Jepang Maniac

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Monday, July 18, 2005

The Little Japanese Girl Who is Far Smarter Than George W. Bush

by Mamoru

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Well, we already know that attacking Iraq was a huge mistake, even a crime. We all know George W. Bush doesn't read. Has a limited knowledge of history, geography, economics, etc. We also know he has no desire to learn about these things; he even admits it himself.
George is the epitome of the

" He is an excellent example of typical hard-headed "American ethno-centric thinking." I reckon that Americans think we are the smartest people in the world. Sometimes we are not too willing to accept the fact that we have no knowledge or common sense in areas that are so blatantly obvious to people in other countries, that once they are pointed out to us, we feel, well...Stupid.

Case in point: Me.
Here I have been living in Japan for all this time and I didn't know what I am about to tell you until day before yesterday.
Let me ask you a question: Who is the most famous Japanese person in the world? Baseball player Hideki Matsui or Ichiro? No way. They are only known in America and Japan. Famous movie director Akira Kurosawa? Perhaps. But you know he is not so famous here in Japan! Seiji Ozawa? Who? How about Emperor Hirohito? Hideki Tojo? Nope. They are past history.

I think, by far, the most famous Japanese person in the world is named "Oshin." In fact, after searching the subject, I'm sure about it.
Now I know what you are thinking: "Who is Oshin"? Well, of course from living here, I had heard the name many times. But I never really paid too much attention. Oshin is the main character in a very famous TV drama that is, far and away, the most successful TV drama ever made in this country.
The reason why I never really paid much attention to Oshin is because Oshin is a "tear-jerker" TV drama about a young girl who goes through some very serious hard times in her life only to finally overcome all and gain happiness.
Oshin goes something like this: The story starts before 1920. Japan is a very poor country. Oshin is a very young girl growing up in an extremely poor and desperate family. By second grade of elementary school, due to her parents failing health, she has to quit school to take various jobs to help feed her family.
After being kicked, beaten, and abused by various employers, she gets a job at a rice store. But that too, is extremely back-breaking work as she is forced to do manual labor by husking rice and scrubbing floors. But she never complains and every penny she gets (and sometimes a cup full of rice that she has filled by picking up grains off the dirty floor) she takes home to give to her family.
She grows older and has a simple dream of becoming a hair-stylist. And one day she meets a dashing and handsome, but humble man, and falls in love. They marry and everything looks great.
They have a child. And Oshin, with the help of her loving husband, open a hair-styling salon. She is happy.
But then, tragedy strikes! The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 hits Tokyo. 120,000 people die in one day. Oshin's house and shop are burned to the ground. And with that all of her possessions and what little money they had.
1923 Great Kanto earthquake in Tokyo
Oshin, her husband, and child are lucky to have escaped with the shirts on their backs.
Hungry, with no money or shelter, they have no choice but to return to her husbands’ hometown in the country to live.
At about this point in the story is where the script follows a very familiar pattern to Westerners: At Oshin's husbands’ home, her mother-in-law is extremely cruel to Oshin. Oshin must work the rice fields and do all the housework chores while the mother-in-law's daughter sits around the home all day, doing nothing except combing her hair, and making outlandish demands of Oshin.
Kind of reminiscent of "Cinderella," isn't it?
Well, after a while, Oshin cannot take any more abuse and she runs away with her child in tow.
She returns to Tokyo. In the meantime, her husband is heart-broken. He leaves his family forever and spends the next several years of his life searching for Oshin and his child.
Oshin works hard in Tokyo. Through all the suffering she has endured and all the pain, she has learned well. She has become a very smart woman.
She starts her own business selling fish by delivery in Tokyo. It's a smash success. Then she parlays that success and her experience into opening the very first supermarket in Japan.
The supermarket takes the country by storm. As Oshin's secret was to sell "ready-made, already cooked" food to housewives to make their daily chores just a bit easier.
She becomes wealthy. But something is missing in her life: It is her love. Her child sometimes asks about daddy, but Oshin always avoids the subject. Oshin cries at night praying for thanks and hoping that, at least, her husband is safe, healthy and has perhaps found someone new to take care of him. Someone better than her. She sometimes wonders if she had just withstood a bit more. If she had just be a touch stronger, could things have turned out differently? She lives with guilt.
She still loves him so. She wishes things were different. But they are not. If anything that her life has taught her, it's that Oshin knows that she must always follow her heart and do what's right.
Her life is good, but her heart has a hole in it. A hole from a lost love....
And then, one day, there is a knock on the door. It's him! After all these years of desperate searching, he has found her at last!
Well, anyway, that's basically the story. I have to get back to the point of this article; otherwise, I'll get all "teary-eyed."
And the point of all this is; Sometimes I am amazed at what people think and do. Before I came to Japan, I was amazed at the Japanese. But now, after being here so long, I am often amazed at what Americans do. What I mean to say is that: "People are often wise or foolish in the most curious of ways."
Sorry, guys, but I know that the average American thinks that Americans are smarter than everyone else. But I got a point here where the Japanese just blow Americans away in the common sense area. There is no competition.
Alright, think about Oshin. Think about that story and that kind of suffering. I don't think Americans can relate to that. Of course Japanese can.

