Things which Japan does not monopolize, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary

  1. Upskirt photography: Police in upstate New York recently ran a sting operation to catch an upskirt photographer in a clothing store, which led to the unsuspecting victim suing the store.
  2. Expensive airports that nobody goes to: “Local officials were so confident that tourists would flock to this beautiful, mountainous county in southwestern China that they made the terminal big enough to accommodate 220,000 passengers annually, and built a runway capable of handling a 140-seat Boeing 737. But only a few charters and budget carriers have established service here. A grand total of 151 people flew in and out of Libo last year.
  3. Whaling: See this piece in The Economist, then Wikipedia for the breakdown.

Did I miss anything?

27 thoughts on “Things which Japan does not monopolize, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary”

  1. Recalls

    Death from overwork – what do we think causes all of those heart attacks anyway?

    Blackface – Did anyone else see “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”?

    University students who don’t come to class and don’t study

    Gaijin stops – a black student of mine had a tazer pointed at him last week when he was stopped and asked the officers for ID in turn

    Sea-Shepard targets – Funny, no anti-seal clubbing Animal Planet series

    Lack of knowledge about the past – Student asked me “So the Japanese were the bad guys in World War I, right?”

    “Four Seasons” complex – some older people talk to my wife like Japan just got electricity 10 years ago

    Rosy view of one’s country – Apparently 90% of Canadians don’t think that Asians face significant discrimination in Canada

    Textbook revisionism – “Imperialism” was what those Europeans were doing, America was “expanding”…. in Texas anyway

    Teen suicide – Japanese rate sky high, rate for under 20s among the lowest

  2. I’m copy-pasting this comment from the Economist article. Really got to the point:

    Absolutely paltry article. It typifies the emotion and sentimental nonsense that permeates the anti-whaling movement.

    Firstly, minke, humpback and other balleen feeding whales are not “intelligent”. It is suggested that the carnivorous dolphins and orcas have a intelligence similar to dogs as they need it to hunt. Balleen feeders are giant vaccuum cleaners with no need for intelligence and are likely to have intelligence on par with cows and sheep. So there goes that “argument”, if indeed intelligence is any desirable measure of the sanctity of life.

    Secondly, do not glamourise the misanthropic violence of the Sea Shepherd thugs. Ramming ships, throwing acid (not ‘rancid butter’), shining weapons-grade lasers and dragging entanglement ropes is a gross violation of international and maritime law. That their violence is tolerated by Japan, Australia and New Zealand is a disgrace. If the Sea Shepherd thugs pulled off such crimes against US maritime interests, they’d be sent to the ocean floor in a heart beat.

    Thirdly, it is not for the whalers to justify their hunt. Humans kill animals and provided they are no endangered then they are entitled to do so. Minke and humpback whales are not endnagered. Therefore, it is for the anti-whaling campaigners to explain precisely why whales should not be killed. This article provides not a shred by way of explanation.

    Fourthly, the emotional and sentimenal emphasis places upon the issue of whaling (including the publicity and donation seeking antics of the Sea Shepherd thugs) serves to draw attention and funding away from genuine conservation and ecological issues.

    So please, pull your head in. Stop shedding your crocodile tears for this Hollywood cause celebre nonsense and get a grip on yourself.

  3. I’m in general agreement with the comments that David posted above. There is still, however, a rational, philosophical argument against whaling (one might disagree with it depending on one’s own philosophical bent). From Peter Singer (

    “Whales cannot be humanely killed — they are too large, and even with an explosive harpoon, it is difficult to hit the whale in the right spot. Moreover, whalers do not want to use a large amount of explosive, because that would blow the whale to pieces, while the whole point is to recover valuable oil or flesh. So harpooned whales typically die slowly and painfully.

    Causing suffering to innocent beings without an extremely weighty reason for doing so is wrong. If there were some life-or-death need that humans could meet only by killing whales, perhaps the ethical case against it could be countered. But there is no essential human need that requires us to kill whales. Everything we get from whales can be obtained without cruelty elsewhere. Thus, whaling is unethical.”

    If a whale could be killed in a single, quick stroke, I would remove any objection to hunting them (assuming they’re not endangered, etc.).

    Anyway, I don’t think it was the intention of the original post to have a debate on whaling! Apologies.

  4. What about North Sea cod? Cod’s been endangered for the last decade, and is in far more danger from overfishing than whales around Japan are. But cod aren’t photogenic, so unlike seals and whales, the WWF or IFAW can’t use them for fundraisng drives, and unlike dolphins they make shitty subjects for documentaries. Couldn’t agree more with the comment, David.

