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Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese

 
Shinto Trainee
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08/29/2013 08:04 PM

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Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
(NOTE: The following post has been partially translated and edited by my very close friend and native speaker of English, Sarah H. Although I can speak and write English to some extent, it is far from perfect. I wanted this to smoothly reflect the nuances of my thought, and Sarah has kindly agreed to help me with my posting on GLP from time to time. I would like to offer my sincere thanks for her invaluable assistance.)

I. Personal Thoughts and Introduction
I generally avoid Fukushima-related topics, both on GLP and elsewhere, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am not a scientist and I do not have the skills or ability to evaluate the information regarding the issue. Secondly, it is a highly emotionally charged topic. Thirdly, it is difficult to know what source material to trust. It seems clear to me that the Government and TEPCO have been less than forthcoming in providing accurate and timely information, and the information they provide is of dubious value. At the same time, I do not put much faith in the ranting of alarmist blogs or certain doom-obsessed GLP posters. I tend to believe the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. Or perhaps not; maybe things really are as bad as GLP believes. Either way, I personally lack the expertise to determine the truth.

I have also worried about how speaking up on this issue might affect my own career and position in society. However, this is a cowardly and unworthy way to think, and I now shake off that yoke.

With this as a backdrop, I thus have been hesitant to wade into these waters for a long time. But I am realizing that the issue is becoming more and more important, rather than less so, as time goes on. It is crucial to get a clear and accurate picture of what really is happening, and what it all really means. Failure to do so, for whatever reason, is a failure to act strongly and resolutely. I strongly believe that there has been a shameful failure of Japan's inherent responsibility to its own citizens, the Japanese ecosystem (which I consider sacred as a Shintoist), the Imperial Family, Japan's children, and its ancestors (generations both past and future) -- as well as its inherent responsibility the rest of the world as a global citizen.

As I said, I am not a scientist. However, this nation has many fine scientists who (at least supposedly) do have the ability to evaluate the situation, and to speak up about what they think and know. We have heard very little from them. As non-scientists, the normal citizens of Japan and the world rely upon them to evaluate the situation objectively. I believe they have failed to do so, which saddens and angers me.

I see two Japans taking shape now. The majority have simply decided to ignore the issue. It is "impolite" to talk about it. It is the "elephant in the room," as it is said in English. In Japan, the media is mostly controlled by the government, and I believe they are in the midst of a full-on brainwashing campaign to make the issue both forgotten and taboo. But there are a growing number of citizens who ARE upset and are demonstrating and working in various ways to bring attention to the situation, and to find a solution. The second group is growing. Let us hope it grows fast enough.


II. Thoughts on Japanese Psychology: The Root of the Problem?
Reading GLP threads on Fukushima and English material elsewhere on the thread, I notice non-Japanese people continuously asking questions about "why don't the PEOPLE of Japan do more?" There is a great deal of anger, even contempt, at this seeming denial in Japan.

I believe that to understand the answer to this important question, it is crucial to understand a bit about the way Japanese people and society think. As an island nation that has spent most of its history closed off from the rest of the world, it is developed a very unique way of thought -- with both good and bad results.


The Nail That Sticks Out
There is an old and well-known proverb in Japan: "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down." This refers to a group-oriented psychology whereby to be "different" or to disrupt the harmony of the group (to be a "nail that sticks out") is seen as a grave offence, both in practical and even ethical terms. If you go against the grain of the group, you will be ostracized, bullied, punished, and humiliated in a way that may be difficult to understand for Westerners. This is a common way of thought in East Asia, but I think it is more pronounced in Japan than in any other society. We work very well and very hard in groups and teams. However, most of us do very poorly when called upon to act as individuals. I think this aspect of Japanese culture is understood by many Westerners. But there is more, too.

The Circular Society
My whole thinking on this topic was spurred by the words of another Japanese poster I saw the other day. He or she wrote the following:


Making a decision is really important. Ignoring it is not going to create a solution. Maybe nature can control a lot of things mankind has involuntarily harmed, but waiting for nature is not a good idea in this situation. If there is a ministry of conservancy in your culture, they should be informed of different ideas they have not investigated.
 Quoting: pool


This is true. It is a very good point.

