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Home » Archives » May 2006 » Best-selling Book Scary and Misleading

Best-selling Book Scary and Misleading

Friday, May 19, 2006 Posted: 11:50 AM JST

Japanese economist Hiroyuki Sasaki has an excellent opinion piece in the Asahi Shimbun today. He writes about Masahiko Fujiwara's book "Kokka no Hinkaku" (Dignity of a state), which has been on the best-seller list for some while now. "I would not go so far as to call the book dangerous," writes Sasaki, "But I do somehow feel uncertain about the author's purpose."

Not only the book itself, but the way it has been received, troubles Sasaki:

"I feel a kind of uncertainty relating to Japanese society's applause for the work.

According to the author, Japan's distinguishing "national character" is a set of behavioral standards based on the spirit of Bushido, the samurai code of honor.

That spirit, he writes, was shattered by Japan's defeat in World War II and completely abandoned after the collapse of the asset-inflated economy in the early 1990s.

Japanese society is now set to fall into ruin, the author says.

Ideas that Japan eagerly accepted along with Americanization, such as the market-oriented principle, do not offer a solution to the problems facing the nation.

Rather, emotion and empathy form the basis of Japanese civilization, and Bushido is the core of ethics. Japan should not aim to be a universal country, but a unique and dignified one, the author says.
"

According to Sasaki, the book attracts readers because it appears to offer stable values in an unstable time:

"After the war, Japan's economy grew thanks to the diligence of its hardworking people.

When the bubble economy collapsed in the surge of globalization, irresponsibility and selfishness prevailed, not only in economic areas but in every aspect of politics and society, sapping young people's drive and eagerness for advancement.

Now there are moves to revise the Constitution--in my opinion for the worse--to upgrade the Self-Defense Forces into a full-fledged military and alter the education system.

Japan's growing friction with its neighbors, most notably China and South Korea, is reflected in these areas. The public morality that was pervasive until the end of the war is also falling apart as the bureaucracy becomes corrupt.

Furthermore, widespread fraud like the case of falsified building quake-resistance reports and heinous crimes committed by young people are causing widespread anxiety.

As society becomes spiritually unstable, people seek new values. This, I believe, is why the book is so popular.
"

"Is there something wrong with freedom, equality and democracy?" Sasaki asks. "Are we to simply return to the spirit of Bushido?" He calls the author's thinking "prewar, from the time when Bushido was used to glorify the state, whose leaders promoted the war."

Hen then shares his biggest worry with us:

"I am worried that those who would wish to revive militaristic nationalism backed by state Shintoism that so dominated Japan until it lost World War II might try to use this book to their advantage...

... Instead of applauding narrow-minded nationalism and authoritarian thinking, we should sing the praises of international humanitarianism and democracy.
"

Source: Asahi Shimbun: POINT OF VIEW/ Hiroyuki Sasaki: Best-selling book scary and misleading

Keywords: opinion_item

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2 comments so far post your own

1 | At 09:14am on Jun 22 2006, guido de mey wrote:
at what site can I order kokka no hinkaku (and other Japanese books)online?
2 | At 10:53am on Jun 22 2006, Kjeld Duits wrote:
Unfortunately, our own book store is not (yet) connected with Amazon Japan. I recommend buying directly from http://www.amazon.co.jp
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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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