Saturday, November 17 2012 @ 11:01 AM EST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Production is thus at the same time waste or destruction of material, financial and human resources, and consumption is at the same time negative production.
- Words from Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx (1857) paraphrased by this blogger.
I am a humble blogger who has lived for almost 77 years and is now dying in dire poverty. I am well aware most of you think I am Aesop's fox because I seem to have walked away from the bunch of grapes with my nose in the air, saying the grapes must be sour.
But nothing is farther from the truth. I've never said grapes are unripe here. Instead I'm always saying I can tell from my experience that they are worm-eaten all over.
Besides, earlier in my life, I've had fine moments when I had a lot of sweet grapes before worms ate into them. There's no reason I have to look around for a fairyland where quality of life hasn't eroded yet.
Given this perception gap between us which seems almost unbridgeable, it's all the more annoying to hear empty-headed ideologues in the U.S. talking about the future of Northeast Asia under the guise of political analysts.
Sometime last year, Gordon G. Chang had to revise his 10-year-old forecast that China would collapse by 2011, saying, "I was wrong, but only by one year." Now as the end of 2012 draws near without seeing imminent signs of his prophecy coming true, Chang must be sweating a lot over how to ask his patrons and followers to give him another reprieve. Learning no lessons from his repeated failure to predict what's happening in this region, he wrote on Forbes.com in September 9, 2011 that Japan would once again overtake China as the world's second largest economy by 2013. Chang's disciples are too nice with their guru to ask him this simple question: "What yardstick are you going to use to figure out GDP of the nation which will have disappeared one year earlier?"
These unprincipled guys arbitrarily single out GDP, or sometimes sovereign debt, when talking about the wealth and health of nations as if they are talking about the Olympic games. Worse, the only thing these makeshift economists can tell about GDP is that the abbreviation stands for Gross Domestic Product. It's about time you should stop being distracted by their amateurish arguments about how soon China catches up with the U.S. GDP-wise, whether or not Japan overtakes China in the foreseeable future, etc.
From 1955 through 1959 I majored in economics and industrial relations at Keio University. Before we went on to study macro- and micro-economics, we had to get familiarized with the tricky rules of debits and credits. I was a dull-witted freshman. So I failed to grasp the principle behind the modern accounting method invented in 1494 by the Venetian genius named Luca Pacioli. It was only after I became a corporate financial manager 10 years later that I understood why income has to be posted on the credit side along with debt, and expenses have to be recorded on the debit side as if they were assets.
Since Pacioli's principle isn't just about debits and credits, it really adds up only when you take a look at it from a much broader perspective. It all comes down to this: Everything has two or more different aspects in the real world. To put it differently: Goodbye to ideological delusions and delusive ideologies.
Karl Marx observed that a producer produces a new product by consuming existing one and a consumer, in turn, consumes the product to produce a newer one. In that sense, he echoed Pacioli's principle while trying to adapt it to the post-Industrial Revolution era.
And this is exactly where the flyblown brains of these self-styled economists like Chang stop to work. And that is why they keep talking about nations' wealth and health so lightly. I even suspect those of you who are well-educated but have little experience engaging in an actual process of production of wealth think the accounting equation is something for number crunching nerds and has nothing to do with your own life. As a result you always end up scratching the surface of things even when you address your own problem. You self-righteously think problems are always for someone else to solve.
In the last five centuries since Pacioli, valuation of assets and liabilities have been an everlasting challenge for professional accountants in and outside FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) or IASB (International Accounting Standards Board). Especially in recent years, the hottest topic among them has been how to deal with intangibles such as intellectual property. I have no interest, whatsoever, in how these vultures flocking around paper money are measuring their imaginary wealth. But I am still deeply concerned about how these accounting experts bring up to date the way to value and revalue man's tangible and intangible wealth.
So I became a sophomore and then a junior without really understanding the basic principle of economy. In subsequent years, I skipped almost all classes primarily because not a single professor lectured on his own theory tested against the reality of the Japanese economy. As anywhere else in this country, these incompetent teachers kept talking about foreign ideas borrowed from the likes of François Quesnay, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes.
Sometimes I think if the economic faculty of Keio University had had a class on Wassily Leontief's input-output analysis in which macroeconomics converges with microeconomics、I mightn't have skipped it. The Russian-born economist had already defected from the Soviet Union, but it was only 14 years after my graduation that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize to Leontief. That is the only reason I missed the opportunity to learn his economic model which, in essence, was derived from Marx's analysis of production-consumption chain.
Outside these boring classes, I read many books written by the likes of Max Weber and Karl Marx. But it was only after I got into the business world that I learned first-hand that the economic system actually in place here is neither capitalism nor socialism.
This is not to say, however, the bachelor's degree is the only thing I obtained at my alma mater. I acquired one thing which was much more important than the diploma. What I learned there and have never forgotten is the fact that the greatness of these great economists such as Adam Smith and Karl Marx lies with their principled way of theorizing on what man's economic activity is all about. They invariably based their theories on the premise that monetary, religious and secular values can be, or at least should be, defined univocally. To them value is value.
It was only after the Great Depression that Keynes, his followers collectively called demand-siders, and their opponent supply-siders derailed economics into a mere tool for financial institutions and governmental organizations to make a fast buck or manipulate markets.
As this blogger has repeatedly pointed out, people in America, and some other countries to a lesser degree, have lost the ability to conceptualize things which Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers of the country used to have. These birds don't think they have to define words such as "value" and "change" when they tweet about them. In my definition of these words, you can't have a value without changing something.
Perhaps revolution, in the original meaning of the word, is the most effective way to change things. But it's useless to talk about revolutionizing status quo with these effete people. That's basically why I always focus on more "peaceful" way to create values in my blog. My message is that you don't have to be a revolutionary in order to be a change agent. Just create values, i.e. genuine wealth.
Another conceptual thing I want to stress here is that the creation of a value, or its destruction for that matter, is not a natural process. Values never generate themselves. The single most important driving forth in the value-creating chain is always people.
With all this in mind, let me talk about Gross Domestic Product for a moment. As you may already know GDP consists of the following four elements: ● Private Consumption ● Gross Investment ● Government Spending ● Trade Balance. It's important to note human beings play the central role throughout all these elements.
Private Consumption normally accounts for the largest portion of GDP, typically at around 60%. But you can also see personnel costs, i.e. corporate investment in human resources, in other GDP components. For one thing, a good part of your salaries, bonuses, other "fringe" benefits, and "overhead" expenses are included in corporate investment in "inventories" of the goods. And Government Spending is always funded by taxes withheld or voluntarily paid from your paychecks.
There's no denying that GDP is one of the important indications of the quantitative values being created in a year. But since values, or potential values to be more precise, are all created by man, GDP tells us only part of the story about our pursuit of wealth. Let us be reminded of Marx's succinct words from his contribution to Critique of Political Economy. He wrote: "Consumption gives the product the finishing touch." This requires us to take a close look into the qualitative aspects of the production of wealth.
I have nothing against the idea that things have to be kept clean as much as practicably possible. And generally speaking, there's nothing wrong with producing these amenities and selling them with a modest amount of frills called Saabisu here, although I can't afford to have such nice-to-haves myself. But even if you don't have first-hand knowledge in economy through working experience, you can tell only with your commonsense that overdoing things like this is not only useless but also harmful. It always entails a prohibitively large amount of waste of material, financial and human resources. That's why I think these people with pathological obsession with perfect cleanliness are destroying values much more than they create them by developing, manufacturing and selling the special condoms.
Equally important, you can never expect a sound spending habit from these sick people.
Their salaries are always subjected to theft by the tax authorities. Needless to say, they pour the loot down the drain called "government spending" for bridges to nowhere, soldiers who never fight, weapons they never use in actual warfare, and public servants who only serve themselves.
And how are these people working in the condom companies spending their take-home income?
Aside from daily necessities for them to stay alive aimlessly, they buy LCD TV sets, for instance. What for? To watch kiddies' anime, news programs filled with lies, and Waido-sho (variety shows). Also they allocate an average 34% of their disposable income for the education of their children. They make believe they don't notice these mentally neotenized parents and teachers can never help their kids grow into mature adults. Actually they are just reproducing the same stupidity from a generation to the next.
They also buy a personal computer. What for? To use it for Internet games, Buroguing (blogging) on their empty lives, or chatting on Mixi (Japan's largest social networking site). In other words, they are "using" the technologies of the 21st century for the same things their immediate and distant ancestors were doing without a computer.
An IBM consultant named Grant Norris once said: "Adaptive technologies move earlier technologies forward incrementally [while] disruptive technologies change the way people live their lives or the way businesses operate." He meant to say it's ridiculous to use a disruptive technology as if it were adaptive. That's the surest way to make a change-disabler out of the potential enabler of change.
Besides, practically every PC user installs in his computer an Internet security software such as the one from McAfee. These super credulous guys don't know, or don't want to know that all anti-malware software vendors, on the one hand, play the role of firefighters, and on the other, act as arsonists. Their business model is a typical example of what I call "negative production."
One of their typical behaviors when they get paid the biannual bonuses is to visit a local car dealer to purchase a Toyota or a Nissan. What for? Primarily to drive to their condom factories and adjacent offices. Another thing they often do is to take an overseas trip. Most of the time their destination is an outlet of these Duty-Free Shoppers. At a DFS, most of them purchase one of these luxury goods such as Louis Vuitton handbags.
According to a 2004 survey conducted by Merrill Lynch, Japan sale for highend marketers peaked at US$16 billion in 1996. After that, the sales somewhat slowed down, but in 2003, 3 years after the burst of the bubble economy, the Japanese people were still buying luxuary products worth US$10.8 billion, accounting for 40% of their worldwide sales. Chinese people may have temporarily caught up with Japanese in this respect, but it's astounding that the figure for 1996 was 7 times larger than Mongolia's GDP for 2005. This is an unmistakable sign that their unusually big appetite for values remains unsatisfied with industrial rubbish they can produce themselves.
Since the value-creating chain is open-ended, the same story can be told of employees of manufacturers of consumer electronics and automobiles. These are the "finishing touches" Japanese consumers can give to the industrial output. In short, the entire production-consumption chain of Japan has totally fallen apart.
According to IMF, Japan's GDP stood at $5,867 billion as of the end of 2011. But because of the broken chain, the world's third largest number means practically nothing. Japan's GDP is half-empty now, to say the least. This is a deliberate statement.
Some experts cite the huge accumulation of wealth, i.e. "household financial assets" which stood at 1,513 trillion yen as of 2009, as a proof that this economy is still sound. But values without substance will remain empty no matter how long they go through the process of fermentation.
Admittedly my economics remains an empirical theory because quality of life is an intangible thing. But sometimes intangibles can be measured quantitatively as some accounting experts have shown us. If I were an econometrician, I would certainly try to come up with the formula for something to be called a "cavity deflator" with which to gauge how far Japan's wealth has been eroded.