Unfortunately this society lacks strong decision-makers at the moment. It's a topic I have mentioned on GLP before. In Japan it seems like everything goes around in a big circle recently and nobody makes "the final cut." It is always, "mmmm, yes, we neeed to study it more, let's send it to committee XYZ, and they can form a study group, and we can write a position paper and..." blahaabababaalaba.

Nobody wants the responsibility (ACCOUNTABILITY is the feared factor) to say "yes" or "no" decisively.

I have given this factor a great deal of thought and I believe this lack of strong leadership is one of the central problems in Japan. I do not know why or how things came to be this way. It seemed when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s there were many strong business leaders.

Maybe the young generation is just weak?
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 45778201

Source thread:
Thread: It is alleged that there is too much radiation for the workers to deal with units 1-3, the plant is out of control and effectively abandoned. (Page 5)

I must say, when I read this, I was a bit amazed. I sat here thinking about that for a long, long time because to my mind it cuts to the heart of the problem. It hits the nail on the head. This is the central problem with Fukushima.

So then the question becomes: What is behind this "circular logic" and lack of strong decision making? Why do Japanese people, businesses, and governments behave like this?

A Well-Oiled Machine
Part of it is the group-oriented psychology mentioned above. Everyone is afraid to be the "nail that sticks out." Many people predicted in the past that this tendency would decline as Japan opens up and becomes more "international," but in fact in recent decades it has gotten worse. I think that simple comfort and complacency borne of long prosperity (Japan is still one of the richest nations on earth, despite recent economic troubles) has made people not want to question or change old assumptions. There has been some change, but not enough, in the educational system or the corporate structures. Old habits get reinforced.

Japan's unique culture and the fact that its language is so different than English have kept the country isolated and inward-looking, despite the increasing flow of information through the internet and so forth. Most young Japanese can speak and read English to some extent, but far from fluently enough to engage with the outside world (Even myself, after years of study, have to use my friend Sarah to help me write this post, for example). Meanwhile, critical thinking is not taught in school. There is still the emphasis on memorization and regurgitation of information: Repetition, repetition, repetition until one is full of facts, but there is no training of how to use these facts to think critically and to critically evaluate situations.

Thus, Japan is in a sense like a giant machine, with each person as a cog who does repetitive work over and over. In times of peace and normalcy, this results in a clean, smooth-running, highly efficient, polite, and highly productive society. This is not a bad thing most of the time: in fact, it makes for a safe, comfortable, and prosperous society. But in unusual times, in times of crisis, it causes disaster.


ACCOUNTABILITY: The Core Issue
The other Japanese poster quoted above singled out one word in capital letters: ACCOUNTABILITY. I think this touches the true core of the matter. Given the psychological traits mentioned above, perhaps now we can understand that nobody in Japan wants accountability for anything, and especially for making wrong decisions. It always seems safer to make "no decision at all" than to risk sticking your neck out and being the "nail to be hammered down," the bullied child in the circle of bullies everyone points their fingers at. Nobody wants to be the "sole voice." Because of this, there is no strong decision making. This is why things just drift along. This is why normal citizens hesitate to speak up.

It is why the situation in World War II got so bad and went on so long. Example: Nobody in the Navy even informed His Imperial Majesty the Emperor or the ruling clique in Tokyo about Midway, the great battle in which most of the Imperial Navy was destroyed. Even in the final days of the war, the Tokyo Clique still thought Japan had a massive navy, even though almost every ship was at the bottom of the ocean! Such levels of ignorance are hard to fathom. But they resulted from the fact that nobody in the Imperial Navy wanted to be the one to bring bad news back to the capital.

And this is also why Fukushima is getting worse, not better.


III. A Way Out?
I believe no situation is hopeless. Looking at Japanese history, it is filled with strong leaders who were brave enough to take initiative in desperate times. But we cannot simply sit and wait for a new Shogun to appear from nowhere. Japan is now a democracy, at least on paper, which means authority rests with the people. If we can't find strength in our leaders, then let's find it in our people. Now every Japanese person needs to be strong and speak up. There are no more excuses.

