*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Japanese 'culture': the Japanese religion.

"One hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years, thought Bernard Marx, who was a specialist on hypnopædia. Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth. Idiots!" 
- Aldous Huxley, 'Brave New World'

Being Japanese is the Japanese religion.  Far from Japan being an agnostic country, as seems apparent to people who comment on its laissez faire attitude to hereditary Buddhism and State Shinto, the Japanese are deeply religious: just not about gods.  You can call it Nihonjinron, simple bigotry, or a kind of fascism, but it is ubiquitous, and as ingrained as Catholic and Jewish guilt.*  It's successful for the same reason all religions get their own enslaved to obsessions: repetition of counter-factual shibboleths.  Kierkegaard (because I am pretentious, but have actually read him) was emphatic the absurdity of Christian dogma is the point: you can only be Christian if you reconcile the absurdity of such things as a triune god in your own mind.  So too being Japanese.  'And so it goes...'

So what?  All in-groups differentiate from out-groups by their own traditions and sayings?  Sure, Masons have their handshakes, aprons and absurd origin stories of the temple in Jerusalem, but who believes it?  Rock climbers in North America have certain memes, though most of them are practical: 'step on my rope and you owe me a beer', don't claim you can climb anything you haven't, any hardware dropped you have to replace with new.  Japanese shibboleths are impractical, demonstrably idiotic, and repeated ad nauseam: religion.

- 'Japan has four seasons', except it has more.
- 'Japanese are one people', except they are as polygeneous as the British.
- 'All Japanese are middle class', except there are erai-hito?
- 'Japanese doesn't have swear words'?  Kuso-kurae kiisama!
- 'Japanese food is the best', despite everything tasting salty and varying on few themes.
- 'Japan is safe', despite yakuza, petty theft, and the fact that nearly every woman here has been assaulted.
- 'English is hard' except Laos has better scores, and Laotian is no more similar to English than Japanese.
- 'Japanese work harder than foreigners' except long hours do not mean what they think when national productivity is less than America's: it means they get half as much done each hour.
- Watching sunrise from mountaintops, no matter the weather forecast.
- 'Self Defence Force' has offensive weapons.
- 'Our peace-constitution'.  Yeah, about that...  How many Japanese do you think know it was imposed on them by their victors, at the victor's pleasure?

From the comments:
- "Japanese people are more 'in touch with nature' than Gaijin", what they haven't paved, I guess.
- "Japanese people can 'communicate an unspoken message between each other' because of their unique culture", like anyone can, except Japanese language and culture is wilfully vague.
- "Even a foreigner who speaks Japanese fluently, can never really be fluent because since they don't have Japanese blood (for what it's worth?), they can't understand all the cultural nuances that Japanese people inherently understand".  Gaijin born and raised here as opposed to Japanese from overseas?  In any case, maybe we couldn't be fucked if you're going to asses value by 'blood'.
- "We Japanese believe in forming a consensus before making a decision".  Japanese consensus: the glacial and cowardly process of auguring their superiors' wants without anybody taking responsibility for communicating them, including their superiors.

Oh please, please help me remember more.

*I was raised the former of these two.


  1. "Nihon ha heiwa da!"
    "There is no crime in Japan"
    "The Japanese and Germans are very similar"
    "France is the most cultured Western country"
    "Japan has never been defeated in war, because those unfair nukes don't count"
    "Japan isn't dangerous anymore"
    "Sumo isn't rigged and decided behind the scenes by organised crime"
    "Western people are only bigger because they eat too much (unhealthy) red meat"
    "Japanese food prepared by Non-Japanese, regardless how perfect, isn't really Japanese food and will never live up to the real thing"
    "There is no radiation in the food chain, because the controls and fishing bans are obeyed"

    1. Zhukov kicked their asses just fine at Nemonhan without nukes, as had America at sea, Okinawa...

  2. By the way, this is one of your best insights yet, as it explains the idiocy experienced in Japan completely. It's nothing but fundamentalism, and the source for the unwarranted pride of the Japanese.
    Do you know of any scholars comparing Japaneseness to religion?

    1. I do not, but it should exist, except EA Studies is full of 'Charisma Man' Japan fanboys.

  3. I was told, by a Japanese friend, Japan is different from the West because we'll tell our kids that if they don't study, they'll end up cleaning toilets but the Japanese think all jobs are equally valuable so a toilet cleaner is not different to a CEO. Seems to make all that time studying to get into Todai a bit of a waste. And I've seen no evidence of this in the way people in the service industries are treated.