Actually I don't care too much about the emptiness of your life. At any rate it's none of my business. Throughout my first and second career, I did the best I could to make a difference to the shitty Japan Inc. There's nothing I could do anymore.
Maybe I will be a little better off if I know who I'm talking to on this website. It seems to me the American people have yet to recover from the election hangover. Mainstream Americans are still acting like fruitworms eating further into rotten grapes. Another group of people are saying grapes are too sour to eat with their signature cynicism as if they aren't dying for juicy fruit. A third group of people on the fringe are a little savvier. But they remain hesitant to leave the dead grapevines right away in search of a new vineyard. Instead they are untiringly warning grapes are pest-laden there. All these folks deserve the predicament facing them because none of them think about fixing, or better yet, revolutionizing the entire value chain with an unwavering resolve and down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach. · read more (39 words)
Wednesday, November 07 2012 @ 03:36 AM EST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Sap flowing through the trunk heels the wounds of a tree to help its healthy growth Termites infesting a big tree eventually uproot it over a long period of time
I call it a farce, but not because Obama, Romney and/or Paul are clowns.
When will ordinary Americans ever learn that they are the clowns? It's solely their fault that things unfolded the way they did in the last four years and beyond.
Throughout the duration of the farce, the mainstream Americans were attributing things that went wrong to their opponents.
Other people were essentially no different. Not a few on the fringe were self-righteously saying a "huge awakening" was going on on the part of the general population and that an American Revolution was on its way. But a huge awakening from what? Actually it was nothing but a delusion on the delusion.
These sick people are unaware that they are just projecting to the other side the problem they can't solve themselves. After the election results came out, these good guys are still insisting the revolution was aborted because bad guys in the media prevented people from fully awakening.
Now the farce is over, but practically all Americans still make believe others should change before they do themselves. Isn't it about time to have dropped all these jokes? Such an alibi exercise hasn't worked before, and will never in the future.
Don't take me wrong, however. I'm not instigating these chicken-hearted people to kill the most unscrupulous one of the three, the Kenyan monkey perhaps, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Time and again it's been proved they have no guts needed for such a bold move, and they have too many excuses for their inaction. As I kept saying since 2008, what they need to do, instead, is a serious soul-searching to know exactly who they are. But beware, you can never define what you really are by a half-baked ideology you support or oppose, or religious values you believe or disbelieve in.
Until they define themselves in the right way, they can never internalize any issue facing them. Neither can they emancipate themselves from the delusive idea that the problem always lies with others, while the fact of the matter remains they are the problem themselves.
Only through a serious effort for self-examination, they can find a life-size view of things surrounding them. Then they will stop talking big while actually acting very small.
It's also important to know there's nothing wrong with acting small if they base their plans on a down-to-earth vision about the future, i.e. what nation should emerge in the North American continent after the inevitable collapse of the American Empire overseas and the likely implosion of homeland U.S. It's far better than just grumbling about their fellow countrymen who are in a hypnotic state while doing absolutely nothing with them. Hopefully they will define their role as that of sap, or termites.
Some may want to change their country just like drops of sap help the tree grow over a long period of time by constantly transporting nutrients through its trunk. Some others may choose to be termites infesting the heartwood of a tree or wooden structure and eventually cause it to break down.
Whichever approach they take to make a difference to their country, these processes may progress at a glacial pace. But I hope the Internet will help expedite them if they know how to leverage the worldwide web which was originally meant to be an enabler of change as is true with any "disruptive" technology. It's a different story, however, if they still do not realize "alternative media" and "social media" are, more often than not, a change-disabler.
Or.....if they can't tell the difference between web-search and soul-search, they might as well join these Japanese macaques who are conditioned to instantly jump at anything given to them. · read more (9 words)
Saturday, November 03 2012 @ 06:06 AM EDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Japan's unemployment rate is shown in black against other G8 nations.
A receptionist automatically bows at a constant interval where there are no customers in sight.
One of the regulars at my website brought up a somewhat off-the-topic subject in response to my previous post. He wanted to say the Democrats are undermining the American values.
Currently I'm fully tied up with my constitutional battle against the municipality of Yokohama. But I thought I had to write another piece to further clarify my points from a different angle because what I want to tell my audience and the cause of the war I am waging come down to one and the same principle.
I said in my reply that I think the Democrats and the Republicans are the two wings of the same bird as is evident from the way they talk about "issues" such as jobs. Then he came back to say, "I can’t tell the difference between a girl mosquito and a boy mosquito and yet the girl and boy mosquitoes get it figured out."
His mosquito analogy is essentially different from my bird metaphor. And, of course, none of us are mosquitoes, e.g. ones caught trapped in the web. This is exactly what I wanted to make sure when I asked you who you really are in the above-linked piece. Actually I had suspected some of you could be eels, if not mosquitoes.
He is my longtime friend, and personally I have absolutely nothing against this respectable gentleman. And I think I am a flexible person. But I can't give in an inch when it comes to a matter of principle.
It's important to note you can't artificially create jobs out of thin air and it's none of the President's business in the first place. The only exception is murderous ones a President might create in the military and the military-industrial complex.
Let me first define the word "job" because talking this and that about a poorly defined subject will get us nowhere. What is the thing called a job?
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by and large, has it right when defining who are employed and who are unemployed. But actually the classification by BLS doesn't make a bit of sense except when it says volunteering is not an occupation. It doesn't say a word about exactly what a job is.
Realistically speaking, robbery, for one, is a legitimate job if these tax-collectors in the city hall are performing their contractual obligations when they forcefully collect taxes from their employers. Prostitutes and their pimps are also doing decent jobs if the "presstitute" I referred to as "AK" in my previous posts claims to be a journalist. Likewise swindlers should be considered to hold respectable jobs if Gordon G. Chang is classified in the category of self-employed in the labor statistics.
Japan's Statistics Bureau of Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications handles jobs data essentially in the same way. But unemployment rate still stays extraordinarily low in Japan (see the graph embedded above) as compared to the U.S. even amid the deepening economic doldrums here. It is true that the Statistics Bureau here is habitually fabricating jobs data as its U.S. counterpart does. But if you want to know the real reason behind the huge gap, it's far from enough to question the trustworthiness of the labor statistics. I think we need to look into other factors particular to this country.
Gordon G. Chang is a breathtakingly unprincipled person who has no sense of responsibility for what he says. Just for instance, one of his favorite topics was the demographic "issue" supposedly facing "America's most important partner." He kept parroting the Japanese media until the fall of 2008 when they realized the red herring had too dried up to distract people's attention from the real issues. Until then Chang was making a big fuss over the Japanese population which was allegedly shrinking in size while the process of biological aging was further accelerating.
I told him, over and over again, it was simply wrong to assume Japan's economic vigor was declining as a result of the dwindling population because it's turning the causal relationship upside down. Every time I pointed out shrinking population can't be an issue in a nation like Japan where there are too many people relative to its anemic pursuit of value-creating activity, he shrugged me off. Presumably he thought there was no reason to believe in an obscure blogger, that I was, when the entire fourth estate of the country observed the situation in a diagonally different way. The last thing he would understand was the very basic principle that the overall quality of people by far outweighs the number of people. As the imaginary issue fell into oblivion here, Chang started playing dumb as if he'd never said population was at issue.
And it makes little sense to talk about the population of a country without knowing the square-mileage of the land it covers. The population density of this country is already way too high. In the U.S., for instance, the number of residents per sq.mi is a little below 83 while in Japan 868 people are living in a range of 1 sq.mi.
To Chang, the Japanese were basically faceless people. Needless too say, he didn't give a damn about their inner selves when he talked about Japan's bright future under the wing of the United States. In 2004, I presented him a copy of John Nathan's Japan Unbound in the hope that he would stop scratching the surface of this nation. But again he ignored everything that didn't fit into his cheap ideology.
For one thing, he made believe he didn't notice that in the book Nathan quoted a director of the Mental Health Center of Yokohama as telling him, "Some 5 million Japanese are contemplating suicide at any given moment." It would be all the more out of the question for this guy to pay attention to the results of a survey recently conducted by the government, which said 23.4% of the respondents had answered in the affirmative to this question: "Have you seriously considered suicide recently?" When it came to the pollees in their 20s, an astounding 28.4% answered they had thought about killing themselves lately. This unmistakably indicates that the Japanese are well aware a good part of them are redundant.
With these facts and perceptions all taken into account, it looks all the more mysterious that Japan's unemployment rate has stayed at the lowest levels among industrialized countries for many decades. Among other things, it's especially unfathomable that we don't see a competitive labor market which would have inevitably arisen where there are too many people in a small strip of land. The fact of the matter remains that people here needn't compete against one another seeking scarce employment opportunities. As a result they don't have a motivation to improve themselves. This should be interpreted as an indication that what a job means to the Japanese is completely different from what it means to other peoples.
Pathological obsession with perfection
When I was in business, I already knew something was fundamentally wrong with this country. The only reason I could think of for the abnormally low jobless rate here was because this country is abnormal.
As I told you when I talked about the false obituary on the personal computer, one of my people in the accounting department was often spotted verifying an MIS output with her abacus. I said to her, "What the hell are you doing here?" The veteran accountant blushed and fidgeted for a second, but somehow found nerve to say, "I do this - just in case, Mr. Yamamoto." A couple of months later she decided to upgrade her verification system from the abacus to a calculator.
Then came the Plaza Accord of 1985 which ushered in the days of uncertainty. Now the woman belatedly realized that no matter how many times she double-checked a yen value, it would have to be restated at a new exchange rate against the US$ or the Swiss Franc by the time I sent the financial report to the headquarters.
I couldn't give her a pink slip for two reasons. Firstly, she wasn't alone, far from it, in being so fussy about accuracy. If I had fired her for her compulsive idea that everything had to be perfect, I would have had to dismiss everyone in the organization. Secondly, in this country where the world-renowned practice called "lifetime employment system" was, and still remains, the norm, joblessness isn't just the state of being out of work. It means much more than loss of income source, and perhaps loss of house to live in and family to live with. When you deal with such people who are driven too much by the obsessive ideas about maintaining a harmonious society to be really values-driven, you have to use quite different elimination criteria from those used in a little less abnormal country.
By the time I called it a career, I concluded that Japan would become a normal country only if and when its jobless rate soared to somewhere around 20%, or even higher. That would mean the number of the jobless should grow at least by 400% in the not-too-distant future. This is almost an unattainable goal as long as we take it for granted that Japan is a going concern.
In 1955, a Briton by the name of Cyril Northcote Parkinson observed that "the demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource." In a sense, his theory is the supply-sider's view applied to the labor market. But it is important to always keep in mind that Parkinson's Law is not a law of physics. You can change it if you and your colleagues are principled people. Otherwise the consequence is disastrous as we have already seen here in this country.
