Japanese Postmodernist on Japanese Postmodernism

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Thus, in Japan, there are neither tradition-oriented old people adhering to transcendental values nor inner-oriented adults who have internalized their values; instead, the nearly purely relative (or relativistic) competition exhibited by other-oriented children provides the powerful driving force for capitalism. Let’s call this infantile capitalism…In the manufacturing sector, for example, we may be able to say that Japanese engineers are cleverly maneuvered into displaying a childlike passion whereby they are easily obsessed with machines. Further, in such a postindustrial area as advertising, people become carried away by word play, parody, and all the other childlike games of differentiation.

Is this utopian capitalism?—is this the goal of the global trajectory of capitalism that broke down territorial boundaries as it stretched from the Mediterranean Sea up north across Europe out to the ocean, crossed the Atlantic, cross the United States, and finally traversed the Pacific?…Of course, it can never be anything like that: but this very negation must be uttered with a burst of laughter. And, we might add, after laughing, that it is a playful utopia and at the same time a terrible “dystopia.”

In fact, children can play “freely” only when there is some kind of protection…And this protected area is precisely the core of the Japanese ideological mechanism–however thinly diffused a core. (275-276)

— Asada Akira “Infantile Capitalism”

Postmodernism and Japan, 1989.
Ed. Miyoshi and Harootunian

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

45 Responses

  1. Momus Says:

    I agree with these two points about the preservation of a certain childishness, and the relationship between protection and play. Actually this touches on the theme of my blog the other week about “kidulthood” in the context of twee indietronica:

    http://www.livejournal.com/users/imomus/2005/03/26/

    The parallel is explicit: Japan and the world of twee indietronic kidults are mirror images of each other, both seeking the safety necessary for play. The indie label is “utopian capitalist” par excellence — think of the commodity fetishism involved in handmaking your 500 7-inch sleeves and mailing your record out to your singles club with a little candy slipped into each envelope… It’s a commodity, but made with love and commitment. Alienation and the division of labour have been overcome. Capitalism is “nice”.

  2. roddy Says:

    >And, we might add, after laughing, that it is a playful utopia >and at the same time a terrible “dystopia.”

    I’m not sure if I get what is so terrible about it? Getting carried away by “childlike games of differentiation” in a “protected area” sounds pretty fun to me.

    I don’t mean to be flippant as I certainly did get a sense of a kind of cultural nihilism while I lived there, but I feel that pretty strongly in the US and western Europe as well.

  3. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    I’m in the middle of a move and the stupifying amount of paperwork involved in moving into the new place and out of the old place is anything but childlike fun. (I’ll admit I’m getting a certain amount of perverse, adult pleasure from the dealing with the exotic, elaborate Japanese official paperwork.)

  4. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Of course, the entire business of 保証人 does make one feel like an infant.

  5. marxy Says:

    I’m not sure if I get what is so terrible about it? Getting carried away by “childlike games of differentiation” in a “protected area” sounds pretty fun to me.

    I don’t want to speak for Asada, but if you extend this framework to today (he wrote this piece in the height of the Bubble), the “protective area” is withering away. Job security is low, crime is rising, and staying on the path that society sets for you no longer guarantees success. In the infantile metaphor, there’s no more allowance just because you get good grades.

    Children are dependent upon parents and adults to make decisions regarding their well-being, and when those parents fail, the kids are suddenly in a hostile world with no coping skills. Kidults may be able to paint 500 7″ sleeves, but the indie market has bottomed out and they can no longer sell them. The lack of a guaranteed patterned result is destroying the “nice” sphere that spawns youthful culture. Now that there’s risk, it’s no longer a win-win game.

    As people writing on this blog, we can understand the appeal of infantile capitalism from our perspectives as “inner-oriented adults,” but the dystopia stems from the inability of the people in the society of actually having a grasp on their own world once the sphere of protection disappears.

  6. roddy Says:

    >but the dystopia stems from the inability of the people in the >society of actually having a grasp on their own world once the >sphere of protection disappears.

    I remember living there and feeling happy on a very regular basis that the worst thing threatening my personal safety was the possibility of an earthquake, and I think that threat is unrelated to the protective area withering away. Comparing this to the nearly constant threat of wallet/bike/purse theft or worse in an “adult” city like San Francisco makes me question the severity of the Japanese dystopia in comparison.

