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Welcome to TokyoFreePress Friday, March 24 2017 @ 03:14 AM JST
   

Please stop bullying me, bad bear, or I'll kill myself

A long time ago, kids living in the mountainous areas were told by their parents and grandparents that the only effective way to protect themselves, when they encountered a hungry bear on a mountain path, was to pretend they were dead. In fact these kids didn't have to be told that.

When the kid reaches out for a spider, the bug will instantly go for a tactic that biologists call a "protective mimicry." The kid wasn't going to eat him. So he doesn't really care whether the spider is actually dead, or still alive. But the kid will certainly learn the lesson: there is no other way for the timid spider to go for in the face of a crisis than to act as though he is dead - workable or not.

Japanese leaders have certainly learned the same lesson from spiders. And this is the only way to explain their total inability to take quick, resolute, sensible actions to the mounting problems facing them abroad, and at home.


The only thing that makes these self-proclaimed leaders distinguishable from spiders is the fact they make up one imaginary issue after another to distract the enemy's attention from the real and more imminent issues. The list of the false issues they have fabricated in the last couple of years includes:
- Whether Junichiro Koizumi should refrain from revisiting the Yasukuni Shrine,
- Whether Tokyo should impose economic sanctions against Pyongyang,
- Whether the junior-high history textbook that allegedly "whitewashes" and "glorifies" Japan's wartime atrocities should have been approved,
- Whether Japan deserves a permanent seat at the UNSC,
- Whether the "war-renouncing" Constitution should be rewritten,
- Whether the Japan Post should be privatized and split up into four,
etc.

The list goes on and on, but practically every "issue" listed here is nothing but an exercise to fake an alibi for their inaction.

The Japanese mainstream media share the same behavioral pattern. No matter whether their editors support the Liberal Democratic Party, or any other party for that matter, in regard to each one of these "issues," just the same they see "issues" where there are none.

Under the circumstances the release of Ryu Murakami's groundbreaking "Hanto-wo Ideyo," or "Leaving the Peninsula behind" (see our book review dated May 10) couldn't have been better timed. He seems to have understood exactly what is really at issue and what question should be asked.

In "Hanto-wo Ideyo" there are an almost uncountable number of Japanese and North Korean characters. Among those intriguing characters, there is a woman by the name of Chikako Ogami. (Her family name can be Onoue.) The woman in her 30s is working at the Fukuoka Municipal Office. When the "Koryo" Rebel Forces occupies the entire city, she is somehow handpicked by the Koryo-friendly Mayor to be on secondment at the procurement office of the headquarters of the occupation forces. The mother of two is a divorcee.

Her ex-husband used to be a company employee. Four years ago (i.e., in 2007) one of his old friends, who was planning to set up a small trading company to do business exclusively with China, asked Chikako's husband to join forces with him. After months of hesitation, he made up his mind to accept the friend's offer. But their company soon went belly up when China's economic boom was over as the Beijing Olympics drew near. Hanging around at home, he kept grumbling over his hard luck. She decided to divorce him, not because he was jobless now, but because she became fed up with his endless moaning.

One morning this woman is behind the wheel, getting to work. She tunes in to an NHK news program on the car radio. She learns that the Tokyo government still remains caught in that all-too-familiar state of paralysis out of the fear that if it sends the Self-Defense Forces to the island of Kyushu to repulse the North Korean invaders, they will possibly terrorize the entire nation by setting ablaze the dozens of LNG (liquid natural gas) storages all over the nation. Chikako says to herself that the Japanese government is just like her former husband. They haven't learned, and will never learn, that to select a course of action always means to de-select other options at the same time.

This woman is one of the exceptional few who know what isn't particularly hard to understand for sound and healthy souls; there is no such thing like a costless and risk-free option on this planet. Therefore, a discerning decision is always taken based on the trade-off between the "pros and cons" involved in the given options. Needless to say, though, courage and intuition play the determinant role even in a trade-off-based decision-making process. There's no room for a wobble or regret.

The same state of pathological paralysis is described, over and over, in the novel. One of the most impressive episodes is the chapter titled "Zonbi-no Mure", or "Horde of Zombies", which depicts a ballpark seizure by nine North Korean commandos. The capacity crowd of 30,000 attending a season-opening ballgame at the Yahoo Dome become paralyzed in a matter of minutes, and without bloodshed. This is quite symptomatic of the disease the Japanese have been suffering. Also it's indicative of what stage of the disease they are currently going through.

On June 5 we at TokyoFreePress took up for review an equally groundbreaking book entitled "Occidentalism" by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit.

