In “Public Enemy #1” Japan Society for Tobacco Control executive secretary Kyoichi Miyazaki describes the decision to ban public area smoking as the route of least resistance. Does that recommend it as the best strategy to launch a healthier, non-smoking agenda in society? His comment says a lot about the cosmetic approach to any difficulty in Japan, weather it is human relations in the neighborhood or at work, nuclear meltdown, political or industrial scandal, history in the classroom, or public health and safety. Appearance is paramount in Japan, and how things look is more highly regarded than how they actually are. The same occurs in every culture, but the custom is especially developed here. So banning smoking in public makes it look better to the eye and camera even while in private there’s little change. It’s a very Japanese solution, combining public group responsibility with shallow cosmetics; appearing to do something while in fact doing very little; confusing effort with accomplishment.
Published in Issue #919, November 4-17, 2011 as “Ashes to Ashes.”