The gasshuku (合宿) experience encapsulates the quintessential aspects of idealized Japanese behavior into a tidy package: the welcoming of new members into a group, journeys out to the countryside, baseball, onsen, mandatory fun, drinking until 3am only to get up the next morning at 6:30 for breakfast and a factory tour. The system has its merits, but combining work and play is generally exhausting.
We went out to Ibaraki-ken, which looks exactly like Chiba, Saitama, Tochigi, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, or Yamanashi. Kanto’s pretty homogenized economically and geographically.
Yesterday morning waiting for the bus, I watched the news footage of last weekend’s anti-Japanese riots in China. I don’t know much about the exact political motivations of the protesters, but I fear further deterioration of Japan-China relations. At the moment, the LDP’s only mission seems to be historical revisionism — textbook changes, island grabbing, Yasukuni shrine visiting, re-arming. The right-wing appears to think that the only way towards a new Japanese nationalism is to completely erase the specter of WWII, and this tacit support of old imperialism obviously doesn’t sit well with the Korean/Chinese contingents. They in turn can exploit the perceived image of Japanese remilitarization to ease domestic discord. I don’t want to throw my support for either side (if those are the only two choices), but I question whether this is the best time for Japan to try to reclaim a 20th century version of nationalism when their Eastern neighbors have never forgotten the past and the West lauds Japan for being a pro-environmental, pacifist neo-Internationalist nation.
Later in the day we toured a Hitachi turbine factory. Like most Japanese industrial workspaces, the plant was littered with “quality control” (QC) campaign posters to boost morale. Japanese QC management took Deming’s ideas and perfected them, but my worry is that the system is too good: Can this management system guarantee high quality goods even made in lower-skilled markets (read: China)? If so, Japanese firms may be in good shape, but the Japanese worker may no longer be necessary to Japan’s economic success. This will radically alter income distribution if it hasn’t started already.