The Two Faces of Japan: Arrogance

two sides to Japan

It is well known from various movies and other forms of media that Japan is famous for being humble. Who can forget the Samurai movies where the servants fall on the ground, bowing to their masters in fervent apology. Their emotions become amplified in Japanese because the language in and of itself contains humble and honorific forms of words, which can elevate the listener and demean the speaker at a whole new level.

When I first came to Japan to learn Japanese, I was taught to always deny a compliment. “We always put the person we’re talking to above us.” I always thought that was such a good idea to humble oneself before others. “What an honorable thing to do,” I used to think. Not so anymore, because all that bowing and denying praise is mostly a facade. In Japan, the emphasis on the outside appearance always takes precedent over the heart. Tell people what they want to hear–not necessarily the truth. The reality is, Japan has a striking arrogant side to it that can leave many flabbergasted as to how people who refuse flattery on the outside can be so conceited on the inside.

Look no further than the representatives of Japan–Japanese politicians–to see this in action. Arrogance among the leaders of Japan has reached an all time high. If Japan was really so humble, why would its leader make visits (and send gifts) to Yasukuni Shrine, which is the alleged home of the spirits of war criminals? These kind of actions embody the definition of pompousness and infuriate the victims of World War II. Many victims do not take kindly to Prime Minister Abe for this reason alone. His current agenda to bring back a full-blown Japanese army has been met with fierce opposition and rightly so.

Is Japan making the same mistakes all over again? The army of World War II in Japan was largely motivated by arrogance. Mass propaganda of Japanese uniqueness and superiority flooded the islands and was a huge success in recruiting soldiers to fight. Why keep all that uniqueness to yourself when you can dominate the world with it? Much of this propaganda continues to this day in various forms of racism and aggression.

Ever wondered why Japanese people still can’t speak English after all these years? Believe it or not, but many Japanese people believe English to be a waste of time. I have heard the horror stories of the extreme bullying experienced by kids here who are fluent in a second language. They are viewed as “tainted goods” and no longer “real Japanese.” Why? Because real “Japaneseness” is a complete rejection of all things foreign. Unfortunately, when much of your culture is based upon the borrowing of other cultures, (kanji anyone?) this leads to confused thinking and forces you to tell outright lies to stay on point.

Example: I was shocked the other day to find an essay written by a Japanese student talking about the perceived superiority of Japanese Whiteness. Yes, you heard that right.

Their Japanese whiteness, [Japanese women] think, is even superior to the skin of White [sic] people.

(JAPANsociology, 2014)

This was shocking to say the least! I knew that many Japanese believe themselves to be the superior race of the East, but to hear that there are Japanese women out there who believe that their “innate whiteness” is superior to the West? That was news to me. To cover up Japan’s severe inferiority complex when it comes to imitating the West, Japan decided to come up with more propaganda that says, “We’re not imitating the West. We’re trying to become more Japanese.” Japanese people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ethnicities (just ask Debito Arudou) and that should be celebrated, not obfuscated with ridiculous lies.

These are the kinds of attitudes that will ultimately be the downfall of any Nation.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Arrogance reaches its climax in Japan by its constant rejection of foreigners. My heart aches for the Korean families brought here during the war who still are not considered to be Japanese until they change their names–ultimately losing their identity. They’re also not permitted to have dual citizenship, which leaves them in cultural limbo. That’s not fair considering many of them were brought over to Japan as slaves. These people should be given special status and elevated in society because of the pain and suffering their families had to go through. That would be true humbleness. Instead there are nationalist groups in Japan who are permitted to harass them without penalty. How we treat foreigners tells the world a whole lot about what kind of people we are.

“You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21, NLT, Emphasis added)

I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home…  (Matthew 25:43, NLT)

Stranger here also means foreigner in the original Greek. Those who treat foreigners badly will be most severely punished!

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46, NLT)

The End of the Age is near, Japan. Repent of your arrogance and pride before it’s too late!

This is the third in a multi-part series of a closer look at the dark side of Japan. To see the top page of this series click here.

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