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Strange Solutions For Population Decline
June 26, 2003 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I am STUNNED by this story, highlighting recent comments by a former Japanese cabinet member. In a discussion about the declining number of children in Japan, Seiichi Ota of the Liberal Democratic Party said that gang-rape is a sign of virility, and that its perpetrators are "close to normal."
posted by hammurderer (88 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I don't even know if this merits a MeFi post, but my web server is down and I had to put the story up somewhere. It's just too insane not to spread around.
posted by hammurderer at 4:24 PM on June 26, 2003


> its perpetrators are "close to normal."

On a worldwide basis they are close to normal. Which is why, bleeding-heart handwringing notwithstanding, things like public castration and hanging are close to normal too. It's what it takes to keep the naked apes off your daughter.
posted by jfuller at 4:38 PM on June 26, 2003


hammurderer, did you notice his comments later, though:

"After the debate, Ota, 57, told reporters he had wanted to add that rape is a serious crime and must be severely punished but that he had no time."

So, it's okay then, no need to be offended.
posted by jonson at 4:41 PM on June 26, 2003


I find these cases interesting. Consider the Trent Lott fiasco.

There's a fine line between saying "rapists want to assert their masculinity" and "rape is masculine."

When you're a public figure, you need to toe that line very fucking carefully. Except Scalia, apparently.
posted by scarabic at 4:53 PM on June 26, 2003


Scarabic, it doesn't seem to me that Seiichi was even close to the line. The line was like, in Idaho if he was in Tokyo. He and the line have never met.

I agree that public figures can be raked over the coals for careless but fairly innocuous comments. This isn't one of those situations.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:01 PM on June 26, 2003


He must not mind the US bases in Okinawa very much, then.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:04 PM on June 26, 2003


Sad to say, this doesn't really surprise me. I've lived in Japan, and over there sexual harassment is practically a team sport.
posted by Soliloquy at 5:17 PM on June 26, 2003


Gang rape? Will the Grapist be involved?
posted by trharlan at 5:24 PM on June 26, 2003


LittleMissCranky - word. Why was he even discussing it in those terms? Since public figures have to be so careful, and even fairly innocuous comments can be overblown (eg:"niggardly"), it's always surprising to see someone drop a real hum-dinger.
posted by scarabic at 6:01 PM on June 26, 2003


Let's just say that

I am not surprised, in the slightest; that I think (just as in Lott's case) this "slip" represents the true feelings of a significant sector of this society; and that the comment merely underlines for me the feelings I've already developed over the last two years.

It's time for me to leave Japan. Long past time, actually.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:37 PM on June 26, 2003


Actually, this kind of thing could be considered "close to normal" - for one f'ed up type of person. If a parent abuses or neglects their children, it's CLOCKWORK - the child fits into a certain class of people. It might make a male sexually and otherwise violent, or it might make him timid and closer to the stereotypical ideal of "woman". If you think about it, a person NEVER has qualities from both of these two groups if they have had a traumatic experience in their life; it's always one or the other. While I can't comment on the collective sexual health of the Japanese (*hackneyed cough followed by negative statement* tentacle hentai *cough*), gang-rape could be considered an ultimate kind of show of masculinity, however sick it is. And furthermore rape is exhibited in other primates naturally, and is almost a model of how all lower animals breed - minus the trauma because of less brains.
posted by caustic at 7:05 PM on June 26, 2003


caustic: I'm so sick of the "consenting sex was invented by humans" - dogma.
posted by spazzm at 7:22 PM on June 26, 2003


If a parent abuses or neglects their children, it's CLOCKWORK - the child fits into a certain class of people.

I know you know that you know that I know that that just isn't true.
posted by cohappy at 7:22 PM on June 26, 2003


caustic, that's not merely inarticulate, it's also ignorant and condescending. Further, it's an affront to the great many people who survive parental abuse and do not go on to become antisocial recluses or mass rapists.

Try again.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:12 PM on June 26, 2003


It's not difficult to imagine statements like this in a culture that includes a video series called Rapeman and where rape is a major theme of adult videos, which are reportedly watched by both teenage boys and teenage girls, who may see them as models for adult sexual behavior. Though there are ways in which our two cultures are strangely perpendicular, and thus not directly comparable, it may be fair to say that Japan has a pornography problem by American standards: though some materials are censored, comics and videos with sexually explicit depictions are freely available on streetcorner vending machines.
posted by dhartung at 9:44 PM on June 26, 2003


I'll be honest: I love porn as much as the next guy. Well, probably more than the next guy, unless said guy is a total perv. But the Japanese computer industry has taken it to the next level with porn. Dhartung is right. Their mass-produced stuff is creepy.

Somethingawful.com does a column about hentai games that's always hilarious, but soberingly scary. Check it out for an eye-opener. I wouldn't want to be a woman over there.
posted by Samsonov14 at 10:41 PM on June 26, 2003


Wow. That was...pretty fucking unreal. I am *soooo* sick of the "social safety valve" argument, too: "These games give boys a chance to do harmlessly, on a computer, things they'd get in trouble for doing in real life."

Riiiiiight.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:31 PM on June 26, 2003


I am inclined to make mention of the increasingly common and utterly mindboggling torture and dismemberment porn that seems the exclusive purview of the Japanese, and routinely features the cartoon disembowelment of women (and only women), but perhaps I'll just take a step back and think happy thoughts instead.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:52 PM on June 26, 2003


Gang rape shows the people who do it are still virile, and that is OK.

Gang rape is the temporary enslavement, ultimate violation and permanent emotional scarring of a fellow human being. What does gang rape have to do with virility? Virility is associated with potency, procreation and adult manliness. If anything, this despicable act is evidence of an utter lack of virility on the part of the perpetrators.

I think that might make them close to normal.

This politician must spend a lot of time in front of a video screen with the wrong kinds of 'entertainment' if he thinks that this kind of behavior is normal or even marginally acceptable anywhere.

The remark came during a debate among politicians on Japan's declining child population — a phenomenon Ota attributed to a lack of courage among Japanese men to go into marriage life.

Courage? Rape is how spiritually impoverished curs seek to deceive themselves with delusions of power at the expense of a victim under their temporary, physical control. Rape is the epitome of weakness and cowardice. And to commit such a craven act with many against one?

And why would gang rape even come up in a conversation about declining population in the first place? Since when has gang rape had anything to do with procreation?
posted by cup at 12:04 AM on June 27, 2003


For those of you who are trying to take one mans words as somehow representative of the criminal and/or sexual dysfunction of the entire nation, I'd look for Japan's actual rape and violent crime statistics which are among the lowest in the world if not the lowest.

At the front of the list on the other hand. . .
posted by dgaicun at 12:41 AM on June 27, 2003


Mindboggling stuff really, I now await an address to the commons by a MP advocating we replicate this new japanese dictum.
posted by johnnyboy at 1:26 AM on June 27, 2003


this "slip" represents the true feelings of a significant sector of this society

I would have to disagree with that statement. Although some of the pornography produced in Japan may give one this impression, my experiences here would lead me to believe otherwise.

When I was living in the Kanagawa Prefecture, there was a man in his twenties who had raped a woman in the same neighborhood while they were both still in their teens. This man was punished by both the justice system and the community. He repented, begged forgiveness and since then has worked very hard to be a productive member of that community. Although the neighborhood and even the victim forgave him and accepted him back, I don't think they will ever forgive his act or let him forget it. I think that I would have a had a hard time trying to find even one person in that neighborhood (or in any neighborhood for that matter) who thought of his act as 'virile' or acceptable in any way.
posted by cup at 1:32 AM on June 27, 2003


Oh really, cup? When will you stop defending the reprehensible and allow that maybe your paradise is not that for all, least of all Japanese women?

