“Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your head to the bees as they sing of the dews and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you?”
~Okakura Kakuso – ‘The Book of Tea’
When Alex Kerr wrote, in “Lost Japan” about the changes which had taken place during the 20 years he had lived in his adopted country he told the story with love and affection. Ten years later, in ‘Dogs and Demons’, his love has turned to hatred, his affection to scorn. His book contains as much bile and bitterness as the angriest divorce petition. His anger is directed at a corrupt bureaucracy which wastes countless millions on absurd construction projects; on a supine population who take no interest in the environment and allow these projects to take place; on an innate conservatism which won’t allow other nationalities to immigrate or integrate; and an educational system which brainwashes its youth into never questioning authority.
Alex Kerr’s analysis is accurate, but his conclusions are wrong. When he says that the bureaucracy is powerful and intent on extending its power he’s describing bureaucrats everywhere; whether in Japan or elsewhere they’ll get pleasure from standing at a drain and pouring other people’s money down it. In Japan the money is wasted on construction projects, in England on sink estates.
And his pleas for Japan to become more like the United States, with all sorts of bossy pressure groups, open borders and an educational system where anything goes would result in Japan losing that specialness which appealed to him in the first place. Perhaps he just grew tired of being in a place where things got done and you never had to worry about your wallet being stolen.