    I feel confident the Japanese will learn how to deal with life in a non win-win situation without their sphere of protection, they’ve been figuring those things out a lot longer than most countries.

  7. nate Says:

    This goes unsaid a lot, but if you are japanese, japan is a really different place, especially outside of tokyo.
    Everyone I know works at least 60 hours a week for 40 hours pay. Even the students spend a good 60 hours a week in school. Those with ambition (or ambitious parents) go to juku after that.
    Especially if you’d care to look at things from a labor centric point of view, that’s pretty damned dystopian.

    You can have dystopia without overt violence.

  8. r. Says:

    again, a bit of a tangent, but i think this makes an interesting read at this point in the “where are they now?” game…

    http://imomus.com/thought110100.html

  9. roddy Says:

    >if you’d care to look at things from a labor centric point of >view, that’s pretty damned dystopian.

    Fair enough, but I find Marxy’s statement “dystopia stems from the inability of the people in the society of actually having a grasp on their own world once the sphere of protection disappears.” to imply a fairly condescending view of the Japanese. Are they somehow unable to figure this out on their own? Is it our missionary duty to help them get a grasp on their own world again? No thanks, I’ll leave that chore to others.

    And from what I understand, a lot of Japanese people actually prefer the Japanese model of employment which blurs the distinction between business and personal life.

  10. r. Says:

    roddy said: Are they somehow unable to figure this out on their own? Is it our missionary duty to help them get a grasp on their own world again?

    and i say: actually, SOME japanese has figured this out, but they are the ones in the seats of political and economic power and they don’t want to spill the beans the the others! (and i think the missionary duty question thing is a good one! david?)

    also the rod meister said: And from what I understand, a lot of Japanese people actually prefer the Japanese model of employment which blurs the distinction between business and personal life.

    and i say: i’d guess that this kind of statement holds water for japanese MALES over mid-30s and older. start talking under 25, or female, and i think you’ll find a different answer goes along with that demographic.

  11. nate Says:

    didn’t mean to be entirely tangential. The sphere of protection is dissolving, and there’s no clearer sign that Japan’s crossing over to American business practices than the news I watched last night which spoke almost exclusively of the livedoor deal and koizumi’s postal privatization plans (between dead popes and a kerosene heater related fatality).
    Despite working long hours to the detriment of every other aspect of existence, job security has slipped out from under the Japanese worker.

    What I’ve seen from those people who prefer to blur the line between personal and professional is that they actually just dislike their homes. They’re the same ones who don’t go home every night… and they have terrible breath.

  12. marxy Says:

    And from what I understand, a lot of Japanese people actually prefer the Japanese model of employment which blurs the distinction between business and personal life.

    I think it’s equally condescending to take the exterior view of happy workers at face value. I do think that the value systems reward full dedication to work, and those that become full shigoto-ningen feel a sense of pride and belonging. However, there’s really no compromise in that if you’re not one of those people, you’re stuck.

    At least with school, I assumed that everyone loved having to be there for duty-reasons and going out with the professor for drinks, etc., but i realized that once I grumbled about it, everyone admitted how much they’d just like to go home instead.

  13. roddy Says:

    I think I remember reading in the New York Times about a poll taken that showed Japanese workers to be, overall, happier with their lives in the Japanese business model when contrasted with what they saw as the American business model.

    What I was trying to get at is this sort of unspoken assumption in this post, and others, that somehow Japanese people don’t understand what’s really happening to them, that somehow the writers who post on this blog and people like Alex Kerr can *truly* see how bad their situation is. There’s something a bit moralistic about this perspective. It seems like it’s just the opposite side of the same coin of orientalism.

  14. nate Says:

    Expression of malcontent is not such an easy thing to gauge. I’m sure there weren’t all that many people with medium to poor job satisfaction inside of most of the fascist regimes of the past either. (party foul, using the f word)

    I speak strictly anecdotally, but it seems like people here tend to accept that drudgery is the standard, and live their lives accordingly. Within that context they are happy. Those that have seen a bit behind the veil aren’t so happy though… in my experience.
    Of course it’s fine to be happy in shitty tiresome labor. However, if it would be moralist to try and convince them of a different, potentially better arrangement, it’s at least equally moralist to think that exposing people to the broader world of labor rights and possibilities and the inevitabilities of the current economic structures would only harm them.

  15. roddy Says:

    >Expression of malcontent is not such an easy thing to gauge.