Underage Sex Crimes Soar; Online Dating Blamed

In Brief: Underage sex crimes are soaring in Japan, according to a white paper released by the government on Tuesday, and the explosion in online dating sites -- visited frequently by mobile users via keitai -- is taking the blame. The first year such crimes were tracked statistically (2000) the government recorded 71 victims.

Last year, the figure rose dramatically to 1,317, all of whom were under 20 years old and fell victim to crimes resulting from their use of matchmaking sites. 56 of the crimes were breaches of the law banning child pornography and child prostitution; 42 people were victims of violent crimes, such as murder or rape.


Source: Mainichi
http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/news/20030624p2a00m0dm019000c.html

Link: "Love in the Age of Spam"; February 2003
http://www.japaninc.com/article.php?articleID=1016

(via japaninc.net)
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:36 AM on June 27, 2003


Somethingawful.com does a column about hentai games that's always hilarious, but soberingly scary... I wouldn't want to be a woman over there.

When Unreal Tournament Game of the Year Edition first came out, I partook in a few smackdowns. Sniper rifles, rocket launchers, the sound of my impact hammer as I rushed opponents, head shots and adulation of "m-m-m-m-monster kill - kill - kill" were all quite entertaining for a while.

Do I own a rocket launcher? No. Do I snipe people from the balcony of my high-rise? No. Have I ever considered it? Only when the 'bosozoku' drive by at 2:00 a.m. :)

Looking at Japanese 'hentai' games and saying you wouldn't want to be a girl in Japan is like a Japanese girl looking at Unreal Tournament and saying that she wouldn't want to be caught in North America without a flack jacket.

There is much more to Japan than hentai games and much more to the U.S.A than first-person shooters. Thankfully, the people who can differentiate between reality and fantasy outnumber those who don't in both nations. That being said, the comments made by this politician and crime trends on both sides of the Pacific do give me pause.
posted by cup at 2:23 AM on June 27, 2003


Woman. The word you're looking for is "woman," not "girl." Samsonov14 "wouldn't want to be a woman" in Japan.

Your slip suggests yet again - as do all the sexist language you've used here in your comments on Japan - that you find little to complain about here because you simply do not take women and their prerogatives seriously.

It's not just about hentai games - although a mass-audience genre in which the depiction of, e.g., the violent rape and scatological abuse of retarded schoolgirls, marketed as entertainment, is far from unusual certainly should be disturbing - but about the entire texture of this culture's decisions about gender and rights and space.

Imagine being female. Imagine riding the subway, walking the city's streets, never able to escape the commodification of the female body as image or reality. Imagine that sexual harrassment is something you're just expected to put up with, or laugh off. Imagine that you live in a place where gang rape is excused as "almost normal."

How do you think you would feel, about yourself, your body, your options? Shouldn't the system of prejudices and standards and hypocrisies that warps this place's approach to sexuality do more than "give pause"?
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:58 AM on June 27, 2003


Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to provide links, Adam.

When will you stop defending the reprehensible and allow that maybe your paradise is not that for all, least of all Japanese women?

When have I defended the reprehensible? If you read my posts you will see how I feel about crimes against women. If you are saying that Japan as a nation is reprehensible then I respectfully decline comment.

If there is a comment that I don't agree with, I will not hesitate to reply and I hope that you continue to do the same. That is one of the many things I enjoy about the Metafilter community - I can voice my opinion and have that opinion challenged. This helps everybody involved formulate and evolve opinions. It is informative, thought provoking and entertaining.

Japan, like any other nation, has issues which need to be resolved. I accept that Japan has problems and am doing everything in my power to resolve these problems in a constructive manner.

Hopefully you will do the same in whatever country you choose to call your home.

Best Regards.

-----

On preview, I respectfully decline to address the comments in your second (latest) post.

It's Friday and Ginza awaits. I sincerely hope you have a nice weekend, Adam.
posted by cup at 3:31 AM on June 27, 2003


... I'd look for Japan's actual rape and violent crime statistics which are among the lowest in the world if not the lowest.

Is that because there is no crime, or is it because crime is not reported.

... violence against women in Japan remains largely unreported due to inadequate laws and the failure of police and judicial officials to treat such crimes with the requisite degree of concern. In 1994, for example, only 1,500 rapes were reported in Japan.

And ...

In Japan, a rape victim must show evidence of having resisted the attack. The legal standard of the degree of coercion in sexual assault cases is that the force used must be so extreme as to deprive the victim of the ability to resist. A rapist’s misunderstanding of consent is still accepted as a defense. Moreover, Japan has no "rape shield" law to protect the privacy of rape victims. Judicial interpretations of articles 176 and 177 of the Penal Code have further weakened the effect of laws pertaining to sexual assault and rape. A 1959 precedent from the Yamaguchi district court held that "a certain degree of violence is a normal part of sexual intercourse," thus making rape more difficult to prove. In a 1978 case a charge of rape was dismissed because the court found no evidence of tangible force beyond "ordinary sexual intercourse." ~ source (where you will find loads more of "wonderful" info about Japan and crimes against women)

Or how about this: Rape is covered in sports papers only when murder is involved and the victim is usually named. The stories do not use the word "rape" but the Japanese term for "mischief." ~ source

This report though has what I feel to be the best representation of WHY they go unreported: Decisions Not to Report Sexual Assault in Japan - pdf - html

So is it that there aren't many rapes or that they aren't reported/prosecuted?
posted by Orb at 5:35 AM on June 27, 2003


Since when has gang rape had anything to do with procreation?

well...

Is Rape an Effective Reproductive Strategy?
posted by kv at 5:51 AM on June 27, 2003


So is it that there aren't many rapes or that they aren't reported/prosecuted?

Exactly as it is here in Korea, it is most assuredly the latter, Orb.

Not to say that that's different in any significant way, except perhaps degree, from the situation most other nations, I admit. The past few decades have seen some improvements in some places, at least.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:54 AM on June 27, 2003


That's OK: you "respectfully decline to address" these issues.
I'll continue to believe that silence is the voice of complicity.

And what Orb said, in spades.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:17 AM on June 27, 2003


comics and videos with sexually explicit depictions are freely available on streetcorner vending machines.

Not true, Dhartung. In ten years, I have only seen two porn vending machines in Tokyo, both of them relics from about 1985.

The report you linked to which attempts to link porn to sexual violence is, as usual, unconvincing. I thought this battle had already been fought and lost?
posted by dydecker at 7:30 AM on June 27, 2003


So is it that there aren't many rapes or that they aren't reported/prosecuted?


OK, let's assume that the Japanese statistics are horrendously underreported.

For this exercise, we'll use the official Interpol crime statistics available here.

The latest records the Interpol site has available for Japan are for 2001, with an official rate of 1.75 incidents per 100,000 people.

If we assume that only 1 out of 10 incidents make the record (a truly horrific prospect indeed), then we're left with an "adjusted" rate of 17.50 incidents per 100,000 people.

For comparison, the official, unadjusted 2001 rates for England and France are 16.50 and 16.36, respectively. The USA's official unadjusted 2001 rate is 31.77...

