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Welcome to TokyoFreePress Wednesday, March 01 2017 @ 01:45 AM JST
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Anthropology and Bias


Left: Yanomami Indians
Right: The essence of Japanese culture

Some of my intelligent friends on both sides of the Pacific think I am too "harsh" about my home country and its people. I am Japanese, at least technically. So this question has always haunted me since I launched this blog: "Am I biased against my fellow countrymen as if I were non-Japanese?"

Recently, though, it has started dawning on me that it's not me but them who are biased. More often than not they are biased in favor of these supposedly polite, amicable, hospitable, inventive, industrious, sheepish and dovish people. But bias is bias.

If you take a train ride in Tokyo, or any other Japanese city, at any time of the day, you will notice that one-third of the passengers are deep asleep with their mouths wide open. It's astounding to know they have skills to "stand-sleep" when they can't find an unoccupied seat. Another third are absorbed in manga (comic books) while the rest of the passengers busily working on silly text messages of haiku-length or checking out burogu on their handsets. But still something deep inside prohibits you from readily admitting that their lives are as empty as zombies'.

There's no other way to call the attitude of these Japanophile people than bias. They always reminds me of anthropologist Ruth Benedict, and then John F. Kennedy.

My American Heritage Dictionary defines anthropology like this: the scientific study of the origin and of the physical, social, and cultural development of behavior of man.

According to a Wikipedia entry, the English word was first used in 1593 to signify the study of human beings, everywhere and throughout time.

In the past most anthropologists, especially those in America, arbitrarily confined their subjects to uncivilized tribes. It is true that the author of The Chrysanthemum and the Sword did not call the Japanese barbarians. But she thought their exotic behavioral patterns made them a good research subject in the last days of WWII. If she had thought the Japanese people were civilized, she would never have effectively suggested the A-Bombs be dropped on the relatively unimportant local cities so as to keep the Emperor alive at the cost of the lives of 200,000 ordinary citizens incinerated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The last tribe she would have put under scrutiny was her own compatriots because in doing so, she would have found it unavoidable to scrutinize her own self. Through a serious soul-searching, she might have realized that she was too biased to be called a scientist.

Then came Kennedy's affirmative action which was in effect intended to promote reverse discrimination. Benedict would no longer have taken up any government-sponsored project even if a U.S. president after Kennedy had told her to do so. By the same token, it is totally inconceivable that George W. Bush might have commissioned someone to work on a report about the Iraqis from an anthropological perspective, instead of the WMD angle, because that would have been considered to constitute an act of racial profiling.
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Chong Hyang Gyun more than deserves what Alberto Fujimori does

On January 26 the 15-justice Grand Bench at the Supreme Court overturned, in a 13-2 vote, a November 1997 Tokyo High Court ruling in favor of Korean resident Chong Hyang Gyun, 54, and supported the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's decision to bar her from taking a managerial promotion exam.

A second-generation South Korean with permanent resident status here, Chong said in a news conference after the ruling, "Laughter came before tears." She reportedly added: "I want to tell everyone in the world not to come to Japan. Working in Japan as a foreigner is just like being a robot that still pays taxes."
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Why not retire at 130?

More than eight years ago I sent a letter captioned "Why not retire at 130?" to the editor of the Japan Times. This letter got printed only after I persistently asked the editor to clarify the selection criteria he had applied when he decided my letter wasn't worth printing. There must have been a lot of, or at least some, reactions to my proposition but not a single reply letter passed censorship. Instead the Japan Times continued to print letters complaining about trifling and irrelevant matters such as droppings from ill-disciplined dogs in the neighborhood. On the surface Japan seems to have changed a lot since the mid-1990s but the situation with agist and sexist bias has remained essentially unchanged. That is why I now post the 8-year-old letter on my own blog.

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