Thursday, February 11, 2010

Turning Japanese? I really think not....

I suppose I should be blogging about the great two-part Death Storm that ravaged Pennsylvania this week. It is, after all, the first time in recorded history that two storms of this magnitude hit the mid-Atlantic in the same week.  In a way, it did lead to this blog, but only incidentally.  I'm sure that there are better accounts of the blizzards elsewhere.

One of the things that I share with my daughter is a love of Japanese culture.  We enjoy Japanese food, architecture, animation (anime) and comics (manga.)  We often talk about what we would like to do on our dream tour of Japan -- the temples we would visit, the cities we want to see, and of course a visit to Studio Ghibli where many of our favorite anime were produced by that wonderful genius Hayao Miyazaki.  Some of my favorite films are those starring Toshiro Mifune and directed by Akira Kurosawa, particularly "Rashomon" and "Seven Samurai."  Some of my favorite collectibles are my Japanese toys based on various anime like Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis EVAngelion and Keroro Gunsou.  Hell, the names are even fun to type.

But last week, while holed up during the storms and passing the time by reading manga and watching Japanese movies I caught a news report of a Japanese whaling vessel which deliberately rammed a ship which was trying to protect a pod of whales from those hunting them.  And it got me thinking about the dark underbelly of Japanese culture.  While there is much to admire and even, for some, to love about Japanese culture and society, I sometimes forget about the other stuff.  The whaling.  The xenophobia.  The racism.  The denigration of women.  The insane importance placed on "face."

I have to believe that time will heal some of that.  I have to believe that each succeeding generation diminishes the hatred and prejudice of the preceding generation.  I like to think I am less prejudiced than my parents were, despite growing up in their home and under their influence.  I like to think that if I, imperfect as I know I am, can transcend some of their hatreds, then anyone can.  And I do see some progress by Japan, which I find encouraging.  Although women's rights there are about thirty years behind where we are (and we are by no means where we should be), they are better than they were.  Their blind prejudice against other races and cultures seems to be less than it was.  They are kinder to their own indigenous people, the Ainu, than they ever have been.  But they persist with whaling, which is alien to me as anything could be.

Before I can ever in good conscience visit Japan, they have to stop hunting what may very well be the only other sentient species with whom we share this world.  They need to give up the ridiculous sympathetic magic ideas of much of Eastern medicine.  Rhino horn will not give you a bigger manhood, guys, and panda bile is not a miracle cure.  You have hunted creatures to near extinction in the pursuit of a fantasy made of smoke.  And none of the products you get from whales are of any real use to anybody except the whales themselves.  Your argument that whaling is an important part of your culture is belied by the factory ships you use to hunt these magnificent creatures.  It's a business, not a cultural ritual.  So stop it.  Just stop it.  Now.

Thank you.

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