Not to belittle rape & its victims, but if Japan really is in the throes of a silent rape epidemic, then at most it's a rather half-hearted one.
posted by PsychoKick at 7:56 AM on June 27, 2003


Perhaps the fact that the Japanese have yet to really acknowledge and conront their culpability for the Rape of Naking and forced enslavement of the women of occupied countries during WWII as "comfort women" for their troops has something to say in this context about their national psyche
posted by Pressed Rat at 7:58 AM on June 27, 2003


er..confront
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:00 AM on June 27, 2003


On the subject of reporting rapes to the police. I know several women who have been raped, none of whom reported the attacks to the police. One reported the attack to a doctor, who made it quite obvious where he thought the blame lay.
'Less than 7% of victims report rape to the police.'
It is estimated that by the age of 18 years, 50% of girls have suffered some form of abuse.
'1 in 4 women suffer rape or attempted rape
The most common rapists are current and ex-husbands or partners
1 in 7 married women said they had been forced to have sex compared to 1 in 3 divorced or separated women
91% of women told no one.'
These numbers come from the UK.
posted by asok at 9:08 AM on June 27, 2003


The report you linked to which attempts to link porn to sexual violence is, as usual, unconvincing. I thought this battle had already been fought and lost?

I don't think it has to be seen as a causation - it's just that the products of a culture tell you something about the social imaginary of the culture. And if the products are seen as acceptable, that reinforces those cultural stances.

It doesn't mean that looking at rape porn makes you go rape someone, but it does mean that a culture which produces rape porn includes a subset which gets off on the idea of sexual violence, and in being able to find media which display these fantasies, their turn-on is tacitly acknowledged as more or less normal.

Unfortunately for us, biology isn't always pretty, and rape does seem to just be part of the deal for much of the animal kingdom. But as thinking animals, we have to overcome it, not support it.
posted by mdn at 9:27 AM on June 27, 2003


Not true, Dhartung. In ten years, I have only seen two porn vending machines in Tokyo, both of them relics from about 1985.

You gotta be kidding me. When I was in Kobe (Ashiya and Sannomiya), the first thing I saw when I got off the train was a hentai vending machine. I saw a few in Roppongi too.

They weren't everywhere, like the cigarette vending machines (Canned coffee and cigarette vending machines are the two things I miss most about Japan. That, and the fried whale), but if you looked in the right places, you could find them.

What was more disturbing to me were the stores like Mandarake, where you could find any perversion under the sun. I don't shock easily, but when you see someone flip though a comic book about a 12 year-old getting raped by her brother, you tend to step back a bit.

And while it's easy to point fingers at the Japanese, and call them depraved, or whatever, not everyone in Japan is a serial rapist, just like not everyone in the US is a gun nut.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:51 AM on June 27, 2003


Having spent 3 years in Japan, I'd like to point out, as adamgreenfield has, the commodification of the female body there.

Women are treated as sex-objects over there, and they tacitly accept this situation. Turn on the TV, and you'll be sold the idea that women are sex objects. Walk the street, and you can't escape the advertising that women are sex objects.

I know that happens in any western society, but Japan is extreme.

Not only that, but being a man, it's hard not to take your mind OFF sex in Japan - there is a bombardment of sexual messages.

I'm far from being a prude or conservative, but it's just so cynical in Japan.
posted by SpaceCadet at 10:15 AM on June 27, 2003


The remark came during a debate among politicians on Japan's declining child population, a phenomenon Ota attributed to a lack of courage among Japanese men to go into married life.

I find this a more interesting point than the brew-ha-ha over the gang rape comment.

Isn't it true that in modern society, more of us are choosing to live independent multifarious lives rather than get tied down with a single partner and produce offspring? I wouldn't call this a lack of courage! I highly doubt I'll ever get married, and even if I did, it'd probably last a few years max.

Having kids might be a special thing to do, and yeah, people should keep doing it.. but there are a lot of us who think it's not worth it, and we can just do something else that's more fun.
posted by wackybrit at 10:29 AM on June 27, 2003


What was more disturbing to me were the stores like Mandarake, where you could find any perversion under the sun. I don't shock easily, but when you see someone flip though a comic book about a 12 year-old getting raped by her brother, you tend to step back a bit.

Disturbing, maybe. A bad thing? Not necessarily.

Many people have bizarre fetishes and perversions. A lot of people who have them do not understand why they have them, they just do. It's not an active thing, it's just something they mysteriously find appealing.

Some fetishes are okay to act out. Others, like raping someone, are not. Therefore, isn't it better that people can read comics about rape or child sex or .. whatever .. than having their minds think about it whenever they /really/ see someone, a child, whatever? I say yes. I'd rather someone with a kook for kiddie sex reads some filthy comic for minutes a day and gets it out of their system, rather than leering at every child they see.

Now, I gotta get back to reading my just-delivered copy of 'Sex with A-List Bloggers'.
posted by wackybrit at 10:35 AM on June 27, 2003


Disturbing, maybe. A bad thing? Not necessarily.

No, it's not necessarily a bad thing. I even bought a Final Fantasy hentai for a friend of mine who one night, got really drunk, and admitted to masturbating to various Final Fantasy characters (he even named names). But you should have seen the look on peoples faces while they flipped though it, before I gave it to him. I'd describe it as a mix of horror and amazement.

Many people have bizarre fetishes and perversions. A lot of people who have them do not understand why they have them, they just do. It's not an active thing, it's just something they mysteriously find appealing.

It's really just a cultural thing. The Japanese, from what I've seen, are really individually sexually repressed, but as a society they seem to have one huge lolitia fetish, and one huge domination fetish.

The types of comic book stores they have in Japan could never exist in the United States, and probably most western nations. The religious nuts, and the moral arbiters would have a field day. Bill O'Rielly would have a 6-hour tantric orgasm just thinking about exposing "these smut peddlers" or some such bullshit.

I've never lived in Japan, but over the past 2 years, I've been there for a total of about 3 months. It's nice, I like it. I've got some connections over there now, so I'll probably end up living there for a few years after college, and really master the language. With the way this country seems to be going, Japan is looking nicer and nicer, flaws and all.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:19 AM on June 27, 2003


The types of comic book stores they have in Japan could never exist in the United States, and probably most western nations. The religious nuts, and the moral arbiters would have a field day.

well, I'm definitely not a religious nut, and I don't generally think of myself as a moral arbiter, in the sense that I'm completely open to discussing the source and consequences of moral choices, not claiming some absolute source of "rightness" is on my side, but I for one would not support openly marketing rape or dismemberment porn.

Yes, to a certain degree, people probably can't control exactly what their fantasies are - but those fantasies should still not be given the okay by the culture at large. Imagine if some percentage of the population had a "fetish" about beating gay men to a bloody pulp, and there was a market for animated videos graphically depicting this - would that not belie some larger social sickness? Would that not be worth trying to overcome, rather than support?
posted by mdn at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2003


I'd go even further: suppose, for example, that a society had an insatiable appetite for fantasy films and comics about kidnapping and murdering children, and this obsession was pandered to everywhere you went. Would you think there was a problem then?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:37 AM on June 27, 2003


well, I'm definitely not a religious nut, and I don't generally think of myself as a moral arbiter, in the sense that I'm completely open to discussing the source and consequences of moral choices, not claiming some absolute source of "rightness" is on my side, but I for one would not support openly marketing rape or dismemberment porn.

