Why don't we listen to our inner voice? This week I told myself "buy that and your love of Japan will suffer." I did, and it has....
The Rogue "gave me" a Borders book voucher for Father's Day last week. I love book vouchers. I got one because Kazue complains that I always give people the same thing, which is largely true. I see book vouchers, particularly for Borders here in Bristol, as the gift that gives twice - on one level you get a few quids worth of books, but you also get the fun of looking for a book to buy. Borders rocks for me as I can stroll about on an evening (open till 10pm), browsing books on Japanese (nice Kodansha dictionary), IT, businessey stuff, new fiction, Iain Banks and so on.
I wondered about buying some GTOs (nearly half way) or perhaps a guide to Samurai warfare techniques but I was attracted to Dogs and Demons by Alex Kerr. I'd heard about this book when it was released, but hadn't ever had a chance to buy it. But as I'm thinking about returning again I thought a browse might be in order. I kinda wish I hadn't.
Kerr's hypothesis, not unique, is that Japan is eating itself. It is country that has never really gotten to grips with the fact it is an advanced nation and it going hell for leather along the same path that it set for itself in 1940 (even 1853) without ever really adjusting for the reality of modern living. This, he argues, explains the inability to reform the banking sector, the obsession with building huge roads way over-engineered (the road on stilts to Nikko is one I remember), the "messy" appearance of streets and so forth.
It makes for very grim reading - the never ending march of progress to a goal that Japan achieved in the 1980s. The chapter on buried pollution in particular is depressing - especially if you are thinking of living there. It seems from Kerr's reporting that you are taking your life in to your own hands if you do!
I think it is an important book, and worth reading by every potential long term NJ resident, even more so by Japanese themselves, but only if you are willing to face the inevitable moments of loathing it will induce.