Tuesday, 15 March 2011


I lived in Japan for 2.5 years, and have visited it many times since for work and pleasure, and have pretty much nothing but fond memories of the country and its people. For all the things that my gaijin friends and I might have found worthy of light-hearted satire and derision over the years, the simple and undeniable truth is that, in most ways, it is a safer, more civilized, more egalitarian, and better organized society than almost any Western country could ever claim to be.

This achievement is not without its costs, and I can't honestly say that I would like to be Japanese if reincarnation were on the table, such are (in my view) the personal costs of membership in a society historically geared towards conformity and utilitarianism. Still, when I think back on the earnestness, affection and generosity shown to me during my time in the country, I can only feel an intense sense of distress and sadness at recent events, which increasingly beggar belief.

The analysis of the roots of this catastrophe is yet to be written: a rotten, complacent political gerontocracy; the serial mendacity of TEPCO; the excessive concentration of economic activity and population in the Kanto region; the failure to diversify energy resources; whatever other horrific revelations may follow. The Western media will arrive at some conclusion in the coming days, and it will probably be something very far from the truth on the ground.


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