The condoms for umbrellas and the state-of-the-art devices to autoload them are just the tip of the tip of the ice berg. Time and again I have discussed the issue of corporate redundancies on this website. In the first such post, I focused primarily on Saabisu lavishly given by large to small players in the service industry. Saabisu is the Japanese transliteration of "service" but it means a very different thing from service in that it is basically free of charge and it's something you can live without or sometimes you are better off without. It typically includes Oshibori (I don't want to bother to explain what it is), Pointo Kaado (ditto), Bakku-guraundo Myuujikku nobody appreciates, and automatic bowing (see the second photo). The list of Saabisu goes on and on.
At any rate, I have great difficulty figuring out why Japanese travelers don't think a smile from a cabin attendant suffices. It is true that with the late arrival of low-cost carriers, local airlines have started to seek the way to keep Saabisu to the minimum. But just trimming a small part of these frills is far from enough. As long as these sick people remain obsessed with the compulsive idea to pursue the unrealistic goal of "full-employment," it's for sure the same absurdity will come back the moment they see the slightest sign of turnaround and will soon start getting bloated until it "matches the supply of the resource."
Here's another case in point. Law says you are prohibited from smoking if you are 19 years, 364 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes of age, or younger. In recent years, those who are stupid enough to believe such a law is practicably enforceable have been stepping up measures for a stricter observance of the law. A couple of months ago, municipalities across the nation ordered convenience stores and other retailers dealing in tobacco products to tell anyone who wants to buy a pack of cigarettes to swear he is not a minor by pressing his finger to the touch panel of the point-of-sale system which just reads "OK" or "Confirm." I sometimes ask the salesclerk: "By any chance, do I look like a 19-year-old kid?" The clerk always says apologetically: "No, not at all. We are doing this just because we are told to."
I know if you have never taken part in an actual production process yourself, you will say, "It's not a big deal. Why don't you just follow his instruction without saying a word?" But actually it must have taken a tremendous amount of man-hours for them to make a minor change to their POS system. Someone defined the "user requirement" in writing. A second person translated it into a "program specification." A third one coded it into a computer program, which certainly needed a lot of testing and debugging. Only then they could go live with the new "system."
This is the way material, financial and human resources are chronically wasted in this country. Manufacturing sector is no exception. Earlier this week consumer electronics giants such as Panasonic, Sony and Sharp announced they are expecting huge losses for this fiscal year. As usual they put all the blame on the economic slowdown in China and the continued appreciation of the yen. They will never admit, until it is too late, that the only way to rectify the shaky situation is a drastic downsizing which would force them to dump tens of thousands of people being wasted there.
Now the world's third-largest GDP, either nominal or in "real" terms, is actually hollowed out as the immense waste of resources has fatally eaten into Japan's industrial base. In this context let us be reminded of the exquisite words by Karl Marx. To apply his observation about the value-creating chain to Japan Inc., we have to paraphrase it this way:
"In Japan, production is at the same time the destruction or waste of resources, and consumption is at the same time a negative production."
Marx observed: "Consumption gives the product the finishing touch." But the Japanese are now transforming potentially change-enabling products into change-disabling ones by habitually misusing them. This leads to a vicious circle because now the "misusability" has become the key to success for marketers.
As I pointed out when I talked about the fecal truth behind the burst of the bubble, the Japanese economy has been inflated artificially to the extent that it's now half-empty, to say the least. I know very few of you readily accept my heretical view because most of you, like Chang, think there's no reason to believe in an obscure blogger who constantly brings subjective values into economics. Fortunately for me, though, I'm not alone. Peter F. Drucker, for one, repeatedly said to this effect:
"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently what needs not be done at all."
Actually Drucker wanted to say it's not only useless but also harmful.
Even in Japan, there are a handful of people who realize problems deep-rooted in Japan Inc. Kazuo Yuasa, then chief consultant at Nittsu Research Institute and Consulting, Inc., wrote in 2002 about his first-hand experience with a Japanese steelmaker where people were working very hard on a big project for "what needn't have been done at all." These are basically how the Japanese can miraculously keep nation's unemployment rate well below 5%. In this country it's a piece of cake not only for private sectors but also for the government to churn out as many jobs as they like, because these people are pathologically obsessed with perfection - perfect cleanliness, perfect accuracy, perfect certainty, perfect punctuality, perfect conformity, and most importantly perfect harmony among the community members - so anyone won't displease, upset or offend anyone else in any way.
And these are why I've been out of work since 2006 when these bastards at the rotten subsidiary of SAP AG, who were all suffering juvenile dementia, subtly suggested it was about time to have terminated our contract because I had already turned 70. If you are interested in knowing more about the ageist bias widespread in this country, you may want to look at the letter I sent to the editor of The Japan Times 16 years ago.
These are also what have since been driving me to an all-out war against the city hall. Unwinnable though it may seem, I won't stop fighting until the last day of my life. Not only my survival but also my principle are at stake there. · read more (22 words)
This may catch you off guard, but let me ask you something:
"WHO ARE YOU?"
You wonder what the hell this has to do with the issue at hand.
When starting a new thread, I always redefine myself because without knowing who is talking to whom and over exactly what issue, there's no point in blogging. In this context I think it will be nice if you ask yourself the same question: "Who am I?"
Before starting this inner process, I always empty myself because at any given time the inside of my brain looks very much like the cache memory after a lot of Googling. Actually this is the hardest part of the exercise. But never expect an exotic routine such as zazen or yoga to work its magic. Most of the time it's an Oriental rubbish invented by the Americans. I suspect you might as well empty your wallet as I always do.
I don't want to look at your personal profile you disclosed when you signed up to Facebook. I don't have access to Facebook pages in the first place simply because I'm not a kindergarten kid. Neither do I want to know your political ideology and religious faith because I know these are, at best, a jumbled manifestation of poorly-defined ideas you cherry-picked from your cache memory. Most of the time, they are delusions. Needless to say I'm not interested, either, in knowing who you are NOT (e.g. "I'm not a bigot like you," or, "I'm not a naysayer like you.")
All I need to know is your own principle on which you base what you say and do.
Now I am getting back to my principles on which I deal with the Constitution and laws subordinated to it.
The Japanese always think laws govern them, making believe they don't notice it's actually the other way around. Take their postwar Constitution for example. As a result of their inverted attitude toward laws in general, they have ambivalent feelings about their Constitution, which is based on three principles: pacifism, equality, and most importantly reciprocity between the state and its people.
Its Article 9 famously says: "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." The Japanese traditionally think the right to independence and freedom is a gift from heaven just like the Constitution which was given by MacArthur. The last thing they would do to gain the sovereign right is to risk their lives in a bloody war. That's basically why they have never seriously thought about amending it. And that's why the pro-amendment movements which have lasted almost a half century by now are still getting nowhere.
Every time Chinese vessels take an excursion in the disputed waters surrounding Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, they feel chagrined because all they are allowed to do under the pacifist Constitution is to verbally warn they should stay away from the "Japanese territory" and sometimes to resort to the use of their ultimate weapons, i.e. water cannons.
It's on these occasions when the pro-amendment camps raise their voices. Their rationale always comes down to the "fact" that the Constitution is illegitimate because it was imposed on the Japanese by Douglas MacArthur. They opportunistically look away from the real fact that it was the Japanese people who swallowed everything the U.S. wanted them to swallow. I couldn't care less, though; it's now Ishihara's baby. (See FOOTNOTE.)
At this moment the equality principle is much more relevant to me. Time and again I've seen the same hypocrisy in their contradictory attitudes toward the principle. On the surface, equality is the element which is the most congruous with the egalitarian obsession prevalent in this classless society for more than a millennium. But these vassals and serfs in the feudal society of the 21st century have failed to understand what it should mean in a modern civil society. The reason for the failure is because the brand new rule of reciprocity to be applied between the rights and duties of the people is too foreign to the Japanese society which is governed by some extralegal entity.
To the Japanese, compassion, benevolence and mercy for the disabled or the aged are something to be bestowed upon them, normally with a silky voice that sets your teeth on edge, by お上, Okami or "someone from above." The real implication here is that if you insist on your natural rights as I always do, it constitutes an unpardonable crime.
One case in point is my wheelchair-bound daughter-in-law who suffers a rare disease named Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. As I observe, her psychosomatic disorder is more or less fake. Actually doctors haven't found a single organic failure behind all these pains she complains about day in, day out and around the clock, and her repeated attempts of parasuicide. In short she's a wreck, body and soul. But thanks to the efforts made by her husband, CRPS is now designated by the municipality as a refractory illness which makes its sufferers eligible for a special pension for the disabled.
Now my estranged daughter-in-law, who is still in her early-40s, is receiving a handsome amount of annuity which by far exceeds mine as if I haven't paid the premiums for the pension and healthcare insurance throughout my 50-year career, which are 20- to 30-times larger than hers at their present values. Besides, it's totally tax-exempt.
The privileged status is given to her simply because she is an ideal citizen in this sick nanny state. But I never want to become a well-off zombie like this woman at the cost of my dignity.
I wrote my story about a local news reporter "AK" in my previous entry. She is about the age of the woman in a wheelchair but not handicapped physically. But now I've learned she is yet another "presstitute." That means she is mentally impaired, seriously so.
Thanks to the thoughtful feedback I received from my friends, both online and offline, my hypertension subsided for a while. But the day before yesterday, someone else sent my blood pressure soaring high once again. I had to visit another mentally-impaired woman at the tax-collecting department of the ward office to follow up a memo I'd sent her a week or so earlier. Now it was increasingly obvious that the bitch won't be convinced I can't pay taxes until she actually finds my corpse somewhere at the seaside with her own eyes. So I wrote in the letter: "I'm literally getting killed by the city hall, but make no mistake, you've got to risk your own lives if you want to go further ahead to claim mine." Strangling me slowly as if with a silk cord, if not quickly with a rope, is exactly what they've been doing in the last 18 months. But she still didn't take me seriously because as anybody who knows me in person can tell, I don't look like a killer.
It's when I stepped out of the ward office building that I realized my pill case was already empty despite my effort to take a dose of the anti-hypertension drug only when it looks absolutely necessary. I directed my steps to Dr. Shiono's clinic which sits a couple of blocks away from the ward office.
When I dropped by his office, he had just wound up his lunch recess during which he was listening to music. He got a lot of suntan because every weekend during the long summer, he'd had fun doing cruising, swimming and bodyboarding with his son and wife. As usual we talked about music much more than about blood pressure.
I said to him, "I sometimes think a good musical piece such as Brahms's No. 4 Symphony has a more therapeutic power for hypertension than ex-Forge pills you prescribe for me." Nodding approvingly, he made me wear a pair of headphones and played a couple of newly-purchased CDs for me. After I listened to some passages from Bach's partita and violin sonata played by Glenn Gould and Hilary Hahn, I felt like my blood pressure had come down by 30-40mm Hg.
