【ニッポンの新常識】 Common Knowledge Revisited 52
Mentality of Japanese Regarding Amari Resignation:
Moral Virtue and Common Understanding Cannot Be Expected of Foreign Countries
One of the virtues in which Japanese can take international pride is behaving so as not to cause trouble for others. As a matter of fact, the majority of Japanese people have a deep dislike for causing trouble for others and subconsciously act accordingly. “Kuki wo yomu” (“to read the situation” or “sense the mood”) is a part of that.
I think the reason Akira Amari resigned as Minister of Financial Services and Economic and Fiscal Policy was to avoid causing trouble for the governing administration. Leaving aside his secretaries, the amount of money received by Amari himself was not large, and given the problematic nature and intent of the accusations, he could probably have continued to serve, but he abruptly resigned.
Because this decisiveness is a virtue which Japanese people like, contrary to the expectations of the opposition parties, following Amari’s resignation the cabinet approval rating rose 4.3% to 53.7% (Kyodo News).
By contrast, the approval rating for the Democratic Party of Japan fell. It seems to me that the opposition parties of late seem not to understand the peculiar mentality of the Japanese people.
Another peculiar mentality of the Japanese people is the attitude toward lies.
For the Japanese, telling a lie “for your own benefit” is bad, but a lie “for the benefit of someone else” is considered good. In other words, the proverb “lying is the start of thievery” is the former, and the proverb “circumstances may justify a white lie” is the latter. These two proverbs are not inconsistent.
In the fairy tale “Red Demon Cried,” (http://harujpn-citron.blogspot.jp/2005/11/naita-akaoni.html),
Red Demon wanted to become friends with the humans, so Blue Demon played the role of a villain so that Red Demon could become a hero. I doubt anyone in Japan would fault Blue Demon for his actions. That is because the deception was for the benefit of his friend, Red Demon. Blue Demon played the villain and sacrificed himself for the happiness of his friend, and his disappearance without telling his friend, Red Demon, epitomizes that virtue.
However, Japan must not expect of foreign countries the same virtues, common understandings, and behavior developed exclusively in Japan.
In particular, it should be recognized that such expectations of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), North Korea, or South Korea are highly unrealistic.
In countries where the leaders lie without compunction and the people cause trouble for each other, one can live only through persistent cunning. If Chinese or Koreans were to live uprightly like Japanese, they would make fools of themselves.
I heard that Japanese virtues originated in the “temple school” (terakoya) education of the Edo Period. Unfortunately, reading written recitations of “The Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism” (important texts of Confucianism) as was done in the temple schools is beyond my ability, so I obtained the manga version of Chinese classics published by the Sakaiminato City, Tottori Prefecture Tourism Association.
A cursory reading revealed the following facts.
1. In the past, a high level of moral culture existed in continental China.
2. That moral culture has died out, and has not been passed down to the PRC.
I sincerely hope that the same thing will not happen in Japan.