I personally think the biggest need is quality, objective scientific information on how bad the problem really is. Not the bland assurances of the government, and not the paranoid ravings of alarmist bloggers or self-appointed armchair know-it-alls doom-porn lovers. We need to create an international team of top experts drawn from universities around the world who have no concern about their careers being destroyed by speaking up. Once we have a clearer understanding of the facts, we need to determine the best course of action and act as swiftly as possible. The people need to stand up and put unrelenting pressure on the "powers that be" to do these things. We need to make the results of inaction worse than the results of decisive action.

It is my hope that this long message is of some help in furthering understanding and, more importantly, furthering action. The truth, I believe, lies somewhere between "There's no problem at all, go back to sleep" and "Aaaaa, we are all gonna die!" Discovering that truth means overcoming our own fear of accountability and individual action as Japanese.

Thank you for reading.

Last Edited by Shinto Trainee on 08/29/2013 08:12 PM
Anonymous Coward
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08/29/2013 08:14 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Thread: Secret Weapons-Grade nuclear material at Fukushima!!! Latest Yoichi Shimatsu-Rense interview

Thread: Fukushima: Did Hiroshima and Nagasaki actually lead to the end of the world?
chula homa

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08/29/2013 08:27 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
thank you for your insight
hf
Anonymous Coward
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08/29/2013 08:40 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
As a Gaijin living already a long Time here in Tokyo i would like to say
that your points are very right but also incomplete!

There are many People organized in Groups who talk
and also do something against or better with the Situation
in Tohoku, we have really countless Scientist and Students
who collect Data, run Simulations and estimate the outcome
of this Crisis.

The collection of more than 10.000.000 Measurement Spots of Radiation
as well as the Testing of nearly 100.000 Food Samples in Self-Organized
Food Labs is just an example but also do not forget the huge Demonstrations against nuclear Energy in 2011/2012 and even now,
today at 4.30 in Kasumigaseki!

You know how difficult it is for a Japanese to say something
but all this People participate and all of them knew that the
Japanese Police will photograph every single Person!

And we have Taro Yamamoto and the 600.000 People who voted
for him in the last Election even when it was very little Information
out there about him.

There is a big Change going on and i am very happy to participate,
you should do it too to realize the fresh Breeze here in Nihon.

Are you here in Kanto?
Waterbug

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08/29/2013 08:55 PM

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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Thank you.

I agree with everything you have said.
In my opinion, Tepco is guilty of crimes against the people of Japan.
Failing to prosecute the top management for their wrongdoings is tacit approval for what they have done.
This is an injustice for Japan.. and the world.
Anonymous Coward
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08/29/2013 09:16 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
You know how difficult it is for a Japanese to say something but all this People participate and all of them knew that the Japanese Police will photograph every single Person!

I don't feel sorry for the Japanese people anymore after reading that.

They're upholding genocide on their own people and those who want to live are marked as enemies.
Astralholic

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08/29/2013 09:20 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Thanks for sharing.

God bless!
Anonymous Coward
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08/29/2013 10:06 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Well-written and insightful, thanks.

As an aside, I think there may be fewer differences in psychology between the "West" and Japan than appears at first glance.

Here in the US we are always paying lip service to the concept of the individual, and we have a history of glorifying the individual, but very few want to be "the nail that sticks out" here either, and for the same reasons.
Anonymous Coward
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08/30/2013 03:43 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Very interesting summation. Although as noted by the other poster in Japan, there is already "grassroots" radiation monitoring everywhere. My understanding is geiger counters are limited in ability however. Sabah is called for is greater objective investigation of true facts.
Anonymous Coward
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08/30/2013 10:35 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Thank you very much for sharing I hope all to be right for you in Japan you are in my prayers and thoughts
Waterbug

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08/31/2013 12:40 PM

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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
bump3
Anonymous Coward
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08/31/2013 04:13 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
There is nothing wrong, go back to your studies amd serve your nation that way.

Shinto mekkyaku sureba hi mo mata suzushi.
Anonymous Coward
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09/23/2013 07:16 AM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
There is some truth in what the OP writes BUT he is blind to the BIG ISSUE: CORUPTION.