With his disarming grin, he went on to talk about his parents. Both of them were among the Class of 1959 at Toho Gakuen Shool of Music, the same class Seiji Ozawa also belonged. And in turn the maestro was among the same Class of 1954 at the junior and senior high schools I was in. So we have a lot in common to talk about although Dr. Shiono is younger than my elder son. His father was a professional piano tuner but died of cerebral hemorrhage when he was in his early-50s. The 77-year-old widow is still teaching the piano. He said, "You said you love Brahms. This reminds me of something. When I was a high school student, my mom kept telling me to listen to Brahms, Brahms, and Brahms. That was too much for a kid of the rock generation. That's why I chose a medical career over music. Now I do appreciate Brahms, if you are curious about that."
Thanks to the music and the doctor who apparently knows who he is, I could pull myself together once again and renew my vigor to fight on for my right to "maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living," as Article 25 stipulates, and more importantly, for the principle embodied in my own constitution.
Earlier this year in the U.S., an astounding 40,000 mostly unconstitutional laws were enacted just in a matter of weeks. At that time the late Ron Paul was saying he would have them all repealed as the president.
In comparison, the number of laws, bylaws and ordinances enacted by the Japanese lawmakers is 100-times smaller. It should also be noted that they are more careful than their American counterparts about the constitutionality of a new legislation presumably because the three branches of the government are not independent from one another as they are supposed to be.
At any rate, however, the lower "productivity" of the Japanese legislators does not indicate that Japan is a little healthier country than America. The widespread notion that Japan is under the rule of law is totally baseless because traditionally what governs this country is something other than written laws. That's why the legislative branch here does not have to massproduce laws, constitutional or not.
The sheepish people here are too used to being governed by an extralegal entity to govern themselves. As a result, even well-educated people such as my former friend "AK" don't need any principle on which to conduct themselves.
Small wonder anyone can't tell WHO HE REALLY IS. He is just yet another Japanese conformist who mindlessly goes with the flow. · read more (88 words)
旅に病んで夢は枯野をかけ廻る - 松尾芭蕉 Stricken on a journey/My dreams go wandering round/Withered fields - A haiku piece of Matsuo Basho totally spoiled by the second-rate translator named Donald Keene.
Bloody May Day of 1952 in front of the Imperial Palace
Anpo uprising of 1959
Relatively honest people surrounding me often say one thing and do quite another. I know this is a fallout of the essentially seamless transition of power from the Shogunate to the Emperor, to MacArthur, and then back to the Emperor now disguised as a mere "symbol of national unity." Each time, the Japanese sang a different tune but all along they have remained practically unchanged. It takes you a lifetime to become used to these sick people.
On May 1, 1952, three days after a nominal sovereignty was returned to Japan in San Francisco, the sheepish people, who had never rebelled against Emperor Hirohito or the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, staged one of the only two major uprisings in modern Japanese history, called the Bloody May Day. True, it was bloody by the Japanese standards, but in fact, it was yet another ritual that signaled a change of the tunes. The new one was to herald the arrival of the Cold War in this country.
Seven years later I graduated from university amid the nationwide turmoil over the Japan-U.S. security treaty, known as Anpo Toso. Needless to say the anti-treaty students joined by some unionized workers were fighting a proxy war as puppets manipulated by the Soviet Union and the new-born China. The distinctive feature of Anpo Toso was that the heads of most factions were future business leaders such as Seiji Tsutsumi, a scion of the Seibu conglomerate.
These guys would later lay the groundwork for the rapid rise of Japan Inc., and more importantly for its ultimate collapse in 1990. It's no accident that Anpo Toso ended up in a total failure. Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, an undercover agent of the CIA, signed the treaty on January 19, 1960 in Washington DC.
Almost 53 years later, I hear the same old blues which now sounds more like a cheap funeral march. With this tune lingering on in my ears as if it's specifically meant for me, now I'm desperately fighting back against the second round of executions of the attachment order to seize 30% of my pension annuities.
Yesterday I had a bitter experience with "AK", the wife of DK who helped me, financially and morally, out of the jam caused by the first round attacks from the city hall. AK is a staff writer at Kanagawa Shimbun. The Yokohama-based newspaper publisher is known for its relatively impartial news coverage despite its close affiliation with mainstream news organizations and its membership in the information cartel known as Nihon Kisha Kurabu or Japan Press Club. I thought it would help me recoup lost ground if AK could influence the editor to take up my case against the municipality. Obviously hardships senior citizens are going through are his favorite topic.
After I updated her on the recent situation, however, she concluded she didn't want to write a cover story on my constitutional battle. The reason she declined my offer was that I am primarily at fault for the mess, after all, because I should have paid on time these income-unrelated taxes since I left the employment of SAP Japan in 2006. Then I would have avoided piling up tax bills this high. She added that several years ago her family of three could somehow get by with her salary, which was as small as my pension (I doubt it), when her husband was temporarily out of work. In short, I deserve all this suffering and all I need is to impose austerity and discipline on myself.
AK really let me down. At the onset of the battle, she was enthusiastically giving me cheers although they somehow sounded noncommittal. Has she changed her mind? Not at all. She remains the same, half-awake and half-honest person I've known for years.
I was too tired to repeat my lecture on the Constitution to the youngish reporter, but my cause all comes down to my commonsense interpretation of Chapter 3 of the fundamental law. Its Article 30 says, "The people shall be liable to taxation as provided by law," while Article 25 of the same chapter stipulates, "All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living." My points are that in this chapter the rights and duties of the people are defined purely on a reciprocal basis and that the standards for "cultured living" can't have remained unchanged since 1947 when the now-hollowed-out Constitution was enacted. Those were the days when we were fed with food stuff even the swine wouldn't appreciate very much.
Also I felt insulted when AK treated me like I am an uneducated, unskilled and inexperienced 22-year-old, while in fact I am a 76-year-old with a 50-year-long career behind him. I thought I have lost another friend because now it's evident she is one of those Japanese news reporters who are only good at playing the tune of the time. I only hope this won't affect the friendship between her husband DK and me in any way.
Back on February 21, the day my last girlfriend turned 29, I reluctantly let go of her because her parents had started urging her to get married before she misses the "marriageable" age. I don't care too much if the number of my friends, who wholeheartedly empathize with my way of thinking, living and now dying, remains very small. But I do care if it gets even smaller because in my definition of the words, it's an auditory hallucination if nobody but myself and a couple of others can hear this song about a free Northeast Asia to emerge after the coming collapse of the evil American Empire. · read more (27 words)
Sunday, October 14 2012 @ 11:11 AM EDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
The uninhabited islets bear two names.
I've been notoriously known for my verbosity especially among American readers. They see lack of discipline in my wordiness because they are so used to brevity they see on other websites. I suspect these bloggers are just too stingy to go beyond 140 characters for free. Their attitude is always like, "Tweet, tweet, you're a moron if you need more words from me, tweet."
The primary reason I don't want to economize on word is because I believe "God is in the details," as Gustave Flaubert observed. (Or is it Mies van der Rohe?) Without a close examination of every detail, you always end up in an ideological delusion. or a delusive ideology.
Lingerie theft is commonplace in this perverted nation.
This is not to say, however, I don't agree to the old saying that goes: "You can't see the wood for the trees." Of course you also end up in a delusion if you are too preoccupied with particular trees to look at the total picture of the forest. But is it so difficult to look at both at the same time?
Actually I tried hard to make my previous post about the unbreakable curse of words as succinct as possible. To that end I had to leave out many related issues.
It was a pleasant surprise to receive an offline feedback to the post from my American friend in which he alerted me to an interesting article about the uninhabited islands named Diaoyu (釣魚) in Chinese and Senkaku (尖閣) in Japanese. The issue the Chinese editor and the Russian veteran discuss in the article is one of the topics I would have touched on had it not been for my consideration for impatient readers.
As my American friend seems to agree, words and letters do us three things. Firstly they help us form and crystallize ideas. Then they convey them. Last but not least, words and letters always deceive us with the cleansing power inherent to them. It is this deceptive nature of words and letters I had in mind when I talked about them as fetishes.
Traditionally people using ideograms are more prone to word-fetishism than those who use a phonogramic system. I hypothesize it's no accident that lingerie theft is so common among these terminally ill people. When it comes to heinous crimes such as homicide and rape, Japanese are still lagging far behind Americans. But there is an incredibly large population of fetishists and voyeurs, called "フェチ" (Fechi) in Jangrish. They habitually steal women's underwear, or like to watch a woman in bra or panties rather than without them. Believe it or not, such a pervert who gets caught red-handed is more often than not a well-educated man such as university professor, company executive or politician.
It is true that in recent years people outside the ideogrammatic cultural sphere are also developing the same trait very quickly presumably because of the flood of videos on the likes of YouTube or other high-resolution images they can see everywhere else. They wouldn't fall into a trance just looking at letters such as "C-h-a-n-g-e," "F-o-r-w-a-r-d," "E-n-d t-h-e F-E-D," but with all these visual aids available to them, now they have started mixing up the real things with virtual reality.
It is true there still is something that Westerners cannot understand about the magical power of ideograms. For one thing an Italian diplomat will never lodge a protest if his English-speaking counterpart refers to his hometown as Florence. Likewise an Austrian will never complain if his American friend calls the capital city of his country Vienna.
But one of the most serious problems resulting from the general trend is that when people talk about the territorial disputes over Senkaku or Diaoyu, Takeshima (竹島) or Dokdo (독도), and even what the Japanese call the Northern Territories or Hoppo Ryodo (北方領土), the last thing that would cross their minds is these are nothing but imaginary issues. More intricate, nastier, more sticking and more slippery issues are always hidden under the thick veil of words and letters. It's about time for them to have realized words alone, let alone 140-characters of them, can't uncover the underlying real issues.
Vasili Ivanov, the Russian veteran interviewed by the Chinese editor, is also having a hallucination when he talks about "militarism on the rise" in Japan and "a resurrection of the samurai" in the wake of the renewed tension in the East China Sea.
Obviously the one Ivanov specifically has in mind is Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara who is widely known for his empty chauvinism. Early on this bastard passed the hat around for the money with which the metropolitan government would buy up the uninhabited islets from some individuals who claim to be the "owners" of 尖閣. Thanks to millions of suckers in his constituency, the donations he collected totaled more than 1.5 billion yen.
Then another idiot named Yoshihiko Noda stepped in presumably in deference to the Chinese government. After talking tete-a-tete with Ishihara, the Prime Minister decided to "nationalize" these islands with taxpayers' money. One of Noda's aides later whispered to reporters that the Prime Minister cited Governor's recklessness as the reason for nationalization. Noda fretted about an unrealistic scenario that Ishihara would tread on the tiger's tail if he went ahead with his plan. According to the aide, the Prime Minister feared the Tokyo Government, on its own, might go to war with China while the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force or the Coast Guard is not under the command of the Tokyo Governor.
