spot on! Japan is it's own worst enemy. They don't need the Chinese or the Koreans or anyone else to consign them to irrelevance, stagnation and poverty: All you have to do is stand back and watch them do it to themselves. The corrupt ministries working hand in glove with an apathetic and ill-educated populace will see to it. I'd argue that Japan has essentially decided to remove itself from the world stage. They're quitting the game and taking the ball home. Of course, you can't really say they've decided anything - it wasn't conscious - it was more a series of non-decisions, with inertia being the main boss. God help those naive foreigners who hang around in Japan hoping that "the young generation will be better." If you're living in Japan, especially with haafu children, I say get out now while the getting's good. Don't wait for Hashimoto and Ishihara and their ilk to start targeting you as convenient scapegoats when things really go from bad to worse.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Posted in: Stalker sent 1,000 emails to ex-girlfriend before killing her, police say See in context

This type of thing has happened again and again in Japan. In the time I lived there, I heard dozens of stories like this. It's further proof of how backwards and sexist Japan is. There simply is no other country in the developed world where this type of thing could happen with such regularity. Here are some of the things that this incident highlights:

First, the lack of effective legal protections for women reflects just how sexist Japan is. It reflects the low standing of women in Japanese society and their lack of rights (anybody remember how long it took them to approve the birth control pill versus how long it took them to approve Viagra?).

Second, the shocking unwillingness of the police to take this matter seriously reflects not only their sexism, but the all-too-common unwillingness of Japanese people to take personal responsibility for things. I've dealt with the Japanese police on several occasions, and I found them loathe to want to take action, even when doing so could have potentially avoided a serious situation.

Third, this shows just how feudal Japan is. There is only the filmiest veneer of legality and most laws are honored in the breech. Instead of laws, the country runs on power relations. You can bet that if a powerful businessman walks into a police station with a complaint, the cops sit up and take notice. But a young woman? Come on! They've got important cigarettes to smoke! The law is not used to ensure the public safety, when the police invoke it, it's used as an excuse for not taking action (I've seen this with my own eyes on several occasions).

Fourth, this shows the deep level of mental sickness in Japan. The number of men there involved in stalking, sexual harassment, sick pornography (don't forget that Japan leads the world in the production of child porn), stealing women's underwear, flashing, chikan-ery and so on is truly astonishing. Open an "adult manga" of the sort you find in a salaryman's shokudo and tell me that you are dealing with healthy well-adjusted people.

I honestly wonder why any Western female would live in Japan or why any parent of a girl would raise her in Japan. It's not safe. For that matter, I wonder why well-educated Japanese women aren't moving abroad in greater numbers.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Posted in: 16 tips for raising a bilingual child in Japan See in context


You're absolutely right that Fukushima was a perfect example of what the Japanese "education" system produces (click on my name to see a recent post on exactly that topic). I salute you for having the guts to view Japan with clear eyes. Most of the posters on this thread can't bring themselves to take a hard, objective look at the reality in Japan. Instead, they busy themselves with debate about how best to counter the effects of the system in which they are participating and sending their children to participate, when, of course, the only real solution is to get away from it as fast as your feet can carry them.

And you're absolutely right that high-level native English is a 1000 times more useful than the same level of Japanese. In a word, Japanese is useful in Japan; English is useful in the world. The Japanese "education" system teaches children how to be Japanese and enter the Japanese corporate meatgrinder. An English-language education at a good school abroad teaches a child how to become a citizen of the world - and allows him/her to become a real free-thinking individual, something which is an anathema to Japan.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Posted in: 16 tips for raising a bilingual child in Japan See in context

@Vast Right-Wing Conspirator:

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I know that elementary schools in Japan aren't that bad and some might even be good. If you read my posts on this thread and click on my name, you'll get more of my thoughts on this and related matters. I'd actually consider sending my kids to a public Japanese elementary school if I were only looking at the curriculum there. However, as I've indicated here and on other threads: I don't want my children to be socialized to think like typical Japanese. See my comments on other threads for an expansion on that point.

