Dec 30

WIT Life #259: 右傾化 & スメハラ

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03).  She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

As Japan enters its last day of 2013, the Abe administration is demonstrating a drift to the right which is alarming to some.  The PM recently made news with his official visit to Yasukuni Shrine, where the almost 2.5 million Japanese who perished during conflicts spanning from 1867 to WWII are enshrined.  The reason this is so inflammatory to neighboring Asian countries, as well as the rest of the world, is that those buried there include convicted war criminals and it seems to indicate a flaunting of nationalistic views.  This tendency is what got PM Abe into trouble during his first time in office, and once again there is nervous commentary regarding his 右傾化 (ukeika or conservative swing), which some say supercedes his three-arrowed Abenomics economic revival efforts.

This weekend the NYT highlighted this issue with an article on a local battle regarding textbooks being fought on the eight-island township of Taketomi in Okinawa.  Here you can see a side by side comparison of several sections of the currently used textbook and the nationalistic one they are attempting to introduce.  Besides the examples provided regarding the Emperor, Constitution and pacifism, other differences include whether the Japanese Army was involved with setting up the 慰安婦 (ianfu or comfort women) sexual slavery system and the debated death toll in the Rape of Nanking.

According to the school superintendent, Anzo Kedamori, the conservative textbook fails to teach children the hatred of war that his generation learned from bitter experience.  In an attempt to overcome local educators like Kedamori, there is a pending proposal to put mayors in charge of their local school districts.  This would make imposing a nationalistic agenda easier, and is identified in the article as a new strategy of “forcing change at the local level that has sometimes failed at the national level.”  We will see what the new year brings for PM Abe and his right-leaning policies, but the country is clearly moving in a direction with potentially game-changing consequences.  In the face of an increasingly belligerent China, this is something that the Japanese populace seems more willing to support.

In lighter news, earlier this month there was an entertaining WSJ article about how scented products are becoming more popular in Japan, and how these smells are offensive to some people.  The Japanese media coined the phrase スメハラ (sumehara or smell harassment), to go along with the preexisting パワハラ (pawahara or power harassment) and セクハラ (sexuhara or sexual harassment).   There is even a group called the Society Demanding Fragrance Restraint, which sprung up in regard to the environment ministry’s suggestion that people combat body odor by using scented fabric softener, previously uncommon in Japan.

I’m sure that 2014 will bring its own share of serious and frivolous squabbles, but for the time being the minds of the Japanese are focused on tonight’s 歌紅白合戦 (uta kouhaku gassen or New Year’s Eve singing contest) and おせち料理 (osechi ryouri or traditional New Year’s food).  良いお年 (yoi otoshi wo or Happy New Year)!


Comments are closed.

Page Rank