Noda is yet another Japanese leader. Like all his predecessors, he lets things drift until it is too late or the problem solves itself. At times he acts, but only symbolically. All along he plays on words, making the most of their magical power. And in the face of a crisis, he instantly freezes into a total inaction like a spider in thanatosis.
Since August 15 when seven activists from Hong Kong landed one of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the Prime Minister has kept saying, "We are a mature nation. We refrain from overreacting. We want China to calm down, too." When he knew his alibi exercise didn't work, he made a big decision to take a leap in the dark. He ordered the Coast Guard to fire water cannons at the Chinese vessels. This was exactly what the Chinese government had expected. Who in his right mind could do more against his most important trade partner?
My former friend Chang claims to be an expert in geopolitical issues for Northeast Asia. He has his fake Chinese name "章家敦" printed on the reverse side of his business card. I don't know how the cheap trick has helped him put on an air of authority. But I know he has more or less succeeded to use faceless peoples in this region for his own interests, without risking his life for the cause of freedom and prosperity of the Northeast Asians.
Chang keeps saying the Xizang Autonomous Region should belong to the Tibetans, while on the other hand, he declares Okinawa is a Japanese territory. The fact of the matter remains, however, Tibet is primarily Tibetans' and their right of self-determination is inviolable. At any rate it's none of Chang's business. Likewise, Okinawa is primarily Okinawans'. It's all up to the 1.4 million islanders whether to become fully assimilated into America's 51st state, or secede from it. The same can be said of the likes of Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico.
Those with an educational background in law, such as Chang or the Kenyan monkey in the White House, always make believe the International Court of Justice in the Hague is still functioning. Most of the time, ICJ's ruling is based on the principle of "First-come, first-served." If you apply the absurd principle to Senkaku/Diaoyu, it's obvious these islands should belong to the Okinawans because they are the descendants of the people of the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429-1879). The only problem is that they are increasingly losing their identity.
Unless you still remain under the spell of the curse of words, you will agree that the only realistic principle is "Last-come, first-served." The same principle should also be applied to uninhabited islands and the surrounding waters. If the brainless and spineless Japanese leader continues to shy away from provoking China, as he actually does, that's it, these islands will finally be named Diaoyu. · read more (149 words)
Thursday, October 11 2012 @ 10:27 AM EDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
This calligraphy of Kanji reads Kotodama by Japanese pronunciation and means the spirit of words.
Haiku Saijiki is the indispensable handbook for anyone who composes poems in the 17-syllable format.
When I launched this website in 2004, I already knew that my heretical thoughts were not only incommunicable to my fellow countrymen but also untranslatable to any language comprehensible to the Westerners.
I don't particularly like my mother tongue, which is nothing but a "salad" made of what little oral heritage from the prehistoric, preliterate Man'yo era subsequently mixed with heterogeneous words selectively imported from China, Europe and America. But that wasn't the only reason I started blogging in English.
I also knew that man's views are really language-independent. This made me say, "I might as well break up with the language I have used almost for seven decades regardless of whether I am going to debut in the blogosphere." I thought if I wanted to prevent the Japanese language from hindering my creative thinking, that was the right thing to do.
Then in 2008, my attempt to establish myself as an independent writer in the U.S. was thwarted by the American political "analyst" who is too uncivilized to understand the very basics about civilization: thoughts and words are inseparable twins.
Since my desire to have my own voices heard overseas was aborted this way, I have been treated locally as a mere translator. They seem to think, "He is very old and too demanding to take care of someone else's crap, but his multilingual proficiency is first-rate and still remains reusable." Now it looks as though I am an old hooker who is always available for 20 bucks.
As I told you in my previous post, my local friend, who runs a small company that provides translation services, recently offered me an "E2J" gig he'd got from a Japanese consumer electronics giant. Obviously he thought it would help alleviate the financial difficulty facing me to farm out a smaller part of the job. I said I would be more than willing to accept his offer on the premise that I would be allowed to work on it without any restraint except for a minimum adherence to a small lexicon of special terminologies for a proprietary technology his client might have. He said matter-of-factly that there's no such glossary imposed on us. That's why I accepted his offer at a rate slightly higher than what I would earn from toilet cleaning job at the public lavatory in the nearby Chinatown.
But several days later, my friend came back to me, saying: "By the way, Yu, my client sent me an Excel Sheet named 'Kamisama (God) File' to which we are supposed to strictly adhere." Actually there are some 160 words and phrases designated by Kamisama for 200-plus PowerPoint slides, but none of them are associated with any proprietary technology of the consumer electronics company.
Just to mention a few, Kamisma says we should never fail to translate the word "default" as "デフォルト" (deforuto) instead of "初期値" (shokichi), or an initial value. The fussy God also says "customer" should always be translated as お客様" (Okyaku-sama). There are some other generally accepted ways to translate the English word into "Japanese" such as "カスタマ" (Kasutama), "顧客" (Kokyaku, or gu ker in Chinese pronunciation), "客先" (Kyakusaki), etc. But the guardian angel of the words at the consumer electronics company demands an impeccable consistency. Believe it or not, we are supposed to work on a presentation material, not the graphical user interface or a system/user documentation of a computer system.
This leaves you wondering why then the in-house lexicologist wouldn't make the translation of the whole text all by himself. Answer: He had to outsource it simply because he had no such ability. From my past experience I can tell for sure the profile of the monomaniacal shaman. In all likelihood he is a very young graduate of a privileged university in Japan or the U.S. The future of the country is on his shoulders.
The Kamisama worshiped in the Japanese company has brought me back the nightmare I experienced in 1999 with the "Trados" translation management system used in the rotten Japanese subsidiary of German software company SAP AG. The Trados database was considered Gott der Herr while in fact it was full of shit that exactly mirrored the inside of the brains of employees of SAP Japan. As had often been the case with the last half of my career, I was supposed to refrain from making a difference to their way of doing business.
In my reply mail to my friend, I said, "I want to take back my acceptance of your order because I don't want to kiss Kamisama's ass. I suggest you reassign my part to a young translator because he has much more physical strength and much better eyesight with which to do ass-kissing much more efficiently than I. Besides, he doesn't care too much about job satisfaction and self-esteem."
My friend got really upset because to him I was yet another good toransureetaa who wasn't supposed to add any value to what he put his hand on. He insisted: "Yes, I understand your point, Yu. But I must ask you to kiss Kamisama's ass because that's what one of my most important clients tells us to." Finally I agreed to prostitute myself on the condition that my initial assignment be more than halved. But when I was about to get started, I remembered something else.
In October last year, Lara, Chen Tien-shi, up and coming ethnologist, asked me to translate, from Japanese to English, a transcript from a symposium on the issue of statelessness which she had organized. Since the Word document was too voluminous to work on all by myself, I farmed out a good part of it to the same friend who is now reciprocating my favor at that time. All the speeches except Lara's were really incoherent from the beginning, but my subcontractor doubly messed them up simply because the "seasoned" translator lacked professionalism. Obviously he was badly in need of a Kamisama, but unfortunately for him, the brilliant ethnologist hadn't imposed any rule on us. As a result I had to play the role of Kamisama myself. For one thing, he invented the official English representations and transliterations of the names of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai organizations and individuals. In the last 48 hours, I had to redo everything from scratch. And yet, I paid him fully because it was my fault to have chosen such a person.
When the trauma of last October came back to me, I said to myself: "Wait a minute. What the hell am I doing here? Wet-nursing these bastards or playing the role of Kamisama for them? I can't take this crap anymore."
This is how I became jobless once again.
Standing on the edge of a precipice, I pondered all anew on the enigmatic language these creepy creatures call their mother tongue. Now let me quickly summarize the basics of Japanese composition for you and myself.
Japanese words are classified into the following three groups:
1. Words imported from China. Although the Japanese don't want to admit it, they came from the continent when their country stayed in China's cultural orbit, and then were phonetically altered to varying degrees.
2. Words imported from the West, especially from America since the colonialist country chose Japan as its suicide partner. Although the Japanese insist they are substituting Japanese transliterations of English words for "Japanese" words, none of these Japanese phonograms (Katakana) sound like English. For one thing. no English-speaking person can understand "デフォルト", which is to be pronounced "deforuto" without accentuating any syllable, means "default."
3. The least important elements such as particles, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections. These auxiliary words are genuinely Japanese. They are shown in another set of phonograms called Hiragana.
You may think it's an arbitrary thing when and how to combine the first two groups using the third element. But you are wrong. It is the hardest part for Japanese learners to know the rigid rule to be applied there. And this is exactly where the Kamisama of words kicks in.
Example: NHK was founded in 1926 essentially as the mouthpiece of the Imperial Army. Especially in the prewar and wartime days, it played a pivotal role, along with "privately-run" media organizations, in duping the hundred million Japanese into believing it was a holy war they were sacrificing their lives for. To that end it always used the magic of words. Its modus operandi still remains essentially unchanged. If there is a difference from the way it used to put its audience under hypnosis, NHK, like other media organizations, thinks Katakana Eigo, funny English transliterations into Japan's phonograms, are more effective than Chinese ideograms.
The government-run broadcaster retains hordes of self-proclaimed specialists in a wide range of areas of expertise. The other day, someone who claimed to be an expert in gerontology was talking about the common behavioral pattern in the elderly called "self-neglect" which often ends up in solitary death here, either in the form of suicide or auto-mummification. Since he was supposed to talk to an uneducated audience, he kindly referred to the keyword as "自己放棄" (Jiko-hoki). But he never failed to add what he thought was an English word, Serufu-Negurekuto. Why did he bother to say the same thing twice by going partially "bilingual"? Reason: While admitting his fellow countryman are facing the serious problem with 自己放棄 in the elderly, he was also supposed to stress there's no need to worry. We aren't alone; the Americans also face the same problem with self-neglect. (A Wikipedia entry says it's also known as "Diogenes Syndrome.") More importantly, it has proved solvable in their country. Super credulous viewers would all believe in his oracle simply because he is bilingual. The same gimmick is used in every area of expertise in this country, be it politics, business, computer science or medicine.
If you visit Japan for the first time, you will be surprised to know everything from consumer products to office buildings, to apartment buildings, to restaurants and local coffee shops is named in what they think is English, although they sometimes substitute French, German, Spanish or Italian. The same is true of restaurant menus although you've got to be prepared to see at least a couple of menu items misspelled. When it comes to TV commercials, most Japanese marketers have Gaijin (Westerners) endorse their products which are primarily targeted at local consumers. Food stuff makes TV viewers salivate only when it's endorsed by someone with blue eyes.
The idea that words and letters are inhabited by a sacred spirit is not confined to this weird culture. Yet, no other peoples in the industrialized world are obsessed with their fetish the way the "modern" Japanese are with the 1.3-millennium-old superstition.
