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Japan Times interview with Alex Kerr, Dogs and Demons author

Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan, Alex Kerr's tough-love analysis of how Japanese bureaucrats have worked tirelessly over the past few decades to destroy their own country, is one of those books that qualifies unambiguously as essential reading for anyone who's spent time in Japan.

That said, you have to time it right. Don't do what I did: read it on holiday in the UK, finish it on the plane back to Narita, and then spend the entire train ride back into Tokyo staring glumly out of the window, watching the seemingly endless stream of cramped apartment buildings, ugly concrete and all-pervasive advertising hoardings sprawl past you, thinking, "Shit, he's absolutely right. This place is fucked."

I recovered from that, obviously, else I wouldn't still be here, but it was a bad month or two. Every street corner I turned, every news report about corrupt politicians and shiny new concrete mountains I saw, resonated with what I'd read in the book. To this day, I won't let my girlfriend read it, as I know it'll depress her too much. Planning to save it for a leaving present.

Anyway, the Japan Times has a recent interview with Kerr where he talks about September's election and postal reform (promising), the Aichi Expo (pointless), Hello Kitty (distressing) and Debito Arudou (too combative).

His comments about Arudou in particular are worth reading, I think:

Well, somebody has to do it. I'm glad that there is a whistle-blower out there. But, I am doubtful whether in the long run it really helps. One would hope that he could do it another way. He's not doing it the Japanese way. He's being very gaijin in his openly combative attitude, and usually in Japan that approach fails.

I fear that his activities might tend to just confirm conservative Japanese in their belief that gaijin are difficult to deal with.

It's a good point, and he may be right, but I'd like to think that Arudou's directly confrontational methods might eventually bear at least some fruit, even if it's only disabusing Japan-panglossists of their misplaced notions that this place is some kind of postmodern paradise. Perhaps Japan needs both approaches, the Kerr manifestos and the Arudou exposés?

Anyway, Kerr's consistently got interesting things to say about Japan, so go check it out. More Debito Arudou at the Japan Times here.

[Link via - thanks, Gen]

Posted by chris at October 28, 2005 08:14 PM | Permalink


After hearing about the book from a friend, who was insistant that, "You have to read it!", I decided not to...

Posted by: Stuart Woodward at November 16, 2005 08:34 AM

You're welcome Chris :)

Posted by: Gen Kanai at November 16, 2005 05:22 PM

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