For a first time reader to this blog, besides asking why in the world I would be interested in such a grim topic as the social problems of Japan, I'm sure some people will also wonder why I feel I can write with any authority on the topic of my blog. As an American, maybe I should focus a blog on politics (goodness knows, it's a mess right now), maybe I should track wonderful things lurking around the web, or even do something on computer stuff?
Well, to be honest, while I am interested in those kind of things as hobbies, and I am a regular lurker at those kinds of blogs, others do a much better job and I would be just one tiny voice in an already oversaturated forum. Admittedly, my blog may come across as dry for people seeking such fare, and I encourage them wholeheartedly to check out the blogs I have linked; I find them entertaining and informative— especially in so far as what the current buzz on the net is about on any diverse topic you might imagine.
What I will try to do on this blog is stay topical to what ever is in the Japanese news related to Japan’s Lost Generation. I’ll scour the Japanese news services daily and try to offer some analysis and linkages here as to how it pertains to social issues in Japan.
For example, as soon as I get some core writing out of the way, I’d like to take a look at the Internet Suicide Pact that occurred in Japan just a few weeks ago. While that news item is already a bit cold (no pun intended), once I catch up on other things for this blog, I’ll try my best to stay on top of news developments in addition to concentrating on my current focus with the hikikomori. Another news worthy topic that I’d like to discuss here is that of parasite singles. There’s a great deal of depth to that issue and it ties into the hikikomori as well.
Ok, my street creds:
I was a public middle school teacher in Japan for three years as a JET teacher from 1997 to 2000 where I lived in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Japan. This summer, I just returned from a year in Japan doing double duty on a study abroad program in Kobe while I also conducted field research on the topic of hikikomori in Tokyo in all my free time (more on that later). I actually stayed on the premises of a rehabilitation center for hikikomori youth near Tokyo for one week stints totaling about one and half months.
The last nine years of my life has been spent studying or living in Japan. At one time, I could tell you why I originally started studying Japanese culture and I could even give you a really insightful and long winded answer to that effect (as you can see, I’m still long winded). Today, I’m just not certain why I originally started (looking into Japan, that is). But I’m pretty sure part of the reason was, by studying Japan’s society and its differences I hoped to gain a better understanding of my own society (and myself along the way). I’m sure there was some youthful longing to travel in there somewhere too.
So, why am I still studying Japan today when China is such a hot button topic in academics, business and such? Part of it is momentum, nine years of cultural acquisition is a lot of experiences and lessons learned to just throw away, especially when it’s reached the point of being an asset. And Japanese language was hard enough, have you seen how involved Mandarin and Cantonese is? Not to mention the 20,000 Chinese characters you need to learn!
I might also point out that when I started studying Japan, it was an Asian Tiger Economy with the image that Japan was going to overtake the West, buy up all the best property overseas, make Hawaii one big golf course, and take away American autoworker’s jobs.
Besides, Japan has changed me so much on a personal level that I don’t quite ‘fit’ in my own culture anymore. Go overseas for three years, come back, and see what kind of reverse culture shock a three-year pop culture void does to you as opposed to everyone else in your country.
Monica Lewinsky who? Viagra what? Hanging Chads?
When I got back to the U.S. in 2000, the amount of cultural investment in topics like that due to media saturation in America made their significance to friends and family almost alien to me. But maybe it’s for the best, as I’m more detached from such sensationalism now…maybe.