Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
It is my experience in Japan that there is a common tendency of people to make mountains out of mole hills and complain about things that are practically non-things - nothing at all. It’s not universal, of course, but it is common enough that I think it must be a deliberate strategy to manufacture an excuse to pursue an action that people are otherwise at a loss to defend reasonably. Such is the case with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s inquisition of city employees about their body art (“Osaka’s Hashimoto puts municipal workers’ tattoos into the limelight,” May 18) and his claim that “If they want to have tattoos, they should quit working for the city.” I don’t see that the decision to have tattoos is an ethical measure of a modern person, and so talk of a “code of ethics” forOsaka public servants targeting this issue is a wind that doesn’t blow my skirt up.
It’s true that the checkered reputation of body art in Japan gives it an infamously suspicious place in the public mind. But that is largely the product of over-active imaginations. It’s disappointing that the moral depravity of gross and deliberate stupidity - especially by public servants - does not generate the same infamy.
Japan is not unique. There are populist politicians the world over who spout the ridiculous, the shocking and the offensive amid the mundane. They are sometimes annoying, sometimes dangerous, but always entertaining. Maybe it is their entertainment value that partly accounts for their ability to keep their jobs. In any event, they are not my problem. My problem is the ridiculous, shocking and offensive drivel from populist politicians here, where I pay my taxes and I can call Japanese public servants my employees.
Osaka assistant section chief of personnel Hiroshi Kotawa is quoted saying “I believe it is unacceptable to make the public unpleasant.” On that I can agree. Mayor Hashimoto has to go on the basis of his unpleasantness.
Published on Thursday, May 24, 2012 as “Drivel from populist politicians.”
My letter is not about the tattoos so much as it is about the cultural quirk of turning mountains into mole hills. The tattoo story is just a timely vehicle to make the point. The point is that there are no ‘small’problems in Japan. Large and small problems rate equally as challengers to the cultural myth of harmony, or ‘wa,’ so there is little distinction made among them.
Another letter appeared the same day in response to the same May 18th story, “Tattoo bias shows Japan’s colors” by Jason Pierre of Chikushino, Fukuoka Prefecture. Pierre takes an angle on the article that I prefer not to take: the idea of ingrained Japanese prejudice against non-conformists. Instead I prefer to look at Osaka Mayor Hashimoto’s actions as another manifestation of Japanese culture’s cultivation of form over content. Attacking visible tattoos is a diversion from other, more important things. It easily gives the impression that the mayor is doing something, when in fact he’s doing little at all and a largely passive public doesn’t scrutinize the issue or challenge the government’s line.