    I completely agree, which is what makes a lot of the arguments around these issues vacuous to begin with. But I think it’s dangerous to assume that “I know how to be happier better than you do.”

    >it’s at least equally moralist to think that exposing people to >the broader world of labor rights and possibilities and the >inevitabilities of the current economic structures would only >harm them.

    I’m not suggesting that it would harm Japan, I just think it’s presumptuous to think that a foreign culture needs your help in taking care of itself.

    It just seems like there are so many unspoken implications to the arguments tossed around on these pages. Like that Japanese people are somehow more brainwashed than the rest of the world, that Japanese people are incapable of solving their own economic problems, that they somehow need the insights the west can bring to them, and the list goes on and on. Is the broader world of labor rights something that’s not taught in their colleges? Are you actively promoting labor rights on the streets of Japan, are you suggesting I should?

    Preaching to people who aren’t interested in being preached to just seems like masochistic missionary work. But to each their own.

  16. marxy Says:

    Preaching to people who aren’t interested in being preached to just seems like masochistic missionary work. But to each their own.

    Yes, fine, but what this lobby always chooses not to see is that there are plenty of Japanese people against the system without our “help.” The main proponents of the status quo are capitalists, the wealthy, the bureaucrats, and the rightest LDP. Read up on where the “paternal” labor system came from if you’re really interested. It was not a “culturally-determined” happening, but a form of labor control.

    Is the broader world of labor rights something that’s not taught in their colleges?

    Best also to read up about Japanese college life and the standard curriculum. There’s no “liberal arts” education and you’re not going to be reading about labor rights or anything of the sort unless you’re in the Sociology Dep’t AND you actually go to class (very rare.) If you’re in the Business dep’t etc, you generally can’t take classes outside of the business department. Graduate-level education is also rare for anyone not on the path to being a professor. This all means: political/social consciousness in Japan is low, especially with the young. Better not to assume they have equal information and are making perfectly-educated choices.

  17. roddy Says:

    >The main proponents of the status quo are capitalists, the >wealthy, the bureaucrats, and the rightest LDP.

    Generally speaking, how is this different than anywhere else?

    >”paternal” labor system came from if you’re really interested. It >was not a “culturally-determined” happening, but a form of >labor control.

    Yeah, haven’t read the text you’re suggesting, but have to wonder what country doesn’t have some form of “labor control” or are you suggesting something more sinister in Japan than the usual methods of control by the ruling classes of other countries? By the way, I wasn’t suggesting “cultural-determinism.” Actually, I have no idea how you’re using this phrase.

    >Better not to assume they have equal information and are >making perfectly-educated choices.

    If what you say is true, I’m not sure that political consciousness actually leads to better choices, look at the current US regime or Le Pen in France.

    I feel like you’re pointing to lots of shadows in the dark, but it’s hard to pin down exactly what it is that you’re suggesting.

  18. Momus Says:

    Neomarxisme = a sigh with footnotes.

  19. Chris_B Says:

    roddy said I think I remember reading in the New York Times about a poll taken that showed Japanese workers to be, overall, happier with their lives in the Japanese business model when contrasted with what they saw as the American business model.

    The devil you know is always preferable to the devil you dont. How many of those surveyed had actually worked in America? I used to laugh at the salarymen, now I am one. Yes people put in 60 hours or more of work for 40 hours (or less) pay. They seem about as happy about work as the people I’ve worked with in the US honestly.

    The thing is, as others pointed out here, work isnt always about money, status or achievement. Ask a few japanese people what they do at work, almost 99% of the time you get the answer “company employee”. Not bond analyst or programmer or assembly line worker, just “company employee”. I’ve learned that can be satisfying in a way. I’m “just the same as everyone else in my department at my level”. Its a really comforting myth. I’ve also learned that expecting monetary compensation for being good at your job or expecting promotion for excelent long hard work are just silly dreams. But thats OK too. If I work at the same place till retirement I’ll have paid off my mortgage, maybe put a kid thru school and have found time to enjoy a few hobbies and dinners with the wife. Thats enough. Of course this 180 degree turn from my expectations in the US is for completely practical reasons. If I expect anything else here, I’ll go nuts.

  20. roddy Says:

    > work isnt always about money, status or achievement.

    Wow, that must suck. What is it about then?

