Mr. Koide, you'll never be an old soldier; it's always too early to start to think about fading away

Wednesday, April 22 2015 @ 10:33 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

Dendritic fireworks

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

                           From Creative Evolution by Henri Bergson

Mr. Hiroaki Koide
I sent the link to my most recent post to Mr. Hiroaki Koide, who had just reached the mandatory retirement age this past March as an associate professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute.

In his reply mail, Mr. Koide said, "The more I learn about the reality facing the Okinawans, the more I feel ashamed of being a mainlander."

He added to this effect: "To this mail I attach my recently published essays in which I draw a parallel between the Japanese who failed to bring the Emperor to justice for his war crime and their descendants who have once again let 'the Nuclear Mafia' go unpunished for the Fukushima disaster."

Mr. Koide concluded one of his essays by describing his frame of mind like this: "Like it or not, every creature is destined to grow old and die. The mandatory retirement age is just one of the milestones along the way. With this in mind I will be fading away little by little. Throughout my career I have chosen to do what anyone else doesn't or can't. But from now on I'll be even choosier about what to do, and keep looking for what I can."

His writing deeply resonated with me. But at the same time, it reminded me of a letter I wrote to the editor of The Japan Times nineteen years ago when my retirement age was drawing near.

Among other things I found a 638-page book titled The Fountain of Age very helpful in understanding what exactly man's aging is.

Its author Betty Friedan wrote that as neurological and gerontological studies had revealed in recent years, people over 65 demonstrated an almost limitless potential to grow if they were exposed to stimulating real life, instead of segregated into nursing homes or the like. (See NOTE.) She added longitudinal studies showed they tended to outperform younger people when measured in terms of ability for "contextual thinking," rather than abstract thinking. Friedan quoted neuroscientist Arnold Scheibel as describing the spectacular dendrites' projections which can be seen even when an aged person is learning new things as dendritic fireworks.

NOTE: Actually my question was always "what if not," not "what if," because in reality we were always segregated. But I think now I know the answer.

I was especially impressed by her explanation about the historical origin of the mandatory retirement age. According to the author, the world's first rule on retirement was laid down by Otto von Bismarck of the Second Reich. The Prussian leader demanded every government employee retire at the age of 65 when life expectancy at birth was a mere 37 in his country.

Although Bismarck's decision may have been more or less arbitrary, I thought it shouldn't be ruled out that in theory the following arithmetic notation could hold true given the average lifespan of the Japanese which stood at 74-5 at that time.


This prompted me to write a letter to the editor of The Japan Times to suggest the mandatory retirement age be raised to 130 across the board if ever these ageists couldn't live without one. Needless to say, I wasn't talking about the retirement age of government employees. As a taxpayer, I would have said it should be lowered to 13 because that's where the brains of millions of these parasites at public offices stop growing.


Everybody thought it was a tasteless joke. Admittedly I was playing devil's advocate. Yet I was damn serious and still remain so 19 years later.

Japan is an eerie nation-state in that it was not created by any human being. That means there wasn't any founding principle that would have been used to bring the nation, i.e. the people, and the state, i.e. the system, together. The nation and the state were one inseparable entity from the beginning.

The Japanese are taught the 17-Article Constitution allegedly promulgated by a fictitious figure named Prince Shotoku in the 7th century was where they can find the principle, or at least its substitute. But there's no other way to interpret Article 1 of the Constitution, that supposedly stipulated harmony should be put before anything else, than to understand harmony should prevail over any principle.

The legal system was already there when the people found themselves inseparably incorporated in it.

This is why the Japanese always "think" it's the law that changes the people whereas it's the people that should change the law. In fact they have developed a tendency to constantly enact laws invariably modeled after legislation in the West in order to avoid changing themselves.

Take the Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1986 for example. Almost three decades have passed since it was enacted but practically nothing has changed.

Sexist bias (See NOTE) still remains a widespread practice, though a little less explicit now. Fortunately, some, if not many, Japanese women have fought the discrimination in an ingenious way. They have refused to get assimilated into the male-dominated society by neglecting the feminine duty as a "birthing machine." As a result the decline in Japan's fertility rate seems unstoppable now.

NOTE: I'm not advocating equality. Remember Japan is a principle-less country. Violation of what unprincipled Americans call human rights has never been really at issue here.

On the contrary, we don't see the slightest sign that biologically old men are defying the equally deep-rooted ageist bias. Apparently they are all determined to submit to the demand that they conform to the stereotypical profiles given to them.

As if in a self-fulfilling prophecy, they have stopped growing by confining themselves in actual or virtual nursing homes and playing the state-defined role of the senior citizen.