As for having a talk or three with my wife, don't worry: We had lots of talks on this issue before deciding to move out of Japan to raise our kids. And there isn't a day that goes by where she doesn't exclaim how happy she is that we did so. And, needless to say, I feel the same way.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Posted in: 16 tips for raising a bilingual child in Japan See in context


That's a pretty good summary of why I wouldn't want to send my kids to Japanese school and why I wouldn't even want to raise them in Japan. I think that focusing on the results of the Japanese "education" system is useful. Indeed, one should very much judge a tree by its fruits and what I saw coming out the far end of the Japanese "education" system sent shivers down my spine. I'm not being at all hyperbolic when I say no education is preferable to sending your kids to Japanese public schools.

However, I'd also be very concerned about the general socialization a kid would receive in Japan, even if he/she went to international school. I cannot be too clear about this: As a Westerner, I find the societal norms and attitudes in Japan to be appalling. They are a complete anathema to me.

I'd go so far as to say that I would even consider my children not learning advanced Japanese as a form of protection against them wanting to live there in the future when they hit some existential crisis and want to give it a go in the motherland. I would not want my children to seek employment in a Japanese company. If they wanted to make a go of it there as entrepreneurs, then it might be okay, but in order to have the entrepreneurial mindset, again, they'd have to be raised outside Japan. And, they'll get enough Japanese from their mom and from occasional visits to be able to do business with no difficulty in Japan. And having learned to think like a Westerner, they'll be able to run circles around their flatfooted Japanese competitors, as so many Westerners are presently doing (for ref, see "Saying Yes to Japan").

-5 ( +3 / -7 )

Posted in: 16 tips for raising a bilingual child in Japan See in context

@cleo: Don't worry: I don't write my posts in hopes of winning thumbs up votes and I don't think of this as a popularity contest. I know that many people will detest what I write. As usual, I consider this a good sign. To quote an old chestnut from Swift: When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

I might add to my earlier post that I consider it downright irresponsible to send a "haafu" child in Japan to a normal public school. If one is going to be so cavalier with one's child's future as to raise him/her in Japan, then at least one could send the child to international school. We all know (or should know) about Japan's public education system, since so many in the gaijin community work in "education." Frankly, I strongly believe that no education would be far preferable to that which a child would receive in a Japanese public school. By not sending a child to Japanese public school, at least he/she will not absorb the soul-destroying norms that are promulgated there along with the creativity-killing rote "learning" that goes on there.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

Posted in: 16 tips for raising a bilingual child in Japan See in context

One thing that seems to be ignored here is the relative value of each language. Japanese is of very limited utility: it's only spoken in Japan and Japan is in an economic tailspin. English is the language of the earth, which is why it's often called "globish." Thus, parents should prioritize English, even if they live in Japan and their children are half Japanese. This will increase the chances of their children becoming global citizens; it will also give them a better chance of escaping the dismal place that Japan is in the process of becoming.

That said, my best advice to any parent raising "haafu" children in Japan would be this: Leave Japan and raise your kids in another country. Why spend so much time and money to try to counter the forces your child encounters as soon as he/she leaves your home? Not only would I be concerned about a child learning Japanese instead of English, I'd be concerned about a child being socialized in Japan, and absorbing the whole cultural package that comes with it.

-10 ( +8 / -18 )

Posted in: Scottish author's book details efforts to locate sons taken by Japanese wife See in context

We've all had our say about Mr. Galbraith's case. Let's forget the specific details of his case for a bit and look at the bigger picture. For those interested, I strongly recommend visiting this site and reading about other cases of Japanese parents abducting children and how the Japanese government supports them in these crimes:

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: Scottish author's book details efforts to locate sons taken by Japanese wife See in context


Okay, so you won't believe me about oxymoron, let's check the Oxford English dictionary:

oxymoron noun a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).

Note the plural "terms". So tell my how "abducted" can be an oxymoron. True, single individuals can contradict themselves, but single words cannot and do not. Frankly, I don't see why I'm arguing about the English language with someone who comes up with such gems as "Humans rights" or sentences like the following: "Western countries that champion Humans rights are under-developing on humans rights just to let you know." And you don't even know the difference between principles and principals.

Note: A principal is the person who never should have let you graduate from whatever school you went to. Principles are those elements of grammar, spelling and capitalization that you're currently ignoring. And a moron is a person who keeps arguing even after they've been soundly defeated.

By the way, moron was correctly used.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Posted in: Scottish author's book details efforts to locate sons taken by Japanese wife See in context

@AiserX and albaleo

Let me see if I understand you correctly: the marriage was rocky and the guy was partially responsible for this, therefore, he should never be allowed to see his kids again and the kids should never be allowed to see their father again?