He notices that people don't want to take responsibilty. Why? That is the "CORE QUESTION."

ANSWER: Japan is a DEEPLY CORRUPT country resting on "four pillars of corruption:"

1)Finance/businessconstrction world
2)Politicians and Bureaucrats
3) This is subtle, but "The "radition industry" I suppose we can call it: Hard to define but people like the OP who continue Shinto/Buddhist myths, media that creats "Furuki Yoki" ("good old days") nostalgia as a kind of Mass media drug of nostalgia; the "Aristocratic class" of Japan (I can't get any more specific without danger but use your imagination a little...), writers and intellectuals selling the "Japan is different" "we have unique special culture" idea, etc.
4)Organized crime. Yakuza, far-right nusto groups, and other so-called "anti-social forces."

These four are like an interlocking system, they are ALWAYS there, they pass the problems back and forth like a game of "hot potato". And the funny thing is it is ery ancient game: the names of the players change a little; but the bloodlines are the SAME in all 4 groups and they all hook each other up with "under the table" favors and bribes...."donations"; rigged bidding contracts for big construction, cultural players like religionists and artitsts to keeep the people re-assured there is something "pure and noble", politicians using slush-fund money; street gangersters to get their hands dirty when none othe the other three can.

That's the "four pillar" Japan has ALWAYS rested on and as you can see they exist each for one purpose: to "keep the gravy train flowing", to pass around the hot potato, to make sure eveyone gets a fat stack of the yen and clean hands at the end of the day. That's all they are good at; NOBOBDY in any of these four groups can handle or even think about handing a real-life crisis situation.
Anonymous Coward
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09/23/2013 10:16 AM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
There is some truth in what the OP writes BUT he is blind to the BIG ISSUE: CORUPTION.

He notices that people don't want to take responsibilty. Why? That is the "CORE QUESTION."

ANSWER: Japan is a DEEPLY CORRUPT country resting on "four pillars of corruption:"

1)Finance/businessconstrction world
2)Politicians and Bureaucrats
3) This is subtle, but "The "radition industry" I suppose we can call it: Hard to define but people like the OP who continue Shinto/Buddhist myths, media that creats "Furuki Yoki" ("good old days") nostalgia as a kind of Mass media drug of nostalgia; the "Aristocratic class" of Japan (I can't get any more specific without danger but use your imagination a little...), writers and intellectuals selling the "Japan is different" "we have unique special culture" idea, etc.
4)Organized crime. Yakuza, far-right nusto groups, and other so-called "anti-social forces."

These four are like an interlocking system, they are ALWAYS there, they pass the problems back and forth like a game of "hot potato". And the funny thing is it is ery ancient game: the names of the players change a little; but the bloodlines are the SAME in all 4 groups and they all hook each other up with "under the table" favors and bribes...."donations"; rigged bidding contracts for big construction, cultural players like religionists and artitsts to keeep the people re-assured there is something "pure and noble", politicians using slush-fund money; street gangersters to get their hands dirty when none othe the other three can.

That's the "four pillar" Japan has ALWAYS rested on and as you can see they exist each for one purpose: to "keep the gravy train flowing", to pass around the hot potato, to make sure eveyone gets a fat stack of the yen and clean hands at the end of the day. That's all they are good at; NOBOBDY in any of these four groups can handle or even think about handing a real-life crisis situation.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 47295678


bump
Useless Cookie Eater

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09/23/2013 10:25 AM

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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
If that thought process continues....it will be the end of Japan and it's culture.
Fukushima casualties will mount each day, each month and each year.


Darwin loves you.

darwinsh
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09/24/2013 02:01 AM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
There is some truth in what the OP writes BUT he is blind to the BIG ISSUE: CORUPTION.

He notices that people don't want to take responsibilty. Why? That is the "CORE QUESTION."

