Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
I sometimes read the“Troubleshooter” column, “Jinsei Annai,” translated from The Yomiuri Shimbun. I can’t say why because I don’t understand it myself. Never in my life have I made it a habit to read advice columns. But over time my eyes came to fall on “Troubleshooter” because the professional backgrounds of the advice givers struck me as odd. Respondents to readers’ questions and concerns include a wide range of people: psychiatrists, university lecturers, writers, artists, television talents, etc. For a long time I was annoyed by this, because the professional backgrounds of advisers seems arbitrary and senseless: people without qualifications to give advice to anybody; people who didn’t know what they were talking about. So for me, arbitrary and senseless became a metaphor for Japanese culture.
But the more I considered it, the more I saw the virtue of advice from a cross-section of society. What does it take to qualify a person to give advice in a newspaper column, or a radio show, or a TV show? Giving advice itself is not a profession, so requirements would necessarily be vague anyway. Keeping in mind that advice is purely subjective, one can make it a hobby to analyze the advice in light of the professional background of the adviser. Lots of fun there!
In my life I take advice well, but I rarely solicit it. Mostly, I do what I want then live with and learn from the consequences. I don’t have high expectations of life or other people so I can’t complain of surprise or disappointment when things are tough. Perhaps my attitude towards advice-giving is shaped by my Western cultural heritage where work is more alienated from everyday life through strict specialization. So then it could be said that the apparent randomness of the professional backgrounds of the oubleshooters’ advisers is a great advantage: people living more closely with and communicating more empathetically with their fellows. It’s a good thing.
Published on Saturday, September 24, 2005 as “‘Troubleshooter’ advisers ill-qualified, but so what?”
It’s true that it is a strange feature. In Japan it seems people seek advice form anyone and everyone for the sake of finding a democratic cross-section of opinion. I find myself alternating between seeing the point of it and being annoyed by it.