It Couldn’t Happen Here

Now it almost seems impossible
we’ve found ourselves back where we started from
I may be wrong, I thought we said
It couldn’t happen here
– Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe

I have only been in Japan eighteen months, but I have made one determination, Japan is a decent place to be, all things considered.  The standard of living is high, crime is low, murders are so rare that each one makes the national news, and for someone with passion, hard work and a bit of luck, employment is OK.  A life in Japan is pretty fine all in all, at least I think so.

There are however those who think Japan is a troubled country, that the election of Shinzo Abe is not merely the beginning of a turn to the political right, it is actually the beginning of the end times.  The final taiko drum has sounded, the new mappo era has begun they insist.  In all fairness, all the signs are there.  ‘Abenomics’ promises to make Japan more affluent, and there are some small signs that is succeeding.  Some say though,  that there will be moral decay, ‘Japanese only’ banners will become not only permissible but mandatory at every football match, there will be ‘no foreigner’ convenience stores, dolphin tempura will become the new national dish, the capital will be moved from Tokyo to Taiji to be close to this new industry.  All Japanese born females will have to be members of AKB48 from age sixteen to twenty. And did I mention that everyone’s stopped having sex, so much so that the Abe government has to convince more foreigners to come to Japan to keep population numbers up? Perhaps we can take solace that the last time Japanese body politic thought the end was nigh, it ultimately led to the expulsion of all foreigners save the Dutch during the Tokugawa era.  Yes, they are right, panic, the end is not near its here!

Well, not quite, I’m sure the reader may have noticed more than a smidgen of sarcasm in my words.  Come back, no need to skedaddle quite yet.  Put the passport back in the drawer, stop exchanging Yen for the Yuan you think you’ll inevitably need after the next Asia war ends. Narita will be murder anyway, over-flowing with those trying to escape the apocalypse, at Narita how could we tell the difference between apocalypse and a busy day anyways?  Sit down, open a chu-hi and listen up.

Japan isn’t even near the end times, Japan is doing just fine, or at least it’s on par with the rest of the world, some things are good, some are bad, ultimately it’s nothing that cannot be fixed.  Politically the entire world has been moving to the right.  From the rise of far right groups in Europe, such as UKIP in Britain and the formation of the coalitional government to the Tea Party in America, the election of Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister is part of this trend, yes it is disappointing, but it is not in my view the beginning of a new Japanese fascism, simply Japan doing what the rest of the world is doing, lurching towards the right.

We of course want Japan to be better, to not use terms like ‘Japanese only’, no one should think such behaviour is acceptable.  But there is a tendency for some commentators to exclaim ‘how could this happen here?’, as if Japan should just be better, that racism is worse when it happens here. It would be nice if Japan was simply better, but I feel, an unrealistic expectation.  Japan like everywhere else has idiots, which, as an atheist about utopias I find reassuring.

And I truly believe the J-League did a really good job of dealing with the issue from which other football associations could learn.  I cannot imagine the Football Association of Great Britain imposing such a ruling on say a team like Manchester United, to ban the crowd from a match as punishment, there’s just too much money in it, and that, alas is what much of sport is about in the end.

So be proud of Japan today, I am, it responded well.


























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