I didn't see any dismemberment porn when I was there (I think most people would be against that), but lots of people have a rape fetish. In the US you can get videos depicting rape, and torture, or whatever. I'm also pretty sure, although I've never seen one, and I'm not about to go looking, that there are magazines and books that already cater to the rape fetishist crowd. I don't think comic books are going to add too much fuel to the fire.

The only comic books that disturbed me a bit were the really finely drawn child incest/child rape comics.

I'd go even further: suppose, for example, that a society had an insatiable appetite for fantasy films and comics about kidnapping and murdering children, and this obsession was pandered to everywhere you went. Would you think there was a problem then?

This sort of thing isn't pandered to everywhere you go. I think that's a gross misstatement. And the more twisted the comic is, the more rare it is. There's no national pandemic of murder/rape comics. There are some stores you go into, manga comic shops usually, that have a section with the "adult" comics. It's not as if you walk into a library and start checking these things out.

Not to be an ass George, but have you been to Japan? I think you see it as worse in your imagination, than it is in real life.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:47 AM on June 27, 2003


SweetJesus, yes I have. And here in the US, I know Japanese women living here who basically regard themselves as escapees. One said "Japan is now completely insane." Another told me about her personal experience of the consequences of reporting sexual harrassment in the workplace: essentially you can forget about advancement after that, and even your continued employment is in question.

Yes, I know they don't do what I described; I was probing for the outrage threshold. But I do know that the sexual objectification of women is completely inescapable there.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:02 PM on June 27, 2003


I'll continue to believe that silence is the voice of complicity.

Please feel free to believe whatever you want, Adam.

I am sorry for keeping you waiting so long. When one has to choose between enjoying a wonderful dinner and partaking in online bait, dinner usually wins.

Woman. The word you're looking for is "woman," not "girl." Samsonov14 "wouldn't want to be a woman" in Japan.

Is there a problem with referring to men as 'guys' and women as 'girls'? I have used the term to address friends from Canada, France, etc. and they didn't have a problem with it.

Your slip suggests yet again - as do all the sexist language you've used here in your comments on Japan - that you find little to complain about here because you simply do not take women and their prerogatives seriously.

I refer to Japan and *her* people. When I sail, I refer to *her* stern. I have used the term 'when love shows *her* face' and refer to a *goddess* of mercy. I am very much guilty of assigning the female gender to countries, ships and certain concepts. Granted, it is not good style when one writes professionally but does it mean that I do not take women seriously? That's quite a leap.

Please check out what wikipedia has to say about gender-specific pronouns. If you would like to edit the explanation at wikipedia, please be my guest.

It's not just about hentai games - although a mass-audience genre in which the depiction of, e.g., the violent rape and scatological abuse of retarded schoolgirls, marketed as entertainment, is far from unusual certainly should be disturbing - but about the entire texture of this culture's decisions about gender and rights and space.

Perhaps we go to different video stores but I have yet to see such videos. I will take your word that they do exist, Adam, but how does the existence of unsavory videos reflect an entire culture's decisions on anything?

Imagine being female. Imagine riding the subway, walking the city's streets, never able to escape the commodification of the female body as image or reality.
Imagining something does not necessarily make it so. Although there is a deluge of advertising that involves the female body as an image or commodity, there are many successful politicians, doctors and professors in Japan who have 'escaped' the 'commodification' of the female body in reality. Equality in the workplace (for women as well as non-Japanese people) is still not the norm in too many companies but that is changing and progress is being made.

Imagine that sexual harrassment is something you're just expected to put up with, or laugh off.

Outside Shibuya Station I helped drag a sexual offender to the police box so that the victim could press charges. She certainly didn't intend on putting up with it. Nobody was laughing.

Imagine that you live in a place where gang rape is excused as "almost normal."

Excused as 'normal' by *one* politician. Does this statement worry me? Very much. Is it acceptable? Of course not. Is it indicative of the culture? I would be afraid to take that leap.

How do you think you would feel, about yourself, your body, your options? Shouldn't the system of prejudices and standards and hypocrisies that warps this place's approach to sexuality do more than "give pause"?

Prejudices do more than "give pause" Adam. I have given speeches in Japanese regarding human rights and treatment of non-Japanese people living in Japan. If I see a problem I do my best to fix it. When I saw a man beating a woman about the head and face with a closed fist in public I physically restrained him until the police arrived. Although there are a few curs in this land (as there are curs in any land - I had a similar encounter with a drunk man in Finland), I don't think Japan is as warped or sexually depraved as you would lead us to believe.

Thank you for taking time to reply to my comments, Adam.

Have a nice weekend.
posted by cup at 1:36 PM on June 27, 2003


That's OK: you "respectfully decline to address" these issues.

No, Adam. My posts on this thread and my actions in the real world would demonstrate that I do my best to address these *issues* whenever I can.

I respectfully declined to address the *comments* in your *posts* because your posts had a hostile tone. Intelligent discussions tend to be much more productive and fulfilling than online flame wars so I didn't want to spill gasoline on a burning fire.

Just thought I should clarify that for you, Adam.

Let's use this forum to exchange ideas, not insults. That's what I visit Metafilter for - intelligent discussion. If I want to relieve stress by exchanging blows I visit the dojo.

Best Regards.
posted by cup at 2:09 PM on June 27, 2003


oh my god cup, can you stop condescendingly repeating his name?

but lots of people have a rape fetish. In the US you can get videos depicting rape, and torture, or whatever. I'm also pretty sure, although I've never seen one, and I'm not about to go looking, that there are magazines and books that already cater to the rape fetishist crowd. I don't think comic books are going to add too much fuel to the fire.

The only comic books that disturbed me a bit were the really finely drawn child incest/child rape comics.


so raping a woman is okay, but raping a child is wrong? Or raping a woman is okay enough that you can fantasize about it, but not okay enough that you can actually do it, but raping a child is not okay enough to fantasize about, or what? I mean, if you have a line that you draw somewhere regarding what is normal healthy fantasy and what is cultural sickness, can you not understand how women might draw the line a little further in? And if half the culture is really sickened by the material, the way you feel about the child incest stuff, maybe we should try to dissuade it.

This is not just sexual fantasy; this is a fantasy about doing violence to another human being. What about those theoretical videos depicting beatings or kidnappings or murders? It's fine to say every individual should have the right to do whatever he wants etc, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture - we affect our culture and then our culture affects us (and our progeny) back. It's a continuous cycle, and we should not try to pretend that any man is an island; accepting "fetishes" that demean, degrade and objectify half the population does not bode well for good relations between the sexes.

all I can hope is that women will generally avoid partnering with men that have fantasies like this, and that with abortion legal, rape will be a much less effective reproductive strategy, so that eventually this genetic tendency will become quite rare.
posted by mdn at 4:06 PM on June 27, 2003


It's fine to say every individual should have the right to do whatever he wants etc, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture - we affect our culture and then our culture affects us (and our progeny) back. It's a continuous cycle, and we should not try to pretend that any man is an island; accepting "fetishes" that demean, degrade and objectify half the population does not bode well for good relations between the sexes.


[random philosophical side-track]

Why should humanity necessarily remain in that cycle? Why should living humanity accept any form of subserviance to inanimate imagery and fantasy? In more primitive times there was little practical delineation between ideas and action, but the advent of mass literacy changed that forever. Books proved that one could entertain an idea without necessarily accepting nor acting on it. This separation between thought and action, fiction and reality, has allowed humanity to rule over and harness its ideas for its own betterment and growth, rather than to remain blindly chained to its own basic desires, fears, and urges.

