JIN-417 -- Japan: A View From The Academy

J@pan Inc magazine presents:
The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 417 Wednesday June 6, 2007 TOKYO

For the past three Wednesday nights I have been skipping out of
the office a few minutes earlier than normal. The reason? No, not
a new found love interest or midweek alcohol addiction - I've
been going to a series of lectures. Never one for lectures at
university, where I was only required to go to 6 hours a week
anyway, it took me by surprise when I read in a local pamphlet,
issued by Minato-ku city hall in Tokyo, that Dr. Phil Deans of
Temple University would be giving a course of three lectures on
Japan, and I found myself wanting to attend. I recognized the
name because for anyone interested in the study of East Asian
identity Deans is well known and made a name for himself during
his time at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in
London.

It turned out that my curiosity paid off and after the first
lecture I knew I'd be back for more. Having been in Japan for
a respectable period of time, I was somewhat unsure as to how much
I could 'learn' about the place from any other sources than my
own experience; a misguided approach at the best times I know,
but perhaps not uncommon among hardened gaijin (foreigners)
here. However, I learned so much that it seems only appropriate
to share some of the most interesting nuggets with this
Japan-interested audience.

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As Dr. Deans made clear, writers on international relations often
overlook the importance of perception. For example, in the
Japan-China relationship it is interesting how the 'facts' tell
two very different stories. Deans was able to characterize the
paradox in the relationship as 'economically hot versus
politically cold.' The facts show that if you include third party
investment via Hong Kong and Taiwan, between 50-70% of all
investment in China is linked back to Japan. On the other hand,
research findings show that Japanese attitudes towards China have
grown increasingly negative over the past few years. At a more
complex level, incompatible nationalism between the two nations
lead to a different reading of other statistics. It is true that
China's spending on defense has grown massively in terms of
dollars spent but it is also true that China's defense spending
has declined as a proportion of GDP. While Japanese look at the
first figure, China looks at the second.

In its relations with Korea Dr. Deans also perceives a confusion
that arises largely from political identity. Despite strong
economic, cultural and political interlinkages the history issue
and perception of the past makes for conflictual moments and
pressure points. One of these is the sovereignty dispute over
a small bit of rock in the Sea of Japan, Dokdo in Korean,
Takeshima, in Japanese. Deans thought he had come up
with a perfect solution to the problem in 2002— he
suggested that the World Cup final be played there. Sadly,
his recommendation fell on deaf ears.

On the Japanese economy Deans also managed to add a fresh
perspective. As he pointed out, The Economist, since the 1970s
have run an article every 5 years on how Japanese youth don't
work as hard as their elders. More critically perhaps Deans notes
what he terms a shift from effectiveness to efficiency. By the
former he refers to such phenomenon in Japan as ladies in
elevators who are employed just to press buttons or the five or
six staff manning small convenience stores: the extra mile that
guarantees satisfaction. By 'efficiency' however he refers to the
recent cuts and reforms that have minimized costs, cut red tape
and also led to an emphasis on materialism over harmony. While
agreeing that reform may be necessary Deans sees the tension
between effectiveness and efficiency as a challenge for existing
social and economic structures in the years ahead.

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Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo:
4 Year Anniversary Seminar - June 11

Speaker: Yoshito Hori, Chairman and CEO of Globis Group

Join us in celebrating our 4 year anniversary at the Globis
Head Office in Kojimachi with Yoshito Hori of Globis Group.
Founded in 1992 the Globis Group has five lines of business;
Globis Management School (GMS), Globis Organization Learning
(GOL), Globis Management Institute (GMI), Globis Management
Bank (GMB), and Globis Capital Partners (GCP) which manages
3 funds with commitment exceeding JPY38bil. (US$360mil.).

Date/Time: Monday, June 11, 7:00 pm
Location: Globis Head Office
Language: English

Website: www.ea-tokyo.com
Email: info@ea-tokyo.com
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Finally, I'd like to throw up the notion of 'gendered
nationalism'. As the lecture explained, looking at the
gender dimension to Japan's society and economy is illuminating.
As many young Japanese women are not getting married, putting
careers and Cartier over cradles and cooking, there is a growing
reaction. Conservative politicians have not only made outrageous
statements about women being "babymaking machines" but also
tried to push forward a traditional image of women as 'dutiful
daughters and suitable wives'. Such developments are of course
directly related to Japan's number one storm on the horizon—
the top heavy population that are starting to retire. Deans
hinted that in a sense women are going on a kind of 'strike' in
terms of childbirth, forcing society to respond to their evolving
expectations and needs.

An interesting parallel development has been the number of
Japanese-foreigner mixed marriages. Most visibly, large numbers
of Japanese women are taking foreign husbands but a stat that
Deans offered up that is not so well known is that 70% of mixed
marriages in Japan are in fact between Japanese men and foreign
women. With a population shortage, particularly of young women
in the countryside, large numbers of Japanese men are taking
'imported brides'. Often from Southeast Asia these women are
taking traditional female roles but, as Deans mentioned, it will
be intriguing to see how the racial difference will affect
Japanese society and what consequences it will have on national
identity here.

So, as you can probably tell, I greatly enjoyed Dr. Deans'
lectures and hope that some of this was news to JIN readers
too. Here endeth the lecture.

By Peter Harris
Chief Editor, J@pan Inc magazine

J@pan Inc invites all comments and suggestions on the content
of its newsletters, online and print media. Please visit our
website at www.japaninc.com or, if you have a comment directly
related to this article, email it to peter.harris@japaninc.com

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---------------- ICA Event - June 21 ----------------------

Speaker:Peter Butterfield
Vice President and General Counsel, KVH Co., Ltd.
Speaker:M.S. Rangaraj
Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, KVH Co., Ltd.

Topic:Offshoring to India-Key Factors to Consider

Details:Complete event details at
http://www.icajapan.jp/(RSVP Required)
Date:Thursday, June 21, 2007
Time:6:30 Doors open, Light buffet and Open Bar included
Cost:3,000 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members)
Open to all-location is Ristorante Conca d'Oro
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Comments

Thank you for the fascinating account of Dr. Deans' lectures. When I lived in Tokyo several years ago, I worked for a year as a volunteer phone counselor at Tokyo English Life Line. During our training, an interesting concept came up about mixed marriages. Often, we were told, it is the more independent Japanese women who marry foreign men, because they want something less stifling than what Japanese society has to offer. However, often the foreign men who come to Japan in search of a wife seek a traditional, subservient woman, which they have had difficulty finding in the West. So the mutual expectations can overshoot each other.

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