Xeno­pho­bia thriv­ing in Ja­pan as racist books sales surge

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By JON DAY in Tokyo Xin­hua

Books and pub­li­ca­tions with dis­parag­ing con­tent about China and South Korea have been grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity in Ja­pan, to the point that some book­stores even have a ded­i­cated cor­ner for such xeno­pho­bic lit­er­a­ture.

But to fully un­der­stand the re­cent rise in this trend, be­yond Ja­pan’s re­cent tri­als and tribu­la­tions with some of its clos­est neigh­bors over ter­ri­to­rial and his­tor­i­cal is­sues, an­thro­pol­o­gists ad­vo­cate look­ing at the sit­u­a­tion from both a his­tor­i­cal and a psy­cho­log­i­cal per­spec­tive.

They note that Ja­pan has al­ways been a ho­moge­nous cul­ture that largely iso­lated it­self from the rest of the world un­til the Meiji Restora­tion in 1868.

But in mod­ern days, Ja­pan, the world’s third- largest econ­omy, presents it­self on a global stage as a pro­gres­sive, hard­work­ing, peace-lov­ing coun­try, com­mit­ted to the ideals of in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion. In terms of Ja­panese his­tory and per­sona, this cre­ates in­her­ent eth­no­log­i­cal con­flicts and con­tra­dic­tions, so­cial para­doxes and di­ver­gence, re­sult­ing in a ho­moge­nous na­tion with a di­choto­mous per­son­al­ity.

It would ap­pear, ex­perts in the field of an­thro­pol­ogy have said, that Ja­pan’s xeno­pho­bic gene, mas­ter­fully hid­den from un­in­formed out­siders, is alive and well and has sim­ply been ly­ing some­what dor­mant since Ja­pan’s war­ring days.

The re­cent re­vival of jin­go­ism, in­clud­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of racist lit­er­a­ture in par­tic­u­lar in Ja­pan, can be un­der­stood from two per­spec­tives, ac­cord­ing to some lead­ing so­ci­ol­o­gists. These can best be de­scribed as “in group ver­sus out group” cul­tural ide­ol­ogy, and an “elit­ist so­cial hege­mony.”

“It wasn’t un­til I’d lived over­seas for some years that I could truly see Ja­pan, my coun­try, ob­jec­tively. And while I was shocked at first, it makes sense when you con­sider the idio­syn­cra­sies, many of them en­gen­dered his­tor­i­cally, that com­prise the Ja­panese psy­che,” Keiko Gono, a prom­i­nent Tokyo-based so­ci­ol­o­gist, said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“I re­al­ized that Ja­pan was ob­ses­sively group cul­ture ori­ented, mean­ing that if you weren’t a mem­ber of a par­tic­u­lar group, be it so­cially or at work, or were re­jected by the ‘in group’, then you were so­cially os­tra­cized and be­came an ‘out­sider,’” Gono said.

“By re­ject­ing other coun­tries’ norms and val­ues, or by dis­cred­it­ing or dis­parag­ing them, such as the case with the re­cent wave of na­tion­al­is­tic books, Ja­pan’s own norms and val­ues are for­ti­fied,” said Gono.

And herein, it would seem, lies the re­cent pop­u­lar­ity of the genre of books known in Ja­pan as kenchu-zokan (“dis­like China, hate South Korea”).

As Ja­panese pol­i­tics took a ma­jor step to the right with the rise to power of the hawk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe and his Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party in De­cem­ber 2012, the pop­u­lar­ity of books slam­ming China and South Korea leapt.

In 2013, ac­cord­ing to an ac­cred­ited book list in Ja­pan, three kenchu-zokan pub­li­ca­tions on the list reached the top 10 best-sell­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial dis­trib­u­tor To­han Corp, no kenchu-zokan-re­lated books were listed in the top 10 in 2012, ev­i­dence that the phe­nom­e­non is a new one and is on the rise.

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