There was no news roundup last week, due to me being on holiday. But this week we are back! I decided to change up the format a bit. It was annoying to keep track of the days when I had found individual articles, so I decided to simply list them without a date. You’ll just get the articles with my opinion and thoughts. If anyone is even reading this, I hope that you enjoy. Here we go.
We start with an article by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (whatever that means), who claim to be the #1 ranked think tank (again, whatever that is) in the United States. Anyway, the article is in a Q&A style and introduces Japan’s newly elected prime minister, Yoshihide Suga or Suga Yoshihide. Suga takes over from former PM Abe and will serve as prime minister for about one year, the remainder of Abe’s term. The question is, if Suga will be able to market himself to also continue being prime minister after the 2021 elections, or if the position will become a game of musical chair again like it was before Abe came to power in 2012 -> https://www.csis.org/analysis/yoshihide-suga-japans-new-leader
Next, we have a piece by Michael Hoffman in the Japan Times on similarities between Russia and Japan, specifically in their period of Westernization in the 19th and early 20th century, which ultimately ended in the two countries going to war. While I found the extensive quoting from Shiba Ryotaros fictional novels a bit off-putting, the piece as a whole still has some interesting ideas that are worth thinking about -> https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/19/national/history/japan-russia-history/
Abenomics was the name given to former PM Abe’s economic reforms, designed to pull the country out of the slow decline that’s been happening since the bubble burst in the early ’90s. With Abe gone, and his economic reform ultimately probably being somewhat ineffective, it now falls to new PM Suga to revitalize the country with “Suganomics”, as Aljazeera coins it -> https://www.aljazeera.com/program/episode/2020/9/19/suganomics-can-japans-new-prime-minister-fix-national-economy/
Now, on to a critical piece by Emiko Jozuka on CNN, talking about the problematic view that many Japanese hold of so-called “hafu” (ハーフ, from English “half”), people that are ethnically half-Japanese. Speaking as a “furu”, as I am a full foreigner, many Japanese people tend to throw people, including themselves, into the same pot. You will often hear phrases like “Japanese people are so…” or “In your country, it may be like this but in Japan, it’s like this…”. As a German, if I got 100 Yen for every time that someone tells me that I am German and therefore must like beer, sausages and football, I would probably be able to buy a whole 100 Yen store. But that is probably nothing compared to what “hafu” experience. People that culturally are 100% Japanese, grew up in Japan and speak only Japanese, are still seen as somehow foreign because they are ethnically not 100% Japanese. Japanese people go through a lot of effort to appear foreign, dyeing their hair blonde, or putting in colour contacts, but if someone comes along and has naturally blonde hair or blue eyes, they are suddenly not considered Japanese. At the same time, there seems to be this weird fetishization of “hafu”, with women seeking foreign partners because they want cute “hafu” children, and “hafu” TV stars always being forced to adhere to racial stereotypes. Anyways, enough rambling. This is an issue that you should probably be aware of, so read the article -> https://edition.cnn.com/2020/09/22/asia/japan-mixed-roots-hafu-dst-hnk-intl/index.html
This week seems to be a critical one, with the next piece being about the lack of women in the Japanese government. Just two women were appointed to the 21-strong cabinet of new premier Suga, prompting Tomomi Inada, former defence minister (also staunch nationalist and war-crime apologist) among other things, to comment on the issue -> https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/23/japan-is-a-democracy-without-women-says-ruling-party-mp
Finally, we have an article which I found just somewhat strange and a good example of the rose-tinted goggles that some people seem to don when talking about Japan and its culture. The author claims that there are three cultural customs in Japan that the world could learn something from: Hanami, Bonenkai and Chorei. First, he claims that collectively experiencing nature through Hanami is conducive to creativity. I do not find Japanese people to be any more or less creative than people from other places, but okay. The next two are just weird to me. Bonenkai (mandatory company-parties at the end of the year) and chorei (mandatory morning meetings at work) seem to be generally despised by anyone below the age of 60 and only still carried out because no one can be bothered to change the age-old custom. Maybe try living in a country first before making sweeping claims about cultural benefits. If you can be bothered to read it, here you go -> https://www.freepressjournal.in/analysis/three-lessons-the-world-can-learn-from-the-culture-of-japan
That’s it for this week. See you again next week when it’s going to be already October…