I just read John Malott's article called "Where Have all the Samurai Gone?". It was basically a celebration of Japan's supposed failings.
Whenever I read an article about Japan by Westerners, I always take it with a grain of salt. I've been around long enough to know how envious Westerners can get when their monopoly on power and prestige is threatened by people not belonging to their club. He mentions a long list of things supposedly wrong with Japan. He didn't put them into context, however.
For example, he talks about crumbling concrete on Japan's Shinkansen lines. Reality check: Japan has had no fatalities on their Shinkansen lines. And how many train mishaps and even fatalities do we hear about almost monthly in the US? It seems there are always trains colliding or derailing, or flammable payloads exploding on American trains.
Also, who always comes up with the best consumer electronics? Go to any camera or electronics store, and what names do you see? Who makes the PlayStation2? Who has the best cellphone technology and services (certainly not Europe or the US, no matter what Finns or Americans think they know).
Who has the longest life expectancy in the world, including healthy life expectancy, according to the latest report by the World Health Organization?
He mentions Firestone, of course. He forgets that Firestone was an American company bought by a Japanese company Bridgestone, after Firestone was weakened by earlier recalls of their American tires. In Japan, people don't consider the current Firestone problems as having anything to do with Japan's Bridgestone. Firestone is Firestone and Bridgestone is Bridgestone, the Japanese correctly believe.
Mr. Malott claims in obvious frustration about the "arrogance" the Japanese displayed in the 1980s. But what people are more arrogant than Westerners? The fact that he even mentioned that the Japanese were sometimes arrogant in the 1980s exposes the obvious: he bristles at the notion that an Asian country can dare to be arrogant.
Finally, if Japan can continue to be the world's second-largest economy and lead the world in so many high-tech industries, all in the midst of such a terrible, brutal recession, then doesn't this speak to Japan's incomparable strengths just as much as it does their weaknesses? Just imagine what they could do if they utilized their female population (I know, America is totally fair to its women, right?), or what they could do in the absence of such a horrific, disastrous recession. Then Mr. Malott will really be mad.