Welcome to Japan, where bad news is good news

Share This Post

- Advertisement -

TOKYO – The economy is now in recession after barely growing for decades.

- Advertisement -

The population continues to decline and births last year fell to their lowest level.

The politics of the country it seems frozen while a party virtually maintains control of power, no matter how scandal-tainted and unpopular it becomes.

- Advertisement -

But do not worry.

This is Japan, where all bad news is relative.

Look around.

There are few signs of the social discord one would expect in a place with trends like Japan’s, such as litter, potholes or picket lines.

The country remains remarkably stable and cohesive, with little sense of impending catastrophe.

Cherry blossoms, seen here in a Tokyo park last year, are one of the many constants of Japanese life.  Cherry blossoms, seen here in a Tokyo park last year, are one of the many constants of Japanese life.  Photo Issei Kato/ReutersCherry blossoms, seen here in a Tokyo park last year, are one of the many constants of Japanese life. Cherry blossoms, seen here in a Tokyo park last year, are one of the many constants of Japanese life. Photo Issei Kato/Reuters

This equanimity reflects the mindset of not having to make changes:

Shouganai” (“You can’t help it”) is something of a national refrain.

Status quo

It’s easy to understand why people can be indifferent.

Unemployment is low, trains run on time and the cherry trees bloom every spring.

Tourists flock to sanctuaries and shopping districts, and the stock market has hit a record high.

Even after some inflation, you can get a bowl of ramen for under $7, or a multi-course lunch for around $12.

Accommodation is generally affordable in Tokiy too, and all are covered by national health insurance.

Crime is low – there was some in 2022 only three gun homicides in all of Japan.

If you forget your cell phone at a restaurant, chances are it will be there when you return.

“I’m very happy with my living conditions,” said Chihiro Tsujimoto, 26, a classical percussionist who had left a cinema with his sister in Chofu, western Tokyo, last week.

The Japanese, he said, “have given up and are quite happy as long as their life is full and beautiful.”

“I guess Japan is at peace,” he added.

“So the younger generation doesn’t feel the need to change this country.”

That sense of paralyzing calm is intensified by an outside world plagued by wars and social challenges.

“I often take business trips to the United States and Europe and feel that Japanese society and system are very stable compared to other countries with various problems such as immigrants, high crime rates and unrest,” said Hisashi Miwa, 65 years old, who works for a chemical company. manufacturer and purchased toilet paper in Setagaya, also in western Tokyo.

However, beneath Japan’s placid surface, many deep-seated problems persist.

With its intense work culture and social pressures, Japan is among the most developed countries. unhappyaccording to an annual report supported by the United Nations, and suicide is a major concern.

THE gender disparity It is deeply rooted and slowly changing, and the poverty rate among single-parent families is one of the highest among wealthy nations.

Rural areas are rapidly emptying and the aging of the population will increasingly increase the burden on pensions and healthcare.

Next year, nearly 1 in 5 people in Japan will be 75 or older, a phenomenon that will increasingly expose labor shortage in a country that struggles to accept and integrate immigrants.

Gaps in services are already emerging at some of the country’s most highly regarded institutions.

“It takes four or five days to receive a letter,” said Sayuri Shirai, a professor of policy management at Keio University, referring to Japan’s postal service, which used to reliably deliver letters a day after delivery. sending.

When you have problems with cable TV or other services, he said, “sometimes you want to ask questions on the phone, but there are no more phone services.”

“I can really see that they don’t have people,” Shirai said.

“The quality of service is not so good anymore.”

Disadvantages like that, however, are more than a irritation that a sign of imminent social collapse.

Japan’s decline is gradual and somehow barely noticeable after the country achieved its wealth in the decades following World War II.

The economy, now the world’s fourth largest after falling below Germany’s this month, has had its ups and downs but has largely endured a national debt-to-GDP ratio that is the highest in the world.

The population declines by about half a percentage point a year, but Tokyo is still the most populous city in the world, people queue for an hour to get a modern donut, and reservations at the best restaurants must be made weeks in advance .

Prime ministers may come and go, but they are replaceable emissaries of the status quo.

“I think everyone knows what’s happening, but it’s so slow that it’s very difficult to somehow sustain massive change,” said Mieko Nakabayashi, a politics professor at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Even those who think Japan could use a shake-up are more resigned than radicalized.

“I thought the Japanese were a little smarter, but our economy, which was once said to be first class, is now second or third categoryand our government may not even be fourth or fifth rate,” said Fuchi Beppu, 76, a retired hotel worker walking near Yokohama Station last week.

He said he felt sorry for his children and grandchildren and the future that lay ahead for them.

“At the end of the day, it’s a democracy,” he said.

“So I guess the level of government reflects the level of citizens.”

That government, for almost the entire post-war period, was led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

According to a newspaper poll, the party’s disapproval rate is now very high, the highest since 1947.

But even when people are frustrated with the LDP, in the end “they don’t care much, as long as they can survive and daily life isn’t chaos.”

It’s a shame,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, a member of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo.

“That’s why the LDP’s politics are very stable.”

Current disapproval ratings reflect the public exasperation for a financial scandal that has engulfed the Japanese media but is too arcane for most of the general public to follow in detail.

Allegations began to surface late last fall that various factions within the LDP had failed to record the full amount of proceeds from ticket sales for political fundraising events.

In some cases, MPs appeared to be on the receiving end bribes of some of the sales, and prosecutors indicted three lawmakers, accusing them of violations of the Political Funds Control Act.

However, unlike other countries where politicians have been accused of extravagant acts of corruption, Japanese media have uncovered relatively modest evidence of campaign gifts and dinners.

Some reports suggest that a lawmaker may have used political funds to buy books, including thousands of copies of a title he wrote himself.

With the political opposition in disarray, the LDP seems likely to survive another of its many goals. One reason: Voters simply aren’t very connected.

“I don’t know who my mayor is or I don’t read the news much,” Tsujimoto said.

“I simply watch the news on the Internet to see things like when a new baby of some animal is born in a zoo.”

c.2024 The New York Times Company

Source: Clarin

- Advertisement -

Related Posts

Emiliano Pinsón spoke about his life with Parkinson’s: “My body hurts every day”

In February 2021, Emiliano Pinsón has been diagnosed with...

The definitive list of the best Kodomo: the 5 anime not to be missed

He world of anime Growing exponentially in recent years,...

Pope Francis’ dramatic message after the Iranian offensive against Israel

Very alarmed, the Pope did a dramatic call in...

Iran says it has no plans to continue attacks on Israel, but has left a worrying warning

Iranian Foreign Minister Hosein Amir Abdolahian said Sunday that...

The definitive list of the best Josei: the 5 anime not to be missed

In recent times, the world of anime grew a...