Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Smoking Man

Hello everyone!

This morning, I happened to run into a middle-class working man who runs a furniture store below my floor. I don't know his name, nor know much about his personal life, but I know he is very amicable and easy to talk to. I like to call him the "cheerful smoking man."

Every so often, we will greet each other and discuss topics on the differences between the US and Japan in great detail. The fact that he knows I am not Japanese-born allows him to lower his guard (and not try to appease me) and state his honest opinion to me without restraint. Today was of no exception, as he started to discuss his opinions on the societal issues in Japan.

He believes that Japan has had heavy influence from the US in terms of personal freedom and thinks that it has caused a number of problems. Because Japan is a 'group-oriented' country where the people must always appease others, he feels that the desire for 'independence and freedom' has caused a number of problems. People who have become doctors, lawyers, or teachers/professors, are doing so for the wrong motivations. Rather than do it out of passion to help others, they do it out of greed for power and respect from the people around them. Due to this problem, he feels that this has caused major problems not only in the government and big corporate businesses, but in the Japanese educational system as well.

In times past, he states that the Japanese social elite genuinely shared more concern for the welfare of others. Japan's success after the second World War was due to the Japanese group-mentality of working together for the prosperity of the country; however, the more "modern Japanese" seek greater personal freedom and individualism. He states that a number of Japanese only adopted the idea of independent thought from the US, disregarding the bigger picture.

He believes that this generation of politicians and social elite are causing the Japanese society to become corrupt. Unless this generation of Japanese running the country die out, Japan cannot reform itself into a new country that can fully adopt Western ideals.

What are your opinions on this?