Japan conservatives vs. Japanese skateboarder

The Olympics aren’t going so well for Japan, but not so much athletically speaking. Japanese officials and fans were offended by snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo’s “style” when he appeared in Vancouver wearing the national uniform pants baggy, tie loose, shirt unbuttoned and hair in–gasp–dreadlocks.

Japan’s Minister of Education, Tatsuo Kawabata, was not a fan of the hip hop twist to the national uniform, to say the least.

“It’s extremely regrettable that he dressed in a totally unacceptable manner as a representative of Japan’s national team,” said Kawabata, on the floor of Japan’s parliament. “He lacks the awareness that he is participating in the Olympic Games as a representative of our country with everyone’s expectations on his shoulders. This should never happen again.” (CNN.com)

Is Japan fashion-backwards, or was Kokubo in the wrong? If you look at lolita (see former post) and gothic styles popular in the Japan’s teen fashion industry, it seems very strange that most officials would be angered by his appearance.

But at the same time, when you refer back to Japan’s cultural emphasis on respect for your superiors and dignity when representing your country, it’s easy to see why the older generation is left flabbergasted by Kokubo. He disrespected the Olympic national uniform, in turn embarrassing Japan.

All in all, I think it’s about time for Japan to realize that the younger generation’s craving for individuality and nonconformism isn’t going away. They should embrace the stars of their country and the ways they can influence other cultures all over the world. But that’s just my opinion.

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Toyota recalls, the US government rejoices

With Toyota recalling numerous cars for “pedal sticking” and acceleration problems, I thought it would only be appropriate to voice my opinion, as I own a 2005 Toyota Camry and love it to death. In my family’s car history, we’ve repeatedly owned Toyota or Honda cars–from an Accord to a Forerunner and Camrys, my dad insisted that Japanese cars were the most reliable and fuel efficient.

When I first learned about the Toyota ordeal, I was slightly alarmed. I checked Web sites and lists of the defected models to see if my car was one of them. News articles and videos began plaguing media Web pages featuring distressed Toyota-owners taking their cars to the dealership.

One minute they say to stop driving these cars, the next they say just to take them into the dealership. People then complained that none of the dealerships had the software and parts to fix the problem, and wouldn’t for countless weeks.

While I try not to subscribe to media conspiracy theories, I see this topic popping up more and more as the days go on. Yes, we are the culture of fear, and our media organizations are latching on to every minute.

Not only are these media organizations and blogs gaining constant hits by frustrated and concerned car owners, they are doing exactly what the government and American car dealerships want them to do: destroy the Japanese car industry’s reputation to boost the economy.

Think about it: When Japanese officials first announced that their version of the Cash for Clunkers program would not include American cars, relationships tensioned:

“It’s outrageous that Japan denies that their ‘cash for clunkers’ program discriminates against American automakers. When we put together the CARS program, we followed international law and made it apply to all cars sold in the United States–not just American cars,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), author of the cash-for-clunkers bill. “The Japanese program intentionally excludes our U.S. automakers through unfair trade practices.” (ask.com)

Hmm, I wonder why anyone would want to exclude American cars from their program? Probably because they are the biggest and most expensive gas guzzlers of any car in the world! What use does Japan have for hybrid mini SUVs and trucks? None! The big car industry is just not profitable in Japan, where space and fuel is very limited and calculated. The small cars American companies do offer are not what they’re known for, so why should Japan offer overpriced, less reliable versions of what they already have?

This is not discrimination, just common sense. If the American car companies want to remain competitive internationally, they need to evolve and understand cultural customs and norms all over the world.

What others are saying (Dallas Morning News Opinion blog):

I blame scare tactics, unions
I didn’t think it would take the government very long to try to halt Toyota or Honda sales. I’d be willing to bet the Transportation Department got its marching orders from the White House.
These two car companies still make the most reliable vehicles in the world, and I will continue to buy from them. Hopefully, President Barack Obama’s scare tactics will fail once more. His support of the unions is disgusting.
Why do you suppose so many products we use are made overseas? The unions have priced themselves right out of the market.

I’ll buy Toyota again
It’s obvious there is a problem with some Toyota models. It’s also obvious that some folks and companies, irritated with or envious of Toyota’s success for so many years, are all over this problem, pointing fingers and saying See? See? I have been a Toyota loyalist for more than 30 years.
My family has owned a dozen different Toyota models, accumulating an estimated 1.2 million miles. I would buy any of the Toyota models on the recall list before I would touch anything from GM. This is based on my own experience with GM vehicles as well as that of friends and co-workers.
Toyota will get through this trying period and return to its first-place position again. And no, I don’t work for the company or any of the dealers. I’ve just had great luck with their products.

Sorry GM–I’m not buying it.