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Herald Tribune asahi
Japanese People Do Not Know Japan
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Deterioration of language level
The other day, I received comments from a reader concerning the incorrect use of words and honorific language of Japan's youth. It reads: "This is because modern Japanese no longer want to be defined by the way they speak, and just like other nations Japan is finally losing arcane and socially irrelevant speech patterns."
 
Certainly, as the reader wrote, old and beautiful words have a tendency to go out of use throughout the world. It may be one example of linguistic evolution in a sense. However, I wonder what such a phenomenon really means. It is up to individuals to decide whether older language patterns are merely difficult or carry deep meaning. I fear that language simplification leads to deterioration of language level and cultural diminishment. With this apprehension, I have been writing this series of articles for almost a year.
 
In meritocratic society, many people may think seniority and position are relics from an earlier age. If you use simplified language, you do not need to be sensitive to words you use during conversation and communication. I know that more and more, in developed countries, people can freely use words irrespective of their gender, age, position, and so on. However, I believe that being sensitive to words you use activates your brain and that accepting your gender, position in society and situation matures you and brings peace of mind.
 
 
Disruption of the country
Obviously, there are many values in the world and you may have varied opinions and ideas, depending on your position and interest. Considering business communication and management in recently globalized society, simplified language or unified language may be convenient. However, people do not live for immediate profit and efficiency only. People live according to their inner mind, which cannot be calculated by monetary values.
 
In Japan, there is an old saying; "Corrupt language leads to collapse of the country." Nowadays, old and beautiful Japanese language has been disappearing and using such language seems to be out-dated and even "stiff-necked." Well-mannered and decent persons are even thought to be weird. In my opinion, such misunderstanding stems partly from the postwar Japanese educational system which has taught the meaning of freedom incorrectly and partly from blind acceptance of the Western way of thinking and its systems, based on the belief that the prewar educational system and Japanese way of thinking caused the war.
 
 
The Japanese mind
Japanese people, who have a spirit of acceptance and harmony, as seen in the old saying "revere harmony," are by no means a belligerent nation. I think that WWII came about because people of all concerned countries wished for peace and security of their family as well as that of their country and because of their desire to maintain the nation's pride above and beyond short-term calculations of gain or loss, even to the extent of sacrificing their own lives. Such wishes and desires are common in any country regardless of race or religion.
 
Looking back at the history of nations, control of language or redrawing the map of culture via authority and use of force has led to collapse of the country itself. Maintenance of security and capital integration by some countries apparently seems to build a borderless and peaceful world. However, more and more people are becoming aware that such a world will be a mono-polar one centered around a particular source of capital or organizational structure, and also it will be a world dominated by material desires and anxiety and administered through control of food and energy supplies. People are starting to blow the whistle. The reason why I continue writing stems from this sense of crisis.
 

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I believe and hope that people can recover the kindness of human nature if I can help preserve and pass on the Japanese language and culture, which have been deteriorating very rapidly under the name of a global standard, and continue in my efforts to transmit the essence of the Japanese mind and the Japanese way to people of the world.
 
Patriotism
This column is the final one of the fourth series of essays, "Japanese Language and Japanese people," and I emphasize that I am a patriot, not a nationalist. There should be no problem that I love the culture and language of the country in which I was born. I desire to ask foreign readers; "Are the culture and language of your own country being preserved?" The other day, an Asian customer who came to my shop said that the same problem (of collapse of culture and country) is occurring in his home country. It is not limited to Asia. In European countries, many traditional manners, customs and cultures have been lost as well. There are a large number of countries in the world which have their own culture and language based on their own history and wisdom. This diversity contributes to human development. I believe that respecting different principles and co-existing with each other, without clinging to one particular set of values or a narrow view of one's own profit, is the way that human beings should be.
 
God destroyed the Tower of Babel by a confusion of tongues. I have thought, however, this was not just a punishment of the conceited humans but also an expression of God's love, for the further growth of the human.
 
The next essay will be the first in the 5th series of essays and will be titled "Energy of Beauty."
Please send your comment or opinion to H-ADV@asahi.com
 
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