That's awfully enlightened of you.

By the way, AiserX, you might want to Google the meaning of the word "oxymoron." An oxymoron is a self-contradictory term, like a "clever fool"; it does not mean an incorrect or unsuitable term, which is the way I believe you meant it. You might have tried using the word "sic" in parentheses. That would have indicated, with proper sarcasm, that you feel that the use of the word "abducted" was not correct in this context. I'll leave double negatives for next lesson.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Posted in: Scottish author's book details efforts to locate sons taken by Japanese wife See in context

I'd only like to add one thing (and this is aimed at Mr. Galbraith): If I were you, I'd hire a private detective to find my children and/or keep occasional tabs on them. When they get a bit older, find a way to meet and talk to them. Set up a failsafe way for them to contact you (cell phone number, personal contact, website they can search you by, anything their young minds will remember). Make it very easy for them to contact you any time they want. Your wife abducted them when they (at least the older one) were old enough to have memories of you. Sure, your wife will try to convince them that you are a devil, but just by being kind to them when you meet them will offset her brainwashing. And, at some point, your children will most likely reach out to you.

Sadly, the problem with children abducted like this is that they usually become monolingual and culturally Japanese, meaning that it can be difficult to communicate with them and their thinking will essentially start to resemble the racist and xenophobic people they are surrounded by. You can only hope that their desire to know their father will be enough to overcome this sad state of affairs.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Posted in: Scottish author's book details efforts to locate sons taken by Japanese wife See in context

Cases like this are incredibly common. In my limited sphere, I know two men in the exact same situation.

These cases unfortunately point up two of the most revolting aspects of Japan and the Japanese: 1) their incredibly backwards views and customs regarding child raising, child custody and the wellbeing of children, and 2) their instinctive and bone-deep racism.

First, even when both partners are Japanese, joint custody is very rare in Japan. Most Japanese parents seek sole custody and the legal system supports this. This demonstrates a complete failure to understand the importance of two parents in a child's life, not to mention the abhorrent level of selfishness displayed by people who are supposed to be parents, but are acting like children. From what I've seen in Japan, all too often, once the marriage falls apart, then one partner or the other is willing to use the children as a way to get revenge on their ex-spouse, and they don't care what damage this does to the children.

Second, the fact that the Japanese legal system will always and inevitably back the Japanese parent over the foreign parent in a custody battle is evidence of the clear and deep racism and xenophobia of the Japanese. Any honest observer of Japan knows that they have no intention of acting on the Hague Treaty. If you have any doubts about this and you really know Japan, just try this little thought experiment: Try to imagine a local Japanese court ordering the police to go to the Japanese parent's house and removing the child and bringing the child to his or her foreign parent. Frankly, I find it much easier to imagine pigs with wings.

My advice to any person considering having children with a Japanese national: think carefully. My advice to foreign parents of abducted children: don't rely on the Japanese government to help you - they won't. Try to abduct your children back. If you can get them to your nation's embassy, you might have a chance of getting them out of Japan.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Posted in: TEPCO couldn’t get battery during Fukushima meltdown; went to hardware store the next day See in context