ANSWER: Japan is a DEEPLY CORRUPT country resting on "four pillars of corruption:"

1)Finance/businessconstrction world
2)Politicians and Bureaucrats
3) This is subtle, but "The "radition industry" I suppose we can call it: Hard to define but people like the OP who continue Shinto/Buddhist myths, media that creats "Furuki Yoki" ("good old days") nostalgia as a kind of Mass media drug of nostalgia; the "Aristocratic class" of Japan (I can't get any more specific without danger but use your imagination a little...), writers and intellectuals selling the "Japan is different" "we have unique special culture" idea, etc.
4)Organized crime. Yakuza, far-right nusto groups, and other so-called "anti-social forces."

These four are like an interlocking system, they are ALWAYS there, they pass the problems back and forth like a game of "hot potato". And the funny thing is it is ery ancient game: the names of the players change a little; but the bloodlines are the SAME in all 4 groups and they all hook each other up with "under the table" favors and bribes...."donations"; rigged bidding contracts for big construction, cultural players like religionists and artitsts to keeep the people re-assured there is something "pure and noble", politicians using slush-fund money; street gangersters to get their hands dirty when none othe the other three can.

That's the "four pillar" Japan has ALWAYS rested on and as you can see they exist each for one purpose: to "keep the gravy train flowing", to pass around the hot potato, to make sure eveyone gets a fat stack of the yen and clean hands at the end of the day. That's all they are good at; NOBOBDY in any of these four groups can handle or even think about handing a real-life crisis situation.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 47295678


This is a VERY good summation of the situation, in fact its one of the truest things I've ever seen on the internet. Bravo.

You have these "four pillars" mutually supporting each other by passing brown packages of money under table. You know I always think its funny that the people who run the "Seibu" construction/grocery conglomerate, for example, are the same descendents of the Soga family that first started intermarrying into the the Imperial family in the 500s or 600s. They swap the names up evey now and then but its a very small, small world.

Unfortunately none of these groups are good for doing anything but propping each other up and passing brown envelopes full of cash under the table to each other. None can be said truly responsible because each of the four can point to the other three and say, "look, they had as much to do with it as me."

Its actually funny because its like a little mini-version of the the way the rest of the world is run. Not one singe "TPTB" smoke-filled-room conspiracy but these little "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" groups. All hold power through bribes to the government from business, government hooking up the business by spending on useless bullshit, threats of gangster action to those who speak out, and the puppet-theatrer of religion/media to put a big bow on the pile of shit and make it smell like roses.

Japan is like a little petri dish where we can see how these nodes of power freak out and run around like chickens with their heads cut off when they actually have to do something really important and life-threatening. But you have basically the same process all over the rest of the world. I think the only thing about Japan is that the system of corruption runs really, really smooth in normal times and has reached a real equilibrium that humms along until something like Fukushima comes along and the whole thing implodes spectacularly.
Anonymous Coward
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09/24/2013 02:35 AM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Japan's a huge problem but basically the whole world has lost its mind and SOUL...

Anonymous Coward
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10/29/2013 11:37 AM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Thank You, SHINTO TRAINEE !
PRAYERS FOR YOU AND YOUR NATION
Anonymous Coward
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10/29/2013 11:50 AM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Thank You, SHINTO TRAINEE !
PRAYERS FOR YOU AND YOUR NATION
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 49060888


+1 thanks
rp
SteamrolledGobias

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10/29/2013 12:05 PM

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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
OP your other thread was great, about the closing down of your village. hope all is well even in these somewhat troubled times.

Japanese culture may not be so different from the western world but there are many differences. you can tell at a glance that island nation is different. how big is the "conspiracy" movement in Japan...? amongst common people not Yakuza or people in the system.

to ask a simpler way, how many Japanese people generally don't trust authorities? is this a common viewpoint... to distrust Japanese police officers, politicians, bankers, etc?
SteamrolledGobias

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10/29/2013 12:25 PM

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bump
WeAreOne

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10/29/2013 12:37 PM
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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
Enjoying this thread, thank you thumbs
Be the change you want the World to be. Be someone that makes you happy.
SteamrolledGobias

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10/29/2013 01:29 PM

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Re: Some Thoughts on Fukushima and Japanese Psychology -- By a Japanese
OP's other post discussing some cultural background in Japan

Thread: They are going to close my town

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