Their worship has absolutely nothing to do with due respect for words and letters expected from civilized people. Instead, they find a magical power in "言霊" (Kotodama), which literally means the spirit of words. Sometimes the spirit can be an evil one, but it always sanitizes, purifies, disinfects, and thus neutralizes problems facing the Japanese. (If you are interested in knowing the method of purification more in detail, I suggest you take a look at my post about Misogi.) Because the centuries-old Chinese influence has been on the wane since the Pacific War, now English words are considered to have greater power to work their magic.
The Japanese are obsessed with cleanliness. I think you know they take off their shoes at the entrance of their home. But did you know your umbrella should wear a condom when you bring it in a building on a rainy day, be it an office, a restaurant or a local outlet of Starbucks?
Until the Japanese can get over their pathological obsession, they will remain under the spell of Kotodama. Now I'll further elaborate on the symptoms of their germophobia using some more examples below.
Every December a quasi-govermental organization named Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation selects a Chinese ideogram, allegedly by popular vote, that best represents the year as "今年の漢字" (Kotoshi-no kanji). The JKATF, or any other body, doesn't pick the Person of the Year as the TIME magazine does. Reason: In a society where you are mercilessly hammered down if you attempt to stick out, you can be enshrined in the privileged class of celebrities only when you accept the basic rule. The problem with these "Serebu" is that they are influenced too much by others to influence them. That's why the JKATF, instead, solicits people to vote for a Chinese ideogram for the year.
The Kanji chosen for the year 2011 was "絆", or Kizuna, that means "bond." In 1995, the inaugural year of 今年の漢字, Japan experienced the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. People thought some evil spirit of words caused the disaster. That's why they chose "震" (Shin, or a shake) as the Kanji for the year.
But in the wake of the more devastating quake in the Tohoku area, the government and the media wanted the entire population to believe 3/11 brought people together, although the fact of the matter remained the disaster further accelerated the process of disintegration of the Japanese society.
It is noteworthy that in this "high-context" culture, the single-letter word selected by the JKATF is meant to save the Japanese from making a mental effort to discuss exactly what about it. If there is a language which is more dependent on the social context, it's "meow, meow" or "oooooooo, aaaaaaw, oooooo, aaawwwww" which serves the purpose perfectly within the animal world.
The people believe that the shorter the message, the farther it gets through. The bottom line: The ideal way of communication is complete silence which is more than just golden.
In this context, it's also interesting to know the letter "和", (Wa or He in Chinese pronunciation), which signifies "harmony," has never been chosen despite the fact it's the central idea to this monolithic society. That should mean "和" is too sacred a word to be chosen for a particular year.
I'm not interested in what Chinese character will be announced with a lot of fanfare in two months from now. But here's my forecast for 2012. I suspect it can be "鶚", Misago. Very few Japanese have seen this ideogram because it's not on the list of Kanji designated for common use, but it means the fish hawk, better known as the osprey or Osupuray. Throughout the year, the Japanese kept talking about the pros and cons of deploying V-22 Ospreys in Okinawa. Actually it's yet another red herring invented by the government and media to mislead the people to believe what's really at issue is whether or not the tiltrotor aircraft meet the safety standards, or Sefuty Sutandaado. They have never discussed the real issue: what justifies the prolonged occupation of Okinawa by the worst rogue country in history named America. By virtue of the ritual which they call Dibeeto, meaning debate, over Osupuray and Sefuty Sutandaado, they have reached a muddled consensus that the deployment is a necessary evil. Throughout this process of de-poisoning, the media play their role as priests or shamans.
Another possibility is "幹" (Kan or Gan in Chinese pronunciation) which signifies the stem as in IPS cells (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells). I have nothing against the year's Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine awarded to Shinya Yamanaka, except that it will take an eternity until I can afford to have my aged somatic cells "initialized" by the new technology. For now it just drives me crazy to see the entire population unleash misplaced nationalism in the wake of Yamanaka's feat just like they did during the period the summer games were going on in London.
Their burning desire for international recognition is an unmistakable sign that they are terminally ill. But unfortunately for them, their avid longing will remain insatiable until the end of time. What a people.
Actually the Japanese are not alone. On the other side of the Pacific, the epidemic of the same cretinism is spreading like a wildfire, perhaps too a lesser degree. Presumably it's attributable to the influence of voodooism or the dubious cult the chimp in the White House has brought in from Kenya that a single empty word, or pair of words, such as "change," "America first," "forward," "believe in America," "create jobs (out of thin air)" can work a magic on the people with their brains irreparably damaged. Twitter, Inc. might as well lower the limit on the number of characters from 140 to, say, 17.
Haiku and its rule book called "歳時記" (Saijiki) are another case in point here.
In my early-to-mid teens, I loved to read Matsuo Basho's log of his journey titled 奥の細道 (Oku-no Hosomichi or The Narrow Road to the Interior). When Basho (1644-1694), the de facto initiator of the 17-syllable poems, wrote this book, he inserted 77 impressive pieces in it. But the Haiku great thought some prosaic narrative was needed because otherwise his readers would have difficulty understanding the context in which each of these pieces were composed.
On the contrary most of his epigones have thought any explanatory text is superfluous because their pieces stand on their own. This indicates they take it for granted that everyone shares the same way of associating their highly suggestive words with specific thoughts and feelings. Today there are an estimated 5 to 10 million Japanese who claim to be appreciative of Haiku, some of them even composing their own pieces at times. The Saijiki was compiled so these self-styled Haiku poets can familiarize themselves with this universal rules for associations.
The rulebook says every piece should have one 季語, Kigo or a season word, in it. For instance, a tomato should always represent a summer month with its bright red image. There's no penalty involved there, except your entry can't win in a Haiku competition if you violate the rule by describing a tomato as a green fruit or something that represents a winter crop as is the case with the southern hemisphere. If you don't accept these basic premises, you can't share your thoughts or feelings with others in the 17-syllable format. In short you can't break the sacred rule if you aren't ready to shut yourself out of the society where false harmony always prevails. Today tens of millions of Japanese constantly up to chitchat on the web. They have inherited the intellectual heritage which was pauperized after Basho.
Another important fallout of the high-context culture is the disastrous consequence of 英語教育, Eigo Kyoiku or the Japanese way of learning English. As I pointed out eight years ago, their painful efforts to improve English proficiency have never paid off despite their largest exposure to the language in the non-English-speaking countries. TOEFL score-wise and otherwise, the Japanese are permanent cellar dwellers along with the North Koreans. The only conceivable reason behind this trend is because they never understand that English, or any other language for that matter, is nothing but a tool for communication. To English learners in Japan, the language is the goal in itself because they don't have their own thoughts and feelings to share with English-speaking people. or any other group of people.
It will never cross their minds that they should stop acting like suckers with tens of thousands of self-proclaimed English teachers whose qualification hinges solely on their blue eyes. · read more (45 words)
Four years ago a political "analyst" who actually can't analyze a thing thwarted my plan to establish myself in the United States as a professional writer. When I needed some pull, I got a lot of push from him.
That wasn't a big deal, however, except for this destitution that followed the loss of my last chance. I knew that the scum, or anyone else for that matter, couldn't change who I really am. Admittedly, though, I've since had great difficulty explaining what exactly I am to people in the local community.
Am I a nobody who ended up a loser in a fair competition overseas to elevate himself from a mere translator to an independent writer? Nope, nothing is farther from what happened to me.
I have never been a professional translator in my lifetime. Yet, throughout my career I've been deeply involved in translation in one way or the other; not only between two languages but also between two cultures or even two different groups of people in the same culture. In that sense, I think I am better defined as a full-time communicator than a part-time translator.
As I always say, thoughts and words are inseparable twins. This should also mean that contrary to the general perception, man's thoughts are really language-independent.
For that reason, when a translator wants to work on a book, or any other type of literature authored by a first-rate writer, he should keep in mind that his qualification all hinges on the full comprehension of and resonance with the whole idea laid out in the subject material because just converting it from one language into another is not what translation is all about. If an unqualified person dares to do it, he is doomed to destroy everything he puts his hand on.
In fact, I have known very few translators who didn't spoil a great idea they dealt with. Ian Hideo Levy, who has translated dozens of soul-stirring poems from Manyoshu (Ten Thousand Leaves), is one of the very few exceptions that I know of. That's why mindless destruction of invaluable thoughts happens so frequently.
On the contrary, when a first-rate translator somehow feels an urge to work on an intellectual crap just to make his living, it's the translator himself that is subjected to destruction. But this doesn't happen very often because unlike second-rate translators such as Edward Seidensticker, he has an eye to distinguish the real thing from fake, such as Yasunari Kawabata.
Here's a translation trivia: Kawabata was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968. At that time the Japanese legend of literature gave Seidensticker 50% of the prize money because he thought he had owed the translator that much. I sometimes think the self-deprecating Japanese writer might as well have retained a computer as a translator because that way he would have pocketed every single buck he earned from his literary rubbish.
I don't know if I am a good translator myself, but up until recently I often had to moonlight, and sometimes daylight, on translation of a wide range of materials from computer-related documentation to anthropological essay. Most of the time I was mercenarily motivated, but my customers often appreciated the mentally unrewarding and physically exhausting efforts I made for what I called "value-adding translation."
But for my part, it was always a nightmare.
Back in 1999, then president of the rotten Japanese subsidiary of SAP AG, German software giant, offered me a post-retirement job in the translation department of his company. Until I decided I couldn't take it anymore and moved on to oversee the "University Alliance Program" of the same company, I was working on the E-to-J translation of the GUI (graphical user interface) of SAP's flagship software product and its system/user documentations.
An added difficulty came from "Trados" - a translation management software developed by Trados GmbH. I was always told to ensure consistency between my translation of terminologies and those accumulated in the database from the previous versions. My problem was that most of my fellow translators had an extremely poor understanding of the source language (unorthodox German-English) and the target language (see NOTE below.) And more importantly, their knowledge in the system and its application areas, such as order processing, inventory control, accounting, and finance was also way below standard. As a result, the vast reservoir of terminologies in the Trados database was full of shit.
NOTE: Our target language was supposed to be Japanese. But actually it had to be something else. Apart from the fact that a good part of Japanese words were originally borrowed from Chinese, they are now mixing tens of thousands of Katakana Eigo, i.e. Japanese transliterations of English words into the "Japanese" language. As a result, Toransureetaa at SAP Japan were told to strictly adhere to the standard ways of mixing these different elements depending on the context. Also they were supposed to respect another set of standards for transliterating Ingurisshu words. Examples: Kasutama for customer(s), Benda for vendor(s), Paachesu Ooda for purchase order(s), Inbentori(i) for inventory, etc.
Basically it is true that translators, especially those working on technical literature, should stick with the consistency rule. But there are times when they have to say the right inconsistency is much better than the wrong consistency, as I did to my boss at SAP. But at the end of the day, I was always coerced into conforming to her sacred dung pool in order to preserve Wa, or false harmony.
