I'm at this stage that I feel rather demotivated to learn Chinese, esp when I think that I might never be able to read anything interesting in the Chi...moreI'm at this stage that I feel rather demotivated to learn Chinese, esp when I think that I might never be able to read anything interesting in the Chinese scripts. Learning the characters is very time-consuming and often tedious. most Chinese textbooks are terribly boring, with topics invariably being weather conversations or Chinese New Year festival is amazing, China is the greatest country, Chinese etiquette is elegant, Chinese customs are interesting etc. any suggestions?(less)
I just 'discovered' George Orwell recently, and having read and having been awed by his essays, this book comes out rather average. the plot and chara...moreI just 'discovered' George Orwell recently, and having read and having been awed by his essays, this book comes out rather average. the plot and characters seem to be contrieved, and the writing style has a lot to be desired. I remember he said in one of his essays that in his time, it was impossible for literature to be apolitcal, and it was rather unfortunate that techniques had been neglected in pursuit of a political message. this novel feels to me exactly like that kind of literature. interesting, profound idea, but mediocre style. (less)
my favourite line in the book goes like this: "in the early days of the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government encouraged young women to go overse...moremy favourite line in the book goes like this: "in the early days of the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government encouraged young women to go overseas to marry brilliant Western minds to improve the inferior Japanese blood to make Japan a better place. an author XYZ ironically mocked that perhaps all Japanese people should just commit suicide en masse and leave Japan for the Westerners to come and cultivate."(less)
wow, this book actually shocks me and challenges many of my long held beliefs about Japan. Japan's always been a blackhole in my knowledge, it's a mys...morewow, this book actually shocks me and challenges many of my long held beliefs about Japan. Japan's always been a blackhole in my knowledge, it's a mysterious place of immense contradictions: hierarchy vs equality, extreme conformity vs creativity, bureaucracy vs efficiency, pacifism vs militarism, austerity vs consumerism. but i suspect maybe the attempt to generalize or characterize any society to fit in our familar framework/categories is a doomed endeavor.
John Nathan argues in this book that after the spectacular economic boom in the 1960s and 1970s and the collapse in the 1980s, Japanese society is struggling to find and affirm its identity. People have lost the sense of purpose when life long employment security is no longer guaranteed and the traditional family structure has been challenged, leading to widespread alienation and anxiety. there is a rising wave of neonationalism to look to the glory of the past to search for a sense of belonging and pride. as implied in the book, many Japanese feel that their country has always been the shadow of other giants, first the Chinese and now the Americans. many have advocated a break from American influence. the chapters on the crisis of Japan's education system and families are particularly interesting. every country thinks its way is the way of the world, but given the author's command of Japanese culture and literature, I wish he had offered a better attempt at explaining why the Japanese are so remarkably proud of their uniqueness/ superiority and anxious to define themselves.
Before reading this book, I wasn't aware of what the Japanese think of their actions in WWII. on the one hand, it is a wrong accusation that Japan tries to whitewash their crimes in the past, their history textbooks do acknowledge sex slavery, biological weapons, massacre and colonization. Japan has also issued apologies many times . on the other hand, Japan denied the responsibility of their Emperor during WWII (many say General Douglas MacArthur's preventing Emperor Hirohito prosecution was to blame), refused to pay compensation to many Korean women, and controversial official visits to Yasukuni Shrine will continue to cause more tension with its neighboring countries. my impression from most of my Korean and Chinese friends is that they HATE the Japs (they would insist so even after admitting their personal experience with Japanese people is very positive). that resentment has no equivalent among vietnamese people towards the American or the French or the Chinese. I can't say for sure if Japan's genuinely remorseful but despite the inconsistency in their behavior, most Japanese are ridden with guilt. when the textbook controversy happened, the majority of the population protested against the distortions and cover-up of Japanese brutality. It looks like China is deliberately manipulating the nationalistic sentiment of its population towards Japan as a tool of leverage. partly because it can afford to do so. it's interesting to see how the relationship of these squabbling east asian brothers is going to unfold, esp when resources are becoming more scarce.
p.7: few societies are compelled to assert their uniqueness as loudly and insistently as the Japanese.
p16 by the late 1960s the company man, the cog in the wheel of Japan's emerging economic miracle, was feeling tired and vaguely disillusioned, ...he was beginning to wonder why life was affording him so little gratification
p17 in the 1970s and 1980s uncertainty about identity and purpose was forgotten in the euphoria of spectacular economic succcess
p28 statistics confirm a nationwide epidemic of juvenile crime. it is the youngest segment of the juvenile community, children between 11 and 15 who are increasingly the perpetrators of the most violent and perverted crimes
p31 anarchy was epidemic in elementary schools and spreading into secondary schools. many teachers admit that they have become physically or mentally ill.
p32 by the 1980s, as the postcollege job market constricted, students began to show signs of stress. educators were shaken by a wave of violence in middle schools and there was a rash of suicide by elementary and middle school children who had failed entrance exams. students have lost their motivation to perform and Japan's once vaunted achievement test scores have fallen to below America
p38 Teachers feel the threat of physical danger. Suspension and expulsion are taboo under any circumstances. classroom breakdown is only part of a larger crisis of anger and withdrawal.
p60 the salaryman more than acquiesced to the national mission to overtake the US: he devoted himself obsessively to his work, forgoing leisure time for himself and his family.
p74 layoffs were even under the most extreme circumstances unthinkable. in 1999, the president of a giant department store made headlines when he announced his company was abandoning the commitment to lifetime employment, a tradition that has been becoming endemic across Japanese business. in 1998, Japan’s suicide rate jumped 35%. the director of the mental health center estimates that some 5 million Japanese are contemplating suicide at any given moment. 80% of suicides are company men between 40 and 55.
p156 the textbook controversy and the political explosiveness of official visits to Yasukuni (war shrine) are manifestations of an ongoing tension between contrition about the war and the urgent need to look to the past for a source of pride and self certainty.
p165 a broad based popular movement to amend the constitution (Article 9 that prohibits belligerency) first appeared in the wake of Japan’s experience during the Gulf War. despite pressure applied by Washington, the Japanese goverment declined to join President Bush’s coalition. the result was a firestorm of international opprobrium. the US and other nations accused Japan of hiding behind the constitution as justification for buying its way out of an international commitment. Many Jpaanese were shocked, angry and deeply humiliated. the ratio of those in favor of amendment to those opposed consistently increases. (less)