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Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Canadian, 16, on mission to save Japan: responses

Some readers' responses to "Canadian, 16, on a mission to save Japan" by Richard Smart (Zeit Gist, Feb. 8):

Decline looks good from here

I just got back from a month's stay with a friend in Japan. I stayed in a bedroom commuter community in the Chiba area, with trips to Tokyo and Yokohama.

If Japan is in decline, then Canada and the USA can learn a lot about how to manage a decline gracefully.

If Japan has spent too much on infrastructure, at least they haven't spent too little, like some cities I know and have to deal with.

Narita Airport is not up to Singapore levels, but is far more user-friendly than Toronto's Pearson. (Note to Narita, though: Yes, I know all about keitai 3G, etc. squeezing out demand for Wi-Fi, Galapagos, yada yada — now how about that free Wi-Fi at the airport?)

Otherwise, 10 years of "Oh my gawd, decline, decline, decline" looks pretty good to a resident whose hometown has topped the unemployment charts for the last decade, and that sits across a river from Detroit. You want to see decline? And the food is better, even in Yokohama.

It is nice to see that Japan inspires care and consideration around the world. Still eminently savable.


Windsor, Ontario

Teens have little to offer

It is interesting that on the same Web page where the article "Canadian,16, on a mission to save Japan" is highlighted, one can also read a story of a young Japanese lad, 14, who passed the bilingual tour guide exam.

Without dismissing the earnestness of these two boys , do I want to be guided by a 14-year-old? Do I want to be briefed by a 16-year-old whose experience of Japan is close to nil? The answer is "no" in both cases.

That rush to save Japan is symptomatic of something deeply occidental (British-raised Hong Kong included). I quit wanting to save Japan a while ago, although I did behave that way during part of my time living in Tokyo — 26 years now.

I do not think Tobias Harris should be listed with such personalities as Jean Snow. Their agendas and ranks are worlds apart.


Future of Japan is bright

I am so glad to hear that Peter Dyloco is interested in Japanese culture and society. His mission, to come to Japan someday and to become a politician, is wonderful.

I am very impressed by his passion and point of view. He can surely make his dream come true.

Thank you for an encouraging article. The future of Japan is bright.


Declaring pot peccadillo naive

Re: "Barred from Japan for a teenage pot conviction" (Hotline to Nagatacho, Feb. 1):

As others will no doubt have already pointed out, you should never have admitted to anyone, anywhere in the visa application process or at Narita, that you had a minor drug conviction. That was extremely naive. You yourself state that the marijuana conviction was no more serious than a traffic fine. Would you have ticked off that criminal history check box if the only blot on your record was a speeding ticket or two?

Japanese bureaucrats are notoriously inflexible; appealing to common sense or compassion will avail you nothing. The Japanese bureaucrat's default response is always "kisoku wa kisoku da" ("a rule is a rule"). Japanese are hierarchical creatures, and the thing the Japanese worker fears above all else is calling unfavorable attention to himself, thereby exposing himself to possible reprimand.

No matter how sympathetic any of these functionaries might genuinely be about your predicament over a beer after work, none of them — save maybe the guy at the very top of the food chain — would be willing to expose himself to criticism from higher-ups by bending the rules and cutting you some slack. In such a situation, it's much safer just to haul out the rule book and find some unambiguous directive to tell him what to do so that no matter what happens afterwards, his ass is covered.

To sum up: You were not expelled from Japan because of your minor drug problem, you were booted out because you called attention to yourself and then put a bureaucrat in a position where to protect his own butt he was forced to deny you entry.

There are two rules in life: Never admit to cheating on a wife/girlfriend, and never tell a bureaucrat anything he doesn't need to know.


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