I hear through the grapevine that even today SAP Japan refuses to listen to the voice of reason from real professionals. This way the company keeps wasting what little resources it has. No wonder it still remains the black sheep within the group of innovative software companies.
Now in dire poverty six years after retirement, I still think I would rather work part-time on the cleaning of the public lavatories in the Yokohama Chinatown where I live than do translation at a slightly higher hourly rate. Thanks to my experience with SAP, I'm so used to handling someone else's crap. But unfortunately, the job opportunity seems to be closed to the ailing 76-year-old.
Last week a local friend offered me an "E2J" gig. He runs a matchbox company that provides translation services along with guitar lessons for wannabe musicians. When he got an order from NEC, he thought it might help alleviate my financial difficulty if he subcontracted a smaller part of the job to me, which he actually did. I wasn't sure if I could meet the October 15 deadline for the 75 slides of the presentation material assigned to me.
But when my friend learned I'm physically too weak and my vision is too impaired to do the tedious job all by myself, he kindly sent me a rough translation he had already made using "ATLAS", a translation software developed by Fujitsu. I know from my past experience that normally I would be much better off without the assistance from the computer than with it. But I thought the ATLAS thing might help because in the narrower context of a specific technology, computerized translation could work a little better than Trados did for my former employer.
POSTSCRIPT October 2: As I said paragraphs earlier, the local fallout of my failure overseas is the huge perception gap about translation between my partners and myself as their contractee or contractor. As I told my audience one year or so ago, I had to farm out to my local friend I just mentioned above a voluminous transcript from a symposium organized by up-and-coming anthropologist Lara, Chen Tien-shi. The quality of the transcript was extremely poor except for Lara's speech. But since my subcontractor at that time doubly messed up the Word document with his lack of professionalism, I had to struggle at the last minute totally redoing his substandard J-to-E translation as if from scratch. Yet I paid him fully. Now I'm supposed to act as his subcontractor. Can I expect him to act like a professional this time around? No way. He had his ATLAS roughly translate the material for me. That's no harm; so far, so good. But yesterday, several days later, he said, "By the way my client (NEC) asks us to strictly adhere to its glossary for about 160 'special' words and phrases. NEC calls the attached Excel sheet the Kamisama (God) file." I replied: "No, I don't want to kiss Kamisama's ass because none of these words are associated with NEC's proprietary technology. You better reassign the job to a younger translator because a young one has much more stamina and a far better eyesight with which to do ass-kissing more efficiently than I. Besides he doesn't care too much about job satisfaction and self-esteem." He doesn't seem to have understood my point. Just one hour ago, he sent me a mail to say, "Yu, yes, please kiss Kamisama's ass as they require us to." It really sickens me to know one of my local friends is another male prostitute, and treats me like yet another.
Despite all the favor my friend did for me, this brought me back to the nightmare I have experienced in the past with computer-assisted translation.
Also I remembered that last October I took up the same topic on this website. At that time, some of my regulars kindly cooperated with me doing reverse-translation of some articles written in English and then translated into Japanese. We had no time to do the opposite (i.e. J-to-E, and then E-to-J) but we found out language translation is almost always doomed to failure, whether or not it's computer-assisted. We also learned it makes little difference whether it's from a high-context language to a low-context one, or the other way around. In short, language conversion works only when both the author and the translator are human beings with an exceptional ability for creative thinking. Those who lightly claim that they are contributing to further transcultural understanding should feel ashamed.
A couple of days ago, I gave another try to the language translation services provided by Google Japan because I wanted to know, for one last time, if the learning curve of the Internet service provider has picked up a little in the last 11 months. But it came as no surprise that the Japanese translation of my most recent post didn't show the slightest sign of improvement. As you can see in the Japanese text pasted at the bottom of this post, it's still much worse than if you give a chimp an E-J dictionary and tell him to translate my essay.
It's unfair to put all the blame on the primate because the disastrous situation with translation, and communication at large, exactly mirrors the inside of the skulls of all the human beings involved in this business. They include software engineers who developed the system filled with logical flaws, executives at Google Japan who gave a green light to the defective translation service, and equally important, customers who still think they are being served, rather than ripped off, by Google.
Nobody seems to have noticed that exactly the same thing is happening to YouTube, Google Analytics and all other services provided by the company. More or less the same thing can be said of the likes of Yahoo! and Microsoft. With a lot of spaghetti stuffed in their brains they have stopped thinking, learning, and communicating altogether. Now all they can do is to deal with the billions of birdies who keep tweeting all the time.
I don't know if the organization named Asia-Pacific Association for Machine Translation is still active today. But according to the chronology given by AAMT, Japan's first prototype machine for automatic translation was unveiled in 1959 when the supercomputer and database management systems were still in the fledgling stage.
Let's face it: the 53 years of the futile efforts are more than enough. It's about time we stopped talking about the progress of humankind through cross-cultural communications, with or without the help of the computer. Simply it's an illusion.
I leave it there because now I'm going to have to go through another ordeal with the PowerPoint file, while at the same time fending off the sadistic attacks by tax collectors from the City Hall. In the meantime I hope you will enjoy the big treat given below by the Google chimpanzee if you are a bilingual, or equipped with a software product for J-to-E conversion. · read more (122 words)
The director of the mental hospital is known for his fatherly compassion toward the inmates. One day when he strolled around the garden, he spotted an inpatient casting a fishing line into the swimming pool. The director stopped by the patient. Smiling knowingly, he said, "What kind of fish do you catch here?" The madman replied: "Don't be silly, doc. You can't catch any fish in a swimming pool." - A parable inserted in a book written by German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers (title forgotten)
Hiroki Kuroda has now established himself in the starting rotation of the New York Yankees
Mark my words. The culture of Japan, if it still deserves to be called that, is all fake; rotten from tip to toe.
As I pointed out when talking about Japanese musicians, they do music in order to bring themselves together, while in any other civilized nation, people, at least adults, come together in order to do music. This is a fallout from the fact that just in a matter of one and a half century, the Japanese have imported so avidly from the West everything from Johan Sebastian Bach to Lady Gaga.
You can see the same inversion everywhere. Sports are no exceptions. As you may have already noticed, no other people in the world do so many different games. That is because the kind of game you choose to play does not really matter here. Actually it's not that you choose the game, but the game chooses you. As a result, it does not matter, either, whether or not you win the game.
Given this cultural climate, it's all the more delightful to stumble on an exceptional individual who has a real stuff, although that doesn't happen very often in my country of birth.
The other day my American friend, who is a resident of the same village I live in, sent me a link to an article in which NYT reporter David Waldstein tells an intriguing story about the ordeal Hiroki Kuroda had to go through before he migrated to the U.S.
Waldstein portrays, without exaggeration, how often Kuroda, now a New York Yankee, was whacked with a baseball bat, forced to run between foul poles from morning till dusk, and only allowed to drink polluted river water when he became dehydrated. In this country punitive conditioning is believed to be one of the most effective ways to instill the spirit of self-sacrifice and stoicism in young athletes.
Nevertheless, the writer fails to answer the very question he seems to have intended to address: "Is it because of, or despite, the abusive hazing he experienced in the early days of his baseball career that he has finally come into bloom in the majors?" To put the same question differently, "Why didn't he choose to stay with Japan's Puro Yakyu when he was supposed to take his turn to bully juniors?"
Waldstein fails because he just singles out the most apparent aspect of the Japanese training method while passing over a more important feature subtly involved in it. In this country, repressive ways of molding people into desirable profiles are not confined to sports. It's also commonplace in all other walks of life such as politics, business, journalism, science, academia and art. This makes the issue at hand beyond the comprehension of a sports writer, or anyone else who can't grasp it in a historical and cultural context.
Many Americans have talked about the difference between baseball and its Japanese equivalent Yakyu. They include Bobby Valentine, current manager of the Boston Red Sox, Marty Kuehnert, former GM at the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and now a professor at Sendai University, and Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa and The Chrysanthemum and the Bat. Obviously these people eclipse Waldstein because they have better insight into sports and culture in Japan, and they addressed the same issue from much broader perspectives.
Yet they sometimes fell short of getting the question fully answered, because they, too, tended to overlook the most intricate aspect of the issue. More specifically, they often left out the question about why so many mediocre guys cruise past their seniors to stardom without being subjected to physical and mental abuse.
Back in 1967, Chie Nakane, professor of anthropology at Tokyo University, published a book titled Tate-shakai no Ningen Kankei, or Personal Relations in a Vertical Society. Her anthropological rubbish sold so well in the West that it's now become a classic of Japanology.
It is true that on the surface, Japan's "centralized feudal system" looked to be vertically aligned. But if that had really been the case, Shogun's reclusive regime, which actually succumbed to the gunboat diplomacy so easily, must have collapsed from within well before Perry's arrival.
The known law of dynamics says you can't topple a flat structure from the bottom.
And more recently, if Nakane's "theory" were to be considered true,
Emperor Hirohito must have been hung upside down by his subjects in the street of Tokyo,
before the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur, whose mission was to irreversibly flatten out this country with a fake democracy.
The fact of the matter remains that Japan is a nation which is integrated horizontally. It's ridiculous to see "personal relations," vertical or not, between the Divine Emperor and its subjects. Peer pressure is everything that counts in this country. At the end of the day the stupid professor just subscribed to the pedestrian view.
Believe me, Japan is a classless society. And that also means it's leaderless. If there are people who claim to be leaders, they are little more than shamans, at best, or moderators, most of the time, whose only role is to build consensus. At any rate a nominal leader needn't lead his organization with leadership backed by outstanding knowledge or skills in the activity his organization is supposed to perform. His ultimate goal is always to keep Wa among his people.
The dictionary says Wa simply means harmony. But as Robert Whiting observed, harmony is one thing and Wa is quite another. The morbid egalitarian obsession that has long haunted the Japanese people has its origin in the 17-Article Constitution promulgated by Shotoku Prince in the 7th century.
Given this mantra of Wa, the only prerequisite for the Japanese leader to fulfill is the ability to make sure the nail that sticks out be hammered down ingeniously but mercilessly. (See NOTE below.) To that end he should be able to identify the slightest sign of professionalism burgeoning on the part of individual members because professionalism poses the most perilous threat to the community built on the false harmony.
NOTE: The method most commonly used when ostracizing a persona non grata was, and still remains in some rural areas, the procedure called Mura Hachibu, literally translated as "purging 80% from the village." The remainder, 20%, represents participation in firefighting activity and the burial of the corpse when the subject person or his kin is dead. The reason the Japanese refrain from going as far as to 100% like ancient Athenians did is twofold. Firstly, if they went that far, the very principle of Wa might be jeopardized. Secondly, every Japanese individual, ostracized or not, is believed to become a god posthumously.
You can't imagine a group of people anywhere in the world that values discord over bringing individual vectors into one direction. But in no other country is harmony maintained only by nipping individual creativity and spontaneity in the bud.