Color me a faustian @sshole, but I hope that the most darkest, vilest fantasies will be permitted to develop freely within the bounds of fiction. Perhaps then all of mankind will truly understand the incredible evil that all are capable of, and thus be able to guard against or utilize it with the cool competence of a skilled professional, not the unstable dangerous flailings of the righteously indignant.

Humanity needs its heretics, for they keep us vigilant & calm against the demons we would rather forget we can be, and aware of the strength we might otherwise overlook.

[/random philosophical side-track]
posted by PsychoKick at 5:47 PM on June 27, 2003


cup is a Japanapologist.
posted by SpaceCadet at 6:05 PM on June 27, 2003


Dismemberment porn certainly exists here, and it's been developed to a far higher degree than anywhere else that I am aware of, or ever want to be aware of. See the relevant chapter in Eros In Hell.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:08 PM on June 27, 2003


When I saw a man beating a woman about the head and face with a closed fist in public I physically restrained him until the police arrived.

I have know several people who have done this here in Korea, and every single one of them ended up being arrested rather than the Korean man who was beating up on the woman with him. Neat how that works, huh?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:02 PM on June 27, 2003


No.
posted by dgaicun at 11:32 PM on June 27, 2003


cup is a Japanapologist

Thank you, SpaceCadet. Although I have a great interest in the country that I call home (or one of my homes, anyway), in all honesty I couldn't include Japanologist is my CV. :)

mdn:

oh my god cup, can you stop condescendingly repeating his name?

It was not my intention to be condescending but rereading my posts it does seem that way. I will stop.

adamgreenfield:

See the relevant chapter in Eros In Hell.

Thank you for the link. If my use of your name seemed condescending I apologize. I will be more careful in the future.

stavrosthewonderchicken:

I have know several people who have done this here in Korea, and every single one of them ended up being arrested rather than the Korean man who was beating up on the woman with him.

Thank you for the heads up on the Korean legal system, stavros. In Japan things are pretty much the same. Every time I get involved in a potentially violent situation I risk arrest, imprisonment and deportation. It's one of the many things I would like to change in Japan during my lifetime or at least get moving in the right direction.

The details of that encounter are quite disturbing on many levels:

This happened in front of my apartment when I was living in Ichigaya (not a dangerous neighborhood at all, BTW). It was evening and I saw a man savagely start punching a woman in the head repeatedly with all his strength.

I immediately yelled 'What are you doing?' as loud as I could. He turned to stone. I quickly grabbed him, turned him around, held his arms behind his back and lifted him off the ground slightly so he couldn't break free.

I discovered that she was his wife and that she didn't want to go to the police. The moment she said that, his attitude immediately changed for the worse. He became enraged, abusive and demanded that I let him go.

His hostility and utter lack of repentance led me to fear for the lady's well-being so I asked a neighbor to call the police.

They arrived twenty minutes later - all the while I held him so that he could not break free and he called me every expletive under the rising sun.

I breathed a sigh of relief when they came but it was premature...

When they discovered that she was his wife, they told him to make nice and were going to let him go without even asking for any ID! They recorded his ID only when I demanded that they do.

Then, they let him go right in front of my apartment and even asked him to thank me for interfering, which he did:

'Thank you' he said and then whispered, 'you (insert expletive term for babies born out of wedlock).'

So, thanks to two nice officers from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, she probably got the beating of her life when she got home and a wife-beater psycho knew exactly where I lived.
posted by cup at 1:27 AM on June 28, 2003


And the point of your autohagiography is?
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:34 AM on June 28, 2003


adamgreenfield:

And the point of your autohagiography is?

Just wanted to let stavrosthewonderchicken know what things were like in Japan since he shared his experience in Korea and I wanted to show that the system in Japan needs changing. I guess it wasn't a good use of Mathowie's bandwidth, was it?

Also, thank you for teaching me the word hagiography. (I am not being sarcastic - learning a new word is like getting a new tool for one's toolbox.)

Peace.
posted by cup at 1:49 AM on June 28, 2003


greemfield sure is a dickhead.
posted by angry modem at 9:05 AM on June 28, 2003


This thread is awful. Isn't it possible to have a dialogue about Japan without all the insults and sneers? It's completely tedious.
posted by dydecker at 9:41 AM on June 28, 2003


This thread is awful. Isn't it possible to have a dialogue about Japan without all the insults and sneers?

[random cryptic sophistry]

It is because for those who view the world as black and white, yellow is greatly confusing.

[/random cryptic sophistry]
posted by PsychoKick at 10:58 AM on June 28, 2003


Thanks a lot, angry_modem. That's a lovely addition to this discussion. And here I was feeling so grand about myself, too.

As to black-and-white: believe it or not, I don't think everything is black or white, not even here. I do think Japan gets off awful light in the West, given its vocal amen corner of apologists, sentimentalizers and fetishists - most of whom have never set foot here.

And it enrages me. I mean, look up "Nanking" sometime, or Google the obscene phrase "comfort woman." And then realize that this place is governed by the same institutions (and in some cases, the same families and even individuals) whose wealth was accumulated during the Imperial era. No process equivalent to denazification ever took place here, no soul-searching, not even any half-assed public reckoning like the one poor, poor Trent Lott "suffered."

The injustice, the sheer wrongness of this status quo raises my bile. And anyone benefitting from the status quo without interrogating it and problematizing it - and I'm afraid that includes the great many gaijin who come here and find themselves free, to all intents and purposes, to act in ways that they never would at home - loses my respect.

I'm sorry if you think this makes me a dickhead. But I wasn't raised to paper over the literally genocidal actions of unapologetic elites; nor am I disposed to think mercifully of those elites (or those in the aegis of their goodwill) until they are fully brought to account for their deeds.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:20 AM on June 28, 2003


[dickhead]

How quickly he uses our suffering to justify his anger.

[/dickhead]
posted by PsychoKick at 2:10 PM on June 28, 2003


angry_modem, your comment is stupid, stupid, stupid. Who are you?? Have you stepped out of your home town?

adamgreenfield is living in Japan, and is one of those rare gaijins there who has critical thinking skills AND has the bravery to say what he thinks.

(I am not an adamgreenfieldapologist by the way).

I spent 3 years in Japan, and I came up against an incredibly racist, sexist, bullying culture. I say it as I see it too. I don't use tatemae, I use honne. This thread is an example of my own experience (stupid sexist comments). "I am STUNNED" the thread begins - well I wasn't.

The gaijin apologists of Japan just make my skin crawl: they have their girlfriend or some other emotional investment there, I understand it's their temporary/new home, or they had some golden holiday there....soaked up the tatemae friendliness, but never really got to know anyone there....it's all well and good for the ego. Anyone who has been there for more than a few years though, starts to see the cynical side of Japan. When you've been there long enough that the novelties where off, you really see how the place ticks.

Japan is an amoral society like no other. Good for gaijin English-teaching holidays.
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:19 PM on June 28, 2003


[irritating if overused]

[context identifier]
Spatchcocked apothegm
[/context identifier]

[/irritating if overused]
posted by Opus Dark at 4:27 PM on June 28, 2003


adamgreenfield is living in Japan, and is one of those rare gaijins there who has critical thinking skills AND has the bravery to say what he thinks.

Angry gaijins are ten a penny. There are hundreds of posters over at Japan Today telling each other precisely how fucked up Japan is. Get any group of "intelligent" foriegners together and see how long you go before the daft conspiracy theories and the rage begin to flow. It's a bummer, it's impossible to reason with, and it happens after two or three years of living here. How do I know? It happened to me, too.