The official statistics puts the population over 65 at 31.9 million whereof 4.6 million are afflicted with senile dementia. Needless to say this is a gross underestimate simply because those who are compiling the statistics are already suffering from what I call "premature senility" themselves.

To make it even worse, this particular state has long withstood all the difficulties resulting from the lack of principles by defining itself as a mechanism of income redistribution. In a normal country, people conduct themselves on the principle of self-reliance. They do help one another as the necessity arises, but basically it's a voluntary and spontaneous act. But in Japan, it's always the state that extends a helping hand to the people who it unilaterally picks as beneficiaries of the benefits funded by taxpayers. As a result the people feel they are indebted to the government.

For one thing Japan's national pension programs are mostly contributory type. But in this sick nanny state, every pensioner feels he is nothing but a burden on the younger generations, who are actually suffering premature senility or juvenile dementia.

It's, therefore, no accident they forget that a society evolves only when mature people hand down to their children and grandchildren what they have experienced or witnessed firsthand as independent individuals.

It's true NHK and the like keep saying, day in, day out, that we should listen to the elderly before they are all dead so as not to weather away what they have experienced. But how can we expect someone to narrate un-sanitized, first-person singular, nonstandard accounts of how he lived the history when he feels he is nothing but a social nuisance? He "thinks" he owes the state much more than the state owes him.

In his lecture at Okinawa University, Mr. Hiroaki Koide confided to his audience that his lifetime role model is Shozo Tanaka. (See the picture on his desktop in the above photo.) It's quite understandable. But if it's not too irreverent to say something about the second career of the first-class scientist and seasoned activist like him, my humble advice would be that now it's his turn to be his own role model.

The good news for him is that unlike this blogger, Mr. Koide has a large audience of his followers. But the bad news is most of them don't seem to have the ability to really internalize what they have heard about Okinawa, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima. In all likelihood, they will repeat the same mistake we old generations have committed in the past, That is evident from the way they chant the all-too-familiar incantations like "No more Hiroshimas," "No more Fukushimas," etc.

Our generations know many things that they don't know.

We have known or even witnessed how people let Emperor Hirohito offer the strategically unimportant cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and densely-populated downtown Tokyo as sacrifices so Franklin Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman would refrain from decapitating the nation in a total departure from the textbook tactic. It's true the very heart of the capital was targeted. But records have it that thousands of bodies were piled up in Yuraku-cho Station of the Japan National Railways, while the Imperial Palace which is located just around the corner from the station was deliberately kept intact.

The same is true with the life of Hirohito. In 1947 he sold off Okinawa to the Unite States to reciprocate these favors.

I'm one of the remnants from the turbulent days of nationwide protest against the Security Treaty of 1960. Although something prohibited me from marching toward the Diet Building myself, I feel something still remains unsettled deep inside when I recall that then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, former Class-A war crimes suspect and the grandfather of Shinzo Abe, signed the treaty amid the anti-treaty outcry. In 2007 then New York Times reporter Tim Weiner revealed that Kishi was an undercover agent of the CIA disguised as Japan's Prime Minister at that time. A small group of citizens was going to file a class action lawsuit to have the treaty repealed. But their appeal was instantly turned down by the authority.

Of course Mr. Koide is much better off than I in telling the young people of the crime the Nuclear Mafia has committed in the past, and will be committing in the future. And I think he is "old" enough to know there's no reason to believe we can expect a different outcome from repeating the same traditional approach to these issues over and over again.

Equally important, now he can express himself more freely to political racketeers and media rogues because he is no longer shackled by the National Public Service Act.


On Monday Lara, Chen Tien-shi gave an awesome lecture to a class of dozens of local citizens at a nearby Chinese school. At the end of her presentation about the changing patterns of massive migration of Chinese, which she terms "Huaqiao diaspora," I asked her this question: "Why do you think there's no Japanese diaspora taking place? Today we can see ethnic Japanese everywhere in the world." Lara carefully avoided answering my question directly. Instead she said, "Actually one of my postgraduate students at Waseda University has recently submitted a paper in which he (or she?) discussed the worldwide dispersion of Japanese from that angle. But I'm still in the middle of reviewing that paper."

Someone in the class who looked to be in his 60s expressed his opinion. He said, "When addressing this issue, we've got to take a look at two factors, PUSH and PULL. In my opinion we ordinary Japanese haven't felt pushed because the Japanese polity has never been as unstable as in China. You never lose your fortune, social status or human network overnight every time the regime changes."

Obviously he was oversimplifying what this particular nation-state is really like when he suggested there is a seamless continuity as if it's a going concern. I doubt the validity of his utopian assumption. Yet I think he had a very good point.

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