Friday, April 24, 2009

The New York Times Correspondent in Japan

Nota bene - This below is a rant, not an attempt to harm. I just cannot suppress an intense feeling of frustration with the subject.

Hello, do you know me?

I am Martin Fackler, Japan correspondent for The New York Times, the most powerful and influential newspaper on the planet. I am famous, or should I say infamous, for a certain article I wrote about an unknown performance artist's portable drink dispenser disguise being symptomatic of -- or was a metaphor for? -- oh, well, whatever -- a rising fear of crime in Japan.

That article earned me a special, special place in the hearts of many, many of Japan's inhabitants.

Anyway, you may have noticed I have been on a tour of Japan outside the metropole. In my contact with real persons, rather than Japan corporate image- and foreign relations-management types, I have managed to craft a set of decent reports, including an admirable one on Hamada's Marine Bridge which provided background to the debate on Obama Administration's fiscal stimulus proposals, contrasting the American situation with the runaway Construction State's despoilage of Japan's environment and finances.

Now a lot of you might be thinking, "Hey, all that Fackler needed was to get out of the Kantō Plain to stop producing vignettes that obsfucate rather than illuminate."

To this I say, "Phooey!"

Witness what I have produced today, "Hime Island Journal: A Workers' Paradise Found Off Japan's Coast". From out of a cynical joke regarding a bronze statue of a mayor erected by his son, I manage to misrepresent an LDP local heavy's whitewashing of his family's having leveraged public money into the creation of an impregnable, hereditary electoral lock as being a socialist, workshare arrangement offering an alternative to the liberal reforms proposed by former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichirō.

It is a tour-de-force of buying into the proposition with a bemused, side-long glance.

Of course, I could have detonated the whole, sunny charade by asking a few, simple questions:

"But where do the funds for the worker's paradise ultimately come from?"


"If the village government is the major employer on the island, could not the mayor threaten to cut off families of workers who ask, say, to be paid at a rate closer to the national average?"

But if were to ask the tough, critical questions, then I would lose the "backlash against economic liberalism of the Koizumi Era" angle I so desperately want to offer in microcosm.



To Iu Wake said...

I laughed at that story too. The governor's requests to see the budget have been refused because that is their "culture." I love it.

Of course, the answer is that they are all living on nenkin now.

Anonymous said...

Dunno about Fackler, but it's good that the Times reported this:

Anonymous said...

And as someone (I forget who, exactly) pointed out, the article also managed to include the classic line
"Avoiding competition is the traditional Japanese way."...

Ojisanjake said...

I live near Hamada, and I have to say there are a lot of miscrepancies in his article.

Anonymous said...

It was a rant; and a bit more.

You can complain or make a difference.

The New York Times accepts Letters to the Editor.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MTC said...

Ojisanjake -

1) Good for you. Back in my Hiroshima years I would take the bus to Hamada to get to the San'in side of the isle. I was always on the way to somewhere else, Hagi or Matsue, but I have fond memories of Hamada's train station.

2) What you find disconcerting in the article are likely not "discrepancies" but mistakes, exaggerations and fudges.

Chris ( said...

For me, the telling verb came in the second paragraph. The islanders do not "make a living", they do not "prosper" or "thrive", they do not "live", even.

They "subsist".

Running a medieval dictatorship is nothing to be proud of, and certainly nothing to be praised or held as up as an example.

Thank you for calling this article out for what it is.

Jun Okumura said...

Can't you be a little nicer to our resident fashion expert, MTC? I mean, what would we do on a slow blogging day if we didn't have people like him around?