    Believe me, there are plenty of nasty jobs in the United States as well, usually being filled by people who are totally overqualified, at least in San Francisco. In a way, that’s kind of fun, it’s nice to order a cup of coffee from Peet’s and know that the person handing you the drink is equally ready to discuss Foucault as he is to whip up a cappucino.

    But this is getting down to such specific experiences that I’m not sure if it leads to any kind of bigger understanding. And a big point of this blog, as far as I can tell, is that Japan is in a big ol’ downward spiral. But the thing that confuses me is whether it’s an economic meltdown or a cultural meltdown. If it’s just an economic meltdown, I don’t really care, in fact that is probably really healthy for the culture. A lot of amazing art and music seems to be produced in lean economic times. If it’s a cultural meltdown, well, I just don’t get it. Maybe I need to read up on the paternal labor system in Japan before reading this blog.

  21. Momus Says:

    the thing that confuses me is whether it’s an economic meltdown or a cultural meltdown

    Well, it’s a key tenet of the philosophy of Neomarxisme that these are one and the same thing.

  22. roddy Says:

    >Well, it’s a key tenet of the philosophy of Neomarxisme that >these are one and the same thing.

    I do think that’s a difficult distinction for a lot of Americans to make. This is something I’ve noticed very distinctly since returning to this country and it’s pretty disgusting.

    Would love to hear Marxy weigh in on this.

  23. r. Says:

    yo, you kids are forgetting the big bicture…that all the violence of the world is gone, gone, gone…
    but you aren’t really willing to hear what i’m saying, are you?
    you are to interested in what you ARE, right?
    kiss,
    r.
    p.s. kiss, r.

  24. Momus Says:

    Would love to hear Marxy weigh in on this.

    He seems to be out communing with the birds and the bees today. But he’d probably say that the connection he makes between the economic and the cultural is a Marxist connection, not an American one. The trouble is, no actual Marxists have been that reductive for about 50 years now (the old “superstructure follows base” thing)…

  25. r. Says:

    that thing is, nick, is that you haven’t a clue as to what is goinnnnnnng on in japan at this time, this place.
    kiss,
    r.

  26. r. Says:

    ……………..r.edu.com

  27. Chris_B Says:

    r: profess on professor!

    roddy: I never said downward spiral of anything. I view it more as a gradual slide. Or maybe like riding a bike here, some up hill effort and alot of downard cruising. Most honestly, I think history repeats itself. Welcome to the early 明治時代.

  28. marxy Says:

    But he’d probably say that the connection he makes between the economic and the cultural is a Marxist connection, not an American one.

    Yeah, I would say that. In the case of America/Europe, I’m not sure that economic depression does not lead to creative depression – it certainly has not since the 50s – but in the case of Japan, where all art is more consumer-related than anywhere else on earth, the decline of the consumer markets is having a direct influence on overall culture. This is a long post of its own, but yes, I do see these two things happening simultaneously and see obvious connections. And I wouldn’t be so loud about if I didn’t hear Japanese people complain in the same way all the time: Tokyo is really low energy at the moment.

  29. Chris_B Says:

    marxy spaketh thusly: in the case of Japan, where all art is more consumer-related than anywhere else on earth

    really? for sure and truely more than anywhere else on earth?

    Tokyo is really low energy at the moment.

    Cant speak for the jpop energy level, but business wise the energy is higher than it has been in years. The new personal data protection act has been like a vitamin shot for every business I know of. Everyone is actually thinking about things that they have intentionally ignored for years.

    The Livedoor saga has captured the public’s imagination like no other biz story since I’ve been here. NHK did a 3 hour talk show explaining things like “stocks” and “bonds”, “M&A”, “poison pills” etc. Explaining in a way that “normal” people can understand (think readers of the sports papers not Nikkei Keizai Shinbun, or in the US readers of the New York Post not the WSJ). Last saturday I was talking to the mama of a coffee shop in kabukicho, she made an interesting comparison of this drama to the methods used by Oda Nobunaga at the battle of Okehazama.

    Foreign “niche” music seems to be doing OK. Asian Dub Foundation w/ African Head Charge seem to have sold out two shows at Tokyo Zepp.

    Maybe the masses have just found other things to be excited about than jpop?

  30. marxy (out of his room) Says:

    Maybe the masses have just found other things to be excited about than jpop?

