Thursday, February 21, 2008

At the Dawn of Their Time


Recently returned from his honeymoon in Hokkaidō, Janne of Janne in Osaka directs us to a 1998 article on the origins of the Japanese people by the ever brilliant Jared Diamond.

One for the fantabulists to mull over...if they ever mull at all.

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Clouds over Yagake
Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture
January 1, 2008

7 comments:

Jun Okumura said...

Jared Diamond is brilliantly off the mark with regrad to the conventional wisdom in Japanese on the origins of the Japanese people and trhe Japanese language. The essay proves that even the smartest people say the stupidest things when they wander outside their comfort zones.

MTC said...

okumura-san -

The essay is from a decade ago...when the conventional wisdom available in translation was still suffused with the heady aroma of Nihonjinron.

Christopher said...

Unrelated but since we are introducing interesting articles...

The Western Fear of the NeonSign has a fantastic, striking piece on Imai Noriaki, one of the three Japanese hostages that preoccupied us during the early stages of the Iraq war.
http://westfearneon.com/2008/01/31/reflections-of-a-japanese-hostage/

Jun Okumura said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Janne Morén said...

Jun, remember that he's talking about politicized interpretations within a couple of research fields (history and archaeology), not about general or current attitudes. Those fields _are_ famous for just that, and not just in Japan either; archaeology more or less got its start from a desire in European nations to build a sense of nation by showing the historical proof of their national mythologies (and you see this happening right now in the Balkans, with a lot of suspect archaeological findings supporting their new nations). Pottery archaeology in Japan does apparently not have the best of reputations in the field either, after high-profile researchers were found to have planted items in digs to conform with a nationalistic account of prehistory.

MTC said...

janne -

From what I have read, the perpetrator of the fraudulent archaeological finds salted paleolithic sites, not neolithic ones, using fake stoned tools, not pottery.

MTC said...

reprinted from above

Okumura Jun said...

Nineties, schmeinties, they can't be translations, since whatever bits of nihonjinron that he got that specific information from were written by people who did not go to middle school or high school here. They have never, ever, been the accepted, mainstream line of thought here, at any level, at least not in the last 62 years and counting. The broader conventional wisdom may or may not be correct (I suspect that there is truth, in moderation, to that, almost as muuch, in fact, as the omnipresent, self-asserted sense of American of uniqueness), but false examples defeat the case.

The broader, more important issue here is about sloth in the media. It is particularly disappointing because Jared Diamond is supposed to be a scientist, and I do believe that Germs, yadda yadda was a groundbreaking, yes, brilliant, book.