I don't know why Japan causes this emotion in foriegners, perhaps foriegners in every country go through something similar. I do think it is something to do with not understanding and not being understood, compromising your core values in order to fit in, and not being able to find a place for yourself and your ideas in this society. Emigration--let the righteous beware, I guess.

In my experience, and I have been here ten years, when I decided to stick out the bad times, the rage lifted. I hope I can now say something is fucked up in a voice that doesn't frighten small children.

I agree with some of what Adam says but find it impossible to respond because his voice is still filled with rage.
posted by dydecker at 7:27 PM on June 28, 2003


Well, yeah! I mean, this kind of thing does tend to enrage me, as does this, as does this, and this, and yes, let's not forget about the very comment that brought us here.

Bear in mind that the above issues represent things that are not precisely topics on the national radar - in some cases, they go completely undiscussed. There's no equivalent of "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee," or "Roots" on national TV, to provoke dialogue, and dialogue can be impossible in any event - I have made the classic gaijin conversational blunder, with Japanese friends, of uttering the word burakumin, to blank stares and stretching, uncomfortable silence.

Wouldn't that make you mad, knowing not merely that an edifice like modern Japan is built on suffering on such a scale, but that this fact (and all of its ongoing resonances in daily life) is off-limits to discussion?

Yeah, I am mad. But I disagree, dydecker, with your and cup's implication that this anger is some kind of immaturity or personal failing on my part. Sure, angry gaijin are ten a penny - but I'm not the guy sloshing lager at the Roppongi bar and complaining that I can't get a proper breakfast and that nobody speaks a word of English. I agree, that's pathetic.

I hope you will credit, however, that there are other, far more valid things to be enraged by.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:52 PM on June 28, 2003


"Get any group of "intelligent" foriegners together and see how long you go before the daft conspiracy theories and the rage begin to flow."

What do you mean by conspiracy theories?
posted by dgaicun at 11:15 PM on June 28, 2003


Adam, yeah, your links make me think, make me sad, and are worth fighting for. But they don't make me angry anymore.

I'm not primarily a political person but the way I say the cause of many of these problems is that Japan's democracy never took root; it is a thin facade which hides the much more entrenched fuedal society. Japan is like a movie set: you peer round the corner of what looks to be institutions ruled by law, contracts, a free press, politics, and in fact it is a jungle in which power is absolute, filial piety is obligatory, etc. Ota and his pathetic "wit" is like a weed growing through the window of the house, spoiling the illusion, nothing more. Didn't someone say that a politician's gaffe is when say something true? Well, the truth his Japan is a jungle.

But this doesn't make me mad. I find it kind of sad and scary and fascinating. It is also as scary as hell to get mixed up in, as I have learned from experience.

I don't think this is a problem per se with Japan but rather an example of the impossibility of implanting democracy in a non-Western culture. I hold out little hope for what the Americans are trying to do in the Middle East.

What do you mean by conspiracy theories?

I mean anything which revolves around a foreigner's paranoia about how Japan is persecuting them personally. Like the infamous Aoyama slapper.
posted by dydecker at 1:36 AM on June 29, 2003


Maybe you've put your finger on it, then: I find myself, weirdly enough, getting re-radicalized as I get older. Maybe radicalized, in good faith, for the first time - I mean, listening to Fugazi and getting arrested at die-ins and suchlike are important, but they're really sort of narcissistic and self-aggrandizing. I speak for myself only, of course.

I think of the span of days I have remaining on this Earth and the idea that I could let more pass by narcotized by consumerism and ironic self-satisfaction, without doing what I can from this gorgeous seat of privilege and luck - well, it nauseates me.

And you're right: the "problem with Japan" isn't that it's Japan, it's that it is feudal, and I'm no relativist: I think feudalism (like bossism, the chaebol system, the charismatic rule of various strongmen and caudillos, and other manifestations of this eternal impulse) is backward and wasteful and morally repugnant, here as anywhere else.

I feel called to action, personally. And by now I know that there are enough Westerners sufficiently deeply invested in their lovely myths - whether the myth is that democracy and free markets will ever work here; or that the spirit of Zen pervades this country, lending it a delicate, refined aesthetic sense; or that Tokyo is a glittering, high-tech fount of innovation and novelty; or what have you - that anything that moves against those myths will not be well-received.

But I'd rather be called a dickhead occasionally, or told that I lack the requisite sense of (irony/humor/perspective), than flunk what seems to me, in all my ethnocentricity, to be an elementary principle of human ethics. That is, attempting to protect the weak from the mighty.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:03 AM on June 29, 2003


I don't know why Japan causes this emotion in foriegners, perhaps foriegners in every country go through something similar. I do think it is something to do with not understanding and not being understood, compromising your core values in order to fit in, and not being able to find a place for yourself and your ideas in this society.

This is the classic "Understanding Japan" lesson condascendingly thrown down onto me. Believe me, the more I understood the intricacies of the place, the less I liked about it. Ignorance IS bliss in Japan. You are trying also to generalise the problem, when it's specific problems of Japan. Maybe you should listen more to the "ten-a-penny" angry gainjin's specific complaints rather than theorise that their anger is a simply a brick wall you hit after 3 years of living abroad wherever it may be.

I know you've been there 10 years, and if I was in your shoes, I'd decide not to be mad either and just accept all that is around me....it's called survival. Perhaps adamgreenfield and I are in the indulgent position of being able to say it as we see it sans long term investment in the place.
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:32 AM on June 29, 2003


Perhaps worth a glance in today's New York Times: Howard W. French's "Victims Say Japan Ignores Sex Crimes Committed by Teachers"
posted by allaboutgeorge at 2:44 AM on June 29, 2003


Adam, no one called you a "dickhead", angry modem's comment was directed at some cat called greemfield, which changes everything. ;)

Anyhow, if you were getting shit it probably wasn't because of your legitimate personal perspective, but because of the discourteous way you were engaging some people with different opinions (e.g. "and the point of your autohagiography is. . .").

I'm not primarily a political person but the way I say the cause of many of these problems is that Japan's democracy never took root; it is a thin facade which hides the much more entrenched fuedal society. Japan is like a movie set: you peer round the corner of what looks to be institutions ruled by law, contracts, a free press, politics, and in fact it is a jungle in which power is absolute, filial piety is obligatory, etc

Is this a view that can be found in any mainstream body of political analysis or is it more hyperbole? How isn't Japan a democracy? Are the elections rigged? Are the freedoms to speak and assemble repressed by institutional authority? Or are there just tacit social codes of conduct that a majority of the people of Japan value over the potential cost of possible alternatives? (i.e strict gender roles + pressure to conform + xenophobia = greater net social cohesion = less social disorder/crime/illegitimacy/poverty, etc.)

I'm not saying that Japan doesn't have its problems in some major areas (owning up to its WWII crimes/burakumin), but the view that it is fundamentally flawed or a failed example of American intrervention (!!) because of its values of conformity and exclusiveness and love for fucked-up porn just seems, I don't know, rigid and exaggerated. Maybe there is more than one way for a society to run, all with requisite costs for somebody. I'm usually not a cultural relativist, but we're talking Japan here, not Cuba.
posted by dgaicun at 3:04 AM on June 29, 2003


Thousands of years of our evil cynical feudal xenophobic pet-eating Asian culture have taught us that those who repeatedly immerse themselves in the sufferings of others can not be fully trusted. Even the most well-meaning ones have a disturbing tendency to develop a sort of sick dependance on it, usually in the form that they are doing the proud work of the righteous.