To paraphrase the wonderful college courtroom speech from the movie "Animal House": Isn't this an indictment of the whole system? In this case, the Japanese system? For God's sake, how is it that with the reactors about to blow, not one person on site couldn't have simply said: let's go out and rip the additional batteries we need from the first car's we see? What we have highlighted so glaringly in this incident is almost every reason why Japan is now literally plummeting into dire economic stagnation: First and foremost, the inability to think. I mean, really think creatively, effectively, on your feet and, when necessary, out of the box. Next, the almost paralyzing fear of taking any responsibility in any situation. After that, the absurdly hierarchical structure of the society and the rules by which these hierarchies are imposed. It's easy to say: the Japanese education system is really just a long-drawn out lobotomy procedure (because I know that Japanese children are not dumb - they are as bright as anyone - but when the come out the end of the meat grinder - they are rendered dull, dim and pathetically passive). But, education systems only reflect the societies in which they exist, and so much of what goes into turning people who are by their very nature creative and intelligent into hapless, gormless and clueless sheep happens outside the classroom. Think of what constitutes common sense in Japan: don't think for yourself; don't rock the boat; don't criticize; don't make a fuss; try to figure out what everyone else is thinking before you say anything - it all results in a form of intellectual neutering. Sadly, some version of the same conversation as that contained in the transcript is now happening in Tokyo regarding how to pull Japan out of its slump. Maybe some of the ministers from the Mombusho are having that chat at the back room of a ryotei. And you can bet your last yen that the intelligence and content of the discussion rises no higher than that of the numbskulls trying to figure out how to get a battery in Fukushima. Ditto for the clowns in the Gaimusho and MITI trying to figure out why the economy is crashing and China hates them so much. I lived in Japan long enough to see this sort of idiocy time and time again. Sorry, there's no other word for it. I'm not saying the people are stupid. I'm saying the system renders them stupid. But therein lies the trap: once the entire populace, or almost all of it has been rendered stupid, you cannot have a revolution to change the society and render it smart. Just imagine the meetings of the rebels: "Where can we get gas for the Molotov cocktails? Are there funds available for such expenditures? We must have a meeting to discuss the consideration of a motion to contact the honbu to requisition the funds for the procurement of gasoline for the construction of a specified number of Molotov cocktails..." Sigh.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Posted in: Island plans by Ishihara may stoke fresh China tensions See in context

@gokai_wo_maneku: I don't think for a second that Ishihara is doing this for war profits, and I certainly don't think he's doing it so American companies can make a profit of war materials. If a hot war breaks out between China and Japan, Japan is just going to get creamed, and there's no profit in that. Ishihara is not hard to understand at all, and one does not need to go searching for hidden ulterior motives: he's a run-of-the-mill nationalist who simply can't accept the fact that Japan lost the war, and he's hoping that the country can regain some of its former glory, despite the fact that it's a radically different world from the 1930s and Japan is a much weaker country (populated largely by old people and effete young people).

@Sir_Ivan_coughaheckuvalot: I agree that someone must tell Ishihara to shut up and stop sticking his nose into foreign policy. But, let's not forget that we're talking about Japan. Don't forget Karel van Wolferen's famous observation that Japan has no steering wheel. Just who in Japan could possibly stand up and take responsibility and tell the old geezer to put a lid on it? The country has no real leaders. Can you imagine the emperor intervening? No, this is not like Thailand, where the King has actually called different factions onto the carpet and knocked their heads together. Can you imagine one of the interchangeable prime ministers telling him to can it? Or, even more unlikely, can you imagine a major newspaper running an editorial to this effect? Japan is just not that kind of country. No one is effectively in charge. Japan's total failure to own up to its wartime history is not the example that sent the message to the country that no one should ever take responsibility for anything. The failure to own up to its war crimes was more an example of a deeper and older tendency for no one to ever take responsibility for anything.

And, at the end of the day, the fact is this: Ishihara speaks for a lot of Japanese. There's no doubt that the entire LDP supports him, and a huge segment of the population does too. Get used to it: Japan is embarking on another nationalist swing and the results will probably turn out just like they did last time: with Japan in a world of hurt.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Posted in: Island plans by Ishihara may stoke fresh China tensions See in context

What I find fascinating is how no one in Japan blames Ishihara for getting Japan into this pickle - not the public, not the media, not the politicians. This is a fine example of the culture of no blame and no responsibility. Wait, let me clarify that: as long as a Japanese person was to blame, then, of course, no blame can be apportioned and no one is responsible. If an outside person or country did something, then this fact should be dwelled upon and remembered for all eternity.

The thing that Japan and the Japanese don't realize is this: America is in full decline. They've got their hands more than full with their failing engagements in the Middle East and they're well aware that China holds more of their Treasury Bills than does Japan. So, America's not going to come sailing to their rescue when China gets violent about this.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Posted in: Japanese tourists share impressions of traveling abroad with limited English ability See in context

It amazes me how many posters above defend Japan's execrable English by saying, "Why should they learn English?" or "It's enough to know Japanese" or "English is just another language and they have no need for it." The fact is this: English is the international language. It's not just another language. It's the language that people from almost all nations of the world learn to be able to function in the modern world. It's not the same as Urdo or Russian or Czech or, well, Japanese. Simply put, you cannot be a citizen of the modern world if you don't speak English. Even if a Japanese person never leaves Japan, they miss out on a huge amount of information that is only available in English, rendering them members of an informational underclass. Consider the horrible quality of the filtered and biased news in Japan - the only way to get accurate information about many things happening even in their own country is in English (to wit: look at the coverage of Fukushima post 311).