    Can I add chikan to the list? There were 909 sexual and/or violent assaults on the London underground in 2008-9, but we don’t find that out of the ordinary enough to have public awareness campaigns or women-only carriages. I would wager there were far fewer offenses per capita on either JR or any of the private rail companies in Japan, and yet their management still feels the need to take measures to protect their passengers.

  5. “would wager there were far fewer offenses per capita on either JR or any of the private rail companies in Japan”

    Are you basing that assumption on the number of actual incidents, or the number of *reported* incidents?

  6. Wait, what *about* bluefin tuna? I mean, most of it comes from the waters off New England, but Japan still makes bluefin tuna into a global economy, no?

  7. Word? I had no idea there were so many whaling fans on this site. So are you guys going to finally change the name to “Whaling Is Super Rad Travelogue?”

  8. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it isn’t about being a whaling fan so much as it is about being not an anti-whaling fan.

  9. Same here. I have no interest in eating whale meat, and would be happy if Japan gave up the annual hunt; but I’m dismayed that some people pick and choose which animals to “protect” based on their own cultural and dietary preferences. That certainly does not make me a whaling fan. Why do people make such silly statements?

  10. @Andy: I’ve mentioned many times on this blog how it is ridiculous to think that “chikan” is a particularly Japanese problem. Of course, I’m also not aware of any other country in which train-groping is a major fetish in local pornographic media…

  11. I hear what you are saying about Chikan but I am not sure if you are right.

    I have been lucky enough to travel and spend time in more than 50 countries and
    it is only Japan where it is a recognized phenomenon.
    Most cases go unreported / detected as far as I know.

    There are bars in Kabukicho were a train carriage with women to grope
    is the main attraction.

    I may be wrong but I feel that as far as Chikan go, Japan is winning.

    I’d agree that whaling is used as a great big barnacle-encrusted hammer with which to bash Japan with though.

  12. “it is only Japan where it is a recognized phenomenon.”

    Like “karoshi” (death from overwork – which includes heart attacks and all sorts of stress related conditions) all this indicates is awareness.

    “Most cases go unreported / detected as far as I know.”

    In most countries, most cases of everything (except maybe murder) go unreported / undetected.

    We hear lots about Lolita fetishes in Japan, but in a similar discussion last year, we saw numbers like 300,000 prostitutes under 16 in the US and as many as 800,000 18 and under. With little awareness of stats like that, is it really surprising that train groping goes under the radar as well?

  13. Actually,the above poster isn’t wrong about changing the name of this blog into “Whaling Is Super Rad Travelogue”.

    I took Roy to a whale restaurant in Shibuya when we first me a few years ago.He said he liked whale meats probably due to the fact it was me who was paying the bill.
    I also had a dinner with Curzon for the first time in the same restaurant.(This time the choice was his).
    I haven’t got the opportunity to ask what Joe think of the place,but only Adamu refused to go.Although Curzon and I took him to an izakaya where they serve “Blue Whale sashimi”(Probably either Bryde’s or Sei as I tasted it) and Adamu had to eat it.

    “Peter Bethune, the New Zealander who boarded the Nisshin Maru, is Japan’s first POW since WWII.”

    I also heard Bethune was being fed plates of whale steaks while he’s on cruise to Tokyo,Must be Japan’s first war crime since WWII.

  14. I love Kujiraya, just for the record, but I don’t think any of us have come out on the blog as blatantly pro-whaling. So Schultz is off the mark.

  15. I have some sympathy with Schulz. Across a number of Japan blogs, there’s been a tendency for some to see the anti-whaling faction as essentially anti-Japanese, which I find quite odd.

    “I’m anti anti-whaling” is a nice conceit but it isn’t as neutral as it seems on the surface. Opponents of whaling may share the same goals but hold their opinions on economic, health, conservationist, emotional, legal and/or moral grounds. They frequently disagree on the “why”. Opponents of whaling use a variety of tactics to achieve their goals including multinational diplomacy, trade, research and investigative journalism, international law, peaceful protests and, yes, agitation and illegal protests. They also disagree on the “how”. If you say you are “anti anti-whaling” then you are anti the whole kit and caboodle and it’s not wordplay to say that would make you as much a pro-whaler as anyone.

