Monday, October 1, 2012

5 things that Japan needs to improve on (aka what I hate about Japan)

In commemoration of reaching my 6-month anniversary here in Japan, I have decided to produce a dual installment on the bests and worsts of Japan.  Having lived here for half a year, I felt it necessary to expose the inherent strengths and weaknesses of this venerable country.  Bad news should always come before the good news, so here are the 5 areas that Japan desperately needs to improve on (aka what I hate about Japan) along with my justifications:

1. Hierarchy reigns like a monarchy
"All men are created equal" will always be the motto of America's treasured heritage initiated by our revered Founding Fathers.  It has been replicated around the world by perhaps every first world country with the single exception of Japan.  In Japan, status reigns supreme.  Your boss at work is your king, whether you're at work, at home on your Playstation 3, or at the year-end party.  And you want to leave work early because you're done?  Too bad, your boss is still here.  Arrive at work after he does or leave before he does and you're scorned as a disloyal and lazy servant.
Emporer Akihito ain't your only king in Japan.  Your office boss can be even more powerful.
2. Treatment of women
Equal-opportunity is a misnomer in Japan, where PhD women sit at home as housewives, serving their male superi..err..partners.  Don't expect to keep your job after you've conceived, as the culture of Japan now establishes you solely as a caretaker.  Oh, and what does your husband do after work?  You guessed it, all that overtime pay went into sleeping with hookers.  And there's nothing you can do about it but stay at home and be a faithful housewife.

3. Indirect connotations and poker faces
"That will be difficult" and "I'm not sure about that" mean a blatant "no".  You'll never know what's really on their mind because they don't express it.  There's a reason why those ANA and JAL flight attendants are the nicest on the planet.  Those service employees are incapable of frowning. What your heart believes is never shown by what you say, unless it's positive, and even that's exaggerated.
Love those smiles!  Deep down inside, they're sick and tired of all my constant food and alcohol requests.
4. The utter enforcement of the letter of the law
Japan is a society based upon the complete submission to any and all rules.  Whereas this practice has led to one of the lowest crime rates in the world, it has also disemboweled the slightest bit of common sense when it comes to accounting.  You're the only guest at the hotel and you want to checkout at 11 am?  Sorry, rules specifically state that the checkout deadline is at 10 am, so get out or face a severe additional service charge.  Want to transfer funds from your Japan bank account to a U.S. account so that your equity can be accessed in the States?  Not a good enough reason; transfer denied.  But your mom in California needs money!  Mmmm, according to the rulebook, that's a valid reason; transfer approved.  I don't want onions in my burger . . . sorry, the cookbook says that the chef needs to include them.
Even Calvin knows when the spirit of the law applies.
5. Pride of the culture
Nothing wrong with being proud of your country, but everybody makes mistakes, and that includes even Japan.  After over 70 years, the Japanese government still denies their country's involvement in the Nanking Massacre (aka the Rape of Nanking).  Whaling is unethical and bluefin tuna are on the brink of extinction, but these endangered species continue to fall in mass quantities at the hands of the Japanese fishing fleet due to their culture, which takes precedence over all rationality.  Japanese people are arguably the most proud of all nationalities,  so sacrificing the smallest bit of their culture is completely unacceptable.  Being Christian means being "unJapanese", which serves to explain the country's sadly low 0.5% Christian base.
The Nanking Massacre was an absolute myth.  This picture?  It must be Photoshopped.
Bottom line
Japan has much to work on.  From unfair treatment to utter denial of previous wrongdoing, Japan often embodies the attitude of a 6-year-old spoiled brat.  But, as you'll see in my next installment, the worst can occasionally lead to being the best.  What do you think?  Am I missing anything or am I being way too harsh?

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