Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The thing that struck me about Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose’s Muslim-slurring remarks (“Inose apologizes for slurring Muslims,” May 1) is his apparent clueless obliviousness. Of course, there’s nothing surprising in that because Japanese politicians seem to tend towards obliviousness. The more oblivious the better, in some instances.
In comments in a New York Times interview the Governor appears purposely to want to discredit Istanbul, Turkey which is one of Tokyo’s rivals in the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, saying “Islamic countries, the only thing they share in common is Allah and they are fighting with each other, and they have classes.” I was surprised that there was no subsequent news of violent anti-Japan protests across the Muslim world, something Muslims seem to delight in. Maybe Japan does not register on the Muslim rage meter the way Western countries do, in which case I might say that Japan was really lucky in this instance.
But the Governor’s apparent attitude towards Muslim countries is not what struck me. The total obliviousness that grabbed my attention was the Governor’s apparent acceptance of the fantasy that Japan is a classless society. Or put another way, it is a universally middle class society which renders it without class divisions - hence classless. It’s not true, of course. There certainly are classes in Japanese society. Japan has homeless, unemployed, poor, and working poor in addition to the pampered wealthy, and the clueless geriatric class. I don’t think the Governor is lying, only wrong. He seems obtusely blinkered about his own country! But he is sincere (which is no excuse). You can grab him by the collar and rub his face in the self-evident truths and he still won’t understand. That is accomplished cluelessness. There should be an award for that, like the governorship of Tokyo.
Published on Thursday, May 16, 2013 as “Sincerely clueless in Tokyo.”