If one has to clean up other people's $hit, then at least one should have the decency not to parade it around and expect congratulations for picking it up. "Public displays of social consciousness-raising to provoke dialogue" are so self-satisfying, but they are not the panacea that so many Westerners seem to believe it is. More often than not they only serve to make a complete carnival mockery of the victims' suffering.

If you've ever wondered why so many Asians think Westerners are "shameless", well, here's one big reason: You wear the suffering and pain of others like it's your own personal f*cking shiny badges of honor, and then have the incredible gall to insist that through it you're doing us a big favor.

[irritating fortune-cookie apothegm]

"Beware of those that feed off tears."

[/irritating fortune-cookie apothegm]

[irritating tag soley to denote that I won't be posting anymore/]
posted by PsychoKick at 4:39 AM on June 29, 2003


Adam, good luck, whether you're here or back in America. But I cannot do the same. I was just listening to an old Minor Threat album last month actually: "don't drink, don't smoke, don't fuck, at least I can fucking think." Narcissistic and self-aggrandizing, yeah! But funny. The thing is, I always used to drink, smoke, and try to have sex. I've never liked joining things. I just got off on the colour and noisiness of it all.

If teen rebellion is, like you say, a practice run for working the system as an adult, I guess I'm just still a chickenshit observer. I ran away from my country, after all. People have their own way. Maybe you were always that punk in the middle of the moshpit. I stood by the speaker, out of the way.

Why? I was always suspicious of the little fascist in people. Nihilistic, but I am wary that those who fight for a causes are driven by the same narcissistic and self-aggrandizing impulses that drive as their enemies. Like most people, I will only fight back, or rage if you will, if it's up close and personal, macro level. I cannot help the Burakumin.
posted by dydecker at 4:49 AM on June 29, 2003


You'll excuse me, PsychoKick, if I read your comments as aimed at me, at least in part.

those who repeatedly immerse themselves in the sufferings of others can not be fully trusted.

Ahh, see, but that's precisely not what I came here to do. I came here to build beautiful things, and be paid nicely for doing so. But the suffering is inescapable. What should one do, stand by mutely?

I don't know, in practical terms, what I can do for the burakumin, or victims of ijime, or anybody else. For that matter, I'm not sentimental about power dynamics - I don't think that merely being the victim of arbitrary power necessarily confers sainthood on anyone, and I think the opposite is probably truer, that shit ever rolls downhill. But you intervene how and when you can.

And self-congratulatory? Do you really think so? I rather more think it's that I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do or say something, anything. Same in the States, for that matter.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:39 AM on June 29, 2003


I spent 3 years in Japan, and I came up against an incredibly racist, sexist, bullying culture.

You may have run into some incredibly racist, sexist, bullying *people* but have you been here long enough to condemn an entire *culture* as such?

When I was in Leeds on business, a man wearing a ski mask tried to relieve me of my wallet. Did that affect my opinion of this man? You bet it did. Did it affect my opinion of the British culture? No. Did it affect my opinion that England is a beautiful nation with a lot of wonderful people? Not in the least. Why? The man who tried to rob me is just that - a man. One drop in a bucket and the bucket in England was, in my experience, very good.

Racist, sexist and bullying people do exist in Japan as they do in any other country. Some of the people who seem racist or sexist at first turn out to be simply *ignorant* of racial and gender issues. A lot of times this is through failings in their education system and/or upbringing rather than any particular malice on their part. Offering a different perspective on these issues helps some of these people cure themselves.

I say it as I see it too. I don't use tatemae, I use honne.

When I was living in cultures where we ate with our hands, we kept our left hand off of the table and ate with our right. The left hand was considered an 'unclean' hand and offering one a business card or gift with the left hand would have been considered very rude and would not get a person very far in that culture.

In any nation there are rules of etiquette and social norms. In Japan, these include knowing when to speak 'tatemae' and when to speak 'honne' among other things. Trouncing etiquette and social norms usually doesn't help anyone get very far in any culture.

The gaijin apologists of Japan just make my skin crawl: they have their girlfriend or some other emotional investment there, I understand it's their temporary/new home, or they had some golden holiday there....soaked up the tatemae friendliness, but never really got to know anyone there....it's all well and good for the ego.

How do you feel about Japan bashers? Perhaps they were in Japan for an 'ungolden' holiday? Perhaps they didn't get a girlfriend or an emotional investment? Perhaps they never really got to know anyone, are bitter or have an axe to grind? It is easy to say things like this but they are all generalizations with little merit. I would much rather hear about specific experiences people have had here in Japan.

Anyone who has been there for more than a few years though, starts to see the cynical side of Japan. When you've been there long enough that the novelties where off, you really see how the place ticks.

No, not *anyone*. Some of us who have been here for much longer than three years and who have long-term goals in this country discover beautiful aspects as well - aspects that were not apparent to us even after a decade here. There are a *lot* of things that I would like to change about Japan and some institutions that I despise but, as in any culture, most of the people I have met here were decent people not much different from anyone else.

Japan is not the 'amoral country populated by monsters' that some people would have you believe and it certainly is not a 'Fantasy Island' where all your dreams come true. It is a rock that some people decided to inhabit a long time ago. Despite superficial cultural and physical differences, genetic evidence leads us to believe that we all evolved from a very small group of people in Africa that survived global catastrophe 70,000 years ago.

My experiences here lead me to believe that, deep down, we have a lot more in common than a lot of people on both sides of the ocean would like to admit.
posted by cup at 8:53 AM on June 29, 2003


Some of the people who seem racist or sexist at first turn out to be simply *ignorant* of racial and gender issues.

I'm sorry, but there is no way on earth that the things we're talking about in this thread can be excused away by saying the person or people or institutions in question were unaware of other options. ("Oops, I didn't know I shouldn't rape my student!")

I think one subtly insults people by excusing them from the elementary moral consciousness one would apply to anyone, anywhere. I'm trying not to caricature or mischaracterize what you say you believe, but there are precious few other ways I can construct this.

Furthermore, sure, I think people are people pretty much everywhere - always have been and always will be. It's the decisions that the selfsame people make when they federate themselves into communities and societies, though, that we're concerned with at the moment. And in the entire history of our conversations on Japan I don't think you've ever once allowed that there may be some valid room for people of goodwill to find something distressing about this place we live.

You have apparently had some deep and wonderful experiences here. Others have had different experiences, and I sorely wish you'd stop suggesting that they are somehow lacking in empathy, or "not getting it." They are making judgments - in some cases, based on prejudice, in some cases based on brief acquaintance, and in some cases based on longterm involvement - and I find it odd that you'd assert that yours are more true than theirs. Or mine, for that matter.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:33 AM on June 29, 2003


Yeah, I am mad. But I disagree, dydecker, with your and cup's implication that this anger is some kind of immaturity or personal failing on my part. Sure, angry gaijin are ten a penny - but I'm not the guy sloshing lager at the Roppongi bar and complaining that I can't get a proper breakfast and that nobody speaks a word of English. I agree, that's pathetic.

When we first exchanged views on Japan, I put forward the possibility that a person's attitude will greatly affect one's experiences and our conversation went downhill from there. Regardless of how low our conversation went, though, I never implied that you were an 'angry gaijin' who can't speak Japanese.