    Tied to your last post about women's roles - women are equal because their role as mother is seen as being as valuable as any other job, maybe more valuable because they are raising the next generation. Again, seen zero evidence of this.

    Japanese people have 3 dimensional taste buds and taste food differently to other people.

    Japanese people are humble - I've actually been meaning to write a blog post about this and the level of self-congratualoriness (not sure if that is a real word) of the Japanese people!

    Japanese women are modest - except I reckon 90% of time I've been on a train in Japan, I've seat opposite a girl whose clothing barely covers her vagina. But hey, she's wearing a top that comes up to her neck so it's modest.

    Also, for humble and modest people, they sure flash around the designer logos on everything. Maybe it's because I'm an Aussie and you get labelled as a wanker here if you do that kind of thing, but it seems like it doesn't matter how ugly a bag or piece of clothing is, so long as it's got a big, clear logo on it saying it's designer.

    1. Japanese have been quite explicitly trained not to be class-conscious, despite the fact you cannot speak a sentence in the language without being aware of your place. That's some brainwashing.

    2. Sorry, which train line would this be? ;)

    3. Yamanote line. Maybe they keep their legs together if it's a Western man sitting opposite them. I don't mean they are showing pink, but I've seen more Japanese girl gusset than I need to in this lifetime! A lot of other Western women I know have said that same thing.

    4. That's because you're 'straight', I assume. Me... ? "I could stand to [see] a little more." - Serenity


    5. Thank you kathrynoh! It'll give me something to do the next time Mrs. Anonymous drags me off to Tokyo on one of her shopping trips.

  4. The long hours less productive Japanese workforce is a big one on my list of gripes for sure. Also, their beloved peaceful constitution, that was not of their own design, is about to get thrown out the window if Abe gets his way tomorrow... I'm pretty resolved to believe it's a done deal and it makes me sick because it was one of the few things this country had that was truly unique and worth being proud of. So much for that I guess. I blame Japanese apathy for that one. They're good at avoiding things going on right in front of their own eyes.

  5. Stephane, you are right, but beaten to the punch by some of the contributors to Dowers 'Ways of Remembering, Ways of Forgetting' who describe the Japanese pre-war and wartime preoccupation with Japanese uniqueness myth as a religion of manifest destiny, expressed by their 'holy war' against all non-Japanese.

    As for the blog post, very good! I love this blog :)

    Can I add any more...let's see...
    Japanese people are more 'in touch with nature' than gaijin.
    Japanese people can 'communicate an unspoken message between each other' because of their unique culture.
    Re: the previous point- Even a foreigner who speaks Japanese fluently, can never really be fluent because since they don't have Japanese blood (for what it's worth?), they can't understand all the cultural nuances that Japanese people inherently understand.

  6. As an aside, it's quite revealing when you make a list of cases when the Japanese themselves proclaim to me NOT special;

    - not only Japan used sex-slaves in wartime.
    - not only Japanese armies committed civilian massacres.
    - not only the Japanese have or do hunt whales.
    - not only Japan has had a nuclear disaster.
    - not only Japan has organized crime.
    - discrimination against women and minorities doesn't only happen in Japan.

    1. I have yet to meet a Japanese person, including the wife, who understands an ad hominem argument is a fallacy: the things you've listed, which Japanese do say, are exactly that.

  7. 'We Japanese believe in forming a consensus before making a decision'- because 'we gaijin' just love a fucking good argument?
    'We Japanese don't like black& white, yes or no, binary decisions'- despite that fact that it's untrue (Japanese=good, foreign=bad), does this explain the shambles of your legal system, and all the bad driving the cops don't care about?
    'Japan is a country of law!'- unless you are a woman. Or a foreigner. Or an employee who is scared to say 'no' when his boss tells him to do unpaid overtime.

    1. Japanese consensus: the glacial and cowardly process of auguring their superiors wants without anybody taking responsibility for communicating them, including their superiors.

  8. MacArthur's statement was quite appropriate, but it seems he didn't get the reasoning right; it's due to a culture that makes it this way...

    A nation of 12 year olds

    1. "Measured by the standards of modern civilization, [Japan] would be like a boy of twelve as compared with [the Anglo-Saxon] development of 45 years.”

      He gave 'us' a little too much credit, but didn't misjudge them, perhaps. Specious reasoning too, of course. And yet, "[Japan] would be like a boy of twelve" on these islands makes me think of a classic: 'Lord of the Flies'.