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Herald Tribune asahi
Japanese People Do Not Know Japan
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Second term - the finale
Mr. Kenichi Watanabe, former head of the English language side of the Herald Tribune / Asahi Shimbun last year suggested I write a column for his publication to take account of new thought patterns and viewpoints. Following his advice, I put pen to paper three times from November, 2006 to January, 2007 in what I will deem '(my) first term'. Enjoying this venture into the English language media, I then wrote three more pieces between February and April of this year - 'a second term' of thoughts and viewpoints. These are available online at www.fuji-torii.com with this piece the finale in the series - to date.
 
Throughout I focused on "Japanese people's viewpoints," (on certain issues) "(the) Japanese thought process" and "(the) hospitality of the Japanese" while trying to depict various aspects of Omotesando, Tokyo as it has changed or even remained the same over the decades since World War II ended. As an example I often referred to the various aspects of Japan that are disappearing; a one-time tendency to maintain a high level of cleanliness even in unseen areas as well as the desire on the part of domestic tradesmen to complete to perfection even the hidden parts of their final products. I would like to make it understood however, that in giving these examples, I have no intention to hail Japan alone as capable of such ideals and hope any readers I attract see this as the case.
 

 
Japan today
As any intellectual will be aware, Japan today is not the kind of nation her people can blindly admire - especially in fields such as politics, the economy and culture. According to a book titled "Saiko-shihaiso dake-ga Shitteiru Nihon no Shinjitsu" (ISBN978-4-88086-210-1 / Feb, 2007) written by Takahiko Soejima, Japan as we see her today is on the verge of a crisis; an independent nation under a strange form of 'occupation'. These potential woes notwithstanding, I continue putting pen to paper to at least, in part, attempt to protect the cultural side of my nation and her arts - even if economic and political recovery is impossible to help and is beyond repair.
 
Personal challenges
As the owner of an antique shop in Harajuku / Omotesando I am qualified to say that the Japanese antique, art and craft market is in decline - largely due to Japanese indifference to their own art world but also down to imitations or cheaper items from other Asian nations undermining the efforts of our own creators. It is in such a situation that my own shop is managed and, as odd as it might seem, prospers; not so much as a result of the location or above average management techniques but rather as a result of three generations of owner maintaining a simple outlook on life and work - whereby our profits are based on customer satisfaction.
 
As I mentioned in earlier pieces, items originally intended to produce in a customer a feeling of happiness can at times initiate a sense of loss and as is suggested in the Japanese phrase " (Honmatsu-tento)," - putting the cart before the horse / getting priorities wrong, it is down to those of us labeled (art) workers, managers and stockholders to think again how we should secure the end goal of our work by always bearing in mind just who and what we are working for and towards.

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Life in the 21st Century
I think the real value of human beings can be measured in terms of how many people they make happy using their position in life and / or abilities. Such a value is not directly related to assets, position and status but in the modern world I do worry that individuals are paralyzed by competition as a form of self-protection as they strive to retain status - the result being a loss of mental balance.
 
To this end I think the key to living happily in the 21st century is in the retention of the traditional mode of thinking and hospitality of the Japanese; living ignorant of material values and lacking interest in the organizations and systems they belong to at any level being classed as better or worse than others but in the end - this choice is personal - up to the individual.
 
Please send your comment or opinion to H-ADV@asahi.com
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