One month of Japanese studies

Today I have studied Japanese for exactly one month. My pace has slowed down a bit since I came back from Prague, where I had all the time in the world. At home, there’s always lots of stuff to do. But I do try to study every day. I’ve just begun chapter 4 in book 2 of Japanese From Zero.

I’m very fascinated by the Japanese society, and especially how they differ between fantasies and reality. I find that modern and intelligent. I put it like this in a column titled “Reclaim your fantasy”:

Japan has the weirdest fantasies of all societies – tons of brutal hentai where small girls are raped and sometimes killed. Just like me, the Japanese like it when we go to extremes. But Japan also has the lowest crime rate of all societies. People there can apparently tell fantasy apart from reality. We should become better at that in the West too, both for our own personal wellbeing and for the sake of society.

I’m trying not to idealize Japan too much; I’m sure there are problems there too, and they do have the death penalty. But a little idealization is always good for language studies. Eller hur, Josh?

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4 Responses to One month of Japanese studies

  1. Josh September 18, 2010 at 21:18 #

    But there’s so much more to like about Sweden compared to Japan :p I guess what many younger folks studying Japanese don’t realise is how big the gap between the real Japan and the Japan in the manga & animes is.

    I don’t like how your work life already starts in Kindergarten in Japan. It’s like the kids work for a good job as soon as they can speak :s And if you don’t want to live just for your future career you’re pretty much an outcast and becoming an otkau is pretty much your only other option :/

    They have so many unwritten laws about social interaction and life in general, it’s really not the best place to stay for people with… strong personalities :p No surprise that their suicide rates are so high.

    I do agree ‘tho about their ability to distinguish between real life and fantasy. I do believe that being able to live out your fantasies with media like manga, films etc helps people to cope with desires that, if suppressed, otherwise might lead to crimes.

    But there’s also something one should consider if we compare the rates of sexual crimes in Japan and Sweden: I think one important factor about those rates being low in Japan and high in Sweden is that Sweden is probably the most feminist and socially modern country of the world which means that a Swede is a lot more likely to *report* any kind of sexual abuse while in Japan a lot of cases of abuse might go unreported due to the very patriarchal social climate there. So the actual rates might be closer than we can see in the statistics.

    Another factor might be–this is pure guessing ‘tho–that Swedes put more trust into the state and its authorities because decades of living in a welfare state convinced them that the state is indeed there to solve their problems (and not the other way ’round like in so many other countries) so it might make more sense for a Swede to report a crime to the authorities than for someone in Japan where corruption is more of a problem than in Sweden.

    And even in Japan there are people and parties trying to illegalize loli & shota manga while I’m still optimistic that people will eventually relax about these things in Sweden.

    I guess the problem here is that Sweden has a slightly different viewpoint compared to the rest of the world. Normally the main argument against comics/drawings of minors engaging in sexual acts is that they might trivialise paedophilia (and ephebophilia lately) but Sweden also has a history of banning any kind of porn that depicts abuse or degradation of women so we got another problem here since many manga are pretty much rape stories.

    I’m not saying that this makes banning such manga more reasonable since I believe that art should be able to do and show absolutely *anything* because the state should trust its own citizen enough to let them read about such things without worrying that they will copy every behaviour they see like monkeys would.

    I’m just saying that it makes Sweden’s approach towards this kind of manga a bit more understandable. Now it’s our task to guide the discussion into the right direction so that the government will come to the right conclusions.

    Slightly off-topic: Since we’re at women’s rights…. I guess you could argue in a similar way about the Swedish ban of prostitution but in this case I actually disagree because, unlike manga, prostitution is about real people and I can’t imagine a way to prevent it from profiting of women who are being forced into it. But then again I’m far from being an expert on this subject and might miss one point or another about it.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I adore Sweden’s efforts to protect the rights of its citizen , it’s just a very, very fine line between being a caring state and being overprotective. Some decisions made in the past tend to the latter side but I don’t think that anything here is broken beyond fixing (unlike in Germany for example) so I’m still very hopeful about Sweden’s future 🙂

    [I hope any of this makes any sense, you know me & my English xD]

    PS: I’m even in favour of an alcohol ban to be honest. I’d say legalise pot and make alcohol completely illegal. At least pot doesn’t make people aggressive. I bet the numbers of violent crimes, criminal damage and car crashes would drop significantly :p

  2. Karl September 19, 2010 at 03:01 #

    Oh Josh, many sensitive subjects here… 🙂

    Yes, Japan is definitely a very norm-abiding society. I have a hate-love relationship to norms. All these Japanese girls who giggle about their boyfriend or boy idol. It’s all very 1950s Europe actually. Extremely strict gender roles. And yet Japan is so totally different in all respects so I might not mind.

    About crime statistics. You’re right of course about how apt ppl are to report crimes in different cultures. There are other error-factors as well when it comes to what defines a rape, or what stuff is counted as a crime in different countries.

    But there is one thing you actually can compare: Homicide rates. Murders always find their way into the statistics sooner or later. And Japan has exceptionally few of them.

    But I don’t know much at all about Japan, I must admit. That’s the charm of it. 😉

    Over to Sweden:

    I don’t think the ban on cp manga is representative for Sweden actually. We have a long tradition of defending all *textual* expressions. They have a stronger protection than in Germany for example, if you remember how shocked I was when LKA in Hamburg did a search for illegal BOOKS at Männerschwarm. (God, I’m still getting agitated when I think of it.) So the ban on cartoons is just tragic, really, and a result of politicians being extremely trigger happy in this area. But even so, if a higher court decides he was not guilty, the law doesn’t apply, since a law is never only about how it is written, but also about how the courts have judged. That’s as close as we come to a Constitutional Court in Sweden, an institution that we unfortunately lack.

    As for prostitution… Well, there are already laws against trafficking and against forcing anyone to do anything. On top of that, prostitution was always a part of gay culture and all my heroes have sold sex in their youth (and later): Oscar Swartz, Alexander Bard, Edmund White, to name a few. And myself of course. I consider it a kind of gay cultural heritage that I’m proud to be part of.

    Now homosexual and heterosexual (men buying/women selling) prostitution are essentially different. There are certain problems that are connected to the heterosexual prostitution. But that counts for many businesses and shouldn’t be reason to ban it.

    The problem with this law in Sweden is that it exists only to “send a signal” to the people regarding “which society we want to live in”, as it’s usually put. It has not been shown that prostitution has declined or that the situation for the women who sell sex has got better after the law. It seems to be the opposite, but we will never know for sure since no state report will ever come to that conclusion.

    I also think the law on prostitution in Sweden, where it is only illegal to buy, not to sell, is degrading to women, since it supposes that women are always victims, and that it is the one that buys sex that has the power. To quote a 60-yearold female prostitute that I interviewed in 1999, when the law came into effect: “As long as a man pays me, I’m in power. The only times a man has had real power over me was when I married.”

    Oh Josh, you did get me started here. There’s so much more to say on this subject, but it is a dear subject to me and a very symbolic issue. I think Sweden meant well. But the law does more harm than not. Except that I find it wrong for all the other reasons too.

    Regarding alcohol, yes, crime would drop. But another type of crime would increase since criminal gangs would control the alcohol sale like they do with drugs today. And except that: Karl needs his wine!!! That’s what the bottom line of the cover of D5 refers to. 🙂

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