Posted by debito on March 8th, 2009
Hi Blog. Some very friendly people out there send me books from time to time for review, or just because they think it might be of interest to Debito.org. I’m grateful for that, and although time to read whole books is a luxury (I just got a pile of them for my own PhD thesis in two languages, anticipate a lot of bedtime reading), I thought it would be nice to at least acknowledge receipt here and offer a thumb-through review.
Last week I got a book from John Haffner, one author of ambitious book “JAPAN’S OPEN FUTURE: An Agenda for Global Citizenship” (Anthem Press 2009). The goal of the book is, in John’s words:
As our aim is ultimately to contribute to the policy debate in Japan, I’d also be grateful if you’d consider mentioning or linking to our book and/or my Huffington piece via your website or newsletter. I took the liberty of linking to debito.org on our (still embryonic) “Change Agents” page on our book website: http://www.japansopenfuture.com/?q=node/22
The Huffington Post article being referred to is here:
In our book Japan’s Open Future: an Agenda for Global Citizenship, my co-authors and I contend that if Japan wishes to escape a future of decline and irrelevance, and if it wants to take meaningful steps towards a more secure, contented and prosperous future, it needs to think big. Japan really has only one sustainable option: to become a more open, dynamic, conscientious, engaged, globally integrated country. In our book we show why this is so, and we offer a set of interconnected policy prescriptions for how Japan could undertake this radical transformation. There are many things Japan could do, but especially by moving beyond a rigid and inflexible conception of its national identity, by opening up to trade and immigration, by learning to communicate more effectively, including with the English language as the global lingua franca, and by undertaking a much more spirited commitment to global development and security, Japan has the potential to make a profound contribution to domestic, regional, and global challenges.
To pursue this path, however, Japan must think beyond isolationism and the US security alliance. Japan must begin to see itself as a global citizen and as an Asian country, and it must walk the walk on both counts.
At a time when multilateralism is imperiled, the United States would also benefit from such a radical shift in Japan’s posture: it would find an expanded, wealthy market for its exports, a more secure Asian region, and a talented civil society capable of constructively contributing to global issues. President Obama understands that multilateralism is the only path forward for the world, and that its importance is even greater in dark economic times. As a grand strategy for Asia, therefore, President Obama should encourage Japan to pursue policies leading to a peaceful and integrated Asian community, one rooted in reasonably harmonious and dynamic relations between those (highly complementary) leading economies, Japan and China.
Now more than ever, the United States needs Asia to prosper, and Japan must play its part.
Thumbing through the book, I feel as though it adds a necessary perspective (if not a reconfirmation of Japan’s importance) to the debate, especially in these times when “Asia Leadership” in overseas policymaking circles increasingly means China. If not cautioned, the media eye may begin truly overlooking Japan as a participant in the world system (particularly, as far as I’m of course concerned, in terms of human rights). I don’t want Japan to be let off the hook as some kind of “quaint hamlet backwater of erstwhile importance, so who cares how it behaves towards outsiders?” sort of thing. How you treat foreigners inside your country is of direct correlation to how you will treat them outside. I think, on cursory examination, the book provides a reminder that Japan’s economic and political power should not be underestimated just because there are other rising stars in the neighborhood.
(And yes, the book cites Debito.org, regarding the GAIJIN HANZAI Magazine issue two years ago, on page 194. Thanks.)
Now for two other books I received some months ago. One is Minoru Morita, “CURING JAPAN’S AMERICA ADDICTION: How Bush & Koizumi destroyed Japan’s middle class and what we need to do about it” (Chin Music Press 2008). Rather than give you a thumbed-review, Eric Johnston offers these thoughts in the Japan Times (excerpt):
In “Curing Japan’s America Addiction,” Morita says publicly what a lot of Japanese think and say privately, in sharp contrast to whatever pleasantries they offer at cocktail parties with foreign diplomats and policy wonks, or in speeches they give abroad. For that reason, “Curing Japan’s America Addiction” deserves to be read by anybody tired of the Orwellian doublespeak coming out of Washington and Tokyo and interested in an alternative, very contrarian view on contemporary Japan, a view far more prominent among Japanese than certain policy wonks and academic specialists on Japan-U.S. relations want to admit.
The other is Sumie Kawakami, “GOODBYE MADAME BUTTERFLY: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman” (Chin Music Press 2007; I seem to be on their mailing list, thanks), a handsome little tome,which, according to the blurb on the back, “offers a modern twist on the tradition in Japanese literature to revel in tales of sexual exploits. Kawakami’s nonfiction update on this theme offers strands of hope for women struggling to liberate themselves from joyless, sexless relationships.”
It is that, a page-turner indeed. In the very introduction (which is as far as I got, sorry; I’m a slow reader, and reading this cover to cover wasn’t a priority), Kawakami says:
“[W]hile the sex industry maintains a high profile in Japan, the nation doesn’t seem to be having much actual sex. A case in point is the results of the Global Sex Survey by Durex (http://www.durex.com/cm/gss2005results.asp), the world’s largest condom maker. In its 2005 survey, the company interviewed 317,000 people from forty-one countries and found that Japan ranked forty-first in terms of sexual activity. The survey found that people had sex an average of 103 times a year, with men (104) having more sex than women (101). The Japanese, at the very bottom, reported having sex an average of forty-five times a year.
Japan also ranked second to last, just ahead of China, in terms of sexual contentment…” (pp. vi. – vii).
See what I mean? The book explores this, with case studies of Japanese women’s sexuality.
Thanks for the books, everyone. If others want to send their tomes to Debito.org, I’d be honored, but I can’t promise I’ll get to them (I spend eight hours a day reading and mostly writing a day already). Arudou Debito in Sapporo
UPDATE MARCH 13, 2009
I got round to reading one of the books, GOODBYE MADAME BUTTERFLY. I generally write reviews on the back pages if and when I get through a book, something brief that fills the page (or two). Here’s what I scribbled:
Started March 10, 2009, Finished March 13, 2009, Received Gratis from publisher 2007.
REVIEW: A gossipy little book. The best, most scientific part of the book is the introduction, which introduces the point of this book as an exploration of why sex doesn’t seem to happen much in Japan, according to a Durex survey. So one plunges into some very obviously true stores that are well-charted gossip, but not case studies of any scientific caliber. If Iate-night unwinding or beach-blanket reading is what you’re after, this book is for you. If you’re after the promise of why Japanese apparently don’t have much sex, you’ll end up disappointed. The author isn’t brave enough to try and draw any conclusions from the scattering of stories. I wouldn’t have, either. But I felt lured by the promise the foreword. And left the book in the end disappointed.
The best thing about the book is, sadly, the handsome, well-designed print and cover, making the fluff a joy to look at. Just not think about.