Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Wrong About Japan the wrong approach? 

I have to say that after reading this this review for the book Wrong About Japan: A Father's Journey With His Son, I was pretty interested in picking it up to take a look at. I like the concept of a father trying to get at the root of his son's hobby and finding preconceived notions challenged.

Unfortunately, I fear this may not be the book to do it. I just finished reading some reviews on Amazon, and it sounds like this is a pretty sparse book that doesn't go much further than the surface, that the interviews aren't that well done, etc. It also appears that at least part of it (a character called Takashi) is fictionalized, so that makes me wary as well.

I myself would really like to get to Japan at some point. I know that I myself have a lot of preconceived notions that are probably wrong, but I'd also like to think that by looking around in a lot of places and being open-minded that I'm not as off as I used to be.

For instance, most anime/manga fans usually have the opinion at first that Japan is a panacea where everyone reads manga, it is an artform that everyone respects, etc. The truth sounds closer to TV shows in the US. A lot of people watch them, but a lot of people also consider them disposable low-denominator entertainment. And while most adults are going to watch a Ghibli movie that comes out, there is still the notion overall that anime is for kids. Not to say that there is no respect at all (it has certainly permeated the country to a high degree), but expecting to get into big anime/manga discussions with people off the street sounds like it isn't so likely...

From reading/watching the mediums (including live-aciton movies and novels), you can certainly get disavowed of the thoughts that Japan is all temples and kabuki pretty quick. You can see the emphasis on schooling everywhere, the disconnect from nature in everything from Lain to Spirited Away, and how Nea_7 shows an old world that is quickly fading away.

It sounds like one of the quickest ways to get disavowed of romantic notions is to actually work in Japan, either as an English teacher or something else, where racism can frequently rear its ugly head and you're in contact constantly with various people.

But obviously there is still a lot to like about Japan, and it is important to remember it is full of regular people just like here. For all the strangeness that might be in Japan, the US has all kinds of craziness going on all the time. We're just more or less used to it from living here already. There are various blogs out there with people living in Japan that can give some realistic anectdotes. If you want to take some time to learn Esperanto, you can find families to stay with for free during a vacation. If you're a yo-yo player, you get exposed to people from Japan quite often, either online or at international competitions.

Anyway, I have no idea where I was going with all of this. I guess I just want to reiterate the need to be seriously open-minded when looking at another culture and willing to change what you think you know at the drop of a hat. I certainly know better than to totally trust my own "facts" at this point. :)

[via Heidi]

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