Now the Newsweek print copy has arrived, worse than imagined. The article is wobbly on the facts, when not outright wrong. The black-and-white photos illustrating it are pure poverty & disfunction pornography.
I do not have the time to go through everything in the article worthy of criticism. I can offer, however, a few pointers on what I believe are some journalistic conventions:
1) When a government minister says
As for the hikikomori phenomenon, if you are going to conjure up the image of a lost generation of youths languishing behind the walls of their homes, you had better hope that the government's own survey data does not show that men and women in the 20-29 age cohort are the least likely to agree with the statement "I hardly ever go out," followed by those in the 30-39 cohort (Look at figure 8-2, if you do not believe me).
2) When you write "According to a 2008 Pew survey, Japanese were more dissatisfied with the direction of their country than almost any other nation, including Pakistan and Russia" you had better hope beyond hope that the folks at Pew stopped conducting surveys after 2008 and have closed down their website. Otherwise someone might actually go to the Pew survey database and find out that not only were Japanese surveyed in 2009 twice as satisfied as they were seven years ago, but that their rate of satisfaction was a scant 2 percentage points below the rate for Russia, nearly three times the rate for Pakistan and way above South Korea.
Ultimately, the responsibility for the intellectual calamity that has been inflicted upon the world's understanding of Japan lies with Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek's international edition. In this age when news magazines have let of their regulars, relying instead on outsiders to produce content, a journal's reputation is protected only by a tenacious and unpretentious commitment to the verifiable, incongruent with the jitterbug lifestyle of the global glitterati.
Later - To be entirely fair, nothing that DS has written is untrue. The data, however, has been selected and the quotes parsed in such a fashion as to excite, not illuminate.
Even later - Devin Stewart responds in comments and I reply. I very much appreciate his willingness to engage me as regards his article.