Friday, February 24, 2006

"The Flow of Time"

I read an interesting article in Newsweek today about Japan.  It was interesting enough, but the author has only been here for a little over a year!  Added to that insult is the way mass-market magazines like Newsweek and Time homogenize the news!  All the articles are so similar in style that they could be written by the same person!  Aren't the writers who work there ashamed of that?  Don't the editors feel like they're damaging the flow of information from the writers to the readers?  Is there no feeling of shame?  There should be!  Again, the article I read today was fairly decent, if shallow and homogenised - so the fire between the lines of my text comes from years of reading homogenized news.  I'm bloody well sick of it by now!  Fast-food news, that's what it is!  Something to read on the plane that is slightly (only slightly) educational and entertaining... making you feel as though you're up and up on the latest in the world as you put the magazine away and have a meal, a drink, and watch a movie, followed by sleep and soon after awaking, another country.  I mean... it's nice, I know....  The reassuring muted roar of the jet engines, the warm glow of the wine, the feeling and the reality that you're on top of the world zinging through the air high above everything, and you can even quote some insipid news report from your sky reading when you meet someone at the airport.

That's... nice... but why isn't there a stronger quest for the truth!  Why isn't there a stronger quest for getting at the causes behind the events, and not just the superficial events themselves?  I want real food and I want real news!  ........  Now that I've generalized a bit too much, let's get into some specifics!

The article mentioned that one out of twenty marriages in Japan and one out of ten in Tokyo involve a foreign spouse.  Well... okay.  I was surprised along with the rest of the readership at this, and our sky-traveller can step off the plane and impress the locals with his "knowledge" that there are many international marriages in Japan.  Great, right?  Wrong!  Why?  Because there are a lot of "foreigners" in Japan who were born and raised here and only speak Japanese, but because they don't want to lose their family's original nationality, they stay here as permanent residents but not as citizens.  Certainly there are many Korean-Japanese here that would fit into that category.  So, of that spiffy and easily quoted "1-in-20 & 1-in-10" bit of "information" about international marriages, how many of those marriages involve people who are Japanese in everything but passport?  Details!  They can ruin the warm glow of the wine!  They can interfere with sleep!  They can prevent our sky-flyer from concentrating on the plot of the in-flight movie!  Details!  Who needs them!

The rest of the article was basically saying that Japan is pretty much like an European country now - with its own customs, but heavily influenced by the outside world - and vice versa.  Fair enough, I suppose, but when was the last time you read an article about the lost culture of America since people are not wearing the same style clothing they wore in the 18th century and (gasp!) the language has changed!  I mean... come on!  Every country changes!  The deal with Japan is that after the period of isolation, it was pretty unique, and many people around the world have been intrigued by that uniqueness ever since.  Well, we're all unique you know!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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