Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Is Japan Dying? 

This man lives in the same house with his doll, his wife, and his daughter.

The video below outlines a serious problem in current Japanese demographics. Put simply, more people are dying than are being born. If this trend continues, the task of providing for the elderly will place an impossible burden on working people.

For some reason, many young people not only do not want m(any) children, but many of them do not even want to get married. This documentary also discusses briefly a strange fetish some have with the idea of establishing romantic relationship with unreal personages as a substitute for genuine human relationship. This program shows an example of a man who "married" a hologram. Where is this nonsense coming from? I don't know, but it suggests that Japan is becoming far too inbred, and that an infusion of different people with different ideas would be helpful.

So there are two things: One is economic. Japan simply does not have enough young people. But there also seems to be a cultural sickness that is developing a generation of young people terrified of genuine intimacy. The cultural problem underscores the need, but the economic problem is what is going to force action. Japan is going to have to open to many different kinds of people.

So what could stand in the way of this? Well, there is considerable resistance to accepting that which comes from outside as being "Japanese." But even where there is openness, or at least a grudging acceptance of the need for bringing in outsiders, there is a language barrier. Japanese young people are like Americans. They tend to be monolingual. They speak their own language. So young people from other places who want to go to Japan have to bridge that gap.

Fortunately for Japan, Chinese young people are actually quite good at this. When I was teaching in the Software College at Beihang University, we had a hundred interns in Japan. We had a "Japanese Software" major, which allowed students to learn Japanese before they went, but there were students who weren't in that program who just went to Japan and taught themselves Japanese.

Of course it isn't just Chinese young people who are interested in Japan. When I was teaching at the University of Advancing Technology in Arizona, I had students who told me they wanted to go to Japan and write game software. They would tell me how they were studying hiragana. That's a start, but it doesn't quite get you there. I don't know a single one who actually did it.

American young people who are interested in Japan do have an advantage: They can teach English. I don't say that disparagingly. It's not that Americans do not possess the talent required to excel in the business world. It's just that in Japan, you can teach English even if you're Japanese language skills are marginal. But if you want to work in business you have to be really good. In fairness, there are probably lots of Americans in Japan who are like me: they have no interest in going to a big company in Tokyo and working their way up the corporate ladder. But for those from any country who are interested, this is an extraordinary time of opportunity. The video says there are 161 jobs for every 100 people who are interested in finding work.

INSIGHT is a documentary program produced by Channel NewsAsia in Singapore.


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