Heated Exchange

[What follows is an exchange between reader Dante DeVallier and writer Steve Mollman in reponse to a (mildly controversial, certainly challenging) essay posted in the April 4 J@pan Inc Newsletter. Because of the length of the first post, we'll present this from last to first. We've left Mr. DeVallier's comments unedited.]

I wasn't trying to put words in your mouth, rather just point out some things wrong with Japan. It appeared to me that you were belittling the U.S. and American society to promote Japan and Japan's. Don't the Japaneese people and the Japanese press do that enough already?! Again I think you are stereotyping by saying the west doesn't put an emphasis on trust and human relationships, I think we do!

I might agree that historically corporations are more concerned with profit, revenue and results more than Japanese companies which often impedes R&D but I'm one who think generalisations are often dangerous or not true.

When I mentioned those things such as corruption, rape, sex, etc. I was attempting to point out cases where crime *does* exist in Japanese society...contrary to a lot of peoples' thinking and the media that exists in Japan.

You are free to post my comments as you mentioned on your website.

Best regards,

Dante D.


You're putting a lot of words in my mouth. I never mentioned corruption in the Japanese government. I didn't touch upon the subjects of rape, sex, white-collar crime, child abuse, molestation, etc. Such things exist everywhere, including Japan, which is certainly not a utopia. But in my opinion -- and this was an essay, mind you -- Japan has created a safe, relatively peaceful society because it places an emphasis on trust and human relationships. This is part of a long-term view that I feel is lacking in the West. If we Westerners can borrow the better parts of Japanese culture -- while keeping what's good about our own approach to life, business, and technology -- we'll be better off for it. So it's worth discussing. I appreciate your feedback.

If you'd like, I'll post this on our Web site, in the Letters to the Editor section. Your response deserves a hearing.

Steve Mollman

Original post from Mr. DeVallier:
You're really giving us plenty of favorable propaganda towards Japan with your commentary attached below as circulated recently in one of the J@pan Inc Newsletters! Makes Japan sound like Utopia, it's a crock of propaganda that not even perhaps Tojo could have envisaged!

Fact of the matter is, as you should very well know, Japan has major problems with corruption at the government's highest levels (which is last I looked, a crime!) and *does* have a crime problem. To overlook that by slamming the US is irresponsible journalism. That's akin to saying Japan is a homogenous nation, pure bullsh--, every time someone states that it's like a punch in the face to every Ainu, Okinawan, and Zainichi who lives here and has never lived anywhere else. Most of the people who back the locals here by stating this falsehood tend to be Caucasians who really don't know what it's like, besides their sojourn in Japan, to be a minority.

The U.S. economy is debt-ridden but it's healthier than Japan's. The problem here is lack of consumer confidence, how do you think the slim-shady government will solve this problem?! Not everyone has guns in America Mr. Mollman, and outside of large population centers the crime rate is rather low. You're buying into the group-think (think Aum Shinrikyo) mentality that prevails here, that the U.S. is a very dangerous country. I suppose the number of crimes committed by Japanese, you know the ones you read about every day in the newspaper, is made up or not a problem?! I suppose you are one of those who think the number of rapes is not under-reported or that simply, all rapes are reported it's just low and not due to harassment ladies receive from police who are supposed to protect and to serve?! I suppose ladies getting molested on trains is not a crime?! I suppose Japanese men going to southeast Asian countries and having sex with minors shouldn't be considered a "Japan" crime cause it doesn't happen here? I suppose white-collar crimes aren't really crimes in your mind? Explain how this low-crime country you refer to can keep recycling crooked politicians who have taken payouts after payouts only to be named to a cabinet post or even the Prime Minister amounts to in your words: "virtually no crime?!" A person taking mad amounts of loot under the table to me is a traitor to his/her country and one of the greatest crimes. Child abuse is also under-reported or not reported &/or not challenged by a police force that doesn't know what to do with it when they are privy to its existense.

