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Japan Spring 2012

May 16, 2012

I just came back from a two-week trip to Japan. It has been one year since my last trip back to my hometown Tokyo. Although I missed the fun of Hanami, or cherry blossom, the spring weather was so nice and I enjoyed great food and drinks with my family and old friends.

There were many things unchanged, yet there were some things changing. Probably because I come back only once in a while, I clearly see changes in the society. During this trip, I felt one change stronger than ever. That was nothing tangible, but something in the air. It was like a change of tide, or sentiment of people. I felt Japan being reborn.

Optimist, Pessimist, and…

There are some the optimists who still think that Japanese economy can revive after the ‘lost 20 years.’ They believe in Japanese people’s natural talent and hard work, which rebuilt the country quickly after the second world war as well as after the 3.11 disaster. Made-in-Japan will revive once this prolonged recession is over. Let’s work hard and keep up with the BRICs.

On the other hand, there are the pessimists who are convinced that the country will drop off the global competition within a decade or two. The lack of leadership in politics even in this tough time does not encourage people to see a hope in the future. What we should do is to spend less and save some to prepare for Japan’s bankruptcy. How much do we need for an early retirement in a South Asian developing country as an expat?

Apart from these two major parties, however, I saw a small number of ‘new type’ people  – the realists.

Face the Reality

The realists accept the fact that Japan is losing in the global competition. The lost 20 years is not a temporary recession but just the beginning of a new era where Japan has no clear strategy on how to survive yet. The realists don’t know the answer yet either, but do know that doing nothing or working hard will not help at all.

It’s not incompetent politicians who are responsible for your life. It’s not broken pension system either. Exploiting big corporations, uncontrollable nuclear power plants, dishonest mass media, nor ineffective education system. You can complain about the bad timing you were born, but it is you who are in charge of your life.

The realists take a full responsibility of their life’s outcome and take necessary steps to survive the tough reality.

Here Starts the Survival Game

When you are in a survival mode, the first thing Accept the reality and analyze the facts. Denial does not help. Neither panic does. Enjoying seemingly never-ending growth under the corporate socialism, a part of the brain of Japanese society required for survival instinct has been dormant for decades. Take that red pill and wake up into the real world, where 7 billion people are competing everyday for better opportunities.

Today’s Quote

‘Dear Pessimist, Optimist, and Realist, While you were busy arguing about a glass of water, I drank it. Sincerely’ – Opportunist

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 4:30 am

    Very interesting post. Thought provoking ideas… There is well-known sociological theory that claims personal troubles (in large quantities) are at heart the result of public issues. Japan’s people are admired the world over for their work ethic and creative know-how, but unless the system is changed, the Japanese people cannot hope to collectively improve their situation. That’s why it’s important to listen when people complain because it signals real problems within the system. Obviously, working hard and taking personal responsibility is very important, but it’s only part of the solution. Generally speaking, if the system is healthy, people will prosper. That’s why government should be held accountable for improving the conditions in which people live. That’s their job and they should not be let off the hook by suggesting that despite what the government does, people can still beat the game. At the end of the day, I would argue that realists accept that people are only partially in control of their own destiny. The flourishing of the Japanese people (or any other for that matter) is entangled with the constrains of the conditions in which people live.

    • May 24, 2012 7:11 pm

      Hi Jesse,

      Thank you for sharing your insights. It never occurred me to view Japan as a system and I like that angle. I’ll think it through and update on my post if I can get something out. Your comment is very inspiring.

      – Shinobu

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