Most Japanese people I’ve spoken to consider Japan ‘an isolated country’. Statistics tell a different story. Although self-sufficient in rice production, Japan currently imports 60% of its food. And despite the current narrative that’s playing out in the media with regards to China – the country remains one of Japan’s biggest trading partners, along with the USA.
And I haven’t even taken out the old dusty history books. You can call Kanji ‘Japanese characters’ all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that those characters came from China. And what about the food? Don’t get me started on ramen and gyoza. Those delicious delights may well be ubiquitous in Japan – but their origins aren’t Japanese.
Ok… but facts aside… there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. And they – are the unknown. They are scary.
There’s an irrational fear-based protectionist trend in the world right now that goes well beyond Japan. One glance at the news stories of the past year and I can understand why most people would choose the comfort and security of home over the risk and adventure of the world ‘out there’. More and more, we want to look out for ‘our’ rights and keep ‘them’ out.
Therein lies the problem.
We’re fighting truly pressing realities with fears, not facts. And then we’re blaming others when things don’t work out. Just because things worked out in the past doesn’t mean they’ll continue to work out in the future.
Post WWII, the two notable characteristics of the Japanese economy was keiretsu and the guarantee of lifetime employment for a vast majority of the urban labour force. The ageing population and global competition is changing that.
John Donne once wrote that no man is an island. He had a point. Japan is no isolated country. Never has been. Never will be. Things are changing. They have always been changing. And they will continue to change in the future. How long are people going to indulge in nostalgia before they wake up one morning to realise that it’s gone, gone, gone?
We live in a world where we are interdependent and we all need each other to survive. Let’s survive realities by dealing with facts instead of indulging our fears. No man is an island. Not even an island with 130 million people.