This is the surest way to mediocrity and utter idiocy.
In his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber defines the modern-day profession as a "secularized calling" which still requires an "ascetic devotion." In my interpretation of Weber's words as an avowed Buddha loyalist and retired businessman, every professional, from politician, to businessperson, to ballplayer, should act like the inpatient at the mental hospital. He should be damned serious about what he is doing, and very proud of it. But at the same time, he shouldn't lose soberness and humility. He should always keep in mind that it can well be an illusion to expect a big catch in the swimming pool. As I always say, the most important thing is to keep life-size views of one's life. Don't you ever talk big, if you are going to act small in the end.
Fortunately, there have been a handful of Japanese sportspersons with uncompromising, sober and well-focused devotion to the game. Before Hiroki Kuroda, we had Hideo Nomo. To say the least, Nomo was one of the very exceptional talents Japan has ever got. But actually, he would never have come into bloom as a fullfledged professional if he hadn't fled his home country in 1995. Only after he won the National League's Rookie of the Year Award in the same year, the Japanese people realized that they'd let go of a real talent.
He always reminds me of Maestro Seiji Ozawa who was kicked out of Japan by the NHK Symphony Orchestra in 1961. Only after the likes of Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein certified his talent as genuine, NHK offered sincere apologies and reimported him. He has since been enshrined as the home-grown Emperor of classical music. By the way, did you know Kabuki or any other thing which supposedly represents Japan's traditional "culture" toward the West is all created by this gimmick of reimport?
On the contrary the population of fake athletes still keeps growing. They include dozens of me-too Major Leaguers who all learned the wrong lesson from the success story of Hideo Nomo. Ichiro Suzuki, for one, has already been elevated to an indisputable deity in Japan's baseball even though he still has a long way to go before possibly being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If you still believe in the exaggerated notion about the Confucian influence on Japan, you will wonder how a 38-year-old can be deified defying the world-renowned seniority principle. But actually it's senility principle that governs this country.
In 2001, the Nintendo-owned ballclub in Seattle started the whole process of reimport. In his first couple of seasons in the MLB, Suzuki stole not only many bases but also the hearts and minds of American baseball fans who had been fed up with these steroid-pumped-up Popeyes hitting 70-something homeruns every year.
Emboldened by the initial success, the Japanese media kept administering what I call the cultural steroid to Suzuki in order to make a Hinomaru-bearing hero out of the skinny guy. But in fact, because of, rather than despite his American Doriimu coming true, the Mariners kept sinking in the AL standings year after year.
By the time he was transferred to the New York Yankees in the middle of this season, Suzuki had developed a silly idea that the other eight guys were playing the game for him, not the other way around. This is why Joe Girardi, Yankees' manager, is now having hard times trying to make him recognize that without all this hyperbole he is just an average ballplayer.
As I said, the epidemic of anti-professionalism is not confined to sports. You can see the same thing happening everywhere. But among other things, the proliferation of Waido-sho, as the Japanese transliterate "wide shows," is an unmistakable sign that they have remained essentially unchanged in the last 13 centuries.
Every morning, and for the rest of the day, too, every national network airs one wide show after another exactly in the same format. The studio is always overpopulated with morons who claim to be experts, dozens of Terebi Tarento (TV personalities) who are actually talentless, and the empty-headed emcee who is only skillful at mixing up everything from political/economic news (see NOTE below), to Entame (entertainment) and sports, to today's fortune based on blood types and star signs, to weather forecast given in syrupy voices of two or more cuties which always contains laundry tips and clothing recommendations as its indispensable features. There you can see the Japanese culture has long been dead.
NOTE: News stories these idiots comment on in the way "even an idiot can understand" are all red herrings invented by the collusive alliance between politicians and the media. These days Japan's nuclear energy policy is always at the top of the list of media-salient "issues." Although it's too obvious that such a technological issue cannot be identified, let alone solved, by a bunch of laymen, these unprofessional pundits and scholars keep politicizing it so even an idiot can tell the pros and cons to be entailed in the government's proposal. The same can be said of all other false issues. In the total absence of respect for professionalism, they politicize what should never be politicized all the time.
These days I enjoy myself watching live on the Internet Hiroki Kuroda's solid outing every 5th or 6th day. It's a little more than just killing time to watch this guy in action. · read more (51 words)
Tuesday, September 11 2012 @ 11:28 AM EDT
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
[In some cases] where you can get to depends on where you're coming from, and some destinations you simply cannot get to from here. - Robert D. Putnam on his theory about Japan's path-dependent trajectory.
Japan underwent the baptism of an early- day gunboat diplomacy when the fleet of four "black ships" headed by Commodore Mathew Perry made a surprise port call at Yokohama harbor on July 8, 1853.
A samurai by the name of Zenzaburo Taki was ordered to commit harakiri suicide in the presence of European envoys and generals to settle the 1868 skirmish called the Kobe Incident.
As recently as six years ago, I still thought it was a total waste of time to ask a question using the past perfect subjunctive. Certainly I remained brainwashed into believing in the superstitious notion that what happened has just happened. But when I stumbled on the above-quoted words by Robert D. Putnam, my way of viewing things changed 180 degrees.
My former mentor once scornfully said of Putnam's theory: "It's yet another fatalism." As usual the self-styled political "analyst" who can't do anything but scratch the surface of things proved too ignorant to understand the intricate dynamics governing the real world. History never sticks with a linear path. If you look at current and historical events with unclouded eyes, you will see mixed signals everywhere in their zigzag motions.
Recently I have developed a tendency to indulge in the mental exercise of asking myself hypothetical questions about almost everything. It's true my new pastime makes it much easier for me to kill time. But it's not just a bitter-sweet mea culpa I seek when I look back on what has happened to me or my country of birth.
Over time I have arrived at the conviction that any future vision remains baseless as long as it's little more than an extrapolation from the past and that the best way to keep my crystal ball clear is to constantly pose what-if type questions. Just like the fancy time machine invented by Emmett "Doc" Brown of Back to the Future, this method often gives me a clear perspective about the future, and perhaps a few things more.
Without a doubt, the future mirrors what actually happened in the past, and perhaps vice versa. But it is also true that a future event is a reflection of what did NOT happen. (See Footnote for some examples.) You may wonder where to get a clue to identifying what didn't actually happen in the past and still has profound relevance today. Most of the time I get a good clue from the current state of affairs because the present time is the crossroad at which the past meets the future.
In other words, my time machine is designed to first send me forward to the past, and only then, back to the future. Quite naturally, one of my favorite questions is: "What would have become of Japan if the Civil War hadn't been fought in America in the first half of the 1860s?"
Initially I thought I might come up with an even more interesting answer if I asked what if those court-retained historians hadn't compiled Kojiki 1,300 years ago (712 AD) to seal off the prehistoric truth, entirely and for good. For that purpose I would be able to avail myself of Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) which was compiled in the mid-8th century to metaphorically reveal, under the guise of poetry, the forbidden truth about the days before the Emperors successfully mythified everything about their imperial shithouse. But on second thought, I realized my answer to this question would make little sense because then the country named Japan would have ceased to exist a long time ago.
Another question I posed on this website more often than I do now is
what if General Douglas MacArthur hadn't acquitted the Emperor of his crime of driving 3 million people to death in the unwinnable war. But in the end I realized that this exercise, too, makes little sense simply because the "postwar regime" is not a history yet; it's still there.
These are why I'm more and more inclined to focus on the last 15 years before the Shogun ceded power back to the Emperor.
It would have been a piece of cake for European expansionists to arm-twist poorly-armed samurais whose average height was a mere 5 feet. Hollywood had yet to invent all this myth about samurais' bravery. But as a matter of fact, Britain and France were already realizing they had been way too overstretched. That's why their half-hearted attempts to make inroads into Japan all ended up in local skirmishes breaking out here and there in the mid-1860s. Among other things, it's noteworthy that these incidents were, more often than not, settled in an exotic ceasefire ceremony in which one or more samurais committed ritual suicide by disembowelment in the presence of delegates from Britain and France.
In 1851, U.S. President Millard Fillmore, the last member of the Whig Party, sent Commodore Mathew Perry on an expedition to break this reclusive country open. Perry arrived at Japan only on July 8, 1853 because on his way to the final destination he'd stopped over at the Ryukyu Kingdom, today's Okinawa, and some other places, where he had a lot of fun.
The fallout of the delay was that by the time his 4-ship fleet finally anchored in the harbor of Uraga near Yokohama, Franklin Pierce had succeeded Fillmore as U.S. President. I know nothing about him except that some say the Democrat is one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. For an unknown reason, however, Pierce ordered Perry to refrain from using force to invade Japan.
Actually the Commodore did not have to use force because the Shogun at that time was yet another Japanese leader who, in the face of a crisis, would let things drift until the problem solved itself. And his samurais were equally incompetent. All they could do was to commit harakiri suicide to save their master's face whenever it was necessary. No wonder they were instantly caught in a panic at the sight of the "fireworks" from the Susquehanna, Perry's flagship, to belatedly celebrate the 77th Independence Day. Perry's mission was completed when Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Friendship, also known as the Convention of Kanagawa, was concluded in 1854. Four years later, the U.S. chose to settle for an unequal treaty, known as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which unilaterally stripped Japan of the right to impose import duties on the goods from the U.S.
In subsequent years, there was no new development in the bilateral relations primarily because Abraham Lincoln was preoccupied with the First Civil War.
Because of the combination of these factors, which was largely accidental, America had to shelve its colonialist ambition for almost nine decades. As a result, the occupation of Japan involved much more bloodshed than if America hadn't postponed the implementation of its Japan invasion plan that long.
This always brings me to the most relevant and valid question: "What consequence would have ensued if Lincoln hadn't faced a lot of trouble at home?"
Japan would have been colonized - no doubt about it. Although there might have been sporadic insurgences seeking independence, these movements would never have turned into a fullfledged colonial war. Defeatist-minded rebels must have chosen ritual disembowelment over an all-out confrontation.
With Shogun's incompetence and samurais' cowardice in mind, I can tell for sure that Japan would have followed more or less the same course it actually did, except that more than 3 million lives, including those 225 thousand incinerated in the nuclear fireworks at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would have been saved.
Now in the face of the protracted economic doldrums and the deepening political imbroglio, the Japanese are totally at a loss over what to do. But for you to agree to my retroactive forecast, you don't need to closely study the current situation here because there's absolutely nothing new in their endless repetitions of the same follies. Japan has nowhere to go but down. Likewise, it would still have nothing to do but go into pieces if what did not actually happen in the mid-19th century had ever happened.
And what about myself? Should this all mean that my entire life was "much ado about nothing"? Now am I about to die leaving nothing to my posterity?
My answer to the first question: No, not at all. It is true I also fought an unwinnable war throughout my lifetime. But in return I was rewarded with gorgeous prizes. That is more than enough. · read more (264 words)