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A dose of sensibility: an intelligent view of "the Japanese mind"

I don't often check The Japan Times online or off, but happened to load it up today on the screen. (Actually, I was curious about news of the iPhone's appearance in Japan.)

While I was there, I clicked on a few articles (so as to escape doing real work : ) and came across an article about a Tokyo-based non-Japanese writer I'd never heard of, David Pearce, and his Japan-based novel I'd never heard of, "Tokyo Year Zero". Such writings always stand a good chance of springing cringe-worthy Japanology dribble upon the poor reader, but this novelist had a wonderfully opposed comment to make:

The Japanese press would ask — and they mean this is a compliment — "How could you get inside the Japanese mind?" As if there is only one Japanese mind. I always find this a very strange concept. Even liberal, well-educated journalists and friends of mine who are Japanese will say, "It's amazing how you could write as a Japanese."

The government and media perpetrate this myth of one Japanese mind, as if everyone's got f**king ESP or something. And yet there's 120 million people in this country, and I've been here 14 years and every single person I've met has been a unique individual. So as I was writing, I wasn't really thinking, "Is this what a Japanese person would do?" I was just thinking, "Is this what this character would do?"

Beautiful! I've been in Japan for over 20 years, and if asked to describe "the Japanese mind", would myself just brush it off as the dumb question it is. "The Japanese way of thinking" is a topic I have no interest in, for the same reason I have no interest in astrology: it's a vapid non-subject.

I raise a toast to the novelist! His clear thinking is all too rare.

Peace follows turbulent times [Tokyo-based author David Peace]


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