    I’m not primarily interested in Jpop – more like youth culture in general – and anyone in the “production of cultural symbols” here is pretty bored with the current scene. Capitalism – American Style may be all the rage, but fashion, music, youth vibrancy have seem better days. Personally, I’ve had to move my attentions elsewhere to stay sane, but seeing that the world media is obsessed with “the Japanese Pop Culture Explosion,” I think it’s legitimate to worry about the directions of the markets.

    If Japan – as we suppose – is super postmodern and has no idea of “authenticity” or “auratic art,” the most obvious goal of making music etc. becomes a financial one, and with sales at pre-90s levels, the whole community is confused. I am not being cynical here; I talk to all my indiepop friends with relatively unknown bands and they say things like “I really want to do this, but I worried because it won’t sell very well…” (Of course, it doesn’t matter what they do, they won’t move more than 1000 copies.) I see this market meltdown as a blessing because it makes music purely a creative endeavour – if there’s no money, the pecuniary incentive is irrational. If an idea of art for art’s sake comes to Japan now, which is possible, that could be interesting, but seeing that postmodern art commodification is our progressive future, maybe I’m the one living in the past.

  31. Momus Says:

    If Japan – as we suppose – is super postmodern and has no idea of “authenticity” or “auratic art,” the most obvious goal of making music etc. becomes a financial one

    I don’t agree with this at all. This is a bit like Christians saying that if belief in God disappeared, people would surely go around murdering each other. Why should the only alternative to authenticity be commerce? I’d think it would be much more likely that the alternative to authenticity would be pluralism, or plurality of identity, or synthetic syncretism, or a big carnival / fancy dress party. Do people go to fancy dress parties for money?

  32. Momus Says:

    Also, I have to re-iterate that no Marxist thinking since Gramsci has said that economic base determines cultural superstructure. I don’t think it’s acceptable for you to pass off your equation of the two as “Marxist”. I think Roddy’s right: it’s simply American, in the sense that it’s crassly materialistic. It’s also deeply conservative, in the sense that a basic conviction that things are getting worse is perhaps the fundamental gut feeling of all conservatives. You know, what could be worse, intellectually, than a gut conservative who tries to pass his positions off as a kind of rigidly deterministic 19th century Marxism? In fact, it’s even a parody of Marxism’s historical determinism.

    In Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy Marx says “The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence which determines their consciousness.”

    “However,” writes Alan Woods, “Marxism has nothing in common with the well-known caricature which asserts that Marx and Engels “reduced everything to economics”. This patent absurdity was answered many times by Marx and Engels, as in the following extract from Engels’ letter to Bloch: “According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimate determining element in history is the production and reproduction of life. More than this neither Marx nor myself have asserted. Hence, if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract and senseless phrase.”

  33. marxy Says:

    Fine, Momus, but that doesn’t mean that somehow economic, technological, and social structures don’t have a profound impact on culture and consciousness.

    I agree with what you’re saying that commerce isn’t the determined opposite of authenticity, but the current reaction to the market failure in Japan leads me to think that commerce is a serious motivating factor for art in Japan. If they move to a non-commercial, non-“authentic” style of art, I’d welcome it, but at least in music and youth culture, the primary motivation of selling commodities is being underminded and there’s no obvious answer on the next move.

    Do people go to fancy dress parties for money?

    No, but these are pagents of symbolic capital.

  34. roddy Says:

    >If an idea of art for art’s sake comes to Japan now, which is >possible, that could be interesting,

    I’m not convinced that “art for art’s sake” isn’t alive and thriving in Japan, in fact I believe it’s doing quite well especially on the fringes outside the conservative pop world. Maybe you just need to look a little harder.

    And I think there are plenty of examples of thriving art scenes in fiscally desolate places in the last 50 years, the first thing that comes to mind is New York in the 1970’s.

    >the primary motivation of selling commodities is being >underminded and there’s no obvious answer on the next move.

    Making the kind of music that I make in the field that I work in, it’s really hard for me to feel any sympathy for people who need the motivation of cold cash to do their work. Anybody who’s making music because their primary motivation is to “sell commodities” shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

  35. Momus Says:

    Well, Kahimi Karie in 1995 was making silly pop songs about how “it’s so nice to be a beautiful girl, la la la la la la” and doing TV commercial tie-ins. In 2005 she’s making obscure jazz records with Otomo Yosihide’s New Jazz Ensemble. Commercial logic? Or taking advantage of slowing sales to do more interesting work?