Oshin on TV in Iraq (notice the Arabic sub-titles)
And, get this: Oshin has been broadcast in most Middle Eastern countries for at least the last 12 years. Iran? Sure. According to the Nikkei Shimbun News Oshin scores a remarkable 82% viewer rating; Iraq? Of course 76.7%; Thailand? 81.6%; China!? I thought most Chinese people hate Japanese because of the war! Yeah, well, maybe so, but they love Oshin! 75.9% viewer rating in China; Poland? 70%.
Gee, I wonder if the people in the Middle East can relate to this kind of starvation, suffering, and pain? Of course they can.
Which brings me to the next part of this puzzle: The Japanese military has ordered all troops in Iraq to grow beards and moustaches. Weird, eh? Well, no... Smart. Besides understanding the ways of society in the Middle-East, Oshin's husband has a moustache. Don't believe me? Check this out:
Japanese army opts for new form of camouflage
Just about every Japanese soldier in Iraq that I've seen on TV has a moustache.
So, now when Iraqi people see Japanese soldiers with beards and moustaches they all yell, "Oshin! Oshin! Oshin!"
Traditionally Japan has always had good relations with countries like Iraq and Iran. The Japanese may often seem quizzical and enigmatic to Americans (me too, sometimes) but this is just so ingenious, so brilliant in its simplicity, that it just blows my mind.
And here we have all our U.S. soldiers over there looking like they just stepped outta Miami Vice or Darth Vader's death star.
The Japanese also know that the big sport in the Mid-East is Soccer. So the Japanese soldiers are not handing out thirty-five cent chocolates, like the American soldiers. They are handing out thirty-five dollar Soccer balls. Don't believe me again? Check here:
Japanese troops go to Iraq with soccer balls
Think about it: Isn’t the purpose of giving these "gifts" to the children a sort of method to create goodwill? And isn’t that goodwill a sort of "protection"?
The American soldiers are handing out junky chocolates that will give a child 8 seconds of happiness. The Japanese are handing out quality soccer balls that will bring wonderful memories to last a lifetime. Those soccer balls must seem like treasure from heaven to those poor children.
And isn’t having friendly relations with the children and their parents so very important to your personal safety? Iraq is a war zone. These "presents" are a sort of "life insurance" for our soldiers, aren’t they?
If you were in a war zone, would you buy the thirty-five cent life insurance policy, or the thirty-five dollar life insurance policy?
The U.S. government will waste hundreds of billions of dollars on new high-tech junk, but be incredibly foolish and cheap-skate in the most absurd of ways.
Our soldiers are handing out cheap junk-food while the Japanese are giving out gold.
This is a case in point where the Americans must seem incredibly stupid. But you can’t really blame our foot soldiers for this too much. After all, they come from a very ethno-centric country. And they have a hard enough time having to pay for their own equipment, like body armor, that should be provided by the U.S. government for free.
It reminds me of that Clint Eastwood movie, "Heartbreak Ridge." After some military exercises, a high-ranking officer looks at Clint and says, "Sergeant? What’s your assessment of this situation?"
Eastwood answers: "It’s a cluster-f***, sir!"
And it sure is.
Now, you tell me, who has more common sense? Japanese or Americans?
Who do you think the Iraqi children like more: Darth Vader? Or Oshin?
(If you can read Japanese on your computer, you can go here to read the official Japanese government explanation on the relationship of growing facial hair for sending soldiers to Iraq and Oshin.)
February 23, 2004
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.
Copyright © 2004
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers


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