    Personally, I’m more concerned about overfishing than I am about whaling so I was concerned to see the debate about bluefin tuna take a similar turn. It was somewhat encouraging to read an opinion piece in the Mainichi by Takao Yamada, who appears to recognize that overfishing is a genuine concern and not some western imperialist effort to undermine Asian traditions. He also acknowledges how bluefin tuna is an even more recent part of Japan’s food culture than whale:

    If the failure to pass a ban at Doha has any positive angle, it is that more people are now aware of the problem and also know that there is no measure currently in place to contain it. There is one advantage compared with the whaling debate. Anti-whalers can’t affect whaling programmes by asking people not to eat whalemeat because no-one really does anyway. Conversely, the market for tuna is driven by consumer demand rather than government subsidies so there would be some benefit to successfully persuading people to reduce their consumption.

  16. For me, I wouldn’t go as far as “anti anti-whaling”, I stuck at “not an anti-whaling fan”, which puts me closer to “bored with” rather than overtly opposed to. You are right to point out that there are a variety of anti-whaling positions and while I would be opposed to an unlimited hunt, I haven’t seen anything from any of the shades of anti-whaling views that I find a very convincing argument against a couple of hundred whales being taken each year. In my view, it is up to the anti-whaling camp to express those arguments clearly or put more effort into convincing the Japanese public to change the national position. As it is, things like Whale Wars and dolphin MacGyver hi-jinks are only going to ensure the perpetual alienation of Japanese people from any debate on the issue.

    I’m for serious bluefin restriction. Great preservation argument there so I’m sold even if it means giving up a favorite dish.

  17. “I took Roy to a whale restaurant in Shibuya when we first me a few years ago.He said he liked whale meats probably due to the fact it was me who was paying the bill.”
    Kujiraya was a good restaurant and I very much enjoyed the meal, but I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of whale meat, or would support whaling specifically because I want to eat whale. I love good tuna, but I think that the evidence has shown that we need a total ban for at least certain regions, and very strong restrictions on still-viable fisheries.

    “I love Kujiraya, just for the record, but I don’t think any of us have come out on the blog as blatantly pro-whaling. So Schultz is off the mark.”
    My position has been that I’m not explicitly opposed to whaling itself, but I do think it’s a bad idea for Japan to engage in whaling that is blatantly in violation of a treaty they have signed. The “scientific whaling” program is an obvious farce, and everyone knows it, and if whaling is so important than they should either work harder to get the treaty regulations changed, or withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and at least be honest about what they’re doing.

    As Mulboyne suggested above, I also consider overfishing to be a FAR more serious problem than whaling. Whale meat is in so little demand that even with no legal restrictions there would be no threat to the sustainability of any of the whale species in the ocean, but we are hunting the Earth’s large fish to extinction at a shockingly rapid pace.

  18. @Brother John: First of all, it’s clearly NOT only a recognized phenomenon in Japan. I just got back from Manila, in the Philippines, and the metro rail lines there have female only cars for the exact same reason Japan does. So does Mexico City, parts of India, and some other countries I can’t recall. I’ve also seen several stories on “chikan” on the NYC subway in the New York Times, and heard plenty of anecdotes. Sure, only in Japan is there a particular name for it, but I am not convinced that it is ACTUALLY more prevalent here, only that – as M-bone said – there is a greater awareness of the problem.

  19. Roy, in what way is Japan engaging “in whaling that is blatantly in violation of a treaty they have signed”?

  20. [More on the bluefin sidebar]

    Interesting piece on the bluefin in the WSJ (Yuka Hayashi), with this snippet:

    …So Japanese bureaucrats are resorting to unusual means to keep their nation’s fish gobbling from shrinking further.

    Rock singers dressed as fishermen sing paeans to ocean creatures through supermarket sound systems. Fish-promotion associations take schoolkids to beaches and fish markets and issue “Fish Meister” certificates to grown-ups. Others are trying to take the inconvenience out of eating, offering up filleted fish—and prompting hand-wringing by traditionalists concerned about the decline of Japanese gastronomy.

    The decline in fish consumption reflects changes in lifestyle and demographics. Many children would rather eat spaghetti than squid sashimi or stewed sole. And that isn’t an unwelcome change for working parents who appreciate the convenience. The growing ranks of elderly people fearful about choking on sharp bones causes some of them to avoid grilled fish. A sluggish economy has also hurt since fish is often more expensive than meat is.

    In the latest issue of its annual Fisheries White Paper, the government warned about the negative implications of children’s dislike of fish, pointing out that DHA and EPA, substances found in fatty fish, are essential to brain development. Without having to delicately remove bones, children are not learning chopstick dexterity, the agency said. …

    (Apologies if you’ve already seen it.)

  21. (oops. Gaffed the html tags. Everything between the ellipses is quoted from the original article.)

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