If you live in Japn what is your take on the book "Dogs and Demons?"
December 5, 2004 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Modern Japan. There seem to be quite number of MeFites who live (or have lived) in Japan, and I'm extremely curious about their take on this book, if they're read it. [more inside]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken to Travel & Transportation around Japan (4 answers total)
Apologies if this is a slightly inappropriate use of AskMe, but I'm not sure where else I might get some educated and articulate opinions about this. I've only spent a few days in Japan total over the last few years, so my own on-the-ground experience is limited. Much of what Kerr says in the book seems hyperbolic, and some bits -- like the chapter on the film industry -- seem outright wrong in many of their conclusions, but much more seems well-researched and accurate, and shockingly at odds with the dominant perceptions of the country held by most outsiders. It paints a picture of a country rushing headlong down a self-destructive path, utterly unable to break from entrenched patterns of corruption and privilege, rehashing the mistakes that a cultural, technological, and political lock-in sometime around 1970 keep kicking up.

I'd note too that what stuck me repeatedly throughout the book was the multitude of ways in which Korea has repeated the mistakes of Japan, and continues to do so, for a rich variety of historical, economic, political and cultural reasons. I've always known this was the case, but throughout the book it was as if Kerr were writing about Korea (where I've lived for 6 of the last 9 years), although he doesn't explicitly mention it more than once or twice.

Apologies for the length, and if this a bit of a GYOWBFW thing (I considered posting something to my own site, but I'm more interested in others' opinions about this book than my own), but I'd really like to hear what some of our members with personal experience of Japan think about Kerr's book, if they're read it. Bonus points if you can suggest more critical (in the tough-love sense, even, which is what Kerr claims) reading on Japan.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:56 PM on December 5, 2004

i guess i'm not noticing nuances that would catch your eye, but i thought the amazon summary was pretty much the standard line on why japan is in such a mess these days. corruption is a constant feature of murakami's work, for example.
(although since the book was published, there have been intermittent signs that the economy is improving).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2004

Bonus points if you can suggest more critical (in the tough-love sense, even, which is what Kerr claims) reading on Japan.

I haven't read Kerr's book but if you're after more critical thinking on Japan, Jon Worronof has written many books on that I would consider "tough-love" or just plain tough. Also Straightjacket Society by Masao Miyamoto is a good read.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:47 AM on December 6, 2004

I've lived in Japan on and off since 1972, and the LDP was in power when I first came. The LDP now boasts the longest single-party rule in the world (since the defeat of Mexico's PRI in 2000). You know there's deep-seated corruption behind that. Even now a million-dollar bribe (peanuts, really) to a former prime minister Hashimoto is being slowly hushed up. The yakuza are deeply involved in construction (heavy feeding at the public construction trough), real estate and entertainment, hence finance, and is a major well-hidden producer of the deep shit the financial institutions are now in. These are just a few crumbs of what's going on behind the scenes here, as it has amidst a relatively docile public since feudal times...
posted by ronin21 at 7:14 PM on December 6, 2004

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