Japan on trial – the ugly face of Japan

Ein Beitrag aufgrund seiner internationalen Bedeutung auf Englisch.

In 2018 Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan. A year later he fled from Japan, being now in Beirut, Lebanon, where he held a remarkable press conferenceyoutube-link about his escape from Japan and the Japanese legal system and the whole Hollywood-style story. It’s not one of those lame press conferences we are used to. This is political dynamite. Once you start watching it captivates your senses and you will watch it to the very end. Ok, some language skills especially English and French are advantageous as most of the time he’s speaking English, and the question&answer section is in English, French, Portuguese and Arabic, all which Goshn understands and speaks (almost) fluently, which is impressive as such. So I recommend watching the video which is 2½(!) hours long and although you may not understand everything (nor did I) I’m sure you won’t reget a single minute and get the point. In case your bandwith/data volume is limited, switch the video rate to 144. Saves a lot of traffic.

I’m not going into the details of the press conference and the story behind, nor will I take a stand whether he is guilty or not and who is to blame, but what it means to Japan: the Japanese authorities and Japanese society and the country Japan as a whole. Japan is one of my favorite subjects in recent years and for many years I was friends with someone who grew up there. But just a few years ago I started digging deep into Japanese mentality. But now having a deeper understanding of it, from that point of view I can explain what it means to Japan what Carlos Goshn did by confirming his allegations against Japan in his press conference. With this explanation I’m sure you will understand things and the scope of it better.

A main point in Goshn’s allegations against Japan is, that he did not get a fair trial. He accuses Japan’s legal system to be corrupt and of double standards, not meeting legal standards as in other developed countries, even Lebanon. He gives lots of evidence supporting these allegations.
Although he does not mention too many names in order not to damage the relations between Lebanon and Japan, he does not need to name specific persons. Japan is a country of uniformity and conformity. Socically it is not endorsed to be illoyal to your country. So Japanese people will see Goshn’s attack on the Japanese legal system as an attack on them and the country as a whole.
Goshn emphasizes that he loves Japan and that he was always treated nice – but only before he was arrested. In his 16 years in Japan he got to know only the friendly, sunny side of Japan.
But behind there is the dark, the hidden side of Japan, you don’t get to know easily, especially not as a foreigner. Much of Japan’s society is pretending to be nice and friendly. Because everyone is afraid to be regarded as not friendly, cooperative and attentive. When Japanese people come to western countries e.g. Germany, they recognize how freely people do express their negative attitudes in public discussion e.g. at universities. They don’t know this from their culture, which has the aim to keep negative things under the carpet in order to keep society highly functional. That is common in all rice-cultivating, mostly east asian societies, as rice farming is essentially dependent on water cooperation between farmers.
But you cannot suppress your negative feelings all the time. So do Japanese people, but they don’t do this in public and not most of the time. But when they do you’d be astonished how cruel and evil Japanese can be. Just have a look a the recent Japanese history. Since Japan became the leading military power in east asia at the beginning of the 20th century, Japan did drag a trail of blood and cruelty in east asia until the end of WWII, committing not less war crimes than Nazi Germany. And with a population not less committed to follow its leaders into total defeat. Instead of killing people they started killing whales and dolphins until today.
But much like postwar Germany postwar Japan did succeed to create an image of a peaceful, modern high-tech nation, with an extrem low crime rate and a fascinating culture and landscape. But there is an ugly face behind the ever-smiling mask. And Carlos Goshn did get to know this ugly face, driven by fear and anger. As long as he was under arrest in Japan, the keep-things-under-the-carpet did work. In a kind of psychological warfare they brought him down to his knees. But Carlos Goshn is rich, influential and no small fry. Somehow he managed to escape from Japan (of which future Hollywood movies will take care of) and now he is making all the negative side of Japan he experienced public. He does not need to mention names. No matter if he is right or wrong, he is offending Japan as a whole. Not only that he managed to escape Japan and make Japanese authorities look like fools, but that he accuses the Japanese legal authorities of being corrupt, providing a system of injustice and arbitrariness. What can be more embarassing for a modern, developed, high-tech country like Japan? Ok, many developed high-tech countries e.g. USA, Germany, UK are no better. But the difference is: there people don’t indentify themselves with their corrupt politicians, judges and prosecutors. On the contrary: they will call them corrupt assholes in public and even on TV. There is somekind of culture in critizising politicians and authorities in western countries. Futile but it exists. In Japan it is not. There people avoid to embarrass other people. And they do everything to save their face. Being embarrased is almost as bad as embarrassing others.
Carlos Goshn isn’t just clearing his name. He is turning the tables. Now it’s Japan that is on trial – at least from an international, moral point of view. He shows so much evidence and how he was taken by surprise, that trust in Japan will be severely damaged. Every western economic leader will have second thoughts about travelling to Japan or engage in economic affairs there: „Remember what happened to Carlos Goshn“. Japan obviously acted against Carlos Goshn because of their centuries-lasting fear of being dominated by foreigners. But fear is highly contagious. Once people start looking behind the ever-smiling mask of Japan at the ugly face behind it, they will start to fear Japan as well, just as the American WWII-soldiers started to fear the relentlessly fighting Japanese soldiers, which they never faced before. In the current economic situation of Japan that’s more than just bad luck.
So no matter how you look at it, Japan stays the country of extremes, especially social extremes: nice, friendly, attentive, safe vs. the social abyss of corruption, injustice, cruelty, sexual assaults, brushing-under-the-carpet.

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