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Super Japan? [ 2006.06.22 ]

While China may be linguistically the centre nation, Japan claims to be the root of the sun. Nippon.

Long after science and technology permeates into our daily lives, Japan still romances the notion that they are the most special form of intelligence on earth.

Many Japanese people conclude that Japanese culture is beyond comprehension to foreigners, if not superior.

Many more believe that Japanese is the most difficult language in the world, even though scholars had shown that the grammar and the syntax of the language is by far simpler than most Germanic and Romance languages.

Situations get comical when the agricultural ministry rejected American beef, saying that the digestive systems of the Japanese people were so special that only Japanese beef was suitable for consumption.

More than 20 decades has passed since the agricultural ministry’s legendary argument, and Japan has shown only very little signs of improving in her ways of embracing the world.

Little signs could mean a start.

After Americans were shaken by the news that their beef was down with BSE, Japan was one of the earliest countries to experience the horror.

The Japanese people finally came to understand that their delicate systems digest American beef just as well, especially when their favourite fast food, Yoshinoya, was forced to remove the main and only dish from the menu.

Neighbouring country, Korea, whom many Japanese once deemed inferior, now casts huge influences over the popular trends on egoistic Yamato people.

Today, one cannot flip through a magazine without seeing the faces of Korean celebrities and fashion leaders gracing the pages.

Japan looks like she has dropped the idea that her people reign supreme in terms of culture and race. These little signs, however, may not necessarily sum up to a start good enough.

Despite their efforts in displaying hospitality towards foreigners, the court just decided to send a refugee back to his politically instable country, ignoring the claim in the Constitution on their belief that all human beings are to be free from fear.

Japan does seem to still judge most other cultures to be inferior to the great Japanese culture, and only welcome people who look French, American, or British with open arms.

However, the dominant belief that none could fully understand Japanese in terms of language and culture has not worn off.

Notwithstanding the fact that the descendants of Koreans are raised fully within the Yamato culture and context, Japan’s stance in denying them nationality has long been a controversial issue.

Be the Korean case an excuse to remain multi-ethnic, discrimination is still prevalent in the society.

The heat spreads towards other foreigners, especially the Iranians and other Mid-Easterners who came to Japan as refugees, as the Middle East gets more vehemently linked to terrorism.

It is unfortunate that when it comes to such issues, Japan is seen to be misled and naïve, regardless of their effort in telling the world that they are ready to adopt the liberal ways favoured by most countries.

Yes, Japan has changed since the 1980s.

It too is a ‘yes’ that Japan has changed only very little in altering their perception on the concept that all human beings are equal.

Question remains if Japan could change fast enough to remove their ego and reach true liberalisation and understanding – with respect and love – to stand side by side with others on the international stage.

by Alexandra Low


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