The posters above who homed in on katakana and "eigo" instead of real English were barking up the right tree, but these are symptoms of the deeper problem. The problem is simply this: speaking good English is considered by most Japanese and by the powers that be to be somehow "un-Japanese." A good Japanese speaks Japanese only. Full stop. The senile, doddering and conservative geezers who sit on the Mombusho know this. Perhaps they don't consciously articulate this, but deep inside, they know this. Or, should I say, they believe this. The fact is this: They don't want Japanese to speak good English. And most Japanese, being docile, passive and unquestioning (again, largely as a result of the "education" they receive from the Mombusho) accepts this. It's all part of the "kanri shakai" system that is Japan.

Try this thought experiment: Imagine if all Japanese spoke English as well as Dutch or Singaporeans. Do you think they'd put up with all the bullshit they have to put up with here (all of which handily serves the geezers in power)? No, they'd be like: "I'm out of here. I'm going to go work in (insert name of dynamic and open society here)."

Frankly, I'm amazed that so many posters here, with so many years in Japan between them, are blind to these screamingly obvious facts.

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Posted in: New Jersey town's monument to Korean sex slaves upsetting Japanese officials See in context

I'm afraid that Thomas Anderson nailed the situation in Japan when he wrote above:

The ultra far-rights (the majority of the J-gov basically) will silence anyone who would dare to speak out the truth about the war atrocities caused by Japan. I mean can you believe it... a Japanese historian who has dared to write about the Japanese war history truthfully was harassed day and night every single day until his death by the uyokus. This is the reality of Japan... a country which is at least 100 years stuck in the past. No modern or enlightened thoughts realistically exist in Japan. Everything has to do with who can coerce the most by using the most amount of force. No logic, no reason, no rationality, no morality, just brute, barbaric force.

Few people realize the extent to which the right wing holds Japan prisoner. They effectively prevent anyone from publishing or even speaking the truth about Japan's wartime atrocities, from discussing the role fo the emperor in the war, even from questioning the present political structure of modern Japan. Make no mistake, Japan is a fascist country and the people all know this. Why do you think they never talk seriously about politics and adopt a passive "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil approach"? Because they know that people get shot in the back or wind up tormented by the black trucks for the rest of their lives if they speak out. This is super convenient for the government, which is largely right-wing to begin with, because they don't have to engage in propaganda or oppression and assassination directly - they know that there's a private army of goons ready to do their bidding at all times.

Don't forget Japan's bloody history of political assassinations. The fact is: this is still going on. Ask any really clued in Japanese person (like an independent journalist) and they'll tell you: about half the time some outspoken person "commits suicide" by jumping off a roof, they didn't jump: the were pushed kicking and screaming. The whole society is united in a conspiracy of silence about this. That's why Japan appears to really inquisitive souls as "a dictatorship without an obvious dictator" (quoting from the book "Atomic Sushi").

So, will Japan ever really own up to its wartime crimes, teach history properly and discuss the role of the emperor in WWII? The answer is simple: No. Because very few people are willing to die to tell the truth and most Japanese can't read English well enough to find the truth in foreign media (leading one to wonder if Japan's horrible English education system is intentionally bad - but that's for another post).

Bringing this back to the main topic of this thread: Damn right the people in that town in New Jersey have the right and should keep that monument: since Japan will never take responsibility for its actions and teach its people the truth, it's up to the rest of the world to see that the "truth is out there."

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Posted in: What's wrong with Japanese education? See in context

Part 2

2) All schools should be privatized? That's a recipe for disaster. It's been shown in study after study that privatizing industries and services formerly managed by the state results in higher costs to the consumer and a decline in services. Just have one look at the dismal and dangerous state of America's private health care system to see just how well the corporate sector handles things that are state-run in many other countries.

And, has Mr. Valentine even considered for a second what would happen if all schools were privatized? Inevitably, the children of the wealthy would get better educations than the children of the poor and the disparity of wealth in the country would spiral out of control (as it has in the States). You want to see what happens when only the wealthy can afford decent schools? Go to Manila. See how that works for you.

