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August 12, 2013


"The fact that Kan's anger has come to be a breach of protocol rather than a perfectly understandable expression of emotion kind of tells you that you aren't in Kansas anymore."

Do you mean that this is a particlularly Japanese phenomenon? To condemn someone for bad manners because that person is emotionally exposing the nefariousness of the people doing the condemning?

It kind of reminds me of the American phenomenon of dismissing experts like Krugman as shrill or rude or abrasive when the expert gets annoyed about having to explain basic stuff over ad over to media or political ignoramuses who prefer their self-serving ignorance and don't want to learn anything.

In other words it seems like dismissing people by attacking their manners is an oft-used strategy used by people who are up to no good. Is it a strategy used more in Japan than here? Is it tied into janpanese culture in some important way?

In Chinese culture - and Japanese is even stronger in this regard, I suspect - losing your cool is equivalent to losing the argument. As a volatile barbarian, I "lost" a lot of arguments (in the minds of my audience) during my years at HKU that way, although in my heart I knew I had "won."

Yes, every society attacks manners when they can't defend substance. But in the West, a display of emotion that is perceived as genuine can sometimes be a plus; cf. Reagan "I paid for this microphone." This is rarely so in Asia (in my experience).

Have there been any TEPCO suicides yet? Sorry to be so morbid, but it seems that Japan has a culture of people committing suicide when they screw up really badly at work (see here for example). It just seems odd that TEPCO screwed up so catastrophically that they seriously had to consider evacuating a city of 35 million people but no one there takes the screw up personally. It seems like we're talking about the complete and total destruction of the Japanese economy.

Oh well. Who could have ever predicted that a tsunami might hit a coastal region around the same time that an earthquake hit?

here's the takeaway, from my point of view:

but the question is then, whose hands is it in?

whichever way japan goes regarding nukes, it's going to effect everyone, a lot.

to say nothing of everybody else on the planet.

who decides? how is the decision made?

thanks LJ for this thoughtful and thorough post.

Do you have any feel for the likelihood of Japan being able to replace nuclear with renewables in the nearish future ?
Offshore wind and solar look (on the basis of a few minutes research), to be the most realistic options for replacing bulk capacity, but offshore wind power is rather expensive, and solar capacity will take quite a long time to scale up.

I also note that Japan is at the forefront of methane hydrate research (non renewable, but potentially massive resources).

I remember reading somewhere--and this might be a lot of bullshit--that there was a fundamental difference between African American perceptions of sincerity and what I guess you could call northern European perception. Supposedly African Americans thought a speaker was sincere if the speaker was overtly emotional whereas people of northern European descent thought displays of emotion were indications of manipulativeness or lack of control. AA's supposedly read sincerity the other way around, percieving a calm demeanor as either a lack of genuine concern or a masking of the speaker's real agenda.

In contradiction with this thesis I think that displays of aggression are quite persuasive in our contemporary politics, at least to many media professionals in a profession which is dominaed by people of northenr European descent. Bully techniques seem to be processed as displays of stregnth and the bullies are rewarded by being treated as leaders. Often discussions on "news" shows are about the degree to which a politician is considered strong or powerful or effective as a communicator, with the bullies given high marks, rather than a discussion of the merits of the substance of the remarks.

Following on the my three sons post, Koreans tend to be more expressive. Brawls are a common feature of the Korean Parliament (see here and here) and when you see company officials apologize to parents for the loss of a child due to defective product, you often see the relatives holding the parents back, cause they would probably beat the officials to a pulp.

I came to Japan with a desire to go to China, but arrived shortly before Tiananmen square, so I spent my first 5 years only in Japan, and travelling back to the states. At the end of those 5 years, I had a job interview in the UK, and transferred in Incheon and was absolutely gobsmacked by two airline employees having a shouting match. You didn't see that kind of public anger in Japan unless someone was very very drunk (which was and is a 'excuse' for expressing one's true feelings)

The formal apology in Japanese is moshiwake arimasen, which means 'I have no excuse'. This list is on the humorous side, but gets the order and the context pretty well.

Japan is spending a lot money on developing ways to mine natural gas from the methane hydrate deposits in the seabeds around Japan.

Losing Face Status Politics in Japan by Susan Pharr, is besides other things, three case studies of negotiation strategies and tactics:rebellion in the LDP, "office ladies" in a gov't division trying to escape "tea duty"; and a struggle over burakumin studies in a high school, between communist teachers and socialist burakumin. Available used for 12 cents at Amazon

The last case was very heated, and included encircling an opponent hoping they would get violent in trying to escape (countertactic was a linked-arm line); and kidnapping an opponent and yelling at them for hours or days.

These are the notes I took, not enough:

Susan Pharr

"The notion that conflict is desirable—that, like bitter medicine, it is ultimately good for body and soul, and for the state itself—is profoundly alien to Japanese, be they social theorists, politicians, or ordinary citizens. Rather than seeing conflict as creating bridges among disparate social interests or between society and the state, or as providing a crucial mechanism for change, the Japanese today still appear to adhere to the words of the seventh-century Prince Shotoku: "Above all else esteem concord; make it your first duty to avoid discord."

Even protesters voicing social concerns are apt to see conflict as negative, disruptive, and regrettable. Perhaps no major nation in the world places a greater cultural emphasis on conflict avoidance.

If finding accord through consensus within a small circle of insiders is sometimes fraught with difficulties and may lead to conflict-avoidance behavior, and if the natural reflex of authorities is
to restrict rather than open up conflict, then the problem of expanding the decision-making circle from uchi, or insiders—those included in the "we-ness" of a particular group—to soto, outsiders, emerges clearly. In short, the consensus method is inherently exclusionary: opening up the circle
to bring in outsiders who may mount a challenge to the status quo runs counter to the basic approach to dealing with conflict in Japan and to the values surrounding it. To attempt to create a permanent "universe of discourse" between insiders and outsiders—the route that Western conflict theorists point to as leading to conflict termination and resolution—would stretch the
consensus approach beyond its capacity and in a direction it is not intended to go.
The Japanese approach thus is aimed fundamentally at privatizing social conflict."

Vast over-simplification with many exceptions, etc

Nuclear (and even coal powered) power plants suffer from heatwaves too, at least, those that draw their cooling water from rivers and lakes. With increasing frequency plants have to shut down because either their water source gets itself too warm or the level drops too far, so the induction pipes run dry.
In Germany there was a significant perception shift as far as emotional argumentation goes, at least in politics. The Nazis discredited charged emotional rhetorics to a degree that its use alone today draws suspicion. On the other hand it made political talk so boring that it serves well as a soporific. Only a handful of public figures still has a licence to go over the top (and there is a general exception for local Bavarian elections).
General rule: Wer schreit hat Unrecht (He who shouts is in the wrong).
But that's primarily the public sphere. There is no specific culture of addiction to consent and saving face. Germans (outside politics) are known (and feared) in neighbouring countries for their direct talk that is perceived as too blunt.

Bob McManus's comment reminds me of an anecdote I heard in my first college class on Asia, half a century ago.

It seems that in the US Occupation of postwar Japan one of the aims was to introduce "democracy," defined in terms of contested elections. So open electoral events - town meetings - were to be held in every village, though there were doubts as to whether the Japanese would accept a process which inherently involved losers as well as winners. In the event, every winning candidate was elected unanimously! The night before the election, the village had got together on its own and spent all the time necessary to arrive at a consensus on who the officials should be. The Western-style "election" itself, in the presence of Occupation observers, just ratified this invisible Japanese-style decision making.

Or so I was told.

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