Although we exchanged some angry words (which I regret by the way), I do not think you are immature and I do not think that your anger is a failing on your part. I respect your right to be angry. Some things about Japan make me angry, too.

As I said before, I have taken the time to look through your homepage and you seem to be a productive and talented individual with your heart in the right place.

Even if your experiences in Japan have been unpleasant, I hope that we can discuss these experiences here without anger or condemning the entire culture/nation.

You have many important things to say about Japan but some people may close their ears to you because of the way you sometimes say it.

Thank you for the links, by the way. Discrimination against the 'burakumin' is a big problem. I believe there is an organization in or near Roppongi that is fighting for their rights but as you already know they have an uphill battle ahead of them. Hopefully bringing attention to the problem in countries other than Japan will help change things.

On preview, I will address your latest comment in my next post.
posted by cup at 9:45 AM on June 29, 2003


I'm sorry, but there is no way on earth that the things we're talking about in this thread can be excused away by saying the person or people or institutions in question were unaware of other options. ("Oops, I didn't know I shouldn't rape my student!")

I said that some of the people that I met in Japan who seemed racist or sexist at first turned out to be simply ignorant of racial and gender issues. A lot of them were really nice people deep down and very open to new ideas regarding these important issues. When did I try to 'excuse away' the vicious crime of rape? I thought I made my views on rape very clear.

I think one subtly insults people by excusing them from the elementary moral consciousness one would apply to anyone, anywhere.

My beliefs that racism and sexism are the symptoms of the disease 'ignorance' apply to any country. The key to curing this disease is education and I hope I can help every racist/sexist I meet by offering them a different way to look at things. I want to help people cure themselves of this plague on humanity and this applies to anyone, anywhere.

And in the entire history of our conversations on Japan I don't think you've ever once allowed that there may be some valid room for people of goodwill to find something distressing about this place we live.

I would disagree but if that is how it seemed I apologize. There are things I do not like about Japan and things I would like to change. I have made this clear on many occasions. I would also like to make it very clear right now that I always love to hear about differing opinions on Japan so long as they do not denigrate the entire culture or include hostility.

You have apparently had some deep and wonderful experiences here. Others have had different experiences, and I sorely wish you'd stop suggesting that they are somehow lacking in empathy, or "not getting it." They are making judgments - in some cases, based on prejudice, in some cases based on brief acquaintance, and in some cases based on longterm involvement - and I find it odd that you'd assert that yours are more true than theirs. Or mine, for that matter.

I do not believe that my experiences are more true than yours or anyone else. My statements are my opinions based on my experiences here and in other countries that I have had the pleasure and privilege to call home. As such they will be biased and I hope that everyone reading these posts will accept them for what they are.
posted by cup at 10:10 AM on June 29, 2003


OK, fine, I guess we can leave it at that - but I'll ask you to consider that the condescension that drips from statements like these

As I said before, I have taken the time to look through your homepage and you seem to be a productive and talented individual with your heart in the right place.

is what makes conversation with you so difficult for me.

I'll put a point on it, and then I'll leave it alone, for all time: I know damn well I'm a "productive individual." I can only believe my heart is in the right place. Whether I'm talented or not is perhaps not for me to say. But what makes you think I need or desire your affirmation of these things, or that I'd enjoy hearing them from you? You may not intend this in the slightest, but it comes across as patronising, cloying...

And as for your desire to not hear opinions that include hostility, well, that's just not realistic either. Some folks' opinions of America "include hostility," in varying degrees, and in some cases they have damn good reasons for same. (Some folks' reactions to the things that *I* say and do include hostility - same thing.) I think one has to accept that one's actions will produce varying degrees of response, and especially that the stronger or more unusual one's impact on the world is, the greater the amplitude of such reactions.

Japan has, institutionally and societally, caused a great deal of suffering through the choices it makes as a culture, throughout its former colonies and never least in the hearts of its own people. In this it's not alone, of course. But hostility is a natural reaction to these choices, and to expect otherwise is...not realistic, at the very least.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:35 PM on June 29, 2003


OK, fine, I guess we can leave it at that - but I'll ask you to consider that the condescension that drips from statements like these

As I said before, I have taken the time to look through your homepage and you seem to be a productive and talented individual with your heart in the right place.

is what makes conversation with you so difficult for me.

I'll put a point on it, and then I'll leave it alone, for all time: I know damn well I'm a "productive individual." I can only believe my heart is in the right place. Whether I'm talented or not is perhaps not for me to say. But what makes you think I need or desire your affirmation of these things, or that I'd enjoy hearing them from you? You may not intend this in the slightest, but it comes across as patronising, cloying...

And as for your desire to not hear opinions that include hostility, well, that's just not realistic either. Some folks' opinions of America "include hostility," in varying degrees, and in some cases they have damn good reasons for same. (Some folks' reactions to the things that *I* say and do include hostility - same thing.) I think one has to accept that one's actions will produce varying degrees of response, and especially that the stronger or more unusual one's impact on the world is, the greater the amplitude of such reactions.

Japan has, institutionally and societally, caused a great deal of suffering through the choices it makes as a culture, throughout its former colonies and never least in the hearts of its own people. In this it's not alone, of course. But hostility is a natural reaction to these choices, and to expect otherwise is...not realistic, at the very least.

I'd have sent many of these comments to you via private email, BTW, and not further polluted these threads, but since you haven't seen fit to share an address with us I haven't been able to do so.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:37 PM on June 29, 2003


ack, sorry.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:38 PM on June 29, 2003


And as for your desire to not hear opinions that include hostility, well, that's just not realistic either.

Is this just *my* desire?

Back in the day when Metafilter was not accepting new members, there used to be a statement on the right hand side of the page. This statement was a major factor in me becoming a lurker here until I could finally get my Metafilter membership and begin contributing to the community.

I forget the exact wording of the statement but it was to the extent that Metafilter covers a range of topics and discussion tends to be intelligent and civilized.

Is it unrealistic to expect discussion without hostility? Perhaps. From the above statement, however, I would assume that intelligent discussion free from hostility is the ideal that Mathowie is striving for and I would like to respect that to the best of my ability.

I'd have sent many of these comments to you via private email, BTW, and not further polluted these threads, but since you haven't seen fit to share an address with us I haven't been able to do so.

I have provided an e-mail address (MSN Hotmail, mind you) on my user description page. If you would like to discuss things not related to this thread, let's use Microsoft's bandwidth instead of Mathowie's. :)
posted by cup at 6:59 PM on June 29, 2003


Is this a view that can be found in any mainstream body of political analysis or is it more hyperbole? How isn't Japan a democracy?

Dgaicun,

Alex Kerr's Dogs and Demons is probably the best explanation of the nominal nature of Japanese democracy and its effects. You can read an interview with the author here.
posted by dydecker at 10:02 PM on June 29, 2003


Thanks Dydecker, I'm off to the library. This thread was much interesting.
posted by dgaicun at 11:36 PM on June 29, 2003


Dydecker,

I really enjoyed the second link in your post. Thanks, dydecker.
posted by cup at 12:17 AM on June 30, 2003


Dogs & Demons is an incredible book - I cannot recommend it highly enough.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:41 AM on June 30, 2003


bloody fascinating!
posted by johnnyboy at 4:48 AM on July 3, 2003


Is this a detente between adamgreenfield and cup? Will the cheese be preserved? Is there hope for me yet?

Stay tuned to this thread for the answers to these questions and more...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:51 AM on July 4, 2003


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