Anyway, Mr. Valentine totally failed to answer the question he posed in his article, namely, what's wrong with Japanese education? Dog and Tideofiron mostly nailed the correct answers. The fact is - as I pointed out in a post on JT recently - the Japanese education system serves the very large companies in Japan (the ones who do the mass hirings). All of junior high school and high school (as well as cram school) is spent preparing for exams that will - hopefully - get the student into a good university, from which he/she will be able to enter a large Japanese company and secure lifetime employment. The fact that only a tiny percentage of students will ever achieve this goal is irrelevant. The fact that most students will fail to get into those good schools is irrelevant. The heads of the top companies and their drinking buddies at the Mombusho make sure that the Japanese "education" system largely serves as a selection and training process for workers in the big keiretsu.

But, going even more deeply, what's wrong with the Japanese "education" system is this: It takes young, bright-eyed and lively Japanese children and turns them into dull, passive, risk averse automatons who are utterly unable to function anywhere other than Japan (and even in Japan, one would hardly say they're functioning at full human potential). I briefly taught in Japan. I taught young children and I taught students at one of Japan's most elite university students. The difference in "spark" and intellectual curiosity I saw between the little kids and the "successful" graduates of Japanese high schools was shocking. The little kids had their lights on; the university students seemed to have been lobotomized. In fact, I'd go so far as to call the Japanese education system criminal and the members of the Mombusho criminals. They should be jailed or worse.

The very best thing Japan could do would be to replace the Mombusho with a team of educational consultants from a country like Singapore or the Netherlands. Get some real professionals in there and rebuild the system from scratch. Teach thinking and analysis, not regurgitation. Teach English, not Katakanago. Teach students to develop opinions and to defend them, not to look left and right and try to figure out what the consensus is.

Sadly, none of this will happen. Education systems are really distilled versions of the societies in which they exist. Why should we expect schools to be filled with creative students who passionately defend their own opinions when the society at large is composed of people who desperately try to avoid standing out in any way? Japan's education system will change when Japan changes. And if they do try to change it, they'll only make it worse, because the Mombusho is an echo chamber. The last thing they'd do is look abroad for successful models. No, they'll double down on the same old and failed approaches, believing that it is better to blindly "gambaru" than it is to "work smart." For this reason, you can count on Japan continuing its steep spiral into economic stagnation.

In closing, here's the best summary of the Japanese education system that I've found (it's just too bad that the kids in Japan don't rise up and riot like the English kids in this clip):

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Posted in: What's wrong with Japanese education? See in context

Part 1

Wow! Where does one even start?! Asking what's wrong with the Japanese education system is like asking what's wrong with the government of Somalia or the IQ of George W Bush.

First, let's get something out of the way: How in the heck is Mr. Valentine qualified to be commenting on education (let alone educating) when he produces an article like this?! There's a strange parallelism between the article and the topic it sets out to cover: There's so much wrong with both the article and Japan's education system that it's hard to know where to start.

Anyway, let's at least look at two of Mr. Valentine's main points: 1) that English isn't really necessary for Japanese students and 2) that all schools should be privatized.

1) English isn't necessary? That's easy for Mr. Valentine to say, given that he speaks and writes a form of English. The fact is, you simply cannot be a world citizen or even a modern human being without English, and I do not say that just because I'm a native speaker. There is now a global civilization on the earth (for good or ill) and one cannot participate actively in it without speaking English. Almost all major scientific papers are published in English; English is the language of travel; an enormous amount of new information is only available in English; and it's the common language of a huge swath of humanity. It is, simply put, the language of the earth. That's why some people now call it "Globish". It's awfully magnanimous of Mr. Valentine to suggest that the Japanese should just stay put on their islands and remain in an informational void by not learning English. And, let's not even get into just how badly Japan's economy has suffered because they do not generally speak English. How many business opportunities have been lost because of Japan's poor English? Why do you think the Koreans, Singaporeans, Hong Kong Chinese and mainland Chinese are in the process of eating Japan for lunch?

So, what's wrong with Japan's education system? I'll give you a big one: It fails to teach Japanese students to speak English. In fact, Japanese students place last in the world on the speaking portion of the TOEFL IBT test (the best test of real English). Meaning, that Japanese students are being outperformed by countries that have no formal educational system, or, where English is taught, literally, in grass huts.

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