Japan in the 21st century
I just finished the book “Japan in the 21st century” by P. P. Karan and boy let me tell you, it’s is a good read; but shit was it a heavy read . The book is 385 pages long, but it’s double-columned almost A4 sized pages in a pretty small font. It took me on average an hour to read 10 pages, so I’ve probably spent around 40 hours on this book. It was definitely worth it though! It is jam-packed with information, it contains everything about Japan from 10 000 BC to 2004. History, geography, agriculture, economy, demography – you name it. It is in fact so heavy on information that it is used as course-material for this one-semester university course called “Introduction to Japanese culture” and that’s just the first one I found when Googling the book.
I want to pick out some funny things about the book, some very interesting things and then I want to finish off by saying what I want to know more about.
Funny & randomly interesting things
About the cleanliness of the Japanese people.
Compared to some parts of America, Japan certainly seems immaculate. However, the concept of “inside” is significant here. “Inside” refers to your family and your house or business or, if you are employed by a company, to the company and its grounds. Any place that is not part of anyone’s “inside” is neglected. Many public areas are filled with trash unless a government agency has money to pay to clean them up. The slopes of Mount Fuji in August appear to be one huge litter area.
Everywhere I’ve been in Japan has always been completely spotless, but I can actually image that this “inside”-stuff is very accurate.
Japan’s utility lines are highly visible, and their pattern is extraordinarily complex. They certainly are not buried underground.
The complexity of the pattern, moreover, is compounded by having lines at many levels and by lines that branch out at many angles from transmission poles along a single street.
Two main reasons for the profusion have been propounded. One pertains to Japan’s legendary frugality, the other to the nation’s “inside” cultural perspective. After all, the system of aerial lines never was organized; it just grew.
I’ve heard (maybe from Maho) that the reason lines aren’t buried is because they would break easier during earth-quakes and be harder to fix, but reading the book I think this “they just add on another line when they need one”-theory makes more sense.
The building of Western-style houses has resulted in a startling spread of what look like upscale American suburbs in the Japanese landscape. Nowhere is that more striking than in Sweden Hills of Hokkaido, where the driveways are packed with Porsches, BMWs, and Jeeps.
Outside the cities, the sprawling Japanese fantasylands include full-scale replicas of a Dutch village, Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens, a Spanish hacienda, a reconstructed medieval German town in Obihiro an Anne of Green Gables theme park on the northern island of Hokkaido, and a whole coastline of indoor beaches pounded by manmade waves.
That’s just crazy ! I’ve been to Denmark’s Tivoli many times and I’d love to see how well-made their replica is
The average age at which Japanese marry for the first time has been rising for both men and women; in 1999 it was 28.7 and 26.8, respectively. Only in Sweden do people marry later, but unlike Sweden and other places, Japan is a country where unmarried couples almost never live together.
Yay Sweden, we never marry
Seriously though, later marriages and the aging population is probably one of Japans biggest challenges and has been for the last decade.
In the snowcapped rugged mountain regions of northern Japan, rural, rice-growing town are shrinking as young men and women abandon the rigors of farm life for the anonymous freedom of Japan’s giant cities.
Japanese custom affords no such freedom to the family’s oldest son, however. According to rural tradition, the eldest male must stay to care for his aging parents and inherit the family land. The situation has led to a shortage of eligible women in rural villages.
[About fixing the problem] So Shirataka and dozens of other rural settlements throughout Yamagata Prefecture have encouraged families to spend more than $25,000 each to import brides from China, Sourth Korea, Thailand and the Philippines.
Paid by the government to buy brides! That’s something…
The struggle for education is a grim one in Japan.
The reason for the intesity of the struggle is that where one receives one’s education, along with family status, means literally everything in job determination.
Failing the entrance examination is a common cause of suicide. Such intense striving for education is responsible for the 98 percent literacy rate in Japan – the highest in the world.
In Japan the pressure to excel starts with the exam to enter first grade in one of the most competitive elementary schools. Students enter cram schools to prepare for entrance exams. Cram schools have been a hotly debated facet of Japanese education for years, and the burden is spreading to younger and younger children in order to gain an edge in an increasingly competitive society. At about age three, children in some families begin a string of cram schools and exams that will play a crucial role in determining whether they retire from first-rate jobs sixty years later.
Cram schools at 3, that’s a bit excessive to me :S
Coca-cola, which has an estimated 60 percent of the carbonated beverage market, does not use artificial coloring in its products, because the company found that the Japanese prefer all-natural ingredients.
So thaaat’s why Coke tastes weird in Japan!!
Stuff I want to know more about
So obviously as you can see from the excerpts above the book contains a whole lot of knowledge in a wide array of subjects. But the biggest problem for me right now is that it ends in 2004. I want to know what has happened between 2004 and 2010. What legislature has been brought to alleviate the aging community problem and the lack of creative entrepreneurs?
Basically, this is what I want to know more about:
- Japanese Economy 2004 – 2010
- Has it gone up/down?
- What has happened to all the bad loans of the 90′s?
- Has there been a proper focus on IT-revolution?
- Politics 2004 – 2010
- What political reforms has been brought since ’04?
- Has there been any reforms of the lower house to correctly adjust the seating distribution?
- Has there been any policies introduced to heighten the birth-rate?
- Entrepreneurship in Japan: Is it possible? How is the start-up culture compared to, say, America?
- Japan had huge struggles with environmental problems from the 50′s all the way up to the 90′s. In the 90′s Japan was still one of the worlds largest pollutants of a toxin called Dioxin, a highly poisonous gas released when burning plastics (garbage). Dioxin is deadly for humans and several reports of serious damage to human life has been reported around furnaces in Japan. At the end of the 90′s Japan released 40% of the worlds amount of Dioxin and the country had ~1200 garbage furnaces while USA has around 250. What has happened with this in the last 10 years?
- The Sanrizuka Farmers Movement again the Expansion of Narita Airport. Apparently 7 farmers were until ’03 holding up development of a second runway at Narita Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. Has Narita gotten it’s second runway by now?
The last two points I want to know more about need a little more space. The first:
The Movement to Protect the Ikego Forest, Zushi City
In an area of rampant urbanization south of Tokyo, the last significant green open space is the magnificent Ikego Forest in the city of Zushi. Its rolling hills nad lush woodlands are home to a rare diversity of wildlife, including many endangered species. The Ikego hills are covered with thick forests of broad-leaved laurel, chestnut, maple and oak trees, as well as wild cherry trees and wild camellias. Ikego is also home to more than 107 species of birds.
A joint project of the Unites States and Japan will cut the trees and raze the hills to build a massive U.S. military housing facility. The construction plan calls for 854 housing units and other facilities typical of an American suburb.
Please, please, please tell me this beautiful forest with it’s endangered species didn’t get mowed down to build an American suburb for the military. Please!
The last thing, but not least, is how Japan has dealt with the IT-revolution of the 21st century. Throughout the book the Japanese are described as lagging behind the western world in terms of IT development. But when I’ve been there I’ve always felt they are ahead us in IT development. The book finishes off by saying that the Japanese government has recognized the importance of IT and that they had a consensus on that IT should play a big role in the development of Japan in the 21st century. I obviously think it has succeeded with taking IT and computer technology to heart, but how and what are the plans for the future?