In its chapter titled "Heroes and Merchants," the co-authors discuss, intensively and extensively, what they term the "death cult" of all times. They argue that the modern form of murderous Occidentalism has its origin in the thoughts of German thinkers such as Werner Sombart, Ernst Junger, etc. We are not really familiar with these names, but we are familiar with some of their thoughts as their notion often boils down to such an idea like: "The young must shed blood from their veins to the suffering fatherland, so that it may drink and live again."

The co-authors of "Occidentalism" also cite a passage from the Japan's "Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors" promulgated in 1882, that says, "(You should) devote yourself to your most important obligation of loyalty to the emperor, and realize the obligation is heavier than the mountains but death is lighter than a feather."

Some six decades later Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi, the father of the kamikaze tactics, told his pilots, before they set off on their suicide mission: "Even if we are defeated, the noble spirit of the kamikaze attack corps will keep our homeland from ruin." (And it did, actually.) The co-authors add: "Onishi (himself) committed suicide in the samurai manner, by opening his stomach with a sword on the night of Japan's surrender."

Although Buruma and Margalit don't mention the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the apocalypses the two Japanese cities experienced 60 years ago were also cases where people committed suicide in mass for their delusive cause.

The point I am going to make here is, as the authors of "Occidentalism" point out, all these attempts to overcome the West, sometimes by "turning the West against the West," did fail. That should mean that the ambitious, but a little silly, endeavor to overcome the West, including an inner West, is still there for us to carry through. To exacerbate the situation, China has been suffering from the same refractory disease of Occidentalism.

I say the disease is refractory because unless you can successfully destroy yourself, there is no other remedy than successfully destroy others. And vice versa. Moreover you often find it very hard to distinguish yourself from others.

According to the annual statistical report on suicide released on June 2 by the Japan's National Police Agency, 32,325 people, or 25 out of every 100,000, successfully killed themselves in 2004. The NPA said the number of people who committed suicide has now topped 30,000 for the seventh consecutive year. And with this 25/100,000 rate, Japan may have surpassed Finland to top the list for the international comparisons.

As is true with any other official statistics about negative things, such as unemployment, divorce, crime, etc., these suicide figures are believed to be a gross underestimate. A little more than one year ago, John Nathan, in his "Japan Unbound" quoted Dr. Yoshi Yamamoto, director of the Mental Health Center attached to Yokohama Hospital, as saying some 5 million Japanese are contemplating suicide at any given time based on his educated guesswork.

And yet, these appalling numbers are still far from being an adequate doze for the remedy because mass-destruction of others and/or self-destruction in mass are the only effective remedies for those souls torn in the Occidentalist dilemma, i.e., between an aching yearning and simmering resentment toward the West.

Toward the end of his 923-page-long saga, Ryu Murakami depicts a 2011 version of suicide attack. In the chapter entitled "Utsukushii Jikan," or "Moments of Euphoria," a group of social outcasts in their teens and early-20s go on a suicide mission and blow up the entire hotel building used by the North Korean occupation forces as its provisional headquarters, along with some of their own lives.

The way the young martyrs die is real ugly. But they do not seem to care too much about dying like the kamikaze pilots whose ideal was to die for the emperor like "falling cherry blossoms or shattering crystal."

Prior to the invasion, all the data for the Fukuoka citizenry, on the Juki Net, or the National Resident Registry Network system, were already in the hands of the North Koreans. These social outcasts can succeed in their suicide mission in part because they are not Japanese citizens, technically speaking, that is. Even after Kyushu is liberated, nobody can tell who blew up the hotel at the cost of their lives.

In the Murakami's fairly realistic scenario, Japan is salvaged from the depth of a coma that lasted more than half a century, by the unheroic, or even unpatriotic Fukuoka warriors when some of them kill themselves along with some 500 North Korean troops.

Maybe this is how we will actually settle, though temporarily again, the protracted problem we've had with our Occidentalist dilemma.

And unfortunately, the bottomline of the suicide mission will be none other than this: Japan's 2665-year-old mythology, centered around the 8 million dubious gods, will live on, beyond these stinking corpses of the young social outcasts.

As I wrote in my book review, the Murakami's novel is almost untranslatable into foreign languages. That's in part because of his unique style, broken Japanese spoken by Koreans, Korean proper nouns in Japanese transliteration, scattered Fukuoka dialect, all the details about the ammunition and poisonous creatures kept by the suicide attackers, the detailed topography of the city, etc. But more importantly, it's untranslatable because the author didn't intend to cater to the stereotypical and distorted views of the Japanese.

These Orientalists in the West are increasingly at a loss these days because they have already started to see unmistakable signs that Japanese, the world's most predictable people, are now becoming the world's most unpredictable species.

At any rate this state of paralysis won't last forever.
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