Lastly your comment about Japan being a harmonious society is utter and complete nonsense. Harmonious in what way? I used to buy into this idea too, the one about Japan having "wa" before I moved to Japan over 10 years. Then I heard how my Japanese mother told me about how she had to be a referee to her three cousins, (brothers) who couldn't get along, every time she visited. Don't think for a minute that it only happens to my family, talk to some more Japanese people and find out before writing some hocus pocus and adding to that minus B.S. I could tell you about one of my friend's families who fought over their mother's inheritance, badmouthing their own sibling in the process just so they could get the bulk of the inheritance...not exactly my idea of harmonious? How about yours?! Harmony in this country sometimes is another word for either not giving a damn cause it doesn't concern the person directly or one side backing down when confronted. "Shikata ga nai" or "gaman shimasu." Sometimes it's great that people can do so.

Lastly have you ever read Japan's history???!!! The history of Japan tells us that these people have been killing each other, akin to civil war, for years. I guess harmony can be brought into the equation with a sharp katana!!! Or should we just chalk that up to history, forget about it and say Japan is a harmonious society? Maybe we can speak to the ghosts who got offed by the powers that killed them and see if they think Japan *was* harmonious way back when...?

That comment about having a "secure job" in Japan, do you really believe it? In this day and age part of the problem Japan faces is caused by the white-collar segment that impedes its annual GNP and thus some companies are letting these deadbeats go, or do you not read other publications in Japan? The idea of having lifetime employment is another case of propaganda, such a thing never existed before World War II, people lost their jobs all the time from the start of the Meiji Era until WWII!

You may think I'm badmouthing my mother's country and that I dislike it? That's not the case, I care for it and want to see it retain part of its traditional culture and values while encompassing new ones that will help it improve and open its narrow-minded mentality especially in its treatment of foreigners, and people like me, those who are of partial Japanese ethnicity but who are treated, even if they choose Japanese nationality, as gaijin. At the same time I don't see Japan as a perfect, or near perfect, country and society, far from it. Japan has many problems but to sugar coat sh-- or praise a country like you did, to me, is irresponsible and offensive, especially when you consider that a lot of your audience are expatriates or foreigners overseas.

I've highlighted with (*) the comments I find ridiculous. Perhaps you fail to see why I am offended or care what I've written but I'm sure many people, if they saw your comments, and have the time to write will say the same thing.

Japan is *always* (that's not possible) looking at the long run. That's why it hasn't hollowed out its industrial base, companies are often more pre-occupied with market share than revenue (less acceptable with sometimes short-sighted US-style investors and boards of directors), and human and business relationships are built to last. (* I heard similar jive before I moved to Japan when everything was going Japan's way during the bubble economy!*)

Japan has a massive debt problem, but all of it is within Japan and government based. Japanese individuals are quite wealthy (* I'm not sure they would agree!*) -- they have more than half of the world's savings. The US has a massive debt problem, but, sadly, much of it is personal. Ask yourself: Which would you rather be, an American saddled with credit card debt and subject to being fired whimsically by a short-sighted manager, or a Japanese with plenty of savings and a secure job (in a far-sighted company that will help you adapt your skills to the times instead of letting you go the second you don't "fit")? Where would you rather live, *** in a litigious society with little trust, dislocated people, and handguns for everyone, or a trust-based, harmonious society with virtually no crime? As a human being, which would you choose? I know what my pick would be, if we could choose such things about ourselves.*** (I suppose you living as an "expatriate," with a rather large-sized apartment? Think about this, most Japanese do not. Most Americans live in, compared to Japan, large homes not rabbit hutches. Which would you rather live in?!)

But now the *consensus in Western thinking is that Japan is finally coming around -- or about to be forced to come around -- to our way of doing things.* (Where are you getting this, Rush Limbaugh?) I thought about calling this essay "Thank God They Don't Listen to Us," and they don't. Or rather, they often disregard our take on things. ***The Japanese are smart.*** (So foreigners are dumb? It's a reinforced idiotic stereotype!!! There's plenty of dumb, and stupid, Japanese...just as there are Americans, Canadians, Europeans, et al.