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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Japan In Books 2

The following bit of writing is also from the Charlie Chan book I am currently reading: The House Without A Key, a book written in 1925 by Earl Derr Biggers and essentially no longer in print.
Charlie is a Chinese-born detective living in Hawaii, a Hawaii populated with Hawaiian, Americans, Chinese and Japanese. As a popular detective series, Charlie Chan was the star of a number of detective mysteries on the big screen and in comic books.
Based on reality, it's 1925, and the Japanese are looked upon as second-class citizens in Hawaii... and as such, are unaccustomed to people treating them with the respect every human being deserves.

Once more John Quincy was on a Waikiki (trolley) car. Weary but thrilled, he took out his pipe and  filling it, lighted up. What a day! He seemed to have lived a lifetime since he landed that very morning. He seemed to have lived a lifetime since he landed that very morning. He perceived that his smoke was blowing in the face of a tired little Japanese woman beside him. 'Pardon me,' he remarked, and knocking the pipe against the side rail, put it in his pocket. The woman stared at him in meek startled wonder, no one had ever asked her pardon before.

It all seems surreal to me sometimes, but I realize that people and attitudes change with the generations. In 1925, the Japanese were considered by most to be beneath them - and recall, if you will that less than 60 years earlier, no one had seen a Japanese person before thanks to its isolationist policy.

It was just around this time through the end of WWII in 1945 when the Japanese earned the animosity of Asia and North America with its barbaric expansion policies and human rights violations and acts of war.

By the 1970s, we knew that the Japanese were an industrious people who could take any product and make it either better or smaller, and definitely cheaper.  

By the 1990s... well... by my account of three years spent living there, that the Japanese were no different from anyone else in the world, though the average Japanese person may not have cared to hear that... though it was my job not to remove that feeling of superiority, but to at least let them know they were no better than anyone else.

By the 2010s... mission accomplished... Japan is a country no different than others and is on the verge of economic ruin, ruin from natural disasters, is seen as a place where another Asian country or two might like to invade.

But at least they aren't considered second-class citizens.     

By Andrew Joseph

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