Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

The Wild Parrots Go to Japan

January 12, 2015
The Cover for the Japanese Edition of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

The Cover for the Japanese Edition of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

The translator for the Japanese edition of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Masayoshi Kobayashi, sent me an electronic image of the cover this weekend. The book has been printed and will be released between January 15 and 20. I’m very happy about this. It’s my first overseas edition. They changed the title to Observation Sketches (Record, Description, Notes) on the Wild Parrots in the City, thinking that Telegraph Hill wouldn’t mean anything to most Japanese. That’s fine with me. There are a number of references to Japan and Japanese culture in the book—particularly Zen. I hope it resonates. I would like to thank Masayoshi who read my book in English, liked it, and took it upon himself to find a Japanese publisher. I’ll be getting my own copy in a week or so. Looking forward to that!

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The Disaster in Japan

March 14, 2011

All attention in this household—obsessive attention—is on Japan at the moment. (I apologize if any of this sounds rushed or distracted. I’m constantly checking the headlines, even as I write.) Nuclear power is a subject that took up ten years of my wife Judy’s life. Her first feature-length film, Dark Circle, (she co-directed, co-produced and narrated it) was about the links between nuclear weapons and the nuclear power industry. It won several awards, including an Emmy. In the last few years, I’ve watched her become increasingly dismayed over the renewed interest in nuclear power. She’d thought that the battle was over. She has told me repeatedly that public officials and the media will never tell you the truth about a nuclear emergency as it’s happening, and I’m seeing that she’s right. The “experts” they call on for commentary are almost invariably pro-nuclear power. Judy can read an article, dissect it—tell me what they’re really saying. The corporations, including those that own the media, want nuclear power. They are reluctant to publish anything that will make it look bad. What many people don’t understand—I didn’t for the longest time—is that all nuclear power does is boil water. That’s it. It’s just a fancy and dangerous way to boil water. The issues that nuclear energy raises are much more complicated than what most of us know. Dark Circle goes into those issues. It’s available on iTunes to rent or own and can be purchased through Amazon. This isn’t a pitch for product. Judy no longer owns the copyright. What she wants is that people educate themselves.

So I sit here working on my book and watching the news. Whenever I fall into thinking about nuclear power as simply a domestic political issue, I lose sight of the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people in Japan suffering tremendously right now. It’s terrible to forget that. Through my exploration of Zen Buddhism as well as my encounters with the Japanese, I’ve developed an affection for Japan. I’m pulling for them.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

October 18, 2010

This weekend the New York Times published an article about the stagnant economic situation in Japan. (You can read the entire article here.) Over and over, the assumption of the writer is that there is nothing more important in life than having lots of money. And it is a mainstream view. Someday this era is going to be regarded as one of the most deeply deluded in human history.

To wit:

The Japanese “enjoyed a level of affluence two decades ago that was the envy of the world.”

A Japanese man is quoted as saying “Japan used to be so flashy and upbeat, but now everyone must live in a dark and subdued way.”

Japan has been “shriveling from an economic Godzilla to little more than an afterthought in the global economy.”

Japan is currently seen by many economists as “a dark vision of the future.”

Fortunately, Americans have a “greater tolerance for capitalism’s creative destruction.”

Indeed, “In America, the bet is still that we will somehow find ways to get people spending and investing again.” That is, unless we fall into “the same deflationary trap of collapsed demand that occurs when consumers refuse to consume…”

Just two decades ago, Japan was a “vibrant nation filled with energy and ambition, proud to the point of arrogance and eager to create a new economic order…” But “Japanese consumers, who once flew by the planeload on flashy shopping trips to Manhattan and Paris, stay home more often now, saving their money…”

Young Japanese men are “widely derided as ‘herbivores’ for lacking their elders’ willingness to toil for endless hours at the office…”

“Consumers see it as irrational or even foolish to buy or borrow.”

“Bartenders say that the clientele these days is too cost-conscious to show the studied disregard for money that was long considered the height of refinement.”

The head of a consumer marketing research institute has a name for Japanese in their 20s. He calls them “consumption-haters.” “Their habits of frugality will have cost the Japanese economy $420 billion in lost consumption.” “‘There is no other generation like this in the world…These guys think it’s stupid to spend.'”

While this is all about the Japanese, the American writer is entirely sympathetic with those who despair over the young not being willing to chase after wealth or to be “consumers.” I think the point of view reflected in this article is way off the rails.