  36. roddy Says:

    And this is related to why I think j-pop is the perfect pop music, because it is completely disposable and has no pretensions of deep meaning or social relevance. It is fun, crafted to sell, and is little more than that. There’s a refreshing honesty and sense of play, for the makers and the consumers, in this type of music that I enjoy very much. No one is trying to change the world with it, they are simply enjoying it in all its candy glory.

    I’m guessing that j-pop is still doing pretty well these days?

  37. roddy Says:

    I guess I see j-pop as being a type of music where “moving commodity” could possibly be a prime motivating factor.

    In Kahimi Karie’s case, that’s really fascinating. I love the fact that she can move in and out of those worlds as she pleases. And from my perspective, Otomo Yoshihide isn’t really so obscure.

    I couldn’t fathom why she is working with Yoshihide, unless it’s for some kind of street-cred, or maybe she’s just really interested in the music.

  38. Momus Says:

    Well, she’s been moving in a jazzish direction for a while. I think the gameplan is to become a sort of Japanese Brigitte Fontaine (in her Art Ensemble of Chicago days). We don’t need to be Bourdieu to see it as a cultural accumulation strategy, or an attempt at career longevity. You can’t continue to be a pop commodity into your mid-30s and beyond. Pop commodities are disposable, but artists just get stronger as they approach “posterity”.

  39. Momus Says:

    “cultural capital accumulation strategy”, that should read.

  40. Chris_B Says:

    mr. momus said but what if all that is just an online avatar, a persona?

    Are you finally admitting it or is this being playful in response to being called out?

    mr. momus commented in regards to marxy his guest status in the country

    Of course I dont speak for marxy, but its interesting that you bring this up. You have been in and out of the country for short periods over several years. AFAIK he has been here pretty much continuously for several years. While none of us can ever not be “外国人” in the literal reading of the term, some of us are forever お客様 and some of us become 隣の外人. I’m guessing marxy is in the second group, but again I dont know him in person.

    marxy: I’m concerned by your references to 90s sales figures which seem to keep popping up. Have you fallen for the same delusion that many Japanese under the age of 45 have of seeing levels of economic activity during that period through the distorted lenses of the Bubble? Its obvious but I think it needs to be restated that all forms of economic activity or cultural production during the hayday of that period and its hangover are not in any way normative.

    I hear so much nostalgia for the bubble from alot of my co-workers and people I see around town who came of age or were working then. It is in a way natural for them since lots of them never knew anything else, but those of us who have seen other levels of economic activity and cultural output should not make that same mistake.

    As to “art for art’s sake” this is one of the great questions asked by producers and spectators of culture markets. What is it? Does it even exist? While some product may indeed be “art”, most art that is not product IMNSHO falls into “I’ll know it when I see it” whether or not it has a very long string of zeros attached to it in a gallery.

  41. Chris_B Says:

    somehow I got mixed up in the first part of that reply which should have gone into the other pPostMmodern/stuperflat thread up until I addressed marxy directly. I’ll paste it there as well.

  42. dzima Says:

    about Japanese college life and the standard curriculum. There’s no “liberal arts” education

    What do you mean? That was the department in which I was enrolled at university in Japan. Unless everyone was having a collective hallucination and the 教養学部 didn’t actually exist.

  43. marxy Says:

    At least at the “elite” schools, there’s less broad education for college kids, who don’t go to class anyway. “Liberal arts” education entails that even if you’re not in the Kyouyou Gakubu, you must do a bit of literature, history, social science, hard science, etc. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the average Japanese college kid (who is elite to start with) knows a lot less about “academic” areas than his European/American/Canadian/Asian counterparts. Japan has the education system of a developing country: the #1 goal is finding the best people for the bureaucracy. Grad students are a lot more “with it,” but they’re few and far between in a culture that idealizes “lifetime employment.”

  44. Momus Says:

    Japan has the education system of a developing country

    If that’s true, being the world’s number two economic power and number one creditor nation is an even more remarkable achievement.

  45. marxy Says:

    If that’s true, being the world’s number two economic power and number one creditor nation is an even more remarkable achievement.

    Well, it questions how much intellectual knowledge is important for running a 20th century economy. Intellectual understanding, however, may be crucial for adapting the system to increasing volatility, and a broader set of knowledge will certainly come in handy with creative industries and information tech fields. Japan’s education program still operates on 1950s principles, and Japan’